Stratasys adds flexible color to their digital material palettes

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Earlier this week, Stratasys announced the addition of 10 new color pallets expanding the digital materials offering to represent hundreds of new options of both flexible color materials and rigid gray materials available for the Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer

connex3_flexpalette_cyt_hands_portrait  connex3_flexpalette_myt_hands_portrait  connex3_flexpalette_mct_hands_portrait

The first three pallets are built using TangoPlus combined with combinations of VeroCyan, VeroMagenta and VeroYellow. These new pallets allow for the printing of a range of colors and translucent tints in nine Shore A values (Shore A 27-95).

connex3_flexpalette_cyk_hands_portrait  connex3_flexpalette_mck_hands_portrait  connex3_flexpalette_myk_hands_portrait

Three additional pallets using TangoBlack Plus and combinations of VeroCyan, VeroMagenta and VeroYellow allow for users to blend a wide range of subtle vibrant-to-dark shades into the same part with TangoBlack Plus in seven Shore A values.

connex3_mkw_palette_portrait  connex3_ykw_palette_portrait  connex3_kwt_palette_portrait

The final four palettes that were introduced offer additional combinations of VeroWhite and VeroBlack with either VeroCyan, VeroMagenta or VeroYellow allowing for users to build sophisticated prototypes in a range of subtle grays alongside muted or vibrant color. 

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The addition of these ten palettes combined with their existing palettes allow for virtually limitless combinations of flexible, rigid and translucent colors in one print job.

“The Objet500 Connex3 is the only 3D printer that combines colors with multi-material 3D printing. The ability to mix rigid, flexible, transparent and opaque colors offers users unprecedented versatility to design and perfect products faster,” says Stratasys Director of Materials & Applications Fred Fischer. “By extending the range of material options available, users can improve workflow speeds and enhance efficiency.”

These new options are available immediately to Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer owners through a free software update. 

Check out this great video on the new materials.

Slide Rules, Logarithms, and Compute Servers

If any of you have been to PADT’s headquarters in Tempe, Arizona, you probably noticed the giant slide rule in the middle of our building.  You can see a portion of it in the picture below, at the top of our Training, Mentoring, and Support group picture.

PADT-TechSupport-Team-Prop

This thing is huge, over 6 feet (2 m) from side to side, in its un-extended position hanging on the wall.

In theory a gigantic slide rule could provide more accuracy, but our trophy, a Kueffel & Esser model 68 1929 copyrighted 1947 and 1961, was intended for teaching purposes in classrooms.  Most engineers had essentially pocket size or belt holder sized slide rules, also known as slip sticks. 

For the real thing, here is a picture of a slide rule used by Eric Miller’s father Col. BT Miller while at West Point from 1955 to 1958 as well as during his Master’s program in 1964.

Burt-Miller-SlideRule-D2

Why do we care about the slide rule today?  Have you ever seen World War II aircraft, submarines, or aircraft carriers?  These were designed using slide rules and/or logarithms.  The early space program?  Slide rules were used then too.  Some phenomenal engineering was accomplished by our predecessors using these devices.  Back then the numerical operations were just a tool to utilize their engineering knowledge.  Now I think we have a tendency to focus on the numerical due to its ease of use and impressive presentation, while perhaps forgetting or at least de-emphasizing the underlying engineering.  That’s not to say that we don’t have great engineers out there; rather it’s a call to energize you all to remember, consider, and utilize your engineering knowledge as you use your simulation tools.

By contrast, here is a picture of PADT’s brand new server room, with cluster machines being put together in the big cabinets.  Hundreds of cores.

servers

What about the giant slide rule?

My father found a thick book at an estate sale a few months ago.  There are a lot of retirees living in Arizona, so estate sales are quite common and popular.  They occur at a life stage when due to death or the need for assisted living, folks are no longer able to live in their home so the contents are sold, clearing out the home and generating some cash for the family.  This particular estate sale was for a retired engineer.  The book caught my father’s eye, first because it was quite thick and second because the title was, Mechanical Engineers’ Handbook.  Figuring it was a bargain for the amazing price of $1.00, he bought it for me.  This book is better known as Marks’ Handbook.  It’s apparently still in publication, at least as late as the 11th Edition in 2006, but the particular edition my father bought for me is the Fifth Edition from 1951.

marks-handbook

Although the slide rule is mostly a curiosity to us today, in 1951 it was state of the art for numerical computation.  While Marks’ has a couple of paragraphs on “Computing Machines”, described as “electrically driven mechanical desk calculators such as the Marchant, Monroe, or Friden”, the slide rule was what I will call the calculator of choice by mechanical engineers at the beginning of the 2nd half of the 20th century. 

As an aside, these mechanical calculators performed multiplication and division, using what I will describe as incredibly complex mechanisms.  Here is a link to a Wikipedia article on the Marchant Calculator:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marchant_Calculator

Marks’ Handbook devotes about 3 pages to the operation of the slide rule, starting with simple multiplication and division and then discussing various methods of utilization and various types of slide rules.  It starts off by stating, “The slide rule is an indispensable aid in all problems in multiplication, division, proportion, squares, square roots, etc., in which a limited degree of accuracy is sufficient.” 

The slide rule operates using logarithms.  If you’re not familiar with using logarithms then you are probably younger than me, since I recall learning them in math class in probably junior high in the late 1970’s.  The slide rule uses common logarithms, meaning the log of a number is the exponent needed to raise a base of 10 to get that number.  For example, the common log of 100 is 2.  The common log table in the 1951 edition of Marks shows us that the common log of 4.44 is 0.6474.  For the sake of completeness, the ‘other’ logarithm is the natural log, meaning the base is the irrational number e, approximated as 2.718.

log-table

Getting back to common (base of 10) logs, the math magic is that logarithms allow for shortcuts in fairly complex computations.  For example, log (ab) = log a + log b.  That means if we want to multiple two fairly complicated numbers, we can simply look up the common log of each and add them together.  Similarly, log (a/b) = log a – log b. 

Here is an example, which I will keep simple.  Let’s say we want to multiple 0.0512 by 0.624.  On a calculator this is simple, but what if you are stranded on a remote island and all you have is a log table?  Knowing the equations above, you can look up the log of 0.0512 which is 0.7093-2 and the log of 0.624 which is 0.7952-1.  We now add:
adding_numbers

Writing that sum as a positive decimal minus an integer is important to being able to look up the antilogarithm or number whose log is 0.5045 – 2.

Looking up the number whose log is 0.5045 we get 3.195, using a little bit of linear interpolation.  The “-2” tells us to shift the decimal point to the left twice, meaning our answer is 0.003195.  Thus, using a little addition, some table lookup, a bit of in the head interpolation, and some knowledge on how to shift decimal points, we fairly easily arrive at the product of two three digit fractional numbers.  Now you are free to look for more coconuts on the island.  Or maybe get back to a hatch in the ground where you need to type in the numbers 4, 8, 14, 16, 23, and 42 every 108 minutes.  Oops, I’m really becoming Lost here…

sliderule-book

Getting back to the slide rule, one way to think of it is a graphical representation of the log tables.  In its most basic form, the slide rule consists of two logarithmic scales.  By lining up the scales, the log values can be added or subtracted.  For example, if we want to multiply something simple, like 4 x 6, we simply look from left to right on the scale on the ‘fixed’ portion of the slide rule to get to 4, then slide the moving portion of the slide so that its 1 lines up with the 4 found above on the fixed portion.  We then move left to right on the movable scale to find the 6.  Where the 6 on the movable slide lines up with on the fixed portion is our solution, 24.  What we’ve really done is add the log of 4 to the log of 6 and then find the antilog of that result, which is 24.  Now that we’ve found 24, we’re not Lost

We don’t intend to give detailed instructions on all phases of performing calculations using slide rules here, but hopefully you get the basics of how it is done.  There are plenty of online resources as well as slide rule apps that provide all sorts of details.  Besides multiplication and division, slide rules can be used for squares and square roots.  There are (were) specialty slide rules for other purposes.  Note that with additional knowledge and skill in visually interpolating on a log scale, up to 3 or even 4 significant digits can be determined depending on the size of the slide rule.

ted-slide-ruleThe author, attempting to prove that 4 x 6 is indeed 24

After having studied the Marks’ section on slide rules, experimenting with a slide rule app on an iPad as well as the PADT behemoth on the wall, I conclude that it was a very elegant method for calculating numbers much more quickly than could be done by traditional pencil and paper.  It’s must faster to add and subtract vs. complicated multiplication and long division.  My high school physics teacher actually spent a day or two teaching us how to use slide rules back in the early 1980’s.  By then they had been made functionally obsolete by scientific calculators, so looking back it was perhaps more about nostalgia than the math needed.  It does help me to appreciate the accomplishments made in science and engineering before the advent of numerical computing.

The preparation of this article has made me wonder what the guys and gals who used these tools proficiently back in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s would think if they had access to the kind of compute power we have available today.  It also makes me wonder what people will think of our current tools 50 or 60 years from now.  When I first started in simulation over 25 years ago, it would have seemed quite a stretch to be able to solve simultaneously on hundreds if not thousands of compute cores as can be done today.  Back then we were happy to get time on the one number cruncher we had that was dedicated to ANSYS simulation.

Incidentally, this article was inspired by my colleague David Mastel’s recent blog entry on numerical simulation and how PADT is helping our customers take compute servers and work stations to the next level:

http://www.padtinc.com/blog/the-focus/launch-leave-forget-hpc-and-it-ansys

If you are ever in our PADT headquarters building in Tempe, don’t forget to look for the giant slide rule.  Now you will know its original purpose.

PADT Customer GlobalStar Featured in News Report

We were pleased to hear from customer GlobalStar that two of the products PADT  worked on for them were featured on a New Orleans television station. The Spot Gen3trace_title_banner_atv3 and Spot Trace are great devices that communicate to the GlobalStar satellite network no matter where you are, telling people where you are, that your assets have moved, or informing emergency services that you need help.  We learned in the story that SPOT systems had resulted in over 3,000 rescues world wide.  As the Spot Trace usage grows, we hope to see similar statistics for lost and stolen assets recovered.

View the video here:

You can review the work that PADT did on the Spot Gen3 in a case study here.

They haves some great product videos. Here is one for the Spot Trace and another for Spot Gen3.

3D Printing brings history to life

640px-Vincent_van_Gogh_-_National_Gallery_of_ArtDid you hear that they have 3D printed Vincent van Gogh’s ear? How about the 3D printed spine of King Richard III?  This week alone 3D printing has given us two amazing examples of how this technology can be used to look at history in amazing new ways.

In the case of van Gogh, researchers used real living cells from his great-grandson to bioprint the cells to resemble van Gogh’s severed ear.  The ear is being kept technically alive in a nutrient solution and is said to be able to actually “hear”.  You can read more about this amazing application here.

Richard_III_earliest_surviving_portraitKing Richard III has been famously written as having a hunched back by William Shakespeare.  Anthropologists at the University of Cambridge wanted to determine if the description was accurate or exaggerated. Utilizing CT scans to create a model of the spine they were able to create 3D printed replica of his spine based on the models.  It turns out that while he did have terrible scoliosis, there was no evidence that he had a hunch as described by Shakespeare.  You can read more about this research here.

Just two of many new and innovative ways to integrate 3D printing into just about anything!

IGES Can’t Stand IGES Anymore!

Users:

I got some errors when I imported my geometry.
I have some holes and stray surfaces in my geometry.
The edges are twisting around on my geometry import.
ANSYS blows up when I’m trying to mesh my imported geometry.

Me:

What geometry format are you using?

Users:

IGES.

IGEEEEEEESSSSSS!!!

The vast majority of the time, geometry import errors are attributable to the choice of geometry format. And that choice is IGES. To understand the problems with IGES, it helps to know a little bit of IGES history.

IGES, which stands for Initial Graphics Exchange Specification, was released in 1980 as a neutral format for sharing data between CAD systems. The most recent version, 5.3 came out in 1996.

2009_09_21_izzy

IGES: The “Izzy” of geometry formats

Besides being old, there are a few other problems with this format:

  • IGES only contains surface information. When the IGES file is read in, ANSYS has to take the additional step of creating a volume from the region enclosed by the surfaces. The IGES file contains no additional information about how the surfaces should be stitched together, so ANSYS has to figure it out, leading to possible errors, particularly with assemblies.
  • Each CAD application has its own tolerances when exporting to IGES, and loose tolerances are more likely to lead to errors in the ANSYS import.
  • Somewhat related to the previous bullet point, IGES is a middleman between the CAD system and ANSYS, creating two paths for error propagation: Exporting from CAD to the IGES file and importing the IGES file into ANSYS.

Generally speaking, IGES is typically the worst geometry format to import into ANSYS.

Now that I’ve trashed IGES, here is what I recommend:

Native Geometry

ANSYS offers several native geometry readers, such as Connections for Pro/E, NX, Solidworks, SolidEdge, etc. that bring in geometry directly from the CAD modeler. There are two advantages here:

  1. Geometry comes over directly from the CAD tool, therefore no tolerance errors propagating through a neutral geometry format “middleman.”
  2. CAD readers allow for bi-direction associativity between the CAD tool and Workbench, so a Workbench model can be refreshed to reflect updated geometry which still retaining mesh settings, loads, etc. Also, the CAD model can be refreshed based on updated geometry in Workbench.

The only catch when it comes to native geometry readers is that they require a separate license. However, about 90% of the tech support calls I’ve received about IGES import errors are from people who have licenses for native geometry readers and just aren’t using them.

Even if you have a native geometry reader license, you’ll need to be sure to check the box to install the reader during ANSYS installation. You may also need to use the CAD Configuration Manager (found in the Utilities folder in the ANSYS start menu) to configure the CAD reader if you didn’t do so during installation.

The one unfortunate exception to this is CATIA. The CATIA kernel is a bit more guarded than the other CAD kernels, and this is frequently noted in CATIA geometry import errors. Also, you can only import CATIA geometry, not associate to it as with other CAD tools.

Neutral Files That Aren’t IGES

Your ANSYS installation comes with the capabilities to import both IGES and STEP files without having to purchase an additional geometry connection license. Of the two, STEP is typically the better option. There are two reasons for this:

  1. STEP (which stands for “Standard for the Exchange of Product model data,” because these people do not bow down to society’s piddly  rules of acronym construction) contains true 3D volume definitions, instead of having to construct volumes between enclosed surface regions post-import, so the solid model definition ends up being more robust.
  2. STEP was first developed in 1984 and continues to be developed, even as recently as 2011, so export/import errors are regularly addressed, unlike with IGES.

You may also have licenses for Parasolid and/or ACIS readers, which can lead to some confusion as to which format to use. This is easily addressed by considering the underlying geometry kernel for the originating CAD tool*.

I said geometry kernel, not…oh never mind… mmmm… fried chicken….

For example, SolidEdge, NX, and Solidworks all use the Parasolid kernel. Therefore the most robust neutral format for geometry exported from these tools will generally be Parasolid (.x_t or .x_b extension), of course. Likewise, AutoCAD uses the ACIS kernel, indicating that ACIS (.sat file) will usually be the best neutral geometry format in this case. For CAD tools that use neither of these kernels, STEP will typically be the best neutral format.

As you can see, even though the IGES people know how to make acronyms, IGES is typically the last geometry format you want to try when importing or associating geometry to ANSYS. This doesn’t mean that IGES is always the worst option for reading in CAD files (especially compared to the CATIA connection), just that it usually is.

*Hat tip to Robin Steed of ANSYS, Inc. for this tip

why does no1 respon to my request for help (Some Pointers to Students Looking for Help on Forums, Social Media, and Blogs)

xansys.org[Note: I know I misspelled respond… that is the point] As many of you know, PADT hosts a very successful mailing list and forum called XANSYS.org. It is one of the most successful online community help places I have ever seen.  There are a lot of reasons for that success, but the biggest is the moderators and how strongly they enforce rules for those posting.  Especially on using complete sentences, punctuation, showing that you have tried, and fully identifying yourself.

I bring this up because I’ve seen several posts on Facebook and LinkedIn groups for ANSYS users that just don’t get many responses, or don’t get the quality of response that posts on XANSYS get. I thought it might not be a bad idea to make some comments on the subject and share this post on some of those other forums.  Although I’ll focus on the ANSYS community, what is said applies to any community that supports engineering and technology tools.

Show Some Effort 

The thing that posters need to remember is that they are often asking industry experts to take time out of their busy day to help them.  Those experts want to see some effort put in to the question.  It is very important that the requester form the question in proper English, or whatever language the forum uses.  Even if the poster is not a native speaker, an effort needs to be made to use full and complete sentences, even if grammar is a bit off. (I won’t comment about speling, because that is a my weakest area… so I’ll forgive others on that one)

The easiest way to show a lack of respect to the people you want to answer your question is to not use capitalization or punctuation. As someone commented one time on XANSYS

“If you can’t find the time to use a shift key, I don’t have the time to answer your question.”

Do your own Homework/Work 

The most famous “bad post” on XANSYS was something along the lines of:

“i have been told to model a turbine blade in ansys, can someone show me how to do this”

Needless to say, no one helped them.  Before you post a question you need to try and figure things out yourself. Read the manual, search the internet, talk to co-workers. Most importantly, just try it.  Trial and error is a great learning experience. If you can’t get that to work or you still can’t find the information you need, then post your question. But, make sure you let people know what you have already done and tried.

The people who can help you on forums want to help, they don’t want to do your homework or your work for you.

Ask about a Single Item 

The quote above is not just notorious  because it is asking someone to do their work for them, it is also well known because the question is insanely too general.  Questions that are very specific are the ones that are answered the quickest and with the most useful information.  Even if you have lots of questions, break them up – solve one, then try and solve the next.  

Identify Yourself 

Saying who you are and where you go to work or school is huge. It is a professional courtesy that says “I have nothing to hide.”  When you hide your identity, people assume you are trying to get someone else to do your work and that you don’t want your professor or boss to know. Or, more seriously, you could be posting from an embargoed country or using illegal copies of the software. 

Give Back

This is obvious.  Many people who answer a lot of questions also ask a lot of questions. Even if you are new to the tool you are asking about, share what you learned on the thread when you get it all working. And as you get better, go back and answer some other people’s questions. Remember, it is a community.

Learn More

If you want better help from online communities, here are some great links to give you pointers:

The moderators on XANSYS have developed a great set of rules that really work. Follow these and you will do well on almost any site: www.xansys.org/rules.html

A resource that has been around since the dawn of the internet is “How To Ask Questions The Smart Way” by Eric Steven Raymond: www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html

And the Venerable Guy Kawasaki has a famous post on emails, that has a lot of tips that apply to online posts as well: blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/02/the_effective_e.html 

Check out the posts on Xansys.org/forum.html and CFD-Online . They are both vibrant and intelligent communities with good posts.

3D Printing…….Pancakes

It seems like people are using 3D printing for just about anything these days…….and that is a very good thing.  From art to dentistry and all things in-between, 3D printing has allowed people without engineering expertise or special equipment to be truly innovative in their fields.

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Just the other day we ran across a really unique and creative use of 3D printing……..The Pancakebot! As the name suggests, it lets you 3D print custom-shaped pancakes.  Fun and delicious!  Pancakebot started as a project that Miguel Valenzuela tinkered with for his young daughters using LEGO Mindstorms. There is a great video on the website that shows Pancakebot in action!model

All fun aside though, this is just one example of how 3D printing and the Maker movement as a whole is innovating how we think about making anything.  The idea of printing pancakes may seem simple and silly, but it just takes small ideas like that to get people excited about what is really possible.  Besides, can you just imagine sitting down to breakfast at Disneyland and having a Pancakebot roll up to your table to custom print any character you can imagine?  Even if Pancakebot doesn’t become a mainstream kitchen staple, it is still an amazing use of the technology, and also one that can engage and inspire kids toward STEM and STEAM education.  If that’s all something like Pancakebot does, then I would consider that a big win.

If you want to make your own, the instructions are here.pbot2

PADT Colorado Presents: Scanning & 3D Printing That Works

When:   June 12, 2014
                4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Where:  PADT Colorado
                2009 W. Littleton Blvd
                Suite 200
                Littleton, CO 80120

Click Here to Register

In today’s digitally driven environment there is an increasing need to 3D Print parts from CAD data and Scan data. With the right software and hardware combination this can either be a seamless process or a tremendous obstacle.  Geomagic, Solidworks and Stratasys have solved this problem to provide a very efficient solution for your design, scanning and printing requirements.

Capture_Design (1)

 For this event, PADT is teaming up with Alignex and Geomagic to provide a live demonstration of 3D scanning into CAD resulting in a 3D printed part. Our technical staff will be available, along with representatives from our vendors, to not just show you these tools in action, but to answer questions about how to apply these technologies to meet your design, prototyping, manufacturing, and scanning needs. 

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These events are a fantastic opportunity to catch up on the latest technical advances in these three critical areas.  We will be covering:

  • Demonstration of the Geomagic Capture 3D Scanner 
  • Solving the most difficult part of part scanning, getting a useful computer model, using Solidworks software
  • How to effectively combine these three technologies with each other, CAD, quality systems, soft tooling, injection molding, and other manufacturing processes.
  • Demonstration of 3D printing on a Stratasys printer
  • Anything that any of our guests want to discuss and share

Stratasys

This informal open house will start at 4:00 PM and will continue till around 6:00 PM.  Snacks and beverages will be available. Anyone, novice to seasoned expert, is invited and encouraged to attend and share their knowledge and questions. 

Registration is required as space is limited.

If you have any questions, please contact Kathryn Pesta at kathryn.pesta@padtinc.com or 480.813.4884.

 

 

Rep. Grisham Speaks on New Mexico High-Tech Job Efforts

PADT was pleased to be invited to participate in a news conference held by Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham(D, NM 1st Dist) on recent efforts to support tech jobs in New Mexico through the creation of a new Congressional Business Advisory Council.  Held at Emcore, a neighbor in the Sandia Science and Technology Park. Rep. Grisham was joined by several members of the new council to talk about how the team plans to promote businesses in New Mexico.

Rep-Grishan-Speaking-SRP-2014_05_27Read more about it in Albuquerque Business First.

PADT’s very own Jeff Strain was able to attend and reports that much of what was said was encouraging and pointed towards a better focus and momentum for technology companies beyond the National Labs. Technology is  a strong business sector in the state and the council will leverage that.  He was especially encouraged by the comments made by Lisa Adkins from the BioScience Center, someone that is in the trenches working on new discoveries and growing jobs every day.

We hope to see more of this type of activity in New Mexico and applaud Rep. Grisham’s efforts in this area and wish the new council success.

“Launch, Leave & Forget” – A Personal Journey of an IT Manager into Numerical Simulation HPC and how PADT is taking Compute Servers & Workstations to the Next Level

fire_and_forget_missileLaunch, Leave & Forget was a phrase that was first introduced in the 1960’s. Basically the US Government was developing missiles that when fired would no longer be needed to be guided or watched by the pilot. The fighter pilot was directing the missile mostly by line of sight and calculated guesswork off to a target in the distance. The pilot often would be shot down or would break away too early from guiding the launch vehicle. Hoping and guess work is not something we strive for when lives are at stake.

So I say all of that to say this. As it relates to virtual prototyping, Launch, Leave & Forget for numerical simulation is something that I have been striving for at PADT, Inc.
Striving internally and for our 1,800 unique customers that really need our help. We are passionate and desire to empower our customers to become comfortable, feel free to be creative and able to step back and let it go! Many of us have a unique and rewarding opportunity to work with customers from the point of design/or even the first to pick up the phone call. Onward to virtual prototyping, product development, Rapid Manufacturing and lastly on to something you can bring into the physical world. A physical prototype that has already gone through 5000 numerical simulations. Unlike the engineers in the 1960’s who would maybe get one, two or three shots at a working prototype. I think it is amazing that a company could go through 5000 different prototypes before finally introducing one into the real world.

clusterAt PADT I continue to look and search for new ways to Launch, Leave & Forget. One passion of mine is computers. I first started using a computer when I was nine years old. I was programming in BASIC creating complex little FOR NEXT statements before I was in seventh grade. Let’s fast forward… so I arrived at PADT in 2005. I was amazed at the small company I had arrived at, creativity and innovation was bouncing off the ceiling at this company. I had never seen anything like it! Humbled on more than one occasion as most of the ANSYS CFD analysts knew as much about computers as I did! No, not the menial IT tasks like networking, domain user creation, backups. What the PADT CFD/FEA Analysts communicated sometimes loudly was that their computers were slow! Humbled again I would retort but you have the fastest machine in the building. How could it be slow?! Your machine here is faster than our webserver in fact this was going to be our new web server. In 2005 then at a stalemate we would walk away both wondering why they solve was so slow! Over the years I would observe numerous issues. I remember spending hours using this ANSYS numerical simulation software. It was new to me and it was complicated! I would often knock on an Analysts door and ask if they had a couple minutes to show me how to run a simulation. Some of the programs I would have to ask two or three times, ANSYS FEA, ANSYS CFX, FLUENT on and on. Often using a round robin approach because I didn’t want to inconvenience the ANSYS Analysts. Probably some early morning around 3am the various ANSYS programs and the hardware, it all clicked with me. I was off and running ANSYS benchmarks on my own! Freedom!! Now I could experiment with the hardware configs. Armed with the ANSYS Fluent, and ANSYS FEA benchmark suites I wanted to make the numerical simulations run as fast or faster than they ever imagined possible! I wanted to please these ANSYS guys, why because I had never met anyone like these guys. I wanted to give them the power they deserved.

“What is the secret sauce or recipe for creating an effective numerical simulation?”

This is a comment that I would hear often. It could be on a conference call with a new customer or internally from our own ANSYS CFD Analysts and/or ANSYS FEA Analysts. “David, all I really care about is When I click ‘Calculate Run’ within ANSYS when is going to complete.” Or “how can we make this solver run faster?”

The secret sauce recipe? Have we signed an NDA yet? Just kidding. I have had the unique opportunity to not just observe ANSYS but other CFD/FEA code running on compute hardware. Learning better ways of optimizing hardware and software. Here is a fairly typical situation of how a typical process for architecting hardware for use with ANSYS software goes.

Getting Involved Early

When the sales guys let me I am often involved at the very beginning of a qualifying lead opportunity. My favorite time to talk to a customer is when a new customer calls me directly at the office.

Nothing but the facts sir!

I have years’ worth of benchmarking data. Do your users have any benchmarking data? Quickly have them run one of the ANSYS standard benchmarks. Just one benchmark can reveal to you a wealth of information about their current IT infrastructure.

Get your IT team onboard early!

This is a huge challenge! In general here are a few roadblocks that smart IT people have in place:

IT MANAGER RULES 101

1) No! talking to sales people
2) No! talking to sales people on the phone
3) No! talking to sales people via email
4) No! talking to sales people at seminars
5) If your boss emails or calls and says “please talk to this sales person @vulture & hawk”. Wait about a week. Then if the boss emails back and says “did you talk to this salesperson yet?” Pick up the phone and call sales rep @vulture & hawk.

it1What is this a joke? Nope, Most IT groups operate like this. Many are under staffed andin constant fix it mode. Most say and think like this. “I would appreciate it if you sat in my chair for one day. My phone constantly rings, so I don’t pick it up or I let it go to voicemail (until the voicemail box files up). Email constantly swoops in so it goes to junk mail. Seminar invites and meet and greets keep coming in – nope won’t go. Ultimately I know you are going to try to sell me something”.

Who have they been talking to? Do they even know what ANSYS is? I have been humbled over the years when it comes to hardware. I seriously believed the fastest web server at that moment in time would make a fast numerical simulation server.

If I can get on the phone with another IT Manager 90% of the time the walls come down and we can talk our own language. What do they say to me? Well I have had IT Managers and Directors tell me they would never buy a compute cluster or compute workstation from me. “Oh well our policy states that only buy from big boy pants Computer, Inc., mom & pop shop #343,” or the best one was ‘the owner’s nephew. He builds computers on the side.”. They stand behind their walls of policy and circumstance. But, at the end of the calls they are normally asking us to send a quote to them.

repair

So, now what?

Well, do you really know your software? Have you spent hours running different hardware configurations of the same workstation? Observing the read/writes of an eight drive 600GB SAS3 15k RPM 12Gbps RAID 0 configuration. Is 3 drives for the OS and 5 drives for the Solving array the best configuration for the hardware and software? Huh? What’s that?? Oh boy…

In the Heart of Oil and Gas Simulation: PADT at ANSYS Convergence 2014 Houston

This years ANSYS user group meeting is off to a great start. I need to change gears from electrical stuff that dominated in Santa Clara last week to oil and gas. Some great applications of simulation to really difficult problems.

20140522-085218-31938412.jpg

Color 3D Printing ANSYS ANSYS Mechanical and Mechanical APDL Results

[updated on 6/18/14 with images of an optimized bracket]

When we announced that Stratasys had released a color 3D Printer, I promised that I would figure out a way to get an ANSYS Mechanical or Mechanical APDL solution printed in 3D as soon as possible. Here it is:
3D-Color-FEA-Plot
Pretty cool.  I posted this picture on our social media and it got more retweets-shares-comments-likes-social media at’a boys than anything we have ever posted.  So there is definitely some interest in this. Now that the initial “WOW!” factor is gone, it is time to talk technical details and share how to get a plot made.

Stratasys Objet500 Connex3

There have been some machine around for some time that can print colors. Unfortunately they used a process that deposited a binding agent (fancy name for glue) into a bed of powder. The glue could be died different colors, allowing you to mix three base colors to get a color part. The problem with that technology is that the parts were faded and very fragile. On top of that the machines were messy and hard to run.  

With the Objet500 Connex3 from Stratasys, we now have a machine that makes robust and usable prototypes, that can be printed in color. The device uses inkjet print heads to deposit a photopolymer (a resin that hardens when you shine ultraviolet light on it) one layer at a time. This machine has four print heads: one for support, one for a base material, and two for colored material.   The base material can be black, white, or clear.  Then you can mix two colors in to get a 46 color pallet on a given run.  Download the brochure here for more details on the device, or shoot us an email.

As an example of how to use this technology, we took the results from a modal analysis on a simple low-pressure turbine blade (from a jet engine) and plotted out the deflection results for the 1st, 3rd, and 7th mode. The 7th mode also includes the exaggerated deflected shape.

Turbine-Blade-Modal-s

[Added 6/18/14]  

We recently combined ANSYS and Stratasys products for an optimization test case for a customer. We used Toplogoical optimization to remove chunks of material from an aerospace mounting bracket.  Then we 3D plotted the results to share with the international team looking at using this process to design parts that are lighter because they are not constrained by traditional manufacturing requirements. Here is what the first pass on the part looked like:
TopoOptMount_7

Getting a Printable File 

Almost every Additive Manufacturing machine, from 3D Printers to Manufacturing Systems, use an STL file as the way to define a part to be made.  The file contains triangular facets (a mesh) on the surface. The problem is that this file does not have a standard for defining colors.  The way that we get around this is you make an STL file for each color you want, sort of an STL assembly. Then when you load the files into the machine, you assign colors to each STL object.  That is great if you are printing an assembly and each solid object in you Model is a different color, but gets a bit dicey for a results contour.

So, we need a way to get an STL file for each color contour in your plot.  Right now non of the ANSYS products output an STL file.  Needless to say we have been talking with development about this and we hope there will be a built in solution at the next release.  In the interim, we have developed two methods.

Method 0: Have PADT Print your Part

Before we go over the two methods, we should mention that we offer almost every RP technology as a service to customers, including the new Objet500 Connex3. We have written a tool that converts ANSYS MAPDL models into STL’s that represent color bands.  It comes in two parts, a macro that you run to get the data, and a program we have that turns the data into STL files.

  So the easiest way to get a Color 3D Plot of your results is to:

  1. Download the macro ans2vtk.mac and run it. Instructions are in the header.
  2. Upload the resulting *.vtk file to PADT. Find instructions here.
  3. Email rp@padtinc.com and let us know the name of the file, that you want a Color 3D Print, and what units your part is and scale factor, if any, to apply to your part.  
  4. We will generate a quote.  
  5. You give us a PO or a credit card
  6. We pre-process the part and show you the resulting contours, making sure it is what you want
  7. We print it, then ship it to you.

This is a screen shot of the model in our internal tool:

3d-printing-ansys-results-valve-vtk

Method 0.5: Use the PADT Script

If you own a Connex3 and are not a service provider, we would be happy to share the internal script that we use with you.  You would follow the same process as above, but would run the script yourself to make the STL files. You will need to install some opensource tools as well. Email me to discuss.

Method 1: RST to CFD-Post to Magics 

This is how we did the first sample models, because it works out of the box and required no coding.  To use it you need to have a licence of  ANSYS CFD-Post and Magics from Materialise.  CFD Post outputs a color facet file in the VRML2 format, and Magics can convert that into a bunch of STL file.

NOTE: For this to work you need Magics and your contours need to be pretty simple. A complex part won’t work  because Magics won’t be able to figure out the STL volumes. 

We start by attaching a CFD Post object to our model:

project-page

Open up CFD Post and make a plot you like. If you don’t know ANSYS CFD Post, here is an article we did a while back on how to use it to post ANSYS Mechanical and Mechanical APDL results. 

Set the number of contours to a smaller number. You can have up to 46 colors, but that means you have to make 46 separate STL files by hand. I picked 7 contours, which gives me 6 colors:

plot_in_cfdpost

Now simply go to File > Save Picture and select VRML as your format. Note, it will bury the plot way down in your project directories, so I like to change the path to save it at the top level of the directory:

save-wrl

The next step is to read the file in to Magics.

WRL File in Magics_Color Code

In Magics, you can select facets by color and write each one out as a separate STL file.

Once you have done that, go in to the Objet Studio Software that came with your printer and assign colors to each STL file. We just kind of eyeball the closest color to the original plot:

FEA Objet studio

You can see here that we actually printed 3 at a time, just made copies and we only had to define colors on the original.  Then Print.

Here is what it looks like in the printer when it finished. We ran some other parts next to the three valves:
printing

You’ll notice it looks all yellow. That is the support material. It is water soluble and we just wash it off when the part is done. 

Method 2: Macro for Element Based Contours

That method kind of was a pain, so we decided it would be a good idea to write a little macro in APDL that does the following:

  1. Specify number of colors and value to plot.  (It uses the current selected nodes/elements.)
  2. Select elements by contour range
  3. Create surface elements on those elements
  4. Convert those surface elements in to an STL file for each contour.

The advantage of this approach is that ANSYS MAPDL directly creates the STL files and all you have to do is read that into Objet Studio and assign colors.  The disadvantage is that it is plotting element faces, so if a contour changes across a face, it doesn’t capture it. The way it works now is that the face color is represents the contour color for the lowest value on that face.  Not ideal, but I only had about 3 hours to write something from scratch and that is as far as I got.

This is what it looks like in Objet Studio:

macro-1-in-studio

Here is the macro: mkcolstl_mac.zip

Just run in in MAPDL or put it in ANSYS Mechanical as a post processing command snippet.

3D-plots-table

PADT to Exhibit at NAFEMS Americas Conference 2014

nafems2014

Since this years NAFEMS Americas conference is in PADT’s back yard in Colorado Springs, Colorado, we obtained a booth this year.  Our Colorado simulation team will be there to talk about all things ANSYS, CUBE Simulation Computers, and Flownex.  

If you are gong to be there, stop on by and say hello.  We will be in booth #28.

You can learn more about the conference here: http://www.nafems.org/2014/americas/

Using External Model to Utilize Legacy Mechanical APDL Models in ANSYS Workbench

For many years we’ve been asked, “Can I use my old Mechanical APDL/ANSYS ‘classic’ model in Workbench?”  Up until version 15.0 our answer has been along the lines of, “Uh, not really, unless you can just use the IGES geometry and start over or use FE Modeler to skin the mesh and basically start over.”  Now with version 15.0 of ANSYS there is a new option that makes legacy models more usable in both functionality and level of effort required.

So what is External Model?

  • A new capability at ANSYS 15.0 to use legacy MAPDL models in Workbench
  • Reads the .cdb file (coded database) created from /PREP7 in MAPDL (CDWRITE command)
  • Builds exterior skin geometry from the existing MAPDL mesh
  • Creates solids from the skin geometry
  • Retains the MAPDL mesh
  • May have trouble for complex meshes, although we’ve been impressed in a couple of trials
  • Has limitations on what is transferred into Mechanical  
  • No material properties, loads, or constraints
  • May give you very large surfaces, making it difficult to apply loads on faces, but you can bring in nodal components from Mechanical APDL as Named Selections in Mechanical as an alternative load application method
  • Allows us to apply new BC’s using geometry in Mechanical

Here is a representative Mechanical APDL Model.  It’s a simple static structural run with loads and constraints.

 p1

p2
p3
To use External Model, we’ll need a .cdb file from Mechanical APDL.  If you’re not familiar with using the CDWRITE command, here are the menu picks in the MAPDL Preprocessor:

Preprocessor > Archive Model > Write.  Enter a name for the .cdb (coded database) file being written and click OK.  Don’t worry about the .iges file.

 p4

Next, launch Workbench 15.0 and insert an External Model block from the Toolbox:

 p5
Next right click > Edit or double click on the Setup cell in the External Model block.  Click on the […] button under Location to browse to your .cdb file created in MAPDL.
p6p7
There is a Properties window (View > Properties) in which units can optionally be modified or a coordinate system transformation can be specified.
Next, click on the Workbench Project tab near the top of the Workbench window.  Right click on the Setup cell and choose Update.  You should now have a green check mark next to Setup:
p8
Insert a new (standalone) analysis type to continue your simulation in Mechanical.  Here we inert a Static Structural analysis.  For some reason you can’t drag and drop the new analysis onto the setup cell, so we establish the link in a separate step shown below.p9

Drag and drop the Setup cell under External Model to the Model cell under the new analysis block:
p10

Note that the Model cell Properties contain a Tolerance Angle that can be adjusted to help with exterior skin geometry creation from the MAPDL mesh.  Use this to help control where one skin surface starts and stops based on angles between element faces.

The two blocks are now linked as shown by the blue curve connecting Setup to Model:
p11
Double click the Model cell in the new (Static Structural) analysis block to open the Mechanical editor.  It should create geometry over the existing mesh, which is retained.
p12
p13
Although the mesh comes across, no material properties, loads, or constraints, etc. are retained from the MAPDL model

  • These must be entered separately in Workbench/Mechanical
  • There is no ability to remesh or modify the existing mesh

You can apply (or reapply) loads and constraints directly on geometry, or on nodal components that were defined in MAPDL which become Named Selections in Mechanical:

p14p5

 p14

Solve and postprocess as usual in the Mechanical editor.
p15
In conclusion, ANSYS 15.0 gives us new and enhanced capability for utilizing legacy models, particularly those from MAPDL saved as .cdb file format.  Although not everything is retained, this capability does provide us with additional tools to reuse existing models without having to start from scratch.

PADT in the Press: AZ Republic Article on 3D Printing

Peter Corbett, from the Arizona Republic published a story last week on 3d Printing called: “3D PRINTERS: TURNING SCIENCE FICTION INTO REALITY

Near the end of the article, there is a section called “Tempe Firm a 3-D Leader” where they talk a lot about PADT, what we do here, and the history of 3D Printing.  Always great to get this technology and our company recognized.  

PADT-AZ-Republic-2014_05_10

http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/tech/2014/05/10/3d-printing-touching-layer/8956075/