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

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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.
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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:
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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:
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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.
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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.
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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.

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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/

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New Systems, New Logo, and More Accessories for CUBE Simulation Computers

PADT-HPC-Tuning-Simulation-ClusterWe just finished updating the  standard configurations on our line of CUBE high performance computers, and thought it would be a good time to update everyone on some other areas of this product line.  Every week more and more simulation users reach out to PADT and ask us to design custom systems for them to run a variety of simulation tools, and more of our ANSYS customers are bundling hardware with their software purchases.  Our experience in designing, building, and supporting these systems and their users has helped us improve many aspects of the CUBE product.

Branding

We are changing the branding from CUBE HVPC Systems to just CUBE Simulation Computers.  The machines are still high in value and high in performance, but to be honest the whole High Value Performance Computing concept may have been a little too “forward thinking.” In the end, what we are doing is designing computers for people running simulation software. Why not just call them what they are: Simulation Computers.  While we simplify our message, we are also simplifying our logo:


CUBE_Logo_150w
  CUBE-brochure
CUBE-Logo-Square-150  cubebg

Same colors as the PADT logo, and a lot simpler.  Our sales team has assured me that my time fiddling with the logo will result in a significant increase in revenue…we will see. But it is easier to look at on the front of my box.

New Systems

The event that caused us to redo our branding was butting together the new base systems.  We do this to provide potential users with information on what their system could look like, and what it might cost. Our IT Manager and chief system architect, David Mastel, designed eight systems that we feel should serve as good starting points for most users. Three are AMD based for those that have large models that can really take advantage of parallel.  The remaining five are based on the latest Intel processors.

You can view the brochure here, or just review this snap of the 8 systems:
CUBE-Standard-Configs
We now offer two workstations: a base system and one that you can run most FEA and small to medium CFD models on.  The servers are based on systems we just built. The W16i-k server has the latest Intel chip clocked at 3.4GB, plenty of RAM, and a GPU that make this a real screamer for most FEA models and even some hefty CFD runs. It also makes a great head node on a cluster.  It is beefy enough to share across several users.

This year we have pre-configured a mini-cluster because we ran across customers who didn’t have the budget for a full cluster, but needed something to run large jobs on. The larger Mid-Clusters are sized to work for most users, but if you need more we can add nodes to make them full clusters.  The Intel mid-cluster only fills half of a standard rack.

Accessories

When we talk to potential customers, we often find that they do not need a new system, they just need to add some accessories to the systems they have. To help our customers out on pricing, we have signed up to be a reseller with several manufacturers:

3D Mouse from 3DConnexion

We have been using the SapceMouse and SpacePilot devices for years for CAD and Simulation.  If you are not familiar with the product, they are basically pucks on a six axis sensor that you twist how you want the object on the screen to move. No more CTRL-SHIFT-Middle-Mouse.  We started adding these to the workstations and visualization nodes that we sell.  The savings in carpal-tunnel treatments alone are worth the investment. 
3dmouse-products

As you can see from this image, the models vary from the simple SpaceNavigator, to a full control center for your 3D escapades with the SpacePilotPro. The wireless one works great for us on shared computers and on the laptops we demo ANSYS products on.  Take a look on their website to learn more. Just don’t hit the “Buy Now” button, give us a call and we can work a nice deal and help you configure it for your software.

NVIDIA GPU’s

We can’t say enough good things about these. But there is a lot to learn before you invest. Some can do graphics and accelerate your solve, some are dedicated to accelerating.  Also, how much of a speedup you get depends on your models, which ANSYS products you are using, and which solver options within those products you enable.  And that is why PADT is the perfect place to pick out and buy your GPU.  We have extensive experience using them here and in supporting other users. We understand the licencing for ANSYS as well. We might even be able to run a benchmark for you.  

Tesla K20  Tesla K40
Give us a call or shoot us an email and tell us about thy type of simulation you do and the existing machine you want to add a GPU to.   Our experts can make a recommendation and provide you with a very competitive quote that comes with support on getting your ANSYS solver working with your new GPU. If you existing system can’t handle a GPU (they need a lot of power and room) then we can work up an upgrade or a new system so you can take advantage of this real time saver.

Mellanox Infiniband

When you are ready to step up to cluster computing, you will need a high speed interconnect so your solver can talk between nodes directly.  We have had great luck with FDR and QDR systems from Mellanox and have gained significant real world experience getting them to work with the ANSYS Solvers and several flavors of MPI.  Let us know where you are interconnect wise, and where you want to go, and we will work with you and your IT team to give you a cost effective but fast solution. There is no longer any reason why inter-process communication is your bottleneck. 

Hard Drives, Solid State Drives, BlueRay Burners, RAM ,RedHat, or a new Motherboard
The accessories above are what we have been certified on as value-added resellers.  Through our distributors, we can deliver pretty much any piece of computer equipment.  The same stuff you can buy yourself from a dozen websites.  The PADT difference is we know ANSYS software, and we know simulation computers.  We take the guess work out of finding the right solution by taking the time to learn what you have and what you need, then using our experience to get you the best solution.

Time to Step Out of the Box, and Step in to a CUBE

Stop dealing with a giant name brand supplier who wants to sell you a web server renamed as an HPC system. And stop trolling web sites trying to find the right hardware. CUBE computers are fast, they are reliable, they are affordable, and they are configured for nothing but simulation.  Contact our experts and let us run a quote for you. Worst case is you will learn a thing or two about high performance computing for simulation. Best case you will end up with a more productive solution for less money.

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3D Printing a Building – An Important Example of the Real Value of 3D Printing

We have recently been asked to present 3D Printing at a variety of events, many not in our traditional mechanical engineering space, and a common theme is emerging.  Once people see through the hype and really understand what the technology can and can’t do, they want to understand what the real long term value is.

I’ve been mulling it for a while, then a Facebook friend of mine sent me the video below of a company in China that has a working 3D Printer for buildings.  It is basically an FDM machine that uses concrete. It is still early days and much work is still needed. But it shows the one key value of 3D printing to the general public:

3D Printing gives people without special training or equipment the ability to make stuff.

Here is the video:


3dprint examplesIf I want to build a sturdy house, I need to know how to lay brick/frame/hang sheetrock/prefab concrete.   I also need all the various tools required to do that.  If I have a 3D house printer, I just need the raw materials and a model of the house I want. Imagine volunteers showing up in a remote village with a 3D Printer on the back of a flatbed.  Those volunteers don’t need to be trained on how to build a house. Just how to run the printer.  If you have ever volunteered for a Habitat for Humanity or a mission that involves house building, you know what I’m talking about. The two real construction workers on the crew do 90% of the work and the rest of you try not to put a nail through your hand.  

There are other applications. Take a military unit that needs to quickly build a shelter at a forward operating base. Instead of requiring experienced combat engineers, hit print.  Or even in your own backyard. Want a small cabana for Grandma to live in.  Hire a contractor and wait six months through delays and cost overruns, or rent a 3D printer - my guess is the 3D printer will show up on time.

Take this thought and apply it to the traditional use of 3D Printers, prototyping in mechanical product development, and it still applies. I ordered that first SLA model of a fan blade way back in 1990 or so because we needed to make sure the turbine engine fan blade shape we redesigned (using ANSYS, of course) was manufacturerable, had no unexpected bumps (trust, me it happened before), and could be assembled into the existing disk. Instead of going to a machine shop and having an expert machine, broach and grind it, we went straight from the solid model to a printed part. No need for experts or the 5 or 6 pieces of special equipment required to machine and broach that blade.

Just a few examples where 3D printing enables end-users of a physical item to make it without expertise, skills, or special equipment: dental implants, jewelry, art work, fixtures or tooling for a manufacturing process, scaffolds for growing new body parts, and even fancy chocolates.  All of these examples show how 3D printing lets the person who needs an object, create that object themselves. This reduces time and distractions from the true focus of their effort.

This is what is really exciting. Not making a replacement part for your washing machine or “bringing manufacturing back to the US (automation and good old fashioned market forces will do that, not 3D printing) but being able to make whatever you really want.  I will sit here and print out my mechanical parts and assemblies, happily avoiding the need to use a machine shop to build a prototype.  And while I do that, I’ll keep get great joy from scanning the interweb to see what new and truly novel applications people will come up with. 

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3D Printing Information for 5th Digital Printing Press Conference, 2014

dppcPADT was pleased to give a talk on 3D Printing at the 5th Digital Printing Press Conference on April 30th, 2014 in Scottsdale.  

Any time I get a chance to attend an industry specific conference like this one, it is a real eye opener.  There is a huge amount of work around the world in making digital printers.  I learned a huge amount that is applicable to other things that PADT does. In addition, the audience was very interested in 3D Printing and asked some very insightful questions, and provided some insight in to how ink jet is growing and evolving in additive manufacturing. 

As promised during the presentation, here are some useful links:

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ANSYS Acquires SpaceClaim


Big news this morning in the ANSYS world: ANSYS, Inc. has acquired SpaceClaim, makers of a very powerful 3D Solid Modeling tool that has been an add-on for ANSYS products for some time.

Here is the official press release: 

finance.yahoo.com/news/ansys-acquires-spaceclaim-corporation-leading-111400173.html

Here at PADT we have been long time users of the SpaceClaim products, and big fans. This will certainly secure the focus of the SpaceClaim development team on continuing their work on providing simulation users with the tools they need to create, modify, and add intelligence to their geometry.  The debate of DesignModeler vs. SpaceClaim seems to be settled!

This is a great technology fit, and there seem to be some nice business advantages as well.

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Still Time to Attend an ANSYS User Group Conference

conference-2014-logoApril is almost over, and you know what that means? It’s time for the ANSYS Convergence Regional Conference to begin.  These free events are held once a year and are an opportunity for the entire spectrum of ANSYS users to get together for one day. Each event is a bit different, but the goal is the same:  Users share presentations on what they have done and the experts from ANSYS, Inc. share what is new and exciting with the products.  

These events are technical in nature, with a general session followed by specific technical tracks.  

conf2And PADT will be at the Santa Clara and Houston events this year, highlighting our services and products and presenting in Santa Clara.

The four US events are:

There are also 12 events in Asia, 12 in Europe, 7 in Latin America, and 7 in  the Africa/Middle East region.
See the full list here.

Remember, it’s free and always educational.  Even in our modern world of blogs, forums, and webinars, it is valuable to just spend some time talking with experts and other users.

PADT is a “Silver Sponsor” so we would love to see you there!

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Some Tips on Configuring RSM as a User

rsm1If you’re not familiar with it, RSM is the ANSYS Remote Solve Manager.  In short, it allows you to submit solutions from various ANSYS tools so they can be solved remotely, such as on a compute cluster, remote number cruncher, or perhaps just another computer that isn’t being used very much.  Note that there is no additional licensing or installation is required (other than perhaps ANSYS HPC licensing to take advantage of multiple cores).  RSM is installed automatically when ANSYS is installed; it just needs to be configured to be activated.

In version 14.5 and 15.0, there is a nicely documented Setup Wizard that helps with the setup and configuration of RSM on compute servers.  This setup wizard as well as the rest of the RSM documentation in the ANSYS Help does a great job of explaining RSM and what must be done to setup and configure it.  This Focus entry assumes that your crack IT staff has installed RSM on your compute machine(s) and has decided where the Compute Server will be (can be on your local machine or on your ‘number cruncher’ or on a different machine).  So, our focus here is on what needs to be done as a user to send your solutions off to the remote solver using RSM.

As an example, we have RSM 15.0 configured with the Compute Server on a remote computer named cs3a. The first time running RSM, using Start > All Programs > ANSYS 15.0 > Remote Solve Manager > RSM 15.0, we get the window shown here:

rsm2

Notice that it only shows our local machine (My Computer) and nothing about the actual remote computer on which we want to solve.

Therefore, we need to add the information on our cluster node which contains the compute server.

To do this, click on Tools > Options.  This is the resulting window.  Notice the Add button at lower left is grayed out:

rsm3

What it’s waiting for us to do is type in the name of our desired remote computer, like this:

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Now that a new name has been typed in the Name field, the Add button is active.  After clicking Add, we get this:

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After clicking OK, we will now see that the new remote computer has been added in the RSM window:

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The next step is to set your login password for accessing this computer.  Right click on the new hostname in the RSM window in the tree at left, and select Set Password.

 rsma

Then enter your network login and password information in the resulting window:

rsmb

If your accounts are fully setup, at this point you can run a test by right clicking on the localhost item in the tree under the remote computer name and selecting Test Server:

 rsm7

If the test is successful, you will see that the test job completed with a green checkmark on the folder icon in the upper right portion of the RSM window:

 rsm8

If your login is not configured properly, you will likely get an error like this one shown below.  Notice that the upper right portion now states that the job has failed and there is a red X rather than a green checkmark on the folder icon.  By clicking on the job in the upper right panel, we can see the job log in the lower right panel.  In this case, it says that the login failed due to an incorrect password.

rsm9

The fix for the password problem is to ensure that the correct login is being accessed by RSM on the remote computer.  This is done from the RSM window by right clicking on the remote computer name and selecting Accounts.

rsm10

If your account and/or password are different on the remote computer than they are on your local machine, you will need to establish an alternate account so that RSM knows to use the correct login on the remote computer.  Right click on your account in the Accounts pane, and select Add Alternate Account:

rsm11

Enter your username and password for the remote computer in the resulting window.  Next, we need to associate that login with localhost on the remote computer.  This is down by checking the localhost box in the Compute Servers pane, like this:

 rsm12

Another problem we have seen is that the user doesn’t have permission for ANSYS to write to the default solve directory on the remote computer.  In that case, the test job log will have an error like this:

 rsm13

This fix in this case is to establish a solve directory manually, first by creating one on the remote computer, if needed, and second by specifying that RSM use that directory rather than the default.  The second step is accomplished in the RSM window via right clicking on the localhost item for the remote computer, then selecting Properties.  On the General tab, you should be able to change the Working Directory Location to User Specified, then enter the desired directory location as shown in the image below.  If that option is greyed out, either your password for the remote machine has not been entered correctly, or you are not part of the admin group on the remote computer.  In the case of the latter, either your RSM administrator has to do it for you, or you have to be granted the admin access.

 rsm14

At this point, if the test server runs have completed successfully you should be ready to try a real solution using RSM.  We’ll use Mechanical to show how it’s done.  In the Mechanical editor, click on Tools > Solve Process Settings.  Here we will need to specify the remote computer and queue we’ll be using for the solution.  Click on the Add Remote button:

rsm15 

In the resulting Rename Solve Process Settings button, type in a name for your remote solve option that makes sense to you.  We called ours RemoteSolve1.  This new option will now show up on the left side of the Solve Process Settings window:

rsm16

The next step is to type in the name of the Solve Manager over on the right side.  In our case, the Solve Manager is on computer cs3a.  Any queues that are available to RSM for this Solve Manager will show in the Queue field, after a brief period of time to make the connection.  In our case, the only queue is a local queue on cs3a.

 rsm17

We are now ready to solve our Mechanical model remotely, using RSM.  Instead of clicking the Solve button in Mechanical, we will click on the drop down arrow to the right of the solve button.  From the dropdown, we select the remote solve option we created, RemoteSolve1:

rsm18

Assuming the solution completes with no errors, this job will show up in the RSM window with a status of Finished when it is done.

 rsm19

The final step in this case is to download the results from the remote computer back to the client machine.  In the Mechanical editor, this is done by right clicking on the Solution branch and selecting Get Results as shown below.  Also note that you can monitor a nonlinear solution via Solution Information.  You’ll just need to right click during solution to have a snapshot of the nonlinear diagnostics brought back from the remote computer.

 rsm20

We hope this helps with the setup and utilization of RSM from a user perspective.  There are other options and applications for RSM that we didn’t discuss, but hopefully this is useful for those needing to get ‘over the hump’ in using RSM.

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Ulthera Announces IPO

ultheraWe were pleased to note today that PADT Medical customer Ulthera Inc. filed for an $86M IPO with the SEC.  We have truly enjoyed working with this company offer our congratulations to them on reaching this major milestone.

You can read about the IPO in the Phoenix Business Journal here.
You can also read a case study on some of the work that PADT has done for Ultherea in the past here.

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ASU Research Park Celebrates 30 Years

ASURP-30th-StickerHow do you turn a political defeat into a big win, you look at your options, decide where you want to go, and you do it.  That is what a group of valley visionaries did in the early 1980′s when the state decided that only the University of Arizona could should have an agriculture program. That left Arizona State University with a large working farm that needed to be taken down. They could have sold the land for quick profit.  But instead they looked at options that would provide the most long-term benefit to the school, the state, and the local community.
The result, thirty years ago, was the ASU Research Park.  Located just west of the 101 Loop between Warner and Elliot roads, the Park is now a vibrant and thriving hot-spot of technical innovation and realization.  This is not an incubator where people try to be successful in technology, this is where people who are successful with technology come to get stuff done.
PADT is pleased to own a building in the Park, the PADT Innovation Center, where our headquarters are located along with three other business that lease space from us.  We have found the park to be a supportive place, centrally located, with great facilities for our employees.  

The event was marked with a breakfast gathering of tenants, Tempe officials, Park board members, and representatives from ASU. Dr. Michael Crow, the President of ASU gave a great speech on how the park in particular helped move ASU towards being a true research university. He stressed that unlike in most places, ASU didn’t plan and study and move slowly. They wanted to become a research university and if you want to be a research university, you need a research park. So they built a research park, and in the end, a very successful one.

ASURP-30th-DrCrow
Some interesting facts about the park:

  • Home to 49 companies with a total of over 4,500 employees
  • Generates over $2,000,000 annually for ASU
  • Has a $816,000,000 annual impact on the Arizona economy, generating 11,180 jobs
  • 89% of the park is leased, 26 Acres still available
  • 1,790,000 sqft of office space, with 350,000 sqft under construction.

ASURP-30th-Mayor-MitchelThe mayor of Tempe, Mark Mitchel, was also on hand to share with the audience the strong impact that the park and ASU have had on the city and how the ASU Research Park is a true university-city initiative. In fact, Mr. Mitchel’s father, Harry Mitchel, was the mayor of Tempe thirty years ago and was one of the visionaries that helped make the park happen.  

ASURP-30th-AirView
This aerial view, taken a few months ago, shows the new GoDaddy tech center being built in the lower right hand corner. The PADT innovation center is the upside-down check mark in the upper right corner.  PADT customers ViaSat and Amkor are both starting construction in the park right now.

To learn more, read the official press release: ASU Research Park Celebrates 30 Years – Press Release, or visit the park’s website: asuresearchpark.com.

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