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

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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

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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/

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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.

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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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