PADT Expands Local 3D Printing, Support, and Simulation Services with New Albuquerque Office

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We are very pleased to announce that PADT is opening new local office in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the Sandia Science and Technology Park. The office will focus on providing sales, technical support, 3D Printer maintenance, and a meeting space to better serve customers in New Mexico.

Some of PADT’s earliest customers came from the state of New Mexico, and the company provides products, support, and services to many organizations in the area, including all of the major universities, the National Labs, and dozens of commercial companies. The new office will allow the local team, and employees visiting from PADT’s Colorado or Arizona locations, the opportunity to work in a familiar location, have direct access to PADT’s infrastructure, and provide customers a location to view the 3D Printing, simulation, and product development technologies that PADT offers. The location at the Eubank entrance to Kirtland AFB and Sandia National Labs give direct access to the highest concentration of PADT customers in the state.

The sales team in the  PADT New Mexico office will focus on distributing three  products lines:  The first is the complete suite of simulation software from ANSYS, Inc. (ANSS) (www.ANSYS.com). These tools are used by companies around the world to simulate products before testing, resulting in better performance for less cost and in less time.  The second line of products are the 3D Printer and Direct Digital Manufacturing systems from Stratasys (SSYS) (www.STRATASYS.com).  Both ANSYS, Inc. and Stratasys are the world leaders in their respective markets, and PADT is proud to be one of their reselling partners for Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.  The third product line is PADT’s CUBE Systems, (www.padtinc.com/cube-hvpc) their own brand of High Value Performance Computers specifically designed and configured for the advanced simulation user.

Additionally, the office will serve as a place for PADT’s technical staff to work together at a single location, providing simulation consulting, training and technical support.  As the company grows, the area has sufficient expansion opportunities to allow for more employees and equipment.

You can read the official announcement on the press release:

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http://www.prlog.org/12158073.pdf

Here are some images of the new office:

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The office is literally on the corner of Research and Innovation at:

PADT New Mexico
1451 Innovation Parkway
Suite 402
Albuquerque, NM  87123

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Still working on signage, but we used a large monitor to add a little touch to the entrance

Prarie_Dog_SSTP_Welcome(Note the little welcome creature in the lower right of the image)

The office is located at the Sandia Science and Technology Park on the east side of Albuquerque, just south of I-40 near the Eubank gate to Kirtland AFB and Sandia National Labs:

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Video Tips: Automatic Cross-Sections in ANSYS DesignModeler

A quick video showing how to create a script that will automatically generate standard cross-sections in DesignModeler to be used for, as an example, line bodies.

ANSYS Help Link:  // DesignModeler User Guide // Scripting API // Script Features // Features within Script Features // Cross Section Feature

Ready to go for Turbo Expo 2013 in San Antonio

booth2The PADT and Flownex teams have our booth set up and ready to go for the next three days at Turbo Expo 2013.

This is always one of our favorite events because most of us came from this industry, and in fact all four of the founders were turbine-engine-engineers before we started PADT.  A special part of this years event is that we are introducing Flownex to the North American Turbo community as well as our CUBE HVPC computer systems.  So lots of new things to talk about along with our established offerings of ANSYS, Inc software consulting, customization, and training.

If you are there, please make sure you stop by our booth. We would love to see you and chat.

 

Here is our press release on the event:

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Trusted Partners for Turbomachinery Simulation

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The ASME Turbo Expo is the industry show where PADT feels at home the most.  Founded by experienced turbine engine simulation, design, and manufacturing engineers, the company has a true understanding of the real world needs of those who are focused on simulation for Turbomachinery.

Our primary focus for this year’s conference will be the full introduction of the Flownex Simulation Environment to North America.  This thermal-fluid system simulation tool started life as a solver for combustor analysis, and has grown up to be a full featured toolset that can model any fluid-thermal network in your engine or pump.  Flownex is ideal simulation software for the quick thermo-fluid analysis of gas turbine performance.

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It provides aircraft engine design and system engineers with the ability to simulate complicated air and gas flow patterns through fans, compressors and turbines; match compressor and turbine power and compile maps; calculate thrust, shaft power, combustion calculations with convection, conduction and radiation heat transfer; and determine fuel consumption.  If you are using an in-house tool or software written for other applications to model your flow networks, please come by to see how Flownex can reduce the amount of time you spend modeling your systems while increasing the fidelity of your models.s grown up to be a full featured toolset that can model any fluid-thermal network in your engine or pump.  Flownex is ideal simulation software for the quick thermo-fluid analysis of gas turbine performance.

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PADT’s reputation in the Turbomachinery industry is built on our expertise selling, using, supporting, and customizing the complete suite of ANSYS FEA and CFD.  Turbo companies come to us for training on ANSYS software, customization of analysis tools, FEA and CFD outsourcing, and HPC hardware because they know we know their business and how to maximize the return on their investment in simulation.  We can help anyone doing simulation on Turbomachinery in a variety of ways, stop on by to find out how.

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Another new area the PADT provides this type of help to turbo companies is by offering a complete line of High Value Performance Computer systems specifically designed for the simulation user.  From workstations to large clusters, PADT can custom design a system that hits the sweet spot between cost and performance, delivering faster turnaround of CFD and FEA runs for considerably less than systems offered by general purpose computer suppliers.

Stop by our booth to look at the hardware, software, training, and consulting that we offer to companies around the world to help them make their studies more efficient and effective.

Video Tips: Automatic Contact Generation in ANSYS Mechanical

A quick video showcasing the automatic contact generation feature in ANSYS Mechanical.  This feature automatically selects the faces that are in contact or are close to contact and assigns a contact definition.

CFX Expression Language – Part 1: Accessing CFD Simulation Information in CFX (and FLUENT)

This week we are presenting an introduction to CFX Expression Language. If you’re not familiar with CFX, it is one of the two CFD tools available from ANSYS, Inc., the other being Fluent. CFX has been part of the ANSYS family of engineering tools since 2003. It is relatively easy to use and can be run stand-alone or tightly integrated with other ANSYS products within ANSYS Workbench. We have some general information on CFX available at this link.

CFX Expression Language, or CEL, is the scripting language that allows us to define inputs as variables, capture outputs as variables, and perform operations on those variables. Through the use of CEL we can be more efficient in our CFD runs and better capture results that we need. With CEL we can access and manipulate information without needing to recompile code or access separate routines besides the main CFX applications.

Also note that since CEL can be used in CFD Post, it is useful for postprocessing FLUENT solutions in addition to CFX, since CFD Post is common to both CFX and FLUENT. There are some things to be aware of regarding FLUENT In CFD Post. This link in to the ANSYS 14.5 Help system explains it:

// User’s Guide :: 0 // 7. CFD-Post File Menu // 7.15. File Types Used and Produced by CFD-Post // 7.15.10. Limitations with FLUENT Files

If you are a user of APDL, ANSYS Parametric Design Language, what I have written above about CEL should look familiar. One difference, though, is that while Mechanical APDL is dimensionless, CFX is not. Therefore, CEL definitions contain units where appropriate.

CEL is typically used in CFX-Pre and CFD-Post. A handy editor is available to assist in the definition of the expressions. Most of the activity is enabled by right clicking.

Virtually any quantity in CFX that requires a value input can make use of CEL, including boundary conditions and material properties. CEL can also be used to access and enhance results information. Expressions defined in CEL can be used in design point studies in ANSYS Workbench, either as input or output parameters.

So, what kind of things can you do in an expression? In addition to accessing simulation information and storing it as a variable, you can manipulate values using operators such as add, subtract, multiply, divide, and raise to a power. You can also use built-in functions such as sine, cosine, tangent and other trig functions, exponent, log, square root, absolute value, minimum, maximum, etc.

There are many predefined values, including some common CFD constants such as pi, the universal gas constant, and Avogadro’s number. The available options are different in CFX pre vs. CFD Post, with relevant choices for each.

In CFX Pre, expressions are accessed by double clicking on Expressions in the tree. That takes you to the expression editor, as shown here:

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Notice how units are defined for each expression, but they can be mixed if desired.

Regarding CFD Post, the example below shows three expressions defined in CFD Post. The expressions within the box are user-defined. The other expressions listed are setup automatically.

The values for forceX1 and forceX2 are calculated by extracting X-direction forces on two different surfaces. The surface names were defined in ANSYS Meshing in this case, as Named Selections. The value fdiffx is calculated by subtracting forceX1 from forceX2. The resulting value, fdiffx, has been specified as an output parameter in Workbench; hence the P-> symbol next to the name.

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New expressions are created by right-clicking in the Expressions tab. The new expression value is given a name, then the definition is input, typically by right clicking and selecting from the menus of available quantities, like this:

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The location of application for an expression can also be selected by right clicking:

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So we’ve got our variables defined using CEL. Now what? Here are some things we can do with CEL variables:

1. Use them as inputs such as material properties or boundary condition values in CFX. If we are running multiple cases, it is typically much easier to define quantities that we want to vary this way. The values can then be changes in the Expression Window, or if defined as a parameter in Workbench, in the parameters view as part of a parameter study.

2. Use them for reporting results quantities of interest, such as forces at a desired location.

3. Use them as input or output parameters in a design point study or design optimization.

Hopefully this brief introduction gives you a glimpse at the power of CEL. In a future article we will look at using CEL for more advanced functionality, such as applying ramped or time varying boundary conditions, using IF statements, and monitoring expression values during solution.

Yes! Concurrent Design Point Solves Using New ANSYS HPC Parametric Pack Licensing

 

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Design Optimization – Design Point Studies.

These are terms that for many years now have been tossed about as powerful simulation tools. Indeed they are powerful tools, but for anything but relatively small models, the computing resources and time involved to get solutions have been prohibitive in many cases.

We are now in the 2010’s and computing power is far greater than it was just a few years ago. To help us better take advantage of those horsepower increases, ANSYS, Inc. has released a new license product with version 14.5, called the ANSYS HPC Parametric Pack.

How does a six minute turnaround time for 4 design points look when compared to a two hour time for a single design point? If you find that intriguing, please keep reading.

Simply put, the Parametric Pack license allows us to solve simultaneous design points on multi-core systems. For the most part, design point runs have been serial up to now. With Parametric Packs, you can solve several design points at the same time, each running in parallel.

What ANSYS, Inc. has done with the Parametric Pack concept is to allow you to multiply your existing licenses for use in simultaneous solutions of design points. Each Parametric Pack license provides a multiplier on existing licenses. If you currently have one Mechanical or ANSYS CFD license, with a Parametric Pack license it now becomes equivalent to 4 licenses for the purposes of solving concurrent design points. The more parametric pack licenses, the greater the multiplier, as shown in the following table. Note that the maximum allowed number of Parametric Pack licenses for a given study is 5.

# Parametric Pack Licenses # Simultaneous Design Point Solves
1 4
2 8
3 16
4 32
5 64

The Parametric Pack license multipliers apply in two scenarios. With scenario one, a design point study has been setup in ANSYS Workbench in which there is a set of input parameters and a set of output parameters. A table of various values of the input parameters has been defined for which we want to track the outputs. An example of this is shown below. The other scenario in which Parametric Pack licenses can be used is with design optimization using an ANSYS DesignXplorer license. We will focus on scenario one in this article, while a future article will address scenario two.

The example we will use is a Fluent study. It could just as well be an ANSYS structural or thermal solution, CFX solution, coupled field solution, etc.

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In this case, we just have one varying input parameter (inlet velocity) and one varying output parameter (mass flow at the outlet) for the sake of simplicity.

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Design point updates with the Parametric Pack license work through the ANSYS Remote Solve Manager, RSM. The runs can be made either on the local machine or on a remote number cruncher, but either way they need to be submitted with RSM. RSM comes with ANSYS automatically, but needs to be configured the first time you use it.

For the example shown here, I set it up to run on one of our Linux PADT Cube systems. The submission to RSM was made from my local Windows box while the solving was done on the remote Cube on PADT’s cluster.

ANSYS has to be told to use an available Parametric Pack license. It also has to be told which licenses to be used on conjunction with the Parametric Pack license. This information is defined from within Workbench, by right-clicking on the Parameter Set box and displaying Properties. Once License Checkout is set to Reserved, we click on the Reserve Licenses link to select the desired licenses to be used:

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In the window below you can see I have reserved 1 ANSYS CFD license which allows for 1 Fluent solve. I have also reserved one ANSYS HPC Pack which allows for up to 8 parallel tasks per solve. By also reserving one ANSYS HPC Parametric Pack license, the other two are amplified. As the last column shows, the reported number of concurrent licenses is 4 for the ANSYS CFD license and 4 for the ANSYS HPC Pack license (meaning 4*8 or 32 total cores for 4 simultaneous solves).

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More HPC Parametric Packs would amplify the licenses further. It’s important to note that not all ANSYS licenses can be amplified by the Parametric Pack license. In general, the licenses that can’t are products that rely on a third party for some of the technology, such as DesignModeler which uses the Parasolid kernel. That doesn’t mean that DesignModeler can’t be part of a study that utilizes the Parametric Pack licenses, though. It just means that that the DesignModeler tasks will be automatically completed before the jobs are submitted for simultaneous solving.

Getting back to the example, we asked ANSYS Workbench to solve 4 design points. Without Parametric Pack licensing, that would have been done sequentially. On my local Workstation, solving on a single core each design point takes about 2 hours to solve. Using 8 cores on our Cube machine, each design point takes about 6 minutes to solve. What happens when I activate the simultaneous solution with the Parametric Pack license? All 4 design points solve in 6 minutes. This particular Cube has 64 cores, so solving a single design point on 8 cores or four design points concurrently using 32 total cores both take six minutes. That is a very significant speedup. I say it’s a game changing speedup.

Here is a graph of CPU utilization during the concurrent design point solution. 32 processors utilized and the elapsed time was about 6 minutes.

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The resulting design point info including the as-solved output parameters:

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The bottom line:

What do you need to be able to take advantage of this capability?

1. A regular license enabling the solver you need, such as ANSYS Mechanical, Multiphysics, ANSYS CFD, ANSYS Fluent, ANSYS CFX, etc.

2. ANSYS HPC or ANSYS HPC Pack licenses which allow you to solve on more than two processors/cores for each design point.

3. At least one ANSYS HPC Parametric Pack license which allows the simultaneous design point studies and the amplification of the existing licenses. Talk to your local ANSYS rep or ANSYS Channel Partner for more info.

4. A multi-core machine, such as one of PADT’s Cube systems. More info: http://www.padtinc.com/products/hardware/cube-hvpc/index.html

In a future article we will look at the use of the HPC Parametric Pack license in conjunction with a design optimization study.

The Cost of ANSYS, Fluent, CFX, Maxwell, ICEM CFD, etc. Training

How much does training cost for ANSYS, Fluent, CFX, Maxwell, ICEM CFD, Icepak, AQWA, etc.? This is a question many engineers and managers often ask when considering training in the ANSYS family of products. The answer is that it can cost anywhere from zero to several thousand dollars, depending on a variety of factors.

How can training be free? If you are a current customer you may find that you can download training files or view some videos on various ANSYS product simulation topics. This training really isn’t free, since you or your company is paying for maintenance of the ANSYS software which gives you access to the customer portal. We at PADT also provide free content, typically in the form of our webinars which can be viewed at http://padtincevents.webex.com. Click on, “PADT ANSYS Webinar Series.”

You might also find some free training out there on the internet. Alternatively, you might find that training is free or reduced but with a catch, such as the need to purchase more software.

That all being said, as I’m sure you are aware, you get what you pay for. Maybe what you find for free is good enough for what you are trying to do. However, you most likely won’t be able to find free training that’s tailored to your needs or your organization’s specific simulation applications. If you have a question about the training material or what the recorded instructor just said, you most likely will not be able to ask about it. You’ll either be left in the dark, or will have to expend extra effort to figure it out on your own. There are costs associated with both of those options.

So, what about the cost of paying for training? If you are attending a class by yourself, you can expect to pay a minimum of about US$500.00 per day for your training class. You may have travel expenses to consider in addition to that.

If you are part of a group that needs training, then group rates come into play which can significantly reduce the cost of training per student. A few thousand dollars to train a group of 8 or 10 engineers will typically be a small investment relative to the cost of the simulation software. Further, at PADT we often customize our training material for our training customers. This is a further benefit of group training.

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At PADT group rates kick in at about the 4 students per class size. Using group rates can be a very effective way to get productive training into your organization, especially if travel is involved since only one instructor may need to travel vs. several students. Web-based training is another option. This was discussed by Eric Miller of PADT in a prior blog entry, http://www.padtinc.com/blog/the-focus/ansys-training-face-to-face.

Further, PADT’s customer feedback has consistently shown that our training classes pay for themselves. In other words, increases in productivity due to a quick jump up the learning curve can very quickly return the fees paid for training.

There are other factors to consider in training as well. What is the experience base of the organization providing the training? Do they have real-world experience in using the simulation tools for which they are providing training? What about location, flexibility, and scheduling? Will the provider cancel your class with short notice if there aren’t enough students? These are all things to consider when picking a training provider.

The bottom line is that consideration must be made for the relative benefits of training vs. the amount spent on the training. We at PADT would be glad to answer your questions about training in the ANSYS family of products. You can reach me at ted.harris@padtinc.com. You can view our current training offerings at http://www.padtinc.com/support/software/training.html.

The Importance of Updating Graphics Drivers

Users of graphics-intensive software like the ANSYS family of products occasionally encounter problems caused by graphics or video drivers. It’s important to keep your drivers up to date. In this entry we will summarize some of the symptoms of driver problems and will let you know how to find and install the latest drivers if needed.

Recently I found two issues with my software tools that ended up getting fixed by simply updating the graphics driver. I first noticed the problem with ANSYS Maxwell. While Maxwell had displayed on my machine with no trouble in the past, I found after installing the latest version that it would not load past the initial splash screen. Older versions now had the same problem as well. Also possibly related, I noticed that certain plots in ANSYS DesignXplorer were showing up as big red X’s rather than the response surface plots I was expecting. Most software and plotting worked just fine. There were just a couple of things that were not working. With some input from the helpful staff at ANSYS, Inc., the Maxwell problem was diagnosed as a probable graphics driver issue. Sure enough, once I downloaded and installed the latest driver for my graphics card, goodness was restored and both Maxwell and DesignXplorer were back to normal on my computer.

imageHow can you obtain the specs on your graphics card so you can determine if you have the latest driver or not? On Windows 7, one way to do it is to open up the Control Panel. In the View By setting at upper right, specify Small icons. Then click on Performance Information and Tools. Next click on the link labeled “View and print detailed performance and system information.” The resulting window will have a Graphics section which will list your display adapter type (graphics card manufacturer and model) along with the version number of the installed driver.

There are a couple of ways to check on whether the driver you have is the latest or not. One way is to use Windows Update, although keep reading to see why this is not recommended. On Windows 7 this can be done by right clicking on the desktop and selecting Screen Resolution, then Advanced Settings, then Properties on the Adapter tab, then Driver tab, Update Driver. However, as the helpful staff at ANSYS, Inc. has pointed out to me, Windows Update is not always aware of the absolute latest drivers available. I ended up learning that one the hard way.

imageTherefore, the recommended method of checking on your graphics driver version is to go to the manufacturer’s website. My graphics card happens to be an AMD FirePro V5900. A web search on AMD FirePro easily gets me to the AMD website page for FirePro professional graphics cards. There is a “Find a Driver” link at upper right. Using that link and knowing the model number of my card, I can easily find the latest driver version and download and install it if it’s newer than the version currently installed. Similarly, the nVidia website has a prominent “Drivers” link on their home page.

The bottom line: it’s always a good idea to make sure you have the latest driver installed for your graphics card. Certainly if you notice that your software is not displaying correctly or just hanging for no reason, one of the first and easiest things to check is whether or not you have the latest graphics driver installed.

The Reality of Simulation Driven Product Development

A note to our regular readers: This is not a normal Focus post. No info on how to use an obscure new ANSYS command. This may be something our regular readers (the people who do simulation) might find useful to share with their management. And maybe a CEO/CTO/COO or two might stumble across it and “see the light” that we have all been working in for years.

I’ve been involved in planning or attending a couple of what we call “C” level visits in the past month or so. A “C” level visit is where we talk with the CEO, CFO, CTO, COO, or some sort of high level executive at a company.  These visits are very different than sitting in a room with a bunch of engineers showing off what ANSYS software can do, or talking about what services PADT can offer.

In the “C” level visits we are there for two reasons. The first is to understand what the high level product development needs are for the company from a business perspective.  Once we know that, we like to articulate how the products we sell or the services we offer can help the company meet those goals faster and with less effort and cost. And when simulation fits into their needs, we talk about Simulation Driven Product Development (SDPD).

Many people in the simulation software business talk about SDPD a lot.  They use SDPD as buzz word and they surround it with buzz words: time to market, rapid product development, stage gates, decision tree, etc…  In such a discussion you talk about the vagaries of “enabling your enterprise” and “collaborative global solutions.”  All of this is oriented towards a single message: buy our tools.

The Real World

PADT is fortunate enough to not only be a company that sells simulation tools, we use them as a service to help our customers drive product development. We also use simulation to drive product development that we do here at PADT. (WAH? PADT does product development? Yes we do. And rapid prototyping. Click the links to learn more.)

Top this off with the technical support and mentoring that we offer our simulation customers and we are able to get a pretty good idea about the reality of SDPD. And that reality is that SDPD really works, it can make a huge difference in many areas.  But the reality is also that SDPD needs to be done correctly to make it effective.

Why SDPD is Effective

To understand the real world impact of SDPD you have to step back and look at what developing a product is about. There are a lot of different processes, and people get all “burn the heretic at the stake” over there particular flavor.  But they all share some common characteristics:

  1. Define what you want the product to do (specifications)
  2. Come up with and capture all of the things that define the product (design)
  3. See if you ideas work (test)
  4. Fix stuff that didn’t work (iterate)
  5. Make it (manufacture)

Every step in the process involves people asking questions and answering them.  How big, how strong, how long, how much this or that?  And each question can be answered in many different ways. Things like experience, calculations, comparison to existing solutions, statistical studies, testing, and many more.  The cost and correctness of how those questions are answered has a direct impact on the cost and speed of a development project.  Also, many studies have shown that the sooner in the schedule that you answer those questions, the more efficient your project is.

What is great about simulation is that it allows you to answer questions quickly and accurately.  Working in a virtual environment on the computer you can combine comparisons, testing, calculations, and statistics in one place with speed and very little capital investment. The fact that you can do it so fast also allows you to avoid making assumptions and simplifications that reduce the accuracy of the answer.

The most comprehensive study on the effectiveness of simulation for driving product development can be found in “The Impact of Strategic Simulation on Product Profitability” from the Aberdeen Group.  It shows that best-in-class companies across industries are companies that use simulation to drive their product development.

The study finds that:

There is no point in the design process where companies do not profit from intelligent decision-making. By integrating simulation analysis from the earliest stages of design, the Best-in-Class are able to make better decisions through the process. This enables these leaders to drive higher quality and lower cost products, as well as deliver the innovations and features that differentiate their products.

Making SDPD Effective for Your Organization

So companies make more money using simulation to drive their product development.  It would be nice if it was true that all companies that use simulation automatically see a benefit.  But we are talking about the reality of SDPD and that reality is you have to have the proper simulation tools, and you have to use them effectively.

The Right Tools

As far as tools go, you should know where I stand.  ANSYS, Inc’s products. If you are reading this you are probably an ANSYS, Inc. product user or you got this posting from someone who is.  Why are these tools the leaders across the industry? Because they have breadth and depth so you are not limited by your simulation tools, they are accurate, and they work together so you do not have to jump through hoops to work as a team.  That is really all there is to it.

If you can not use this tool set for some reason, say your senior manager is married to the competition’s local rep (which is maybe one of the few valid reasons) you still need to make sure you stay high end.  Do not cheap out on a CAD based tool or a low end tool that is “good enough for what we need.”  Anything other than a full function tool suit will limit your ability to get accurate solutions, or to model your product completely.  That $20,000 you saved will get eaten up in about a week of fumbling around trying to get useful information.

Yes these tools cost a lot more than the low cost or CAD based alternatives. But there is a reason for that.  It is the army of developers, support engineers, and product managers that work day in and day out to improve the speed, accuracy, and capability of their simulation tools.  The reality of simulation is having 80% is only good 80% of the time. When you need that extra 20% of functionality, you need it. And when you do not have it, your project bleeds cash.

Effective Application

Deciding to drive you product development with simulation: easy.  Deciding on the right tool set: a bit of work, unless you just go with ANSYS products, then it is easy.  Now you have to make it work.

This is such a big topic that we did a seminar on it about two years ago.  I’ve uploaded a PDF of the presentation if you would like more details.

The gist of it is the following four rules:

  1. Establish goals for SDPD in general and establish goals for each project that uses simulation.  Without goals it is easy to do too much simulation or to do the wrong simulation.
  2. You must have the right type of users doing the right tasks: experts and mainstream users. Also, do not turn good engineers into bad users by violating the other rules.
  3. Use the right tools. Not just the simulation software, we covered that.  You need the right hardware, the right support, and the right utility software to support your efforts.
  4. Design the right flexible process for your team and constantly improve on it.

Mainstream

I have been driving product development with simulation for over 25 years, and many people who read this blog have been doing it for longer. Once a secret of the aerospace and automotive industry, SDPD is now mainstream. We have customers that use it to design ear buds, mining equipment, coolers for organ transplants, and toys.  It is used to make almost every electronic device around us more reliable, cooler, and faster.  And we still have people that use it to design Turbine Engines, space craft, and automotive components.

In fact the industries that are long time users are increasing their seat count and the size of the computing systems.  Many that we know of are making multi-million dollar investments every year and growing that investment year over year for a simple  reason, they see results from driving more and more of their design process with simulation.

If you are not using simulation, or some portion of your company is not using simulation, than something is wrong. You or they are literally leaving money on the table and giving a competitive edge to the competition.  If you would like to learn more about how PADT and many of our customers have been successful with simulation, feel free to contact me. Or just get out there and start evangelizing something that has already been proven to work.

ICEM CFD as a Data Compliant System in ANSYS Workbench

ICEM CFD is probably the most capable mesher on the planet. Not only do we here at PADT use it as our preferred tool for creating complex hex meshes, it has a whole host of other capabilities and controls that make it the power users choice. But one thing that has been frustrating for some time is that we could not easily add it into a project that automatically updates. At 14.5, ICEM CFD is now data compliant and you can use it in a project with parameters.

ICEM-CFD-System-ANSYS-Workbench

If you know ICEM CFD well you know that there are many aspects of it that do not fit into a project flow, but the most commonly used capabilities do: read in geometry, mesh it, output nodes and elements into a solver or node/element based pre-processor. Because it is node/element based it does not work with ANSYS Mechanical or other tools that require surface or solid geometry, but it does work with FLUENT, CFX, ANSYS Mechanical APDL (MAPDL) and Polyflow, the ANSYS solvers that can work directly with nodes and meshes. Once put into your system, you can modify geometry or ICEM CFD parameters and then update your system to get a new solution.

In this article we will focus on using ICEM CFD with ANSYS MAPDL. That is because 1) most of our readers are ANSYS Mechanical/MAPDL users and 2) it is what I know best. But most everything we are talking about will work with FLUENT, CFX, and Polyflow.

Why is this a Big Deal?

For the vast majority of users, this is not such a big deal because they can do all their meshing with ANSYS MAPDL, ANSYS Mechanical, ANSYS Meshing, or FLUENT (with TGrid meshing). But if you can not, then this is an awesome new capability. This is especially true if you need to use the blocking based hex meshing built into ICEM CFD.

Getting Started and Things to Know

Frist thing we recommend you do is read the help on the ICEM CFD System:

Workbench User Guide // User’s Guide // Systems // Component Systems

Click on ANSYS ICEM CFD and read the whole thing. There are lots of little details that you should be aware of.

The first thing you should note is that if you want to use it with Mechanical APDL you need to turn on Beta Features: Tools>Options>Appearance scroll down and check “Beta Options” to be on.

The next thing is to realize that from a project standpoint, you can feed an ICEM CFD system with any system that has a geometry module. Although ICEM CFD will read a mesh in and use the external surface of that mesh as geometry, that capability is not currently implemented in Workbench. This means if the source mesh changes, you can not automatically update your mesh if the “geometry” mesh changes. See below for a work around.

You do need to make sure that your ICEM CFD model is setup to output to your solver type. Make sure you check this when you are setting up your mesh.

If you have worked in Workbench with legacy mesh you know that named selections can be very important. I did not have enough time to play with all the different options, but it looks like named selections come in from DesignModeler, and if they define a solid, the resulting nodes that are in that solid get written as a component that goes to the MAPDL solver. However, surface, edge, and vertex named selections do not seem to get passed over at this time. I am contacting ANSYS, Inc. to see if there is a way to turn that on.

It also looks like if you are using blocking only the solid elements are written, and no corner, edge, or surface elements are output. I will also be checking on this.

The last, and most important thing to know, is that your ICEM CFD model needs to be robust. Anyone that spends a lot of time in ICEM CFD already knows this. If you make a change to geometry or a parameter, then it needs to update reliably. The key to success with this is to just do your meshing with updates in mind and make it as simple and flexible as possible, especially if you are blocking with HEXA.

A Simple Example

I made a very silly model, because these Focus articles are always about silly models, that sort of shows the process you can use. It is not a flat plate with a hole in it, but it is a block with a cylinder on top.

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Nothing too fancy. I made the block dimensions, the cylinder diameter, and its offset parameters.

This system feeds the ICEM CFD system where it comes in as points, lines, and surfaces.

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I then blocked it out:

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And specified meshing sizes:

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And generated the mesh:

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Like I said, a simple model.

Parameters are supported for meshing controls, any user parameters you want to make that you will use in Tcl scripts, or meshing diagnostics.

I made the number of nodes across the width a parameter:

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Values that you can make into parameters have little white boxes next to them. To make them workbench parameters click on the box and you get the “Blue P” that everyone should know and love from all of the other ANSYS, Inc. applications.

I also wanted mesh parameters so I went to Settings->Workbench Parameters->Workbench Output Parameters and set some of those:

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Now when I go back to my project and check out the parameters for my ICEM CFD system I get:

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Now it is time to add the ANSYS Mechanical APDL system. You will want to write a macro that defines material properties, constraints, and loads. Mine also has some output parameters and makes some PNG plots.

This is the mesh I get in MAPDL:

dp0_000

and here are the results. Exciting:

dp0_001

To try the whole thing out I made a design study:

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Everything updated just fine and I got all my output parameters and my plots in my MAPDL directory for each design point (remember to tell it to save all the design points or it deletes them, or use a macro like the one discussed in the bonus article from this posting).

I made an animated GIF of the different meshes for fun:

DesignPoints_ICEM-CFD-1

Here is a link to an archive of the project I used:  ICEM-wb-1.wbpz

Doing more with ICEM CFD in a Project

This was a basic example. But the cool thing about the implementation is that it will do much more. If there is a replay file, it will execute the file and run whatever scripts you specify in the file. This is how you can get it to work with existing meshes as geometry. And you can do whatever else you want to do.

On an update ICEM CFD does the following:

  1. Update geometry if Tetin file changed
  2. Runs tetra default meshing, if no blocking file and no replay file
  3. If a replay file, run the replay file
  4. Runs Hexa default meshing if a Blocking file exists
  5. Convert any blocked mesh to unstructured mesh file
  6. Convert unstructured mesh file to solver input file
  7. Save the project

So you just need to be aware of this order and plan accordingly. There really is no limit to what you can do.

Next Steps

If there was ever a place to use Crawl-Walk-Run this is it. Make yourself a very simple model and get a feel for things. Then work with your real geometry doing some simple meshing, maybe just blowing a TET mesh on it, then set up you full run. Also, keep the simple model around to try stuff out when you are working with the big model.

The help was very helpful, I recommend that you read it once then reread it after you have played around with this feature a bit.

Saving Mechanical APDL Plots in a Design Study

One of the cool features in the ANSYS Workbench is the ability to set up a design study and kick off a bunch of runs that bring back key parameters.  This is great for a design exploration but sometimes you actually would like a result plot, or maybe the info in a text file as well.  When a design study is done, unless you tell Workbench to save all your run files, it deletes all the files.

To do the posting on ICEM CFD in the workbench project page, I needed to do just that, so I thought I would share my method in case others want to use it.

The way I do it is pretty simple:

  • Use a /INQUIRE to get the directory the run is running in
  • Use some string functions to get the name of the design point from the directory name
  • Temporarily change the jobname
  • Save my plots
  • Change the jobname back to file
  • Copy the files to the User_Files directory.

Here is what it looks like:

   1: /post1

   2: set,last

   3: finish

   4: /inquire,aa,directory

   5: ii = strpos(aa(1),'\dp')

   6: ij = strpos(aa(ii+1),'\')-1

   7: dpn = strsub(aa(1),ii+1,ij)

   8: dpn = strcat(dpn,'_')

   9: /file,dpn

  10: /post1

  11: /view,1,1,1,1

  12: /vup,1,z

  13: /show,png

  14: eplot

  15: plnsol,u,sum

  16: /show,close

  17: /sys,copy *.png ..\..\..\user_files

  18: finish

  19: /file,file

See how it uses /inquire to get the directory, then strpos(), strsub(), and strcat() to get the design point name.  Then it simply changes the file name, does a /show,png and plots. The results are copied using a system command.

Two important things to note:

  1. You have to do the set command before you change the jobname, otherwise your RST files will not work
  2. This version is written for windows, you need to use forward slashes and cp for Linux.

You can attach this to a MAPDL system or as a code snippet.

Webinar Info: New and Cool Stuff in ANSYS R14.5 Mechanical Products

 

This Wednesday we had our last PADT ANSYS Webinar Webinar of 2012 on the cool stuff in the just released 14.5 version of the ANSYS Mechanical products.  As promised, here are links:

The recording can be found at:
https://padtincevents.webex.com/padtincevents/lsr.php?AT=pb&SP=EC&rID=6160237&rKey=0a380a100d1db557

And a PDF of the presentation can be found at:

PADT-Webinar-R145_Important_Stuff-Mechanical-2012_12_12.

Enjoy!

Some Stuff ANSYS Users Should Know about Excel

imageWhat is the software tool that us numerical simulation types use almost as much as ANSYS products, maybe even more?  Most of you will answer Microsoft Excel.  We all use it almost every day for a variety of things. Every time I see someone doing something sophisticated with Excel, I learn something new, a tool I can use to be more efficient. 

For this week’s The Focus posting I will be sharing some stuff in Excel, tips and tricks, that ANSYS users should find useful.  I am using Microsoft Excel 2010 and the assumption is that the reader is a good user of Excel, maybe not an expert, but good.  I have tried to pick things that have a direct impact on user efficiency.  You may already know some or even most of these things, but hopefully you will find some of it useful.  If you have something to share, please add it to the comments.

Take the Time to Setup Tables

I love tables.  I’m always getting made fun of because I always convert what I’m working on into tables.  Why are they so great? 

    • They auto-format
    • They have filtering built in
    • You can refer to the table, columns, rows, and cells in equations with names rather than ranges
    • When you add a formula in a column, it automatically copies it to the whole table (my favorite)
    • It does automatic totals, averages, etc…

Making a table is easy:

    1. Select the columns you want in your table
      1. It is a good idea to have the headers defined
    2. Go to the Insert Tab
    3. Click on Table

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That give you:

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Click on the downward facing triangle icons to filter.  Use the options in the Table Tools > Design tab to set the name, remove duplicates, turn on the total row, and change the basic formatting (color).  Once you have played with these for a while, you will find you can not live without them and people will ask you why you use tables so often.

Concatenation

One of the ways that we use Excel is to convert some sort of text data in row/column form into a command, mostly MAPDL commands.  A key to this is the ability to concatenate text strings and the values of cells.  I’ve even seen someone write a NASTRAN to ANSYS translator in Excel.

To do so you create a formula (start with =) and string together the text you want with ampersands: &

As an example, if we want to add a column to the table we used above to create N commands we simply click on any of the cells in the empty column next to our table and enter:

=”n, “&[@N]&”, “&[@X]&”, “&[@[Y ]]&”, “&[@Z]

Because we are using a table, the command uses the column reference [@name] from the tables rather than cells.  In a non table the command would look like:

=”n, “&$A6&”, “&$B6&”, “&$C6&”, “&$D6

Either way you are stringing the values in your cells together with text to make a command:

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That column can be pasted into a text file, an ANSYS Mechanical code snippet window, or saved to a file.

Text to Columns

After tables, the next most useful feature in Excel for the analyst is the ability to convert the text in a column into multiple columns. This is a lot like the text import window that opens up when you open a text file, but it can be used at any time on any column in your spreadsheet.  To use it, simply select the column you want to convert:

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Then go to the Data tab and click on “Text to Columns”

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This will bring up the wizard that steps you through the process:

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If you are working with a NASTRAN type input file, formatted with fixed columns, you can chose “Fixed Width” here. If not, choose delimited.  Click next.

For fixed, you get a ruler that you can drag the column lines back and forth on till you get what you want. Pretty simple.

For delimited, you get the delimiter screen.  Specify your delimiter here.  In the example, we will use a comma. But it can be spaces, tabs, or any other character. When you specify the delimiter, it shows you how Excel will break it up. 

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I usually click finish here because the next screen is formatting and I usually play with that once I have the data in Excel.

That is it. Very simple.

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One thing to note, it converts to columns by overwriting columns to the right. So if you have data in those columns, you should insert enough blank columns before you use this command, so you don’t overwrite anything.

Names

Usually you refer to a cell or a range of cells with the old LetterNumber syntax: A3, B7:NN2145, etc…  That can be a real pain to deal with and it really doesn’t tell you what the data in that range is.  A better way to deal with chunks of information, or critical cells, is to use names. 

Creating names is very easy.  The simplest is to click on the cell or cells you want to name and then type in the name you want in the input box in the upper left corner:

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Now, if you want to know the max value of those numbers, you can use the formula =max(MyData)

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If I have a lot of constants I want to define, I can use the “Create from Selection” tool in the Formulas tab:

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This command brings up a dialog box and you can tell Excel where to grab your names from. Three or Four clicks and you have named parameters instead of cell locations.  This is very useful if you have a group of key parameters you want to use in your calculations.  Now when you look at your formulas, the descriptive name of the parameters are there rather than a reference.

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Use the Name Manager in the same Formulas tab to view, edit, and delete your names.

Dynamic Range

A related trick for Excel is creating dynamic ranges. What do you do when you name a range and then the amount of data in that range changes? You have to redefine your range.  Nope, you don’t. You can define the range using a formula that changes as the length of the column, or row, changes. 

The name can be defined for a column as: =OFFSET(startCell,0,0,COUNTA(column)-1)

Or for a row: =OFFSET(startCell,0,0,0,COUNTA(row)-1)

This may be the most time saving trick I know in Excel.

You put the formula into the “Define Name” dialog box found on the Formulas tab:

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Now, no matter how long the column of data is, MyVals will always contain it.  A big time saver.

Relative Reference on Record Macro

How many times have you gotten data in Excel, or imported data into Excel, where you want to make a small change to every line. But you have several thousand lines. If you do a “Record Macro” that doesn’t work because you have to click down to the next line, then run the macro and repeat that over and over again. Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply record a macro with some sort of relative reference. 

For years (maybe decades) I didn’t know you could do that. There is an option under the Developer Tab called “Relative Reference.”  Click that before you record your macro and you are good to go.

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As an example, take a look at this data. Nodal coordinates on one line, rotations on the second. 

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I want to grab the rotations, paste them on the same line as the coordinates, delete the rotation line, then move to the next node.

Here is a video that shows the process:

That is all fine and dandy if you have a few dozen lines, but your fingers will get tired CTRL-e’ing that many times.  I quick fix is to go into the macro and add a simple loop.  First we use CountA() to see how many nodes we have, then we loop on that with a for statement:

Sub Macro3()

'

' Macro3 Macro

'

' Keyboard Shortcut: Ctrl+e

'

    cnt = Application.CountA(Range("a:a"))

    For i = 1 To cnt

    ActiveCell.Offset(1, 1).Range("A1:C1").Select

    Selection.Cut

    ActiveCell.Offset(-1, 3).Range("A1").Select

    ActiveSheet.Paste

    ActiveCell.Offset(1, 0).Rows("1:1").EntireRow.Select

    Selection.Delete Shift:=xlUp

    ActiveCell.Select

    Next i

End Sub

Of course you could have done this with *VREAD’s in MAPDL, or python. But sometimes Excel is just faster.

The Files View in ANSYS Workbench

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When you watch someone work with a tool as complex as ANSYS Workbench, you quickly realize that they use different tools and features than you do.  One thing I noticed the other day was someone really using the Files View.  So I thought, I should really make sure I know what is there and take advantage of it.  In looking into it I found a few things I was not aware of, and I needed an article, so here we are.

Philosophy of Files in Workbench

Before we get started, you have to realize that the way ANSYS Workbench thinks about files is unique, and you should understand it.  The idea originally was that the program itself would manage all your files. You just had to worry about the project file and the directory tree it points to.  Therefore the directory structure in that tree is pretty complex, and the user can not change the name of a file being used. That is all managed by the program. Times have changed and there are a lot of programs that run in the Workbench that require the user to know about the files, especially some of the legacy solvers.  So we have the Files View to help us with that.

It is very important that you do not go in and rename, delete, or move files around.  ANSYS Workbench has no way of knowing that you have done that. You should just use it to find files, edit their content, and deal with files that non-workbench type solvers (FLUENT, MAPDL, Etc…) use that are not managed by the Workbench.

The Files View

You see your files through view by toggling it on and off. Under the View menu there is Files item.  Click on it to turn on the Files View and click on it again to make it go away.

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If you see the check and not the view, then use View->Reset Window Layout

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As with any window in the ANSYS Workbench GUI you can drag the bar at the top of the view, or click the thumbtack in the upper right corner, to break it out as its own window, and drag it anywhere you want. I have two monitors so I like to do that, and have a full size graphics window.

If you look at what is in the view, there are no real surprises.  Like a lot of Workbench applications, the information is presented in a spreadsheet from.  If we take a look at each column we can learn some things:

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Name:
Nothing spectacular here. The icons are kind of nice to let you know what type of file you are dealing with.

Cell ID:
This one is kind of handy.  It shows you where in your project the file in question is used.  This helps with complex models where you have multiple systems.  If you don’t change the names on your files, then things get confusing quickly.  The Cell ID helps sort it out.

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Take a look at the Cell ID and the associated project schematic. You can see that the geometry is used in two systems, and that the material properties are used in the Static Structural system.  As you review this, you can see how useful these references can be.

Also notice how some of the files only have a letter for the Cell ID. These are usually solver related files that really apply to the whole system, and not to any one particular cell in the system.

Size:
Not much to say here.  One nice use is to see if your result files are large enough to indicate a successful solve.

Type:
This tells you what type of file you are dealing with, often including the tool that uses it.  What is cool about it is that you can sort on it and you can filter on the file type.  More on that below.

Date Modified:
Always useful for finding out what files were, or were not created and what the most recent work is.

Location:
Again, not much to say here. This is where your files are.  Sometimes you can tell a bit more about where the file is used by looking at what directory it is in.

Interacting with the Files View

You can do some cool stuff in the Files View. The most obvious, is you can click on the upside down triangles and sort by any of the columns: Ascending or Descending.

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You can also choose Sort Settings… and specify multiple columns to sort on.

 

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Just add columns and set the Ascending flag as needed. Delete by clicking the X or Remove All.

Notice how the triangle now shows the columns that are being used to sort.

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When you are done using the sorting, you can click on any of the columns being used in the sort, and choose Cancel sorting.

If you right mouse button (RMB) on any of the cells, you get two options.  They both do what they say: open the folder that contains the file or bring up the File Type Filter.

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Note, just because you can open the folder that does not mean you can go messing around with file names and locations. Only do that on files that are not managed by Workbench.

The File Type Filter will list all of your file types and let you turn on or off the visibility of any of them.

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This can be very useful for a very complicated project.

Some Suggested Uses

So using this tool is not that hard.  A better question than how is why?  Here are some suggestions:

Finding Output Files
Many of the solvers in the ANSYS family create log, error, journal, and output files. Instead of poking around and trying to find them through the operating system, you can quickly use the type filter and maybe sort by Date Modified to find the files you need. Then open up the folder containing them and view the contents.

Extracting a Solve
Sometimes you need to get into the lower levels of the directory structure and get all the files associated with a particular solve so that you can run them outside of workbench, or give them to a user who does not use Workbench.  Using this too, you can quickly sort by directory, find the one you need, then bring up the OS file browser tool.

Managing Macros and Input files
If I’m writing macros or input files, I really don’t want to dig around through directories. So when I’m ready to save my macro, I copy the directory that my solver uses out of the cell in the Files View, then paste it into my text editor’s Save As… dialog.

Making a File Table
Because the information is presented like a spread sheet, you can copy and paste any of the columns you want right into Excel. This comes in handy for reports because you can add a column where you add your own description or notes. To copy hold down the CTRL key and click on the column label of any columns you want.

Get to Know your Files View

We recommend that you use the Files View all the time, not just when you have to. The more familiar you are with the files the program is using the better you will understand what is going on when you use the program. Black boxes are fine and dandy when you are learning or in a hurry, but if you are going to be spending a good chunk of your life alone with one of the ANSYS, Inc. products, you should be spending some time looking at what file are created and where it stores them.