A PADT Engineer in King Attiball’s Court – Chapter 3

There just is not enough engineer-focused fiction out there. Romance, Horror, Sci-Fi, Young Adult, Historical, Mystery, etc. They all do well, but they are rarely written for the engineers of the world.

Here at PADT, we are all about undoing such injustices. We decided to brainstorm a story about an engineer who does simulation and 3D Printing and ends up on an adventure. We hope they will find some mystery, some science fiction, and some horror. Maybe even a little romance. To develop the characters and the plot we all got on an MS Teams meeting and blocked it out. It was a lot of fun. That turned into an outline, that will turn into a chapter every month.

We hope you enjoy the result as much as we enjoyed dreaming the journey up.

It should be noted that every character in this story is completely made up. Sometimes we steal some names from real people as a shoutout to them, but that is about it. PADT does not have a basement or a fancy cluster in one. Everything is made up. Well, almost everything. We do have a stack of furniture in the back of shipping and receiving.


Chapter 1: Batch Submission

Chapter 2: New Friends


Chapter 3
Like an Owl

It was comforting for Ash to learn that food tastes had not changed so much over the millennia. Sitting in that courtyard under those trees, the marinated vegetables and stewed meats in the bowls Mnihh’dm had brought out tasted wonderful.  And the bowls of watered wine quenched her thirst and had just enough flavor to taste good and alcohol to kill the microbes living in the local water supply.

Verihbitt explained each dish and sampled them with Ash.

She then drained her bowl of wine and reached over to touch Ash’s leg. “You have eaten and drunk. Are you ready for questions?”

Ash was ready. “Sure, I guess now is as good a time as any.”

“Are you a witch?”

She was a little stunned by the question but had to remember that everything about Ash’s world was magic to this woman. It was best to address that head-on. How do you explain to an ancient Babylonian what an engineer is? She gave it a try.

 “No, I am not a witch. But I am a scholar and an artisan. I study the world around us, and I use what I learn to make things that make life better. Tools that people use.”

Verihbitt thought for a while. “Like the King’s architect?”

“In a way.” Ash pushed down some of the jokes about civil engineers that she had learned in college. “I get paid to solve problems but not to build structures.” She could not resist. “Nor do I design ditches.”

“It is normal for a woman to do such things where you are from?”

Ash laughed, remembering all the meetings where she was the only woman in the room. “Not as normal as it should be. But it is getting better.”

“Well, here it is good for a smart woman like yourself to speak through a man. Some will listen to a wo-“

The sound of shattering wood interrupted Verihbitt as the gate to the courtyard exploded and rained splinters down on the two women. It was quickly followed by the angry shouts of three men who rushed through the opening, spears in their hands. They stopped momentarily to scan the courtyard, then rushed towards Verihbitt.

Without thinking, Ash stood and kicked the low table, bowls and all, towards the approaching men. It slowed them down enough to give Verihbitt time to dart behind the nearest tree.  She reappeared with her own spear, and in one fluid motion,  launched it at the closest attacker.

Another spear flew by Ash’s head before it thudded into the chest of another attacker. She looked back as Takaa, who must have been sitting in the far corner of the courtyard behind a thick pillar, grabbed another spear. He sent past her ear, and she heard another thunk as it landed.  She ran towards Takaa and dived behind the column.

“Fight or flight,” she said between gasping breaths. “I guess flight wins out today.”

The sounds of a struggle grew louder. There were grunts and cries of pain, but no screaming. After only a few seconds, the sound stopped, and she heard heavy boots approaching her.

“Are you harmed, my lady?” It was the voice of Takaa. Ash relaxed.

Ash stood and came out from behind the column. “I am just a little shaken. I didn’t help much.”

Verihbitt appeared behind Takaa and said, “Well, we know you are not a witch. You cast no spells. But kicking the table at them did slow them down.  Thank you.”

Minihh’dm came flying through the door into the house, short sword at the ready.

“My princess, Verihbitt, you are covered in blood. Are you injured?”

Stunned, Ash looked at Verihbitt and could only say, “Well, I may not be a witch, but you appear to be a princess?”

The next half hour was another blur of activity. Takaa ran outside and returned a few minutes later with a chariot let by a beautiful gray horse. All four of them had clambered on, and Takaa had steered them down a maze of narrow passages, knocking over stalls and more than a few people who could not get out of the way. At some point, Ash had to close her eyes and hold on as hard as she could to the railing that enclosed three sides of the two-wheeled cart.

She opened her eyes when  Verihbitt told her that they had exited through the eastern gate. Farmland stretched out along the rolling hills. There was still some dodging around donkey carts, and it was too loud to talk. Which was good. Ash needed the journey to process all that had happened. She had never seen someone killed before.  And certainly never with a spear.

Takaa guided the cart off the main road up a dirt track that led up a small mountain. A large stone building stood on top. Mnihh’dm yelled over the din into her ear, “The King’s summer palace. We will be safe here. And no, to answer your next question, your hostess is not the King’s daughter, but she is his niece.”

Ash did not know what to expect as the chariot passed through the gate to the building. The outside was simple stone, and she had only seen artist’s guesses at what a Babylonian summer palace would look like.

The bright colors were stunning. There were statues and frescos everywhere. What Ash had seen in books and online was not even close to what she saw in front of her. The large courtyard was surrounded by two stories of buildings. And every surface she could see was covered with paintings or sculptures.

Ash got off the chariot when it stopped, and she was thankful for Verihbitt’s steadying hand.

She said, “that was some ride. I was not sure I would be able to hold on much longer.”

Verhibitt laughed. “In my line of work, you often have to make a quick escape on a chariot.”

“As a princess? I always thought that involved sitting on pillows and being fed by servants.”

“No.” Verhibitt looked at Ash sideways, smiled, said, “I am also a spy,” and ran across the courtyard towards a man in bright robes.

Ash looked more closely at the far side of the courtyard as she walked towards it. The man stood with Verhibitt at the bottom of a large dirt ramp, and hundreds of shirtless men were pulling a stone slab up the ramp on large wooden rollers using two ropes. She could tell there was a carving of some kind of the top surface of the slab. The wall was covered with scaffolding, and it looked like they were going to hoist a giant stone carving up onto the top of the second story.

Verhibitt was waiting for her at the foot of the ramp, her right arm entwined with the older man in bright robes.

“This is my father, Prince Batnoam. One of the King’s brothers and, more importantly, the King’s Architect. He is one of those people who build walls and ditches.”

Feeling a little embarrassed, Ash bowed to Batnoam.

The prince nodded his head in acknowledgment and said, “welcome, my child. My darling Verhi has been breathlessly telling me about your adventures today. I have to admit I could not follow half of it, so I want to know more at dinner.”

He snapped his fingers, and two women in simple robes appeared as if from nowhere. “Please prepare rooms for my daughter and her friend.”

“While we wait for that, let me show you our latest project. This is a piece that shares the story of my glorious brother’s latest conquest in the East. It took almost a full year to carve and most of the summer season to bring up the hill on rollers. Today, we will pull it up to the top of the wall and secure it. We will then spend another week digging out the ramp under it to lower it down against the wall.”

“And you will spend even more of my money doing so.”

Ash turned to see a tall man dressed in shining brass armor taking purposeful steps up the ramp. A dozen soldiers, men in robes struggled to climb behind him.

Everyone bowed to him, so Ash followed their motion.

Boatnoam said, “My brother, when you came back from the East you told me you wanted something grand to celebrate your victory. Nobles will flock to the summer palace just to see this story immortalized in stone.”

“Yes, yes. That is what you always say. Then you ask for more money, and it is always too late for me to back out.”

While listening to the prince and king jest with one another, Ash looked up at the slab and how they were lifting it. Iron rings were attached to the top of the wall and, ropes went from the slab, through rings, and back down to the teams of men who were pulling. Up next to the rope, she could see two boys were slathering grease onto the rope to reduce friction.

The teams pulled, the King and Prince argued, and the boys kept applying grease as the slab slowly moved on the wooden rollers. Ash soaked in the pure joy of seeing ancient engineering at work.

And then, for the third time that day, someone tried to kill Ash.  

Two men who had been walking next to the ropes on either side of the ramp pulled out large axes and, in unison, swung down on the taught rope. With a loud twang, the ropes split, and the slab began to roll down the hill. It headed right towards Ash, her new friends, and the King.

She screamed, “The slab is loose, run!”

She raced to the side as others ran down the ramp in front of the slab. The air was filled with dust, but she could see the stone crash onto the flat courtyard and stop. There were shouts and screams from a large crowd gathered around the slab. Ash ran down the ramp to find Prince Batnoam trapped. A split roller kept the slab from crushing the prince completely, but it was apparent that both of his legs were trapped.

The King screamed for everyone to come out and to fetch new ropes. But Batnoam saw the same thing Ash did. If they pulled the slab in any direction, it would come off the roller and crush him.

“Brother, I think we need to lift it.” In between gasps of pain, the architect described his latest scheme. “Put stakes in the dirt mound to keep the slab from moving. Then attach ropes to the far end up through the iron loops. Then pull.”

Ash looked at the geometry. The angle was too low. There was no way they could lift the slab. She decided to speak.

“Your highness, although this idea is close, I do not think it will be enough to lift the stone. In my land, we use a different method to lift large items. Might I try that?”

“No.” Said the King. “We will do as my brother’s asked, not the musings of a foreign girl.”

The next half hour was busy. The workers were able to wedge some more wood under the stone to relieve a little pressure. But no matter how many men or oxen they put on the ropes, they could not lift the stone.

As the sun started to set, Batnoam gestured for the King to come closer. “Brother, it is getting late, and we are losing light. And I do not want to miss dinner.” The King laughed at his brother’s bravado. “Bring torches and, maybe we should let the foreign girl try.”

The King reluctantly nodded towards her, and Ash sprang into action.

“Someone bring that scaffolding over here, the tall one there, and put it over the end of the slab.”

She walked to a group of men who had been pulling on the ropes and said, “You need to gather me two of thickest rollers you have. And more rope, lots of rope.” She shouted after their retreating backs, “And lots of grease.”

It had been years since Ash had studied how a simple tackle worked. But, while others had been attempting to lift the stone, she had been sketching her idea in the dirt. The top roller would be attached to the scaffolding. A rope would be attached to either end of the lower roller, looped up over the top roller, back down around the bottom roller, then over the top roller again. This configuration would provide four times the lifting force, minus all the drag from the ropes rubbing on the rollers.

It took close to an hour to build the rig. No one had spoken to Ash while it was being created and they followed her orders with obvious irritation. But, the King has sanctioned this approach, so they worked at it.

When the rig was ready, she had two teams of twelve men the ends of each rope.

“You need to pull together so that it lifts the same on both sides.” She shouted to them. “At first, it will not move much. But it will move. Try now.”

Ash put her hands behind her back and crossed her fingers. In English, she whispered, “Freshman statics, don’t fail me now,”under her breath.

Then pulled, and the scaffolding creaked. And then the ropes began to stretch. The slab didn’t move.

“Keep pulling!”

The men just stood and looked at her.

The King shouted, “Pull, you dogs, or I’ll toss all of you off the top of that wall.”

With the King’s orders, they pulled again, and the lower roller began to rise, pulling the slab with it.

“One more pace back!” shouted Ash.

They heaved one more time as one, and the slab lifted again. Other builders quickly placed wood blocks under the slab while others pulled the King’s brother from under the stone.

Once clear of the stone they moved him to stretcher.  Batnoam took his daughter’s hand and says, “I do like this new friend. She is wise, like an owl.”

Everyone was focused on the prince and getting him to his rooms, and they stopped paying attention to Ash. So no one noticed when she lost consciousness and crumpled to the stone paving of the courtyard.

“bzzzzzz.” “bzzzzzzzzzz.” “bzzzzzz”

Ash wasn’t sure if she was dreaming or not. She opened her eyes to a dark room. The full moon was shining through open windows and a light sea breeze filled the room with humid, salty air.

“bzzzzzz.” “bzzzzzzzzzz.” “bzzzzzz”

Sitting up, Ash looked around the room. She was a little light-headed but felt better than she expected. The moonlight illuminated her backpack in the corner of the small room. She walked towards it, and the buzzing got louder. It was her phone.

Fumbling a bit, she found it in the outside pocket.

“bzzzzzz.” “bzzzzzzzzzz.” “bzzzzzz”

She turned it over in her hand and pressed the action button. The screen lit up the room, showing her a single text message.

ALEX A: “Where did you go? One second you were there. Then you were gone. The system has locked me out. I thought you had gone on your vacation, but the police came looking for you just now. Are you OK?”

At first, Ash thought this must be a message that he had sent right after she had been tossed back into time. She checked the time. It said 5 min ago. The signal strength in the upper right corner showed one bar.

She quickly typed a message.

ASH: I’m here. OK, all things considered. Let me know if you get this.”

She waited for a second, bathed in the moonlight that shined through an open window of a Babylonian king’s summer palace.

ALEX A: “Whew! 😊”

– To Be Continued –

Please subscribe to our newsletter, so you will know when the next installment, “Off to Sea,” is released, wherein our engineering hero finds out if she has sea legs and tries to communicate with the present.

Press Release: PADT Named EOS Metal 3D Printing Distribution Partner Across the Southwest, Expanding its Established Additive Manufacturing Products Offering

PADT’s model for over 27 years has been to become experts on the leading tool that engineers use, then become a reseller. We continue that model with our new partnership with EOS, the leader in Metal 3D Printing. We have been a user of several metal Additive Manufacturing solutions for some time, settling on EOS’ DMLS technology last year. We are now pleased to announce that that technical relationship has grown to include PADT as an EOS Distribution Partner for the Southwestern United States.

More details can be found in the press release below. You can see the official press release in PDF and HTML as well.

What does it mean for our customers? The same technology-driven win-win relationship you have come to count on for Ansys, Stratasys, and Flownex are now available if you need to add metal 3D Printing. And after your purchase, when you call for assistance you will talk to people that run the same machines you are.

Have questions? Why EOS or what machine would be best for you? More details on the metal systems can be found on our website. But the best way to learn more is to contact us at info@padtinc.com or 480.813.4884

If metal 3D Printing is part of how you make innovation work, PADT is ready to help.


PADT Named EOS Metal 3D Printing Distribution Partner Across the Southwest, Expanding its Established Additive Manufacturing Products Offering

Building on its Expertise in Metal 3D Printing Services and R&D, PADT Adds Metal Laser Powder Bed Fusion Systems to its Sales Portfolio

TEMPE, Ariz., April 13, 2021 PADT, a globally recognized provider of numerical simulation, product development, and 3D printing products and services, today announced it has been named Distribution Partner for EOS’s full lineup of industrial metal 3D printing systems. Founded in 1989, EOS is a leading technology provider for industrial additive manufacturing of metals and plastics. PADT will represent the company’s Direct Metal Laser Fusion (DMLS®) powder bed fusion systems across Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, and Utah.

“PADT is experiencing explosive growth,” said Jim Sanford, Vice President, Sales & Support, PADT. “Our new partnership with EOS helps us serve our customers and expand their 3D printing options with this impressive lineup of systems. Metal materials are the next major frontier in 3D printing innovation and PADT is an early adopter. We continue to explore new ways to apply the technology to meet our customer’s evolving needs.”

EOS’ metal 3D printing platforms use proprietary DMLS technology that meters and deposits ultra-fine layers of metal powders and then melts each layer – as defined by a 3D CAD model – using high-powered lasers. The applications produced with DMLS are highly accurate, highly dense, and allow for incredible functionality at a cost that can be less than traditional manufacturing. DMLS printers are considered the industry standard for oil and gas components, consolidated and lighter-weight aerospace applications, and custom medical solutions such as guides and implants that improve patient outcomes.

PADT will sell EOS’  metal 3D printing systems, including the company’s small and medium systems, EOS M 100 and EOS M 290; and its large production platforms, EOS M 300 Series, EOS M 400, and EOS M 400-4. PADT has installed an EOS M 290 machine onsite to develop high-quality end-use metal products for customers and expand its ongoing research and development of metal 3D printing.

“As 3D printing technology has advanced, PADT has seen an increase primarily in the aerospace and defense industry’s use of 3D printing for end-use parts,” said Rey Chu, co-founder and principal, PADT. “Metal 3D printing provides many benefits over traditional manufacturing, including lighter, cost-effective parts made much faster and with greater design freedom. The EOS machines provide PADT’s entire range of customers with a wide variety of options to produce metal parts quickly and effectively. Those same advantages will benefit any industry that has a need for low volume production of complex metal parts.”

“PADT is a long-time leader in 3D printing systems and services since the early 1990s with a proven track record of identifying advanced manufacturing trends and helping customers integrate 3D printing innovation into their manufacturing operations,” said Andrew Snow, senior vice president at EOS North America. “We look forward to deepening our reach across the Southwest, a leading hub for aerospace and defense customers, through our partnership with PADT.”

To learn more about PADT and its new lineup of EOS metal 3D printing products and accessories, please visit www.padtinc.com.

About PADT

PADT is an engineering product and services company that focuses on helping customers who develop physical products by providing Numerical Simulation, Product Development, and 3D Printing solutions. PADT’s worldwide reputation for technical excellence and experienced staff is based on its proven record of building long-term win-win partnerships with vendors and customers. Since its establishment in 1994, companies have relied on PADT because “We Make Innovation Work.” With over 90 employees, PADT services customers from its headquarters at the Arizona State University Research Park in Tempe, Arizona, and from offices in Torrance, California, Littleton, Colorado, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Austin, Texas, and Murray, Utah, as well as through staff members located around the country. More information on PADT can be found at www.PADTINC.com.

About EOS

EOS is the world’s leading technology supplier in the field of industrial 3D printing of metals and polymers. Formed in 1989, the independent company is pioneer and innovator for comprehensive solutions in additive manufacturing. Its product portfolio of EOS systems, materials, and process parameters gives customers crucial competitive advantages in terms of product quality and the long-term economic sustainability of their manufacturing processes. Furthermore, customers benefit from deep technical expertise in global service, applications engineering and consultancy.

A PADT Engineer in King Attiball’s Court – Chapter 2

There just is not enough engineer-focused fiction out there. Romance, Horror, Sci-Fi, Young Adult, Historical, Mystery, etc. They all do well, but they are rarely written for the engineers of the world.

Here at PADT, we are all about undoing such injustices. We decided to brainstorm a story about an engineer who does simulation and 3D Printing and ends up on an adventure. We hope they will find some mystery, some science fiction, and some horror. Maybe even a little romance. To develop the characters and the plot we all got on an MS Teams meeting and blocked it out. It was a lot of fun. That turned into an outline, that will turn into a chapter every month.

We hope you enjoy the result as much as we enjoyed dreaming the journey up.

It should be noted that every character in this story is completely made up. Sometimes we steal some names from real people as a shoutout to them, but that is about it. PADT does not have a basement or a fancy cluster in one. Everything is made up. Well, almost everything. We do have a stack of furniture in the back of shipping and receiving.


Read Chapter 1: Batch Submission


Chapter 2
New Friends

“Tastes like sand.” That was the first thought Ash had as she began to wake up. The crunch she felt on her teeth and the nasty flavor reminded her of the time her brother buried her on the beach.

It was definitely sand.

As she became more aware, she realized it was in her nose as well. When she moved her hands, she felt more hot, dry sand. Laying there, trying to figure out what happened, she noticed the sound of waves and then seagulls.

The last thing she remembered was trying to keep her balance after submitting her CFD batch run on PADT’s new supercomputer. Passing out and waking up on what appeared to be a beach was not the usual result of pressing return on a batch command. Even if it was the wrong command. For a few seconds, she wondered if she was in a virtual reality simulation. But the gritty sand in her mouth was real. Her slowly reviving brain latched on to the idea that a good next step was to open her eyes.

She said, “OK, seagulls, let’s see what you look like.”

Ash was met with a view of a blurry beach with waves slowly working their way up and down a stretch of sand about thirty feet away. She tried to lift her head to look around, but her body did not cooperate.

“Let’s try toes.”

She was able to move those, but didn’t feel sand. Good, it seemed her hiking boots were still on. She was able to move her arms slightly across the warm sand.

“Progress,” was her comments to the gulls she could see skimming the shoreline, occasionally diving into the water.

Before she found the strength to lift her head again, she heard voices. It sounded like two children. As the sound became louder, she could tell they were not speaking English. With a start, she realized they were talking to each other in a heavily accented version of Phoenician.

Ash heard what sounded like a little girl shout, “On the beach, see, it’s a goddess!”

This was followed by a boy’s voice responding, “No, it’s just a foreigner. Probably a slave.”

Ash said in English, “I am neither a goddess nor someone’s slave, thank you very much.”

Using as much strength as she could muster, she raised herself up and faced the two kids.

Ash spat out some sand and croaked, “Where am I?” in her best Phoenician.

Both the kids were thin with dark olive skin and long, kinky black hair. They were both wearing torn and dirty tunics, and they stared at Ash with a mix of fear and curiosity. The boy held a long stick, which he raised and used to poke Ash in the shoulder.

“Ouch!”

The girl said, “She talks as funny as she dresses.”

Ash took a deep breath and tried again, speaking slowly. “What. Place. Are. We. Near?”

Poking her again, the boy answered, “Sur. The center of the world.”

Ash recognized the Phoenician name for the ancient city of Tyre on the coast of what is now Lebanon. She remembered studying it in college and how it was built on a rocky peninsula that jutted out into the Mediterranean. Looking up the beach, she could now see beige stone walls rising from cliffs that protruded into the water. Smoke rose from behind the walls and a few tall masts poked up above the city.

This made no sense. Ash’s head began to spin as the craziness of the situation hit her. She was sitting on a beach, speaking with two children in ancient Phoenician, and what appeared to be an actual ancient walled city was within walking distance.

In English, she said, “This is crazy. It must be a dream.”

She tried to stand and became very dizzy. Her vision blurred and then began to fade to black.

When Ash woke up, she found herself on a pile of straw in a small room. It smelled of smoke and animals. Light was streaming in from an opening about two-thirds up one of the mud walls.

Her head did feel clearer. When she tried to stand up, she realized that her backpack was still on her back. She unclipped it and swung it to the floor as she walked to the opening. Looking out, she saw a collection of buildings clustered around a small harbor that was full of boats of different sizes. The paths that weaved between the buildings were full of people wearing tunics and robes. It was loud. I was also very smelly.

Ash struggled to get her head around what she saw. After a few minutes, she stopped trying. Realizing that the best way to deal with this was to just go along with it, she bent to open her backpack and took out her Phoenician clothes.

“When in ancient Phoenicia, do as the ancient Phoenicians do.”

Minutes later, Ash found herself moving with the flow of people down a narrow street. The sights and sounds began to excite her. This was an excellent simulation of what Tyre must have been like. She passed stalls full of food, cloth, pottery, and bronze implements.

Stopping in front of a pottery stall full of beautiful pieces of different sizes and shapes, she said to herself in English, “I need to share this with everyone.”

Without thinking, she reached into her pocket, took out her mobile phone, and raised it to take a picture. The stall was in the shade, so the flash went off.

That was when the merchant, followed by what seemed like everyone in the street around her, turned on Ash.

They were all shouting. She heard, “Magic!” “Foreign Sorcery” “She’s a Demon!” “Witch!”

It was the term “witch!” that took over. Soon they were all shouting it while grabbing her and pulling her down the street. Several women started to grab bright pieces of cloth from stalls along the road and put them over her head. At one point, someone stole some sort of root vegetable and tied it to her nose.

Over the chaos of the growing crowd, she was able to see they were approaching a large open space raised platform in the center.. Pushing her forward, she found herself at the base of a small stage. The merchant that had started this whole thing jumped onto the platform and shouted, “we have found a witch!”

The crowd continued to shout, “A Witch!.” “Burn Her!” “A Witch!”

A well-dressed man joined the merchant on the platform and asked, “how do you know she is a witch?”

Someone in the audience answered, “She looks like one!”

Ash shook her head to try and bring some sanity to the insane scene around her. She called, “I m not a witch!”

The well-dressed man walked towards her, looked her over from sandals to scarves, and said, “ehh… but you are dressed like one.”

“They dressed me up like this!”

Someone behind her said, “Naah. No, we didn’t. No.”

Ash said, “And this isn’t’ my nose, it’s a false one.”

The man who seemed to be in charge reached down and lifted the nose off.

“Well, we did do the nose,” admitted one of the men holding her.

“Just the nose?”

“… and the scarves. But she is a witch!”

The crowd joined in. “Burn her. Burn her!”

The man motioned for Ash to be moved onto the platform and then spoke to the crowd. “I am Azmelqart. The King’s magistrate. Who here can tell me why you think she is a witch?”

Ash could now see the throng filling the square. A filthy man was working his way to the front. Once there, he said, “she turned me into a newt!”

“A newt?” asked Azmelqart.

The dirty man looked at his feet, then the crowd, and replied, “I got better,” in a small voice.

The crowd didn’t care. They started shouting “She’s a witch!” and “burn her!” again.

Azmelqart motioned for silence. “There are ways of telling whether she is a witch.”

“Are there? Well then, tell us!” demanded the merchant.

“Tell me… what do you do with witches?” asked Azmelqart.

“Burn them!”

Azmelqart nodded his head and then asked, “What do you burn apart from witches?”

Someone in the crowd answered, “More Witches!”

Azmelqart shook his head. A small boy walked forward and tentatively asked, “Wood?”

“Correct! So, why do witches burn?”

The boy looked at his feet and kicked at some stones. He then offered, “Cuz they’re made of… wood?”

Azmelqart smiled and said, “Goooood! Now, how do we tell if she is made of wood?”

Someone answered, “Build a bridge out of her.”

“Ahh, clever, but bridges can also be made out of stone. Does wood sink in water?”

“No,” said the merchant.

The boy added, “No. It floats!”

Someone in the crowd added, “Let’s throw her in the harbor!”

“What also floats in water?” asked Azmelqart.

Someone said, “bread.” Another guessed, “apples.” A third offered, “very small rocks.”

This last answer annoyed Azmelqart. People continued to make even more ridiculous suggestions until a clear, deep voice added, “A Duck!”

Bannal turned to face a man wearing bronze and leather armor on a horse. “Exactly! So logically…”

The merchant thought about it. Then he said, “if she weighs the same as a duck… she’s… MADE OF WOOD!”

“And therefore,” said Bannal.

The merchant thought some more and suggested, “a witch?”

The crowd took it up. Chanting “Witch,” “Witch,” “Witch” as they jumped up and down in the square.

With a look of triumph on his face, Azmelqart leaped from the stage and said, “We shall use my largest scale!” and the crowd followed him towards the harbor, leaving Ash alone on the platform.

“This is insane,” said Ash to the backs of the disappearing crowd. “I feel like I’m in a bad Monty Python skit.”

The only people left in the square were a young woman and an older, heavyset man. She was wearing a beautiful, ochre-colored dress that draped perfectly over her tall, thin frame. He was wearing a simple, very white tunic with a wide leather belt around his paunch.

“You certainly know how to get noticed when you come to a city for the first time,” said the woman. “I am Verihbitt, daughter of Batnoam. And this is my slave and faithful assistant in all things, Mnihh’dm.”

Ash walked towards them. “I’m Ash, daughter of…” She hesitated but could only think of her father’s real name. “Daughter of Alan.”

“Welcome to Sur, the center of the Phoenician Kingdom. You are obviously not from here or any other land I’ve been to. Where is it you come from?” asked the tall woman in a pleasant voice. Then she added, “but before you answer, let us leave the square and go to my father’s house. Before that idiot, Azmelqart, realizes he forgot to drag you to his scales.”

Mnihh’dm darted down the closest alleyway, and the two women followed.

Before long, Ash found herself in a small courtyard filled with olive and fig trees. Verihbitt motioned for her to sit on a stone bench as Mnihh’dm disappeared into a dark doorway.

“My guard,” said the young woman as she sat on another bench, “Takaa was the one that offered up the idea of a duck. I think it worked well, do you not?”

Ash caught her breath. “Yes, thank you so much. It was so strange, I did not know what to do or say. I cannot thank you enough. How can I repay you?”

Verihbitt’s face changed from stern and concerned to a beautiful smile. “Well, my father always tells me I am far too curious for my own good. And I am curious about you. Your payment must be telling me where you are from and why you are here.”

Ash contemplated what to say next. She could not tell this woman the truth. But she could stretch the truth to fit the situation.

“I was traveling in my land, a place far west from here, near where the sun goes to sleep each night.  I was… working on calculating some numbers and made a mistake that must have angered a god. Before I could fix my error, the room I was in began to shake, and all went dark. When I woke up, I was on the beach just south of the city walls.”

Verihbitt stared directly into Ash’s eyes as if trying to see if the tale was true.  She began to twist her hair in her fingers. Then she said, “that is an amazing story, one that a song should be written about. Even if it is not, I sense, the complete truth.”

The two women looked at one another, not really knowing what to say. Ash was starting to panic when Mnihh’dm returned with a platter filled with bowls. He set it down on a tripod between the two women, turned to Verihbitt, and said, “I like her. I think she needs a friend.”

Ash looked at Verihbitt more closely. She had to be about the same age as Ash. Her hair was black and curly. Her skin was the same dark olive as everyone in the city. She could tell that this was a smart, confident, and caring woman. And that was precisely what Ash needed.

Ash ventured, “I truly could use a friend.”

Verihbitt leaned forward and lifted her cup. “To friendship then, and to the adventures that it brings!”

– To Be Continued –

Continue reading with “Like and Owl,” wherein the new friends fend off not one, but two attacks, a secret is uncovered about one of them, and Ash realizes she has a connection to the present day.

Please subscribe to our newsletter, so you will know when the next installment is released

Press Release: PADT Named a Stratasys Diamond Partner

PADT’s long-standing relationship with Stratasys, the world leader in 3D Printing systems, continues to grow. The latest facet is our recent naming as a Stratasys Diamond Partner. We started this mutual journey as one of the first 3D Printing service providers to add Stratasys’ Fused Deposition Modeling. With that start as a customer we grew to become a reseller, then a supplier for support removal equipment, We also recently expanded our sales territory to include the state of Texas.

And now we are proud to be identified as a Diamond Partner, the top level for Stratasys channel partners. Please read the press release below to learn more about the details. You can also read the official HTML and PDF versions.

We could not have achieved this honor without two groups of people – our customers and our staff. PADT has the most amazing relationship with our 3D Printing users, who let us into their business to help them realize their additive manufacturing goals. And what those customers tell us is that our staff is amazing. From salespeople who have become trusted advisors, to our expert application engineers, to our service engineers who keep their machines running.

We can’t wait to see where the Stratasys + PADT journey takes us next.


The Southwest’s Leading Provider of 3D Printing Systems, Materials and Services, PADT, Named a Stratasys Diamond Partner

PADT has Served More Than 500 Customers With More Than 800 3D Printers Throughout Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Utah

TEMPE, Ariz., March 9, 2021 PADT, a globally recognized provider of numerical simulation, product development, and 3D printing products and services, today announced it has been named a Stratasys Diamond partner for its continued success selling the 3D printing manufacturer’s complete line of products and providing stellar support service. PADT becomes one of the few elite Stratasys resellers in the country to have achieved Diamond partner status.

“For more than 25 years, PADT has provided the highest level of 3D printing products, services and support to our customers across the Southwest,” said Jim Sanford, vice president, Sales & Support, PADT. “Earning the Stratasys Diamond partner designation is a result of the hard work of our team, and the continued respect of our customers.”

PADT became one of the first service providers in the country to offer fused deposition modeling (FDM) printing on Stratasys equipment in the late 1990s and has continued to expand its 3D printing capabilities as a service provider and reseller. The company built its customer base by providing outstanding 3D printing services and technical support across a wide variety of industries and organizations, from schools to startups, including some of the world’s largest aerospace organizations. To date, PADT has sold 883 printers to 506 customers across the Southwest.

PADT currently offers Stratasys’ complete portfolio of top-rated systems, accessories and materials, including full-color printing with PolyJet multi-material systems, robust and proven FDM manufacturing systems from desktop to those supporting advanced materials, and stereolithography for precision and finish.

“3D printing is a fast-growing industry that continues to expand its capabilities and quality year-over-year,” said Ward Rand, co-founder and principal, PADT. “We’re thankful for the strong partnership we’ve enjoyed with Stratasys, and with new technologies coming, we look forward to offering our customers even more choices to make 3D printing part of their everyday process to drive efficiency and cost-savings. This is especially true as we help our customers move from prototyping to creating tooling and production parts with Stratasys additive manufacturing solutions. 3D printing solutions from Stratasys are helping the world’s leading companies gain business agility and competitive advantage and PADT is proud to be a Diamond Partner.”

PADT now represents Stratasys in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah as an Elite Channel Partner at the Diamond level. To learn more about PADT and its 3D printing products and services, please visit www.padtinc.com.

About PADT

PADT is an engineering product and services company that focuses on helping customers who develop physical products by providing Numerical Simulation, Product Development, and 3D Printing solutions. PADT’s worldwide reputation for technical excellence and experienced staff is based on its proven record of building long-term win-win partnerships with vendors and customers. Since its establishment in 1994, companies have relied on PADT because “We Make Innovation Work.” With over 90 employees, PADT services customers from its headquarters at the Arizona State University Research Park in Tempe, Arizona, and from offices in Torrance, California, Littleton, Colorado, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Austin, Texas, and Murray, Utah, as well as through staff members located around the country. More information on PADT can be found at www.PADTINC.com.

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A PADT Engineer in King Attiball’s Court – Chapter 1

Editors Note:

There just is not enough engineer-focused fiction out there. Romance, Horror, Sci-Fi, Young Adult, Historical, Mystery, etc. They all do well, but they are rarely written for the engineers of the world.

Here at PADT, we are all about undoing such injustices. We decided to brainstorm a story about an engineer who does simulation and 3D Printing and ends up on an adventure. We hope they will find some mystery, some science fiction, and some horror. Maybe even a little romance. To develop the characters and the plot we all got on an MS Teams meeting and blocked it out. It was a lot of fun. That turned into an outline, that will turn into a chapter every month.

We hope you enjoy the result as much as we enjoyed dreaming the journey up.

It should be noted that every character in this story is completely made up. Sometimes we steal some names from real people as a shoutout to them, but that is about it. PADT does not have a basement or a fancy cluster in one. Everything is made up. Well, almost everything. We do have a stack of furniture in the back of shipping and receiving.


Read Chapter 2: New Friends


Chapter 1
Batch Submission

Everyone’s work cubical is different. Some develop a zone of chaos. Some use it as a place to display the things they care about. Some, like Ash, keep theirs stark and clean.  She found it difficult to focus if one item was out of place or if her monitor was not at the perfect height and angle. She started and finished each day with the same ritual. A ritual that guaranteed that at least this little corner of her world was controlled, clean, and understood.

Most days, it worked. But no matter how hard Ash tried, she was going to end up in a place that she could not control, keep clean, or even understand. If she knew that facilities would soon start using her cubicle to store large, blue water bottles, she would have thrown a fit. At this point, she had no idea how unusual things would soon become. But, we are getting ahead of our story.

On this particular day, she walked into her cubicle with an extra bounce in her step. She straightened the diploma on the wall that said, “Asghleith Jones, PhD, Computation Fluid Mechanics.”  She even made sure her tape, stapler, pen holder, stack of sticky pads, and metal straight-edge were in their proper position. She realized that the only picture in her office, a group photo of the Phoenix Phoenicians LARP’ers, had been moved by the cleaning crew again. With a gentle nudge, she put it back into its proper position.

Ash was on the taller side with a fit figure that she usually kept hidden under baggy khakis and a polo shirt.  She had bright, intelligent green eyes, dark olive skin, and a mass of black, curly hair.  Hair she almost always kept tied back behind her head and down her back. After turning 27 the previous month, she had recommitted to her regimen of running and yoga that kept her feeling healthy and energetic.

The large backpack she placed on the floor next to her desk, and the bounce in her step were related. After work, she was heading to a campground outside of Tucson, Arizona, to meet up with the group in the picture. They were going to spend a whole week pretending to be a group of Ancient Phoenician traders. Live-action role-playing, LARPing, was her passion.  A passion she could not wait to indulge. She just needed to get this huge fluid flow simulation set-up and solving on the server before leaving. Then she could relax and slide into her alter-ego.

“Hey, Ash, ready to go a’LARPing?”  She looked up from her monitor to see Harriet Rumanicci, PADT’s HR manager and her best friend at work, standing in the door.

“Don’t make fun of me,” she answered.  “It is relaxing and good therapy. No computers, no meetings, no nosy co-workers, and best of all, no deadlines.” 

Harriet came in and sat on the guest chair in the cubicle. Petit, blond, and full of energy, she was the only person keeping the various employees at PADT socially connected. She also truly enjoyed teasing Asghleith.  

She continued that teasing with, “How can someone who is a neat freak like you spend a week living in the desert? Do you sweep your tent every hour?”

Ash stopped typing and looked directly at Harriet with the most severe look she could muster. “As the manager of HR, you should know that my OCD is a disability, and making fun of me is discriminatory.”

“I don’t know. In your line of work, it may be an asset.”

They both laughed. 

Harriet slightly adjusted the position of Ash’s stapler and then asked, “Are you going to be able to submit the big job before you take off?”

“Yes,” said Ash, adding a sigh. “If I am not interrupted and if they get the server back up and running today.”

“Oh, you need the help of IT?”

“I do, and they are being very nice and responsive. Because they like engineers. But, the new hard drives may not be here in time. I’ve got an email into someone named -” Ash stopped speaking to click on her computer screen. “ – Alex Adalopopolopolus in the government projects team, to see if I can run on their cluster.  I heard it was massive with lots of new, super-duper-magic-fast hardware.”

“I know Alex. But then that is my job.” Harriet smiled at her little joke. “He seems a good guy, doesn’t talk much. In fact, he never leaves the basement.”

“Well, he will be this project’s lifesaver if he can get me a login and peel off some nodes with dual GPU’s, 128 gigabytes of memory, and four terabyte RAM drives for me to solve on.”

“I heard, lifesaver, blah, blah, dual goats, blah, blah, solve on,” joked Harriet.

“Exactly.”

Harriet sat comfortably in Ash’s cubical, checking and responding to emails as Ash continued to type and click at her computer.  They often worked like this, not saying much, just sharing the same space and tossing the occasional comment back and forth. The silence, and their productivity, was broken when Oren Barnett’s well-coifed head popped up over Ash’s cubical wall.

“Hey, Ash. How is that big run coming? Is it done yet? I got a big order that should drop as soon as you give them results.” 

Harriet said, “Oren. Bringer of anxiety. Can’t you see the lady is busy?”

Oren raised himself a bit higher so he could see where the unexpected voice was coming from. “Oh, I see HR is here. Isn’t making fun of me against some sort of corporate policy?”

“Let me check.” Harriet pretended to scroll through her phone. After a few seconds, she said, “No.”

Ash chuckled as she continued to work. She then said, “I should have it submitted this afternoon. A few more hours to get the boundary layer on these critical surfaces, then I’ll re-mesh one last time to get everything in its place.  The new drives won’t make it in today, so Alex in IT just gave me a week on the government cluster in the basement.”

Oren climbed up on the chair that he kept on his side of the cubical wall, resting his arms on top of the divider.  “Perfect, thank you, Ash.  It’s an important project that could lead to a seven-figures worth of HPC if we, well you, can show them how they can fix their problem.”  He paused to look at Harriet and considered if he should continue or not. 

He decided to continue.

“Ash, once you get that job submitted, can I take you to dinner as a reward?”

Harriet’s face darted up from her phone to glare at Oren.  Asghleith tried to ignore the proposition by typing faster and harder on her keyboard.

“Come on. You have worked hard all week.  All month, really.  Let me pay you back the best way I know how.” He smiled at her. “Time with me.”

Ash felt a bit trapped.  The truth was, as annoying as he could be, Oren made her laugh, and even though he put pressure on her all the time, he was always supportive and did everything he could to help her get her job done. And she could not deny, his smile was charming.  On the other hand, Harriet didn’t like him at all. She was also continually sharing stories of past office romances that had ended disastrously, often with HR involved. 

As much as she felt tempted to give in to Oren’s constant attempts to get her to go out with him, she had a valid excuse this time. 

“Sorry, guy. I’m leaving town for the week right after work.”

Oren’s smile faded. “Oh. Darn.  Going someplace fun?”

Ash continued typing and said, almost to herself, “I certainly hope so.”

At around four-thirty, the model was ready.  While Ash copied it to her thumb drive, she straightened her office up.  Everything was moved into the proper drawer or put in its perfect place. She smiled a bit when she realized that Harriett had moved her stapler and then put it where it belonged. 

Moments later, she was headed down the stairs to the basement.  Most people didn’t know that PADT even had a basement. The entrance was back behind a pile of old furniture stacked in the rear of shipping and receiving. 

At the bottom of the stairs, she pushed a simple red button with a small sign under it that said: “Push Me, All who Wish to Enter.”

A voice said, “You must be Asg-ha-leeth Jones?”

“Yes, No. Ash-Lee or Ash. Parents thought it was a sophisticated way to spell my name.” A flood of memories came back of her explaining to people since kindergarten that her name was Ashley.   

“Anyway,” she continued, “that is me. Do you need some ID or something?”

“No, you are good. Please enter.”

The door buzzed and slid open.  Ash stepped through into a small room with glass walls.  All around, on the other side of the glass walls, were rows and rows of computers.

“So cool,” she said to herself.

The same voice from the door said, “It is, isn’t it. Literally and figuratively. We keep the room at sixty-two degrees.  And it is a lot of very fast computers. Some with some pretty cool new technology. Which, I cannot tell you about.”

Startled, Ash asked, “Umm, who is this?”

The voice calmly answered, “I am the AI that lives on this computer. Although, we could debate if I actually live or exist.”

This was a shock to Ash. She thought the computer was used to run really large simulations for the government, she had no idea it could host an AI algorithm that sounded so human.

“Just kidding.” Said the voice in the ceiling. “This is Alex Adalopopolopopulus. You can just call me Alex A.” He paused. “Alex-ah. I am just kidding, again. Alex is fine. It is a pleasure to talk to you in person instead of through email.”

“Likewise.  Thank you so much for getting me time on this machine. I feel like a kid in a candy store. And I do like the idea of calling you Alex-ah.  Might as well, since you are a disembodied voice.”  She looked around for a terminal to sit at and realized there was no desk, no keyboard.  A large monitor was hanging from the back wall, next to the door where she had entered. 

“Welcome to the Phoenix Cluster, our state of the art hybrid quantum-digital compute cluster.  It integrates eight-thousand-one-hundred and ninety-two cores with six quantum compute nodes.  It also has a state of the art passive augmented reality interface.”

All Ash could say was, “so cool.”

“Indeed, my young padawan. Let’s get you loaded and started. There is a USB port under the monitor. Go ahead and put your thumb drive in.  Then stand on the yellow pad in the corner.”

Ash shifted her large backpack on her shoulders and walked to the monitor, more than a little nervous. She slid the thumb drive in. She then took a few steps to stand on a yellow circle in the corner by the monitor. 

As soon as she had both feet on the pad, her skin felt tingly. The room around her and the computers on the other side of the windows all faded, and she saw a cartoon version of the room.  A mouse, keyboard, and monitor floated in front of her.  She reached out and touched the keyboard. As her fingers made virtual contact, she felt something pushing back against them.

Before she could say it herself, she heard Alex’s voice in her ear, “I know, so cool!”

“I am kind of speechless. This is so awesome. As much as I want to play with this interface, I gotta get on the road, so here goes.”

Ash started to type on the keyboard and saw her command form on the monitor.

Ash–> cfdsolve1 -s fluent -t 2022-03-12-23:00 bc -loads-c1.txt -c Phoenicia -jn t75-c1-a

The command Asghleith typed in was supposed to start a batch script that ran Ansys FLUENT starting at eleven that night on the Phoenix cluster. As she pressed the virtual enter key, she realized that she put the dash on the boundary condition flag, bc, in the wrong place and had typed Phoenicia instead of Phoenix.

She thought it would be no big deal. The script would error out, and she would type it in correctly. Instead, she felt a jolt as if she was in an old elevator that had started to move up. On the screen, she saw the words, “Batch Job Submitted.  Engaging Quantum Temporal Solver.”

She struggled to stand as the whole room began to jump and shake. Her head began to spin.  The keyboard and monitor faded in front of her, replaced by blindingly bright light. She closed her eyes, but that did not help. The spinning got worse.

As she began to lose consciousness, she said, “Alex-A, I think I entered the wrong command.”  

-To Be Continued –

Please enjoy the next chapter, “New Friends.”

When we next join Ash she will encounter a mob, a wise man of science, ducks, and of course, a princess.

And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter, so you know when the next installment is released.

To be continued

Press Release: Ansys Elite Channel Partner and Stratasys Diamond Channel Partner, PADT Announces Jim Sanford as Vice President of Sales & Support

The Sales and Support team at PADT is the group that most of PADT’s customers interface with. They sell world-leading products from Ansys, Stratasys, and Flownex and then provide award-winning support long after the initial purpose. The team has grown over the years and has plans for even more growth. To help make that happen, we are honored to have Jim Sanford join the PADT family as the Vice President of our Sales & Support team.

Many of our customers and partners know Jim from his time with industry leaders Siemens, MSC, Dassault Systems, and NextLabs, Inc. He brings that experience and his background as a mechanical engineer before he entered sales, to focus PADT on our next phase of growth. He also fit well in PADT’s culture of customer focused, technical driven sales and support.

Our customers have a choice of who they purchase their Ansys multiphysics simulation, Stratasys 3D Printers, and Flownex system simulation software from, and who delivers their frontline support. We know with Jim leading the team, even more companies will make the choice to be part of the PADT family.

The official press release has more details, and can be found at these links or in the test below.

Press Release: PDF | HTML

Want to have a conversation about your Simulation or 3D Printing situation? Contact PADT now and one of our profesionals will be happy to help.


Ansys Elite Channel Partner and Stratasys Diamond Channel Partner, PADT Announces Jim Sanford as Vice President of Sales & Support

Sanford Brings a Wide Range of High-Profile Leadership Experience Across Technology and Aerospace and Defense Sectors to his New Position

TEMPE, Ariz., February 11, 2021 PADT, a globally recognized provider of numerical simulation, product development, and 3D printing products and services, today announced the addition of Jim Sanford as vice president of the company’s Sales & Support department. In his new position, Sanford is responsible for leading the increase of sales and customer support for a range of best-in-class simulation and additive manufacturing solutions. Sanford reports to Ward Rand, co-founder and principal, PADT.

“In the last few years, PADT has expanded across the Southwest, adding new expertise and technologies to our product and service offerings,” said Rand. “Jim is a valuable addition to the team and will be instrumental in sustaining PADT’s growth across the region. His leadership, experience, and knowledge of the industry will allow us to increase the pace of expansion and bring our solutions to serve new and existing customers in deeper and more impactful ways to their businesses.”

After a comprehensive search, Sanford proved to be the most experienced and capable leader to take on the vice president role. He will focus on providing visionary guidance, strategy, and tactical direction to the department. His responsibilities include refining the company’s sales team structure, recruiting, hiring, training, managing for profitable growth, and leading the support team to ensure an optimal customer experience for their use of Ansys, Stratasys, and Flownex products.

Prior to joining PADT, Sanford held business development and engineering positions in a diverse range of aerospace and defense, modeling and simulation, and software companies. His 30-year career span includes executive leadership roles at Siemens, MSC, and Dassault. Most recently he served as the VP for NextLabs Inc., a leading provider of policy-driven information risk management software for large enterprises, and the VP of Business Development for Long Range Services, where he was engaged in the development and testing of various classified items for the U.S. Department of Defense. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Arizona, with emphasis in materials science and physics.

“PADT is a well-respected brand well-known for its product knowledge, customer-centric approach, and expertise,” said Sanford. “My career has been defined by my ability to take technology-focused companies to the next level of success, and I’m thrilled to join PADT and help continue its expansion by supporting highly innovative customers.”

PADT currently sells and supports the entire Ansys product line in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah as an Ansys Elite Channel Partner. They also represent all Stratasys products in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah as a Diamond Channel Partner and are the North American distributor for Flownex.

To learn more about Sanford and PADT’s products and services, please visit https://www.padtinc.com/products/

About PADT

PADT is an engineering product and services company that focuses on helping customers who develop physical products by providing Numerical Simulation, Product Development, and 3D Printing solutions. PADT’s worldwide reputation for technical excellence and experienced staff is based on its proven record of building long-term win-win partnerships with vendors and customers. Since its establishment in 1994, companies have relied on PADT because “We Make Innovation Work.” With over 90 employees, PADT services customers from its headquarters at the Arizona State University Research Park in Tempe, Arizona, and from offices in Torrance, California, Littleton, Colorado, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Austin, Texas, and Murray, Utah, as well as through staff members located around the country. More information on PADT can be found at www.PADTINC.com.

# # #

Understanding Honeycomb Structures in Additive Manufacturing – Three Papers from ASU and PADT

PADT is currently partnering with Arizona State University’s 3DXResearch group on exploring bio-inspired geometries for 3D Printing. As part of that effort, one of our engineers involved in the project, Alex Grishin, PhD, was a co-author on several papers that have been published during this project.

Below is a brief summary from Alex of each article, along with links.


An Examination of the Low Strain Rate Sensitivity of Additively Manufactured Polymer, Composite and Metallic Honeycomb Structures

PADT participated in the research with the above title recently published in the open-access online journal MDPI ( https://www.mdpi.com/1996-1944/12/20/3455/htm ). This work was funded by the America Makes Program under a project titled “A Non-Empirical Predictive Model for Additively Manufactured Lattice Structures” and is based on research sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory under agreement number FA8650-12-2-7230.

Current ASU professor and former PADT employee Dhruv Bhate was the Lead Investigator and wrote the original proposal. Dhruv’s research interests involve bio-inspired design (the study of structures found in nature to help inform human design efforts) and additive manufacturing. Dhruv is particularly interested in the bulk properties of various lattice arrangements. While investigating the highly nonlinear force-deflection response of various additively manufactured honeycomb specimens under compression, Dhruv discovered that polymer and composite honeycombs showed extreme sensitivity to strain rates –showing peak responses substantially higher than theory predicts at various (low) strain rates. This paper explores and quantifies this behavior.

The paper investigates hexagonal honeycomb structures manufactured with four different additive manufacturing processes: one polymer (fused deposition modeling, or material extrusion with ABS), one composite (nylon and continuous carbon fiber extrusion) and two metallic (laser powder bed fusion of Inconel 718 and electron beam melting of Ti6Al4V). The strain rate sensitivities of the effective elastic moduli, and the peak loads for all four processes were compared. Results show significant sensitivity to strain rate in the polymer and composite process for both these metrics, and mild sensitivity for the metallic honeycombs for the peak load.

PADT contributed to this research by providing ANSYS simulations of these structures assuming viscoplastic material properties derived from solid dog-bone test specimens. PADT’s simulations helped provide Dhruv with a proposed mechanism to explain why INSTRON compression tests of the honeycomb structures showed higher peak responses (corresponding to classical ultimate stress) for these specimens than the solid specimens.


Bioinspired Honeycomb Core Design: An Experimental Study of the Role of Corner Radius, Coping and Interface

PADT participated in the NASA-funded research with the above title recently published in the open-access online journal MDPI (https://www.mdpi.com/2313-7673/5/4/59/htm ). This work was guided by former PADT engineer and current ASU Associate Professor Dhruv Bhate.  Professor Bhate’s primary research interests are Bio-Inspired Design and Additive Manufacturing. It was only natural that he would secure a grant for this research from NASA’s  Periodic Table of Life ( PeTaL) project. To quote from the website, “the primary objective…is to expand the domain of inquiry for human processes that seek to model those that are, were or could be found in nature…”

This paper focuses on the morphology of bee honeycombs found in nature –the goal being to identify key characteristics of their structure, which might inform structural performance in man-made designs incorporating similar lattice structures. To this end, the paper identifies three such characteristics: The honeycomb cell corner radius, the cell wall “coping” (a localized thickening of the cell wall at the mouth of each cell seen in a lateral cross-section), and the cell array “interface” (a zigzag pattern seen at the interface of two opposing, or “stacked” arrays).

Most of this work involved material testing and measuring dozens of natural honeycombs (most coming from various museums of natural history found in the United States) at ASU’s state-of-the-art facilities. PADT  contributed substantially by verifying and guiding tests with simulation using the ANSYS suite of software.


A Comparison of Modeling Methods for Predicting the Elastic-Plastic Response of Additively Manufactured Honeycomb Structures

PADT participated in this research found in the reviewed article published in Proceedings of the 29th Annual International Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium – An Additive Manufacturing Conference.

Figure 14. (left) 2D plane strain model with platens connected to honeycomb with frictional contacts and (right) close-up of an individual cell showing the mesh size as well as corner radius modeled after experimental measurements

The lead investigator was current ASU professor and former PADT employee Dhruv Bhate, whose research interests involve Bio-Inspired Design (the study of natural structures to help inform human design processes) and Additive Manufacturing. In this research, Dhruv investigates discrepancies between published (bulk) material properties for the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) of ABS honeycomb structures. The discrepancies arise as substantial differences between published material properties, such as Young’s Modulus and yield stress, and those determined experimentally from FDM dog-bone specimens of the same material (which he refers to as “member” properties).

Figure 4. (left) Homogenization enables the replacement of a cellular material with a solid of effective properties, (right) which can greatly reduce computational expense when simulating engineering structures

PADT’s role in this research was crucial for demonstrating that the differences in base material characterization are greatly exacerbated in nonlinear compression simulations of the ABS honeycomb structures. PADT used both the manufacturer’s published properties, and the dog-bone data to show substantial differences in peak stress under the two assumptions.

https://www.scopus.com/record/display.uri?eid=2-s2.0-85084948560&origin=inward&txGid=a19776da6deb7846e12bc8f7573181ab

6 – An update on outputting results in Ansys Mechanical: 3D Printing Results

To support some new marketing efforts I had to make some different types of results output from models in Ansys Mechanical:

  • A 3D plot on a webpage
    Post 5
  • A physical printout on our 3D Printer
    Post 6

All of the posts are here.

This post is the final, of six, and we finally get to the topic that we get the most questions on: “How do I convert my Ansys Results to a 3D Printed Model.” This article will cover taking Ansys Mechanical FEA results, stress, vibration, and heat transfer, and make a cool 3D plot on Stratasys full-color printers. The process should work on other color printers, but we have only tested it with Stratasys.

3D Printing and Color

Since the beginning of 3D Printing, we have been using a file format called STL. The format only contains the external surface of an object represented as triangles, and it does not support color. But there is good news, a new format, 3MF, or 3D Manufacturing Format was recently introduced to replace STL. It is one of several 3D formats that contain not only triangles on the surface of an object, but they support color information for each triangle. 3MF is for 3D Printing. PLY, OBJ, X3D, and others are for rendering and viewing.

But there is bad news. At this time (2020 R2), no Ansys products support 3MF. So we need to get our results into a format that Stratasys can read color data from, which is the latest version of OBJ. Because of this, we will use our favorite Ansys post-processor, EnSight, to create a PLY file, then an open-source 3rd Party tool, Meshlab, to make an OBJ.

Note 1: As soon as Ansys supports 3MF or OBJ or someone adds a 3MF/OBJ ACT Extension, we will update this article.

Note 2: The steps below are actually covered in the post in Post 2 on how to use EnSight and Post 5 on how to make usable 3D result files. But I’ll repeat them here since you may have only come to learn how to make a 3D result file.

Step 1: Get what you want to print as PLY in Ansys EnSight

Ansys Ensight is a powerful tool that does so much more than make 3D result files. But we will focus on this particular capability because we can use it to get our 3D Printed results.

In Post 2 of this series, I go over how to get a high-quality 2D image from EnSight. Review it if you want more details or if you run into problems following these steps.

Before we get going, one key thing you should know is that Ansys EnSight reads a ton of formats, and one of them is the result files from Ansys Mechanical APDL. So we will start with getting that file.

The program reads Ansys Mechanical APDL result files. These are created when you run Ansys Mechanical and are stored in your project directory under dp0/SYS/MECH and is called file.rst or file.rth. I like to copy the result file from that directory to a folder where I’m going to store my plots and also rename it so I know what it is. For our impeller model, I called it impeller-thin-modal-1.rst.

Once you have your rst file, go ahead and launch EnSight.

That brings up a blank sessions. To get started click File > Open

This will bring up a dialog box for specifying a results file. If you click on the “File type:” dropdown, you will see the long list of supported files it can work with. Take a look while you are there and see if any other tools you use are listed. Of course, Ansys FLUENT and CFX are in there.

But the one we want is Ansys Results (*.rst *.rth *.rfl *.rmg). Chose that, then go to the directory where you put your Ansys result file.

EnSight will read the file and put it in a Case. It will list the results as Part 0 under Case 1.

The left part of the screen shows what you have to work with, and the right shows your model. The “Time” control, circled in green, is where you specify what time, substep, or mode you want. The “Parts” control lets you deal with parts, which we really won’t use. And the “Variables” control, circled in orange, is how you specify what result you want to view.

We want to plot deflection, which is a vector. Click on the + sign next to Vectors, and you get a list of what values you can show. The only supported result for model analysis is Displacment__Vibration_mode. Click on that. Then hold down the right mouse button and select “Color Part” > All.

This tells the program to use that result to shade the part. You should now see your contour.

Our example is a modal result. If you use a structural result file, you will be able to plot the displacement vector, as well as many stress results, under “Scalars”

By default, EnSight shows an undeformed object. If you want to see the deflected shape, click on the part then on the “Displacement” icon above the graphics window. Select the vector result you want to use, displacement in this case. Note, the default displacement factor may not be a good guess, change that till you get the amount of deflection you want.

Note, the default displacement factor may not be a good guess, change that till you get the amount of deflection you want.

The other thing you may want to change is the contours. It has a full library of colors you can change to, but I like the default. What I don’t like is that the min and max may not be where I want them, especially for modal deflection results. The min and max values are the min and max in the result file, and unless you normalize your results, you should tweak the values for your 3D print.

Here is the default color scheme for my 40th mode:

To change the range, click on the contour key and Right-Mouse-Button on the legend, and select Edit… This brings up the Create/edit annotation (legends) dialog. Then click “Edit Pallet…” at the top of that dialog to get to the Pallete editor.

You can make lots of changes here, but what I recommend you do is only change the min and max values. If I set the max to 50, I get this contour on my result:

Next, we wan to save as PLY.

Go to File > Export > Geomtric Entities.

In the dialog, chose PLY Polygonal File Format. This will be the generic format we can convert into something GrabCad likes. Make sure you specify which times or modes you want. By default, it will make a PLY for each one. Also, make sure you have selected the part.

Now you have a color-coded, faceted representation of your results, in a 3D file format. Just not one that GrabCADPrint currently supports.

Step 2: Convert to OBJ in MeshLab

Now we need MeshLab. There are many other tools the read PLY files and output to other formats, but MeshLab has not let me down yet. It is opensource, does everything, and is a pain to use. You will laugh at the user interface. But as ugly as it is, it works. You can download MeshLab from www.meshlab.net. Once you have it installed, follow these steps:

  • Open MeshLab
  • Chose File > Import Mesh
  • Spin it around, look at it. You could scale and transform. But we just want to convert it.
  • Chose File > Export Mesh As
  • Scroll down in the File of Type dropdown and pick Alias Wavefront Object (*.obj)
  • Save
  • Make sure you have only Color checked for Vert. Then click OK

Here is an OBJ file from the example above.

That is it. Import that file into Stratasys GrabCAD Print and have at it.

I printed a different mode shape, but I think it looks fantastic. Click to get the full-resolution version.

Closing thoughts

And this ends our series on getting output from Ansys Mechanical, circa early 2021. It was just going to be one article on getting higher resolution images, but it grew a bit. We hope you find it useful.

Remember, PADT is here to help. We are proud to be an Ansys Elite Channel Partner offering Ansys products across the southwestern US.

PADT has been doing this for a while, and we can offer help in terms of one-on-one support, training, customization, and consulting services. Although this article focused on Ansys Mechanical, we cover the physics across the Ansys product line with experienced engineers in every area. And don’t forget we do 3D Printing as a service as well as product design.

Please contact us to learn more.

5 – An update on outputting results in Ansys Mechanical: 3D Result Objects

To support some new marketing efforts I had to make some different types of results output from models in Ansys Mechanical:

  • A 3D plot on a webpage
    Post 5
  • A physical printout on our 3D Printer
    Post 6

All of the posts are here.

This post is the fifth of six and it is about creating results objects that can be viewed in 3D by people who don’t own Ansys Mechanical. You can use the Ansys Viewer, 3D PDF, make rendering files, and display on a web page. Using the Ansys viewer is simple and 3D PDF requires a plugin. For rendering or web viewing, it is not a direct shot, but with the help of EnSight and a few open-source tools, you can share complex 3D results with a lot of people.

Using the Ansys Viewer format and Ansys Viewer

Ansys solves the problem of sharing 3D results across their product line with people who don’t have Ansys through the Ansys Viewer. It is free, simple to use, and should be used in most situations. Right now you can export results from Ansys CFX, CFD-Post (for CFX or Fluent results), TurboGrid, and Ansys Mechanical to this format.

You can download the viewer here.

Making the file is very simple. Just Right-Mouse-Button on the object you want to share. Then select Export > Ansys Result Viewer

Then open this file in Ansys viewer and view away. We have not had any problems with customers of all skill levels use this tool.

For most real engineering situations, you should stop here. This is a robust way to share 3D result objects with anyone, and they don’t need a license of Ansys. But if you need more, including higher-quality 3D objects, keep going.

What about 3D PDF?

If you want to use 3D PDF, there is a plugin for this on the Ansys app store. One of the European channel partners, 7tech, has created More-PDF. Note, it is not free. Free to download and try, but there is a cost. It works in Ansys Mechanical as a plugin and has a stand-alone version that works with CFD Pre/Post, Electronics Desktop, or MAPDL. I won’t get into how to install or use it because the help files that come with are outstanding.

Here is a sample Ansys result that they have provided. You can view it in Acrobat Reader.

If you want to share results in PDF, this seems to be a good tool for that. I’m not sure what the pricing is for it. More information is here, including more example files.

Making a Generic 3D File: PLY

If you read the article on making high-quality images, you saw that Ansys Ensight is a very powerful tool. One thing it does is support a bunch of different 3D file formats. One of those formats is a PLY file, which is a great intermediate format for so much more.

Get started by following the instructions in the previous article about high-quality images using EnSight. But instead of exporting to an image, we are going to save as PLY.

When you have the result you want, go to File > Export > Geomtric Entities.

In the dialog, chose PLY Polygonal File Format. This will be our generic format we can convert into many different things (including 3D printer files, discussed in the next article.) Make sure you specify which times or modes you want. By default, it will make a PLY for each one.

You can now take that PLY file into any fancy rendering program. If you want to show your results in the middle of a rendered scene of something else, the PLY file is the file to use.

I downloaded the opensource tool Blender and gave it a try. The user interface in these tools is nothing like CAD or CAE tools, so it took me a while to get something useful. I think Keyshot Pro would be a better tool for those who don’t know “artist” tools like Blender.

If you do want to give it a try, you can get your color contours by clicking on the object after you import it, then click on the material icon and choose Surface, then set Surface to Specular, Base Color to Vertex Color | Color, and make sure the specular color is dark or black.

One could spend hours (days) learning a rendering tool and playing with surface reflection and transparency. But if you need something high quality for the marketing team, pass them a PLY file and let their graphic artists do their thing.

Here is the file to help if you do want to dig in yourself.

3D Web Results with X3D (and what happened to VRML?)

Early in the days of the web, there were a lot of people that saw the platform as a way to share and interact with three-dimensional virtual space. They create the Virtual Reality Modeling Language, VRML, as a way to represent 3D objects using triangles with detailed information on each triangle about color, texture, transparency, and shininess. It is fundamentally a file format that represents what your graphics card needs to do 3D graphics but in a common format. The fact that simulation results are basically the same thing made it a nice fit for sharing results, geometry, and meshes with other people.

It was pretty cool and you can still save Ansys information in VRML from various programs. But the viewers were clunky and were focused on the virtual reality experience and not showing 3D objects. It also never really took off because you needed a VRML viewer to see the object. That was always a pain.

As it drifted out of favor, an organization replaced it with a new, better format and a JavaScript viewer that would get loaded automatically: the result, X3D graphics.

Here is the result. Click on the impeller and spin away. Here are some basic commands:

Spin: Left Mouse Button
Pan: Middle Mouse Button
Zoom: Scroll Wheel

Reset: r
Show all: a

Are you sure you want to do this?

Now that I’ve gotten you excited about doing this, let me scare you. This is not for the faint of heart. You need to use an Ansys Mechanical APDL result file in Ansys Ensight to make the file. Then you need to do some HTML/CSS. If you are comfortable with going down that path, read on.

The obvious question is, “when will Ansys add these file formates to the Export capability?” Right now you can only export 3D results to a deformed STL (not color info) and the Ansys in-house Ansys Viewer Format, *.avz.

Getting an X3D from PLY

Now we need MeshLab. There are many other tools the read PLY files and output to other formats, but MeshLab has not let me down yet. It is opensource, does everything, and is a pain to use. You will laugh at the user interface. But if you want 3D objects on your website (or to 3D Print results) this is the best path. You can download MeshLab from www.meshlab.net. Once you have it installed, follow these steps:

  • Open MeshLab
  • Chose File > Import Mesh
  • Spin it around, look at it. You could scale and transform. But we just want to convert it.
  • Chose File > Export Mesh As
  • Scroll down in the File of Type dropdown and pick X3D File Format (*.x3d)
  • Save
  • Make sure you have onlly Color checked for Vert. Then click OK

Now we are really close… but not really. We have a X3D file.

Here are both the PLY and X3D files:

I hosted the x3d file on our web server as well.

Here is where the HTML/CSS happens. And explaining that is way beyond this post. Here is the code to show the solution of mode 35 of our impeller, as shown above:

<script src="https://x3dom.org/release/x3dom.js"></script>

<link rel="stylesheet" href="https://x3dom.org/release/x3dom.css" />
<style>
#imp1 {
    background: #000;
    border: 1px solid orange;
    margin-left: auto;
    margin-right: auto;
    width: 80%;
}
</style>
<x3d id="imp1" x="10px" y="10px" width="400px" height="400px" >
  <scene render="true">
    <environment id="myEnv" ssao="true" ssaoamount="0.5" 
	ssaoblurdepthtreshold="1.0" ssaoradius="0.4" 
	ssaorandomtexturesize="8" sorttrans="true" 
	gammacorrectiondefault="linear" tonemapping="none" 
	frustumculling="true" smallfeaturethreshold="1" 
	lowprioritythreshold="1" minframerate="1" 
	maxframerate="62.5" userdatafactor="-1" 
	smallfeaturefactor="-1" 
	occlusionvisibilityfactor="-1" 
	lowpriorityfactor="-1" 
	tessellationerrorfactor="-1">
    </environment>
    <SpotLight id='spot' on ="TRUE" beamWidth='0.9' 
	color='0 0 1' cutOffAngle='0.78' 
	location='0 0 12' radius='22' > 
    </SpotLight>
    <NavigationInfo id="head" headlight='true' type='"EXAMINE"'>      
    </NavigationInfo>
    <Transform translation = '0 0 -2'>
      <inline 
	url="https://www.padtinc.com/downloads/i1-m35-3d-a.x3d"> 
      </inline>
    </transform>
  </scene>
</x3d>

The above code works for our example and has a smattering of options available to make your image show the way you want it. There are hundreds more. If the code makes sense to you, use the documentation at x3dom.org to do more. If it looks like gobly-gook, find someone who can help you or buckle down and learn. It’s not hard, just different for us simulation types.

Some Tough Talk about 3D Results

The truth of the matter is that Ansys Mechanical is great for looking at 3D Results in Mechanical or in the Ansys Viewer. It is not set up to support other 3D file formats. And there is a reason for that. Do you really need to have a 3D PDF? Is having a 3D result on your website just cool, or do you really need it?

The fact is, for most projects, you need a 2D image of your key results in your report. Most of the fancy 3D viewable is to help people who don’t have Ansys understand results better. Or you need it for marketing. For the first case, just use the Ansys viewer. For the second, it can be a bit of work but you can create some eye-catching geometry.

However, one advantage of having a 3D result object is that you can convert it into something you can 3D print. And that is the subject of our next, and final post on this topic: “6 – An update on outputting results in Ansys Mechanical: 3D Printing Results.

4 – An update on outputting results in Ansys Mechanical: Animated GIFs

To support some new marketing efforts I had to make some different types of results output from models in Ansys Mechanical:

  • A 3D plot on a webpage
    Post 5
  • A physical printout on our 3D Printer
    Post 6

All of the posts are here.

This post is the fourth of six, and it is about making animation files that are not videos, called Animated GIFs (pronounced with a J like Jeff, not G like Garry).
For a couple of reasons, making an animated gif is not as easy as we would like, but with a few tips below, it is not so difficult.

Animated GIFs explained

The GIF image file, Graphics Interchange Format, was invented in 1987 when color computing was new and the internet was not around yet. It is compact and allows only 256 colors (remember that part) and supported animation. The animated format was very popular on dial-up services and the early internet. They then fell out of favor until their use in messaging apps and social media to send animations to people that did not require a player. Everyone could see your cat falling off the table, instantly.

Or their dog being woken up in the middle of an afternoon nap. I just took my iPhone, turned around in my chair, and took this video. Then I converted it to a GIF. It took me less than 30 seconds to make and share this gem:

For those of us in the world of simulation, they have been a popular format for the same reason—almost all applications, from email to web browsers to Microsoft Powerpoint, support animated GIFs. The file contains as many images as you want and a tag for each layer documenting how long to display each frame. The difference is we are not capturing our overweight mutt struggling to roll over. We have specific information we are trying to convey.

Ansys Mechanical Default

If you read the post about making videos, you will remember that one of the output options was GIF. Well, here is what you get when you use that option. Note, it only plays once, to play it again.

And by default, the file does not repeat. Also, to make things worse, the way Ansys stores the GIF is an order of magnitude larger than a video.

As a contrast, here is the same result as video played through YouTube

Video to GIF is much better

So, unless you need something in 30 seconds, don’t use the default save video as GIF in Ansys Mechanical. A much better option is to convert a good video to a GIF.

So, go back to the article on making videos and get what you want for your animation using that info and save it to *.mp4 format. Then use one of the methods below to convert that to GIF.

Ezgif.com

If I take the video above that I posted on YouTube and run it through the free conversion tool, ezgif.com, I get this:

It is not as nice as the video, but it does not need a player. It just plays. Ezgif.com is free (lots of advertising) but has a lot of options. Not only does it covert quickly, but it also lets you crop, resize, add effects, change the speed, add text, and overlay.

The downside, if you have proprietary information you are letting someone else see it. My guess is uploading to a free server in the cloud will violate any NDA or security you have in place. But if not, ezgif.com is the simplest way to get a GIF from a video.

Adobe PhotoShop

The first option, if you can’t use a free cloud-based tool like ezgif.com, is the Photoshop suite. Photoshop is the defacto tool for image editing and processing, and it has a lot of tools for making sophisticated animated GIFs, including importing a video, editing the frames from the video, and outputting a GIF.

Here is the process:

  1. Open Adobe Photoshop
  2. Chose File > Import > Vidio to Layers
  3. Chose your MP4 file
  4. In the “Import Video to Layers” dialog, make sure “From Beginning to End” is chosen and “Make Frame Animation” is checked on.
  5. Click OK
    1. At this point, you can do a huge amount of modifying and editing. But that is way beyond the scope of this post. We just want a GIF made. But if you know Adobe Photoshop, have at it. I often crop and change the size here. Maybe even run some filters on it. Or, if I’m getting really fancy, delete the background from each frame to have a transparent animation.
  6. Go to File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy)
  7. Chose GIF as the file format.
    1. Set colors to 256
    2. I like to set Dither to 100%
    3. Make sure Animation > Looping Options at the bottom is set to Forever.
    4. Click Save… and give it a file name.

Here is what the result looks like:

Adobe Premier

Adobe Premiere is, well, the premier tool for video editing and creation. Many professional videos are made with this tool. It is massive, powerful, and made for people who speak video. If you want to add to your animation, do fancy things with it, use Premiere. Otherwise, stick with Photoshop or an open-source or cloud tool.

But, if you want to use Premier, here is that basic process without any bells or whistles (literally and figuratively) added in:

  1. Open a new Project
  2. Specify a good directory for the project
  3. Drop your MP4into the Project Window
  4. The drag it to the Timeline
    1. Here is where you do your editing magic on the video.
  5. When you are ready to make your file, click File > Export > Media
  6. Chose Animated GIF for the format
    1. Do not pick GIF. That will make an image of every frame.
  7. Click on the name next to “Output Name” to set the name and directory.
  8. Make any other changes you feel are correct if you know Premier.
  9. Click Export

This is what you get.

GifTuna

if you don’t have access to any Adobe tools, I recommend GifTuna. Yes, the name is stupid. But it works and it is free.

Go to giftuna.io and download the app. it comes as a ZIP file. Just extract the zip file and run the executable, GifTuna.exe. It will then ask you to install FFMPEG. This is the same library that ezgif.com uses.

Once everything is installed:

  1. Click “Select File”
  2. Select the video you saved in Ansys Mechanical.
  3. Change the size if you want to
  4. Keep all the other defaults for your first pass.
  5. Click Export

You get a pretty nice video. Play with the dither options if it looks kind of fuzzy.

Making an Animated GIF out of Images

In all the examples above, we created animations by converting a good video into the animated GIF format. What if we just have a bunch of images and want to make a slide show out of them. Or maybe we want to show a series of geometry changes. Maybe the various steps in an animation.

In that case, save an image to a PNG or JPEG file for each frame you want, then use ezgif.com or PhotoShop to make your animation.

A word about APNG

The only real problem with Animated GIFS is that the GIF format only supports 256 colors. In many ways, PNG took over for GIF as the preferred file format. It is compact, handles transparency, and has the advantage of not being restricted on colors. The problem, only browsers support APNG. PowerPoint and most mail programs do not. And many tools like the Adobe Suite do not output in that format. But, ezgif.com does.

In fact, WordPress does not support the format. To view the APNG file, download this file and then open it in a browser:

Maybe someday this will be supported better. Hopefully in Microsoft products soon.

Moving from Motion to 3D

This should help you get a nice animation that you can put on a website and not have to worry about hosting so people can see it. The same goes for Email and PowerPoint. If you can live with fewer colors, it really is the best format for animations of results when you need to show them anywhere.

Now its time to move from 2D results to 3D. We will cover how to create 3D objects of your results in “5 – An update on outputting results in Ansys Mechanical: 3D Result Objects.

3 – An update on outputting results in Ansys Mechanical: Making Videos

To support some new marketing efforts I had to make some different types of results output from models in Ansys Mechanical:

  • A 3D plot on a webpage
    Post 5
  • A physical printout on our 3D Printer
    Post 6

All of the posts are here.

This post is the third of six and it is an update on making videos of results animations with Ansys Mechanical. A lot of improvements have been made in recent releases and you can get good quality videos that are very useful for sharing results with others.

Getting a video of what you see on the screen

In most cases, you can get the video you need by using the animation tools built into Ansys Mechanical. By default, the animation tool shows up at the top of the animation window. If it is not there, go to Home > Layout > Reset Layout. Or add it with Home > Layout > Manage > Graph.

The key thing to know about making videos of results in Ansys Mechanical is that the “save to file” commands do a screengrab of what you see on the screen. So the size, orientation, and resolution are what is in front of you. There are lot of things can be done easily with the help of ecdel.

The Export Video File button is how you save the animation to a file.

As the tip in the image shows, the command supports AVI, MP4, WMV, and GIF formats. We will discuss the formats below and improving quality in the next section. Most of the time, you should pick MP4 and save the file.

But first, you should know that there are four things you can animate and save to a video file: modal results, static results, results over time, and motion of the camera (keyframe).

Plotting Mode Shapes

Modal results are the simplest. In our example impeller, you need to pick the mode you want to view, get the orientation you want, and then click the play button. When you are ready to make your video file, click the”Export Video File” button and save it.

Now is a good time to explore the different formats. For the sample model I’m using, the file size for the three video formats is pretty much the same:

MP41,139 KB
WMV1,320 KB
AVI1,120 KB
GIF29,072 KB

The Animated GIF is much larger, and it turns out, a much lower quality format. We will cover that in the next article, let’s just ignore GIF for now.

Taking a look at the 3 videos, I’m not sure I can tell a difference. Note, you need to download them and play them on your desktop to see any differences. If we upload to a streaming service then the format gets changed by the service.

And here it is embedded as a YouTube Video, which we will do for all the other examples. I used the MP4 format because I think it might look a little better.

Static Results

This one is very simple and is identical to mode shapes. It plots one result from initial conditions to the final result. Although in our example, it’s not so useful, for complex bending with lots of different loads, it can be handy.

Results Over Time/Steps

The most common use for animation is looking at results over time or over multiple load steps. I was too lazy to build a transient example, so I just put some strange acceleration loads on our impeller and varied them over 5 timesteps.

This gave some movement of the rotor (we will cover changing deflection exaggeration in the next section) so you can see what is going on.

To get your animation, select the result you want from the tree and orient things in a way that shows what you need to show. Push play to view. Tweak as needed then save as we did with modal results. This is what you get:

With the default settings, it creates the specified number of frames across the whole result set. This uses the “Distributed” setting, the green icon. If you watch the vertical line as it animates, you can see it linearly interpolating results between result steps.

If you don’t want this, then click the blue icon to get one frame per solution on the result file. This is a good idea, and even critical, for many transient runs or nonlinear runs where linear interpolation is not correct. Notice how the field for specifying frames is grayed out and set to 5. That is because we have 5 result sets.

To show the difference, including the graph at the bottom, I actually did a screen recording, which we will cover in the last section.

It really is simple. Get what you want going on your screen, then save it to a file.

Making it better

The default settings are great for most situations, but you can get better results with a few small changes.

Distortion

For any type of mechanical simulation, you are solving for deflection, and you usually want the distorted shape to show up in your animation. Most of the time the program calculated exaggeration is just fine. But if you need to change it, use Result > Display and the drop-down for the Deformation Scale Factor. Change it and see what happens.

Background

The first thing I always do is get rid of the blue gradient background. One reason for this is that the compression algorithms that various video formats use can cause the background gradient to shift slightly over the video. Or it might reduce the colors. Having a solid background gets rid of that. And, if you ask me, it just looks better.

You can set your preferences for images to always have a white background, but you can’t do that in Animation. So you need to change the Workbench background.

Go to Workbench > Tools> Options…

Then select Appearance. Set Background Style to Uniform and the first color to the color you want. I use White.

But a rich purple is kind of cool and makes the other colors stand out:

Remember to change this back when you are done making your animations. If you are working debugging a really tricky model, that purple will burn a hole in your head.

Size

Remember, Mechanical is just doing a screen capture in the background, so the size of your plot on your computer screen determines the output. Sometimes you may want a small video, sometimes a big one. Let’s look at getting the highest resolution possible.

The graphics window size is determined by everything around it. By default, the graphics window is embedded, but with a little trick, you can set it free.

Here is the default on my monitor, my rotor is 584 pixels tall. (my screen is 1080 pixels high.

  1. Go into full-screen mode by pressing F11 or clicking Home > Layout > Full Screen
  2. Then click the X Tabular data windows to remove it.
  3. Grab the blue strip on the Graph window and drag it to pull it out of the window. You need to keep that window to save your animation.
  4. Press CTRL-O to get rid of the outline
  5. Press CTRL-D to remove the details window.

That gives you a nice big window of your results. Now my impeller is 911 pixels tall. And I can zoom in a little to get it a bit bigger.

But you will notice the screen is wide. If I animate now, for my geometry, I’m wasting a lot of bits storing the background. Click on the “Restore Down” button in the upper right of your window to get it out of windows full screen. Then drag the edges to get the size and shape that are just big enough to show your results.

If you want another 20 pixels (now we are getting greedy) you can get rid of the toolbar at the top. Click on the tiny down arrow on the far right of the toolbar. Then click Add or Remove Buttons > Customize. Then uncheck “Graphics.”

Now run your animation. Then, when you are happy, save it. You can bring the outline back with CTRL+O if you need it. If you need more pixels, get a higher resolution monitor or stretch the graphics window over multiple monitors.

I’m working on a Microsoft Surface, and I’ve been doing my animations on my portable monitor, which is only 1080 pixels high. To get the best image, I moved over to the main screen, which is 1824 high.

So with all the tricks and on my highest resolution monitor, I get a video that is 1785 pixels high, and it looks pretty good, even after YouTube compresses it:

Here is the file to view on your own machine:

Important! To get back hit F11 then Home > Layout > Reset Layout. You may have to also do Home > Layout > Manage > Tabular Data to get that window back and Home > Layout > Manage > Graphics Toolbar to add that back to the top of the graphics window

Frames & Time

The last thing to play with is the number of frames and the length. A good rule of thumb is to not have less than 10 frames per second. And greater than 20 is good. Set it to 5 Frames and 5 Seconds to see blocky. Then 100 Frames and 5 Seconds (20 frames/sec) to see everything smooth.

Moving the object with Keyframe animation

If you want the object to move during an animation, you can use what is called Keyframe animation. To be honest, I am not sure I’m using it right in the program, but I got it to work somewhat, so I’ll share what I did. I’m also only going to cover the basics, see the documentation for more.

First, open the Keyframe Animation tool with Home > Tools > Keyframe Animation.

Orient your parts the way you want them, and click the add Keyframe button. The one with the green plus.

Now pick your second orientation, and add it to the list. Keep going till you have all your orientations in there. Set the time to somehting like 4 or 5 seconds, and hit play.

Now, getting a little fancy, you can add pauses at any Keyframe if you want. Do this by double-clickingon the Keyframe step to orient the part, then click the Insert Keyframe icon (top row, 4th from the left) to make a copy. You now how two keyframes at the same orientation so your part won’t move.

This window has a save animation button as well, so save it. When I used it, this is what I got:

This spins the final distorted shape, not the animated shape.

If you look at results that are not from a modal run, you will see that you can animate the results over time by clicking on the Keyframe icon in the animation bar:

The first icon, red circle, tells the program to change the orientation as defined in the Keyframe Animation Window while it animates your results. Click on the second icon, green circle, to use the frame counts you have specified in your Keyframe Animation Window.

This is what the multi-step results look like over the motion:

What about modal? Well in theory you can’t plot a mode shape with keyframe animation. But… if you set up a keyframe for a non-modal result, run it. Then move to a modal result, it works, sort of. The results animate if you have two keyframes that are the same next to each other. This is not a documented feature and may even be a bug. But here is how it looks:

When all else fails, make your own recording

Sometimes you can’t get what you need saved to a file, but you can see it on the screen. Including the Graph window is a good example. Rotating a modal result, since Keyframe really doesn’t work with modal, is another good example. Now that we all have learned to use online meeting software through COVID-19, we know how to do a screen capture of the animation. I use MS Teams and it works just fine.

But, the quality is OK and you get artifacts from the meeting, like my icon on the bottom for attendees. Those can be edited out, but not ideal. Here is a sample:

If you need better quality, a dedicated screen capture program may be better.

And it turns out that Windows 10 had a built-in screen recorder. It’s called XBOX Game Bar, and it works pretty well. Here is a link on how to use it.

And I get a nice full screen video:

Play, but not too much, and RTM.

The last bit of advice we can give on animating in Ansys Mechanical is that if you want something beyond the defaults, set aside some time to play. There are a lot of options, many we have not even looked at. But at the same time, in your quest for an Oscar, you may be spending time on something that is not going to make a difference. So use your time wisely.

And as always, Read the Manual. There is a wealth of detailed information there.

Getting the right Animated GIF

Now that we have covered creating various video formats, what about making an animation that doesn’t need some sort of player? The next post, “4 – An update on outputting results in Ansys Mechanical: Animated GIFs” explains how to do that.

2 – An update on outputting results in Ansys Mechanical: Taking it to the Next Level with Ansys EnSight

To support some new marketing efforts I had to make some different types of results output from models in Ansys Mechanical:

  • A 3D plot on a webpage
    Post 5
  • A physical printout on our 3D Printer
    Post 6

All of the posts are here.

This post is the second of six on what I’ve learned after fiddling around for a while. It is looking at a post-processing tool that Ansys acquired a few years back called Ansys EnSight. It takes making output to the next level in functionality and quality.

More options and ray tracing with Ansys EnSight

Back in 2017, 3 years ago, if you don’t account for COVID-19 time dilation, Ansys, Inc. acquired a company called Computational Engineering International. They had a product called EnSight, which was the best post-processing tool on the market. Many FLUENT, CFX, and LS-DYNA users would use EnSight to do advanced result interrogation and output. Its capabilities focus on doing complex visualization and automation. Along with real engineering tools and support for an extensive range of tools, it also makes really nice plots. For this post, we will focus on that part. This is an amazingly capable tool, and I’ll only cover the bare minimum that you need to know to get a result from Ansys Mechanical in and plotted. See the help or online training for more on this fantastic tool.

Ansys EnSight is its own stand-alone program. It can be licensed on its own or as part of various CFD bundles. If you are a larger company that does CFD, you probably have one or more seats.

The program reads Ansys Mechanical APDL result files. These are created when you run Ansys Mechanical and are stored in your project directory under dp0/SYS/MECH and is called file.rst or file.rth. I like to copy the result file from that directory to a folder where I’m going to store my plots and also rename it so I know what it is. For our impeller model, I called it impeller-thin-modal-1.rst.

Once you have your rst file, go ahead and launch EnSight.

Setting up images in Ansys Ensight

That brings up a blank sessions. To get started click File > Open

This will bring up a dialog box for specifying a results file. If you click on the “File type:” dropdown you will see the long list of supported files it can work with. Take a look while you are there and see if any other tools you use are listed. Of course, Ansys FLUENT and CFX are listed. This is first and foremost a CVD post-processor.

But the one we want is Ansys Results (*.rst *.rth *.rfl *.rmg). Chose that then go to the directory where you put your Ansys result file.

EnSight will read the file and put it in a Case. It will list the results as Part 0 under Case 1.

The left part of the screen shows what you have to work with, and the right shows your model. The “Time” control, circled in green, is where you specify what time, substep, or mode you want. The “Parts” control lets you deal with parts, which we really won’t use. And the “Variables” control, circled in orange, is how you specify what result you want to view.

We want to plot deflection, which is a vector. Click on the + sign next to Vectors, and you get a list of what values you can show. The only supported result for model analysis is Displacement__Vibration_mode. Click on that. Then hold down the right mouse button and select “Color Part” > All.

This tells the program to use that result to shade the part. You should now see your contour.

Our example is a modal result. If you use a structural result file, you will be able to plot the displacement vector, as well as many stress results under “Scalars”

Next, you will want to clean things up. Go to View and turn things on and off as you see fit. I like to turn off perspective, the Axis triad, and sometimes the legend.

You may notice the “Lighting…” option. If you really want to get fancy, you can specify various lights to get shadows and such. I like to add a spotlight above and slightly off-center from the part. You can waste a lot of time playing with lights, so try to avoid it if you can.

To pick which mode or timestep you want, use the “Time” control. Clicking on the step forward or step back buttons (triangle with a small rectangle at the base) steps you through the results on your file. Or you can drag the slider.

By default, EnSight shows an undeformed object. If you want to see the deflected shape, click on the part then on the “Displacement” icon above the graphics window. Select the vector result you want to use, displacement in this case.

Note, the default displacement factor may not be a good guess, change that till you get the amount of deflection you want.

These are only a few of the dozens of options available. But we can get most of what we need with these, so let’s look at saving the plot.

Saving your image

Now its time to get a rendered plot. Go to File > Export > Image

There is a lot to do in the “Save image” dialog. First, set the format (red circle.) I always use PNG. Then set the filename and path.

Expand the Advanced area and click “RayTrace the scene” (orange circle). Then you need to tell it how many pixels you want. Go big. You can always shrink it later.

Click OK and generate your plot. Check it out, things may be fine.

Leveraging Ray Tracing in Ansys EnSight

If you want to make the plot even better, go back to the Save image dialog and click “Raytrace settings…” and move the Quality slider all the way to the right. Do know that it can take a while to ray trace a large image with lots of surfaces.

And this is what you get. Click on the image to see it larger.

There is are many more options in this tool. Spend some time exploring these features to get even better plots:

  • You can change the shading of the surface by double-clicking on the part in the “Parts” control and then setting the surface lighting parameters. To get there, click on advanced, scroll down, and expand General. I like to up shininess. Play with these to see what works best.
  • You can also create multiple views in the same window. Right mouse clock in the graphics window and select “Viewports” and pick what you want. You can’t ray trace but you can still get output of multiple windows.

Here is what the output looks like, whithot ray tracing. Not bad.

  • Sometimes you may want to make your part transparent. You can set that in the controls under General, where you can change the lighting.

And you get a very cool plot. I’m not sure when you would use it, but if you need it, it is handy. CFD users need this all the time.

The problem with this tool is that it has so many great features, you could burn a lot of time just changing things. But if you stick to the basics, you can take your plot to that next level for your website or brochure.

Plotting a single part in a multi-part file

There is one last detail to mention. What do you do if your model is an assembly but you only want to plot one part. EnSight treats a given RST file as one part. So you can’t really scope to just the part you want.

The solution is to open your RST file in Mechanical APDL and save out the parts you want to plot in a seperate result file. You do this with the APDL command: rsplit

Here are the steps:

  1. Get into APDL
  2. Use “set” to read the results file
  3. Select the elements you want as separate parts for plotting using standard APDL commands or the GUI.
  4. Create element components for them (cm,name,elem, or the GUI)
  5. Use rsplit to write an RST for each part: rsplit,all,all,cmname where cmname is the component name you created in step 4.
  6. This makes an rst file called cmname.rst. Now use this rst file for the above process

Let’s make a movie next

This post and the previous one focused on high-quality 2D plots. What if you want to show motion? Read on to the third post in the series to learn how to create outstanding videos in Ansys Mechanical – “3 – An update on outputting results in Ansys Mechanical: Making Videos

1 – An update on outputting results in Ansys Mechanical: Making High-Resolution Images

To support some new marketing efforts I had to make some different types of results output from models in Ansys Mechanical:

  • A 3D plot on a webpage
    Post 5
  • A physical printout on our 3D Printer
    Post 6

All of the posts are here.

This post is the first of six on what I’ve learned after fiddling around for a while. It is an update to an article I did back in 2009 on the same topic, as well as plotting well in Mechanical APDL

Getting high-quality Pixels in Ansys Mechanical

To get started, let’s meet our sample model, an impeller we were working with a while ago for some Additive Manufacturing simulation. The modal results are good for exploring plotting:

Getting an image file in Ansys Mechanical is pretty simple. You click on the object you want a plot of, then select Home > Insert > Images > “Image to File …”

The default preferences are good for most plots. You basically get what you see on the screen.

This is the dialog where we can start making some simple modifications to increase the quality. here is how it comes out. Click to see full size:

I’m not a big fan of that. It is OK for sticking in an email or small on a PowerPoint. But I like better resolution, not just for marketing, but also to allow zooming.

The simplest change is to up the resolution – the number of dots per inch. First, you have to unclick the “Current Graphics Display.”

Playing with the resolution, here is the same image at the three different resolutions (1:1, 2:1, 4:1) (click to see it full size or look at the zoomed views below)

For most uses, the middle image, 2:1 is good enough. Image quality is driven by the number of color dots, or pixels. The base size is determined by how big the window is on your monitor. For this part the images are:

ScalePixel SizeFile Size
1:1939 x 621140 KB
2:1878 x 1242349 KB
4:13756 x 2484884 KB

But if we zoom in we can see the difference. You really only need the 4:1 for printing, or as we needed, the ability to blow it up for a booth or banner.

1:1
2:1
4:1

The blue-to-white gradient looks good on the screen and cuts down on eye fatigue, but can be a pain for images, especially if you are removing backgrounds or pasting into other documents. So the next thing I always do is change the background to white:

And you get a great picture, here it is 2:1, white background:

With the white background, it is easy to remove it, so you can place things behind it. That is very handy in PowerPoint.

If you are not familiar with that feature in Microsft Office applications, it is under: Picture Format > Adjust > Color > Set Transparent Color. Then click on a white pixel in your image.

This example shows a gray background, but it works with much fancier backgrounds. Here is the impeller in Sedona, Arizona.

I deleted the white background, the key, and the triad in Photoshop. I usally turn off the scale and triad in Ansys Mechanical: Display > Show then pick what you want on your plot.

These plots all use solid colors for each contour band, which is easier to read if you are doing actuall engineer. But if we are making marketing plots, I swap to smouth contours: Result > Display > Contours > Smooth Contours.

With a little Photoshop work you can get somethign pretty snazzy:

The last thing to talk about is what format to save in. This used to make a big difference because some of the formats traded quality for file size. But now the quality of the more efficient files is good.

You chose the format when you specify the file name. The choices are PNG, JPEG, TIFF, Windows Bitmap, and EPS.

As you can see in the closeup below, the different format really don’t lose quality, but their size varies a lot. Take a look at the next image, I can’t spot the difference. I recommend PNG because it is small but doesn’t lose any quality. But if you have a lot of plots and size is an issue, use JPEG. I have no idea why TIFF and especially Windows Bitmap or so large, but unless someone asks you for those formats, I’d avoid them.

Which leads us to the EPS or Encapsulated Postscript format. This is the last option. Now, EPS is usually what we call a vector format – not pixels but actual shaded polygons. The advantage of vector is that you can scale it up and down all you want and nothing is lost. The image is always sharp.

So you may get excited when you see EPS. In Ansys Mechanical APDL it does create a vector file (a way to get vector graphics of your results if you need them. Use /show,PSCR,,,8) But Ansys Mechanical just creates a bitmap image and puts it into Postscript format. It is not vector. You can see this if you open it in Adobe Illustrator. Bummer.

I hope this helps, and for 90% of your plotting needs, these tips should get the job done. But if you want to go further, read on to the next post in the series: “2 – An update on outputting results in Ansys Mechanical: Taking it to the Next Level with Ansys EnSight

Managing a Subscription List with a Flow in Microsoft Power Automate

This is an unusual HOW-TO post for our blog. Most of the time, we post useful technical content about Ansys, Flownex, 3D Printing, Scanning, and product development. But I’ve been on a no-code kick using Microsoft Power Automate and the flows you can create there. But as I’ve learned the tool, I’ve found a lack of good resources that are similar to the type of content we like to do for our Ansys users, so I thought I’d break the mold and post about a simple flow I did that shows how to add and modify data in Microsoft Excel from the results from a Microsoft form.

It all started with a virtual happy hour I started back at the beginning of the pandemic. I invited a handful of people that I’m used to seeing at Arizona tech community events. Follow us visaliaweddingstyle for further details. Over time, I invited more people, and the regulars invited their friends. The invite list got long. Also, I found that no-one was being asked to be taken off the list, but many people have never shown up.

I needed a subscribe and unsubscribe form that updated my list.

Rather than using a perfectly good and free online tool to manage the list, I decided to use this need as a reason to learn more about flows in MS Power Automate.

Here is what I wanted:

  • Subscribe
    • Person goes to form, enters their email
    • Email is checked against list
    • If the email was on the list:
      • If the email is flagged as unsubscribed
        • Flip flag to subscribed
        • Send a success email
      • If the email was flagged as subscribed
        • Send an email to the person letting them know they are already subscribed
    • If the email was not on the list:
      • Add them to the bottom of the list
      • Send an email letting them know they were added
  • Unsubscribe
    • Person goes to form, enters their email
    • Email is located in list
    • If the email was on the list
      • The email is flagged as Unsubscribed (TRUE in second column)
    • If it was not on the list
      • Send an email letting them know that their email was not found.

So how do we do this in MS Flow? It is actually pretty simple. The basic concept behind flows is that you have some sort of an event on a document or a form that you set a watch on. Then you take the information from that event and do something with other Microsoft tools, and some 3rd party tools. All with no writing of code! You set up a flow chart and fill in forms.

The other thing I like about this example is it shows how to deal with errors and branch when something doesn’t go right.

I’m going to assume if you are reading this, you have a basic familiarity with the tool. If not, run through some basic tutorials and come back.

Before you start doing the flow, you need to create a subscribe form, an unsubscribe form, and an Excel spreadsheet. The forms just ask for an email.

The Subscribe Microsoft Form
The Unsubscribe Microsoft Form

Because flows work on tables, create a table with two columns. The first is for emails, and the second is for a flag on if they have asked to unsubscribe. You can have other fields on your forms and other columns in your table if you want more information, like company or names. For my happy hour, I just want emails. You can start with dummy emails or just your own. Save the file to a SharePoint site that you are part of.

The Table in Microsoft Excel

Unsubscribe

The unsubscribe is simpler, so let’s start there. My flow looks like this:

Let’s look at each block to understand how things work:

I start the flow when my Unsubscribe form is submitted. (If you have Office365 and you are using a different form tool, stop and check out MS Forms. We have been very happy with it. ) All you need to do is pick the form you want. Note, I changed to the title with … > Rename so when I come back in 6 months, I can remember what is going on.

Each block creates output that can go to the next block. All that the form trigger does is return the ID for the response. So we need to now get the information that was submitted with a “Get response details” block:

Notice that you have to re-identify the form. It does not assume that the previous block is where the information is. So select the form again.

For the Response ID value, we will use the results from the trigger block. Any time you fill in a field that is not a dropdown, you get a popup that shows you information passed down from previous blocks. At this point, all we have is the response ID. Click on that to fill the form out. These chunks of information are called Dynamic Content and will have an icon next to their label that reflects the application the information came from.

Now that we have the email address to add, we need to try to add it to a table in Excel. We use an Update a row block for that. Our goal is to set the value to TRUE for the unsubscribe flag.

Flows use files stored in SharePoint. So you need to find first specify the site you stored your Excel file on. Then the folder, then the file. All of these self-populate as you go.

Now, pick the table you want to update. The way this works is you specify a “key column” and a value to look for. The first row that has the supplied value in it gets updated. So we need to specify our “email” column and then the submitted email from the dynamic content.

It auto-populates with the columns in the table, so we can see our two columns that can be updated. We will leave email alone and set Unsubscribe to TRUE.

Now, if that all works just fine, we want to send a confirmation email. If it doesn’t, because the flow could not find the email given, we want to send an email letting the person know if it didn’t work.

We use the failure of the “update a row” block as a way to decide which way to branch. First, we need to make the branch. Add the success email:

Put the submitted email in the To: box and put in a descriptive subject. I then explain what is going on in the body and include the email so they can see what they submitted. I also put a link to the subscribe form if they want to get back at some point.

So that is great; if all goes well, they are marked as unsubscribed and get an email. But if their email was not on the list already, we need to let them know. To do this, you create a parallel branch and set “Configure Run After” to branch for an error.

Click on the + and chose add a parallel branch:

Do another email for that second option. I add in the body that they should use the email address that was in the last invite they got.

Now is the branching part. If you leave it like it is, the flow will send both emails if the update is successful and nothing if it fails. We need to tell the “fail email” to only send on a failure.

Do this by clicking on the … then chose “Configure run after.”

That brings up a form that lets you specify when the block should be run based on the exit status of the previous block. Check only “has failed” and Done.

Notice how the down arrow leading to the block is reddish. This tells you that it only runs if the previous block did not run successfully.

And that is a simple unsubscribe flow! I tried it out by unsubscribing myself and then using an email that is not in the list.

Subscribe: More logic and branching

For subscribing, we are going to add a row to our table, and we also need to check and make sure that the email was not already on the list, which lets us use some “has failed” branching, but we also want to change them from Unsubscribed = TRUE if they are already in the list but want to re-subscribe.

Here is the flow:

The first two blocks are the same. But the third block is a get a row block. It grabs the contents of the first row that matches the supplied Key Value for the Key Column. Some input, but the output is a list of the row values rather than letting them update the row. So we supply the Email column and the email address given.

For the case where it finds the row (we will come back and branch on the failure), we need to first check to see if the Unsubscribe flag is TRUE. So we insert a Condition Block. We put the returned value for Unsubscribe in the first field, set the condition to “is equal to,” and set the third field to true. See in the Dynamic Content dialog how the row results show up?

Note: Excel returns all lower case “true” or “false.” That tripped me up. So use all lower case.

That block generates an If yes and an If no branch.

For the If yes branch, we need to change the value of the row to FALSE and then send an email saying that the person has been resubscribed. So in the If yes block, we first add an Update Row block:

We do everything just like the unsubscribe changing of the row, except the value is now FALSE.

Then we add a new email, letting them know they were turned back on:

Now, if someone tried to subscribe and was already on the list and was subscribed, we should let them know with an email. So we add another email block into the If no Block

Next, we need to go back to handle the case when looking for the row of data showed that they were not already in the list.

We add a parallel Branch that points to an “Add a Row into a Table” block.

The block looks a lot like the other two blocks we have used for excel, except there is no Key Column or Value. You point to the table, then supply the value you want added. For our flow, the email and FALSE for Unsubscribe.

Remember, we add the row when it was not already there, the “get the row” block failed. So use “… > configure run after” and set it to “has failed” only.

Then add a success email after that block:

I have also added an email to me if the attempt to add a row failed. That is not necessary; if a flow fails, you get an email. But I thought it was the right thing to do. So I added one more email block parallel to the success email:

Remember to set its “configure after run” to only execute on a failure.

And it all works! Or seems to so far. And not one line of code.

Final Thoughts

One thing I didn’t do was BCC or CC myself on the emails. If you click “Show advanced options” at the bottom of the email blocks, they let you do a lot more, including BCC and CC addresses.

I could have also created a single form and had a check box for subscribing or unsubscribing. Then added a Condition block to branch based on that value.

As mentioned above, I could have done this with a dozen different free or paid tools. But this was a great way to up my Flow skills for something more serious, like the tool we are building to manage NDA agreements or our project numbers. Powerful stuff.

Or you can build your own list as an excuse to start your own Happy Hour.

PADT has developed expertise in many areas since our founding in 1994, and automating processes and integrating different tools are two areas demonstrated in this example. Please reach out if you need to make your workflows more efficient or need simulation, design, or 3D Printing tools, training, consulting, or services.

Cheers!

Good Times and Bad Times – 2020 has been a year to remember.

Here we are, the second week of December in the year 2020. This is the time of year when we usually look back on the year and see what went right and what didn’t. In a normal year, it’s a fun exercise. You can conduct the review two ways, something like a global pandemic that completely disrupts supply chains, decimated key industries, disrupts how we do our jobs, eliminates almost all travel, and brings real death and injury to people we know and care about. The first is focusing on the negatives, and the second is to acknowledge the challenges and then point out the bright spots. Let’s go with that second option.

Responding to the Challenge

We got wind of what was coming early. One of PADT’s owners was visiting Taiwan when it started to spread in China. He saw how seriously the Taiwanese government was taking it and let us know. At first, it didn’t impact business, but as the global supply chain started to show weakness, our customers started to let us know that they needed to make changes. As working from home became more common, our team helped where we could to get their users set up for Ansys usage at home. We moved meetings to online, and we helped users do their own 3D Printer repair over the phone when we couldn’t enter their facilities.

New ways of using 3D Printing & Simulation

As a longtime leader in 3D Printing, a big part of our adaption was to lend our connections and machines to the effort to use additive manufacturing to get protective equipment into the hands of those who needed them. By the time the supply chain was back working, we had manufactured thousands of face masks, consulted with dozens of people seeking our advice, and helped get material into the hands of those who needed it.

We also established a couple of panels on how our customers stepped up with both 3D Printing and Simulation to battle the virus’s spread. Take a listen to the recordings to learn more about some very clever applications of these two key technologies.

Even nine months into this pandemic, we are working with several companies on products or processes related to dealing with the virus.

New ways of doing work

We got a head start on cleaning and social distancing because we saw what was going on in Taiwan, and we started prepping our infrastructure for work from home (WFH). When things started to worsen in the US, our employees stepped up and made the changes they needed.

For us, Microsoft Office365, Teams, and OneDrive have been a wonderful toolset for collaboration and communication. We even got our ancient, over 20-year-old phone system swapped over quickly to forward to cell phones and email. Thanks to our amazing IT team, we were soon meeting with customers and vendors worldwide, collaborating, and pretty much back on track.

Essential employees adjusted their schedules to reduce the potential of contamination, and we doubled-downed on social distancing. All the machines kept running, our IT infrastructure stayed solid, and we really didn’t see much of a disruption to making deadlines.

Without travel or meetings, interacting with our customers and the community was a challenge. PADT has hosted nine networking events for the Arizona technology business community since late spring and also hosted three panels for tech company executives and owners to discuss how to deal with COVID-19.

New and improved offerings and territories

We started the year by announcing our new community resource in March, 3dprinting-glossary.com. This free reference site offers definitions for over 250 terms used in Additive Manufacturing. It is slowly making its way up the list on Google search, and every month we see more and more users. As the industry grows, we will continue to keep it up to date.

Speaking of 3D Printing, our next big milestone was our expansion into Texas for Stratasys sales and support. We have been selling Ansys in the Lone Star state for several years and were pleased when, as a Stratasys Elite Channel Partner, we were asked to add Texas to our existing territory of Ansys, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.

We kept the ball rolling when Art Newcomer relocated to New Mexico to support our growing customer base in that state. Art is one of our field service engineers and is an expert in maintaining and getting the most out of Stratasys AM systems.

Then just last month, we officially announced a new EOS M 290 system at PADT, greatly increasing our ability to provide Metal 3D Printing Services. The new system will be used to manufacture components for customers and conduct R&D projects.

Simulation also saw some new offerings. As Ansys, Inc. continues to add new simulation tools to their portfolio, our team works to understand what they offer and introduces them to and supports them for our customers. In 2020 we saw noticeable growth in new users and consulting around LS-Dyna, Sherlock, and SPEOS. Ansys also added some new acquisitions in 2020 that we see great interest in: AGI for mission-level aerospace simulation and Lumerical for the modeling of photonics components.

New team members

This year also saw new employees joining the team. Over the year, we have added 5 engineers and 4 salespeople. That is good growth in any year but fantastic in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.

On top of these new team members spread across simulation, product development, and 3D Printing, we added two critical senior staff members to help us grow to the next level.

  • Dr. Keng Hsu, a recognized expert on Metal 3D Printing who joined us as Principal R&D Engineer, Additive Manufacturing.
  • Dr. Tyler Shaw also came on board in the second half of the year as our new Director of Engineering, leading our consulting team.
Dr Keng Hsu and Dr Tyler Shaw

New challenges in 2021

Which brings us to 2021. Like most people, we will be working under #covidrules through the first quarter and maybe even a bit into April or May. With this schedule in mind, here is what we plan to do while still dealing with the pandemic and after:

  • Pandemic-mode
    • Keep our employees safe
    • Add some new and exciting 3D Printing technologies.
    • Grow our recent expansion in California and Texas with additional staff and activities
    • Listen to our customers and deliver what they need to be successful.
    • Find new and interesting ways to get information into the hands of our customers. We are all a bit “zoomed-out.”
    • Upgrade our compute infrastructure and continue to explore cloud solutions for business and engineering applications.
    • Host more events for the community
    • Remember to unmute at least 75% of the time.
  • Post-Pandemic-Mode
    • Look back on what worked and didn’t work, and modify how we travel, meet, and communicate to take advantage of what we learned.
    • Get out and see as many of our customers as possible face-to-face.
    • Make further investments in people and resources in Texas and California, building on our growth in both states in 2020.
    • Go to lunch with our co-workers.
    • Have an Arizona Tech Business Networking event in person.
    • Throw our annual Nerdtoberfest Open House at PADT’s headquarters in Tempe, Arizona
    • Have a 3D Printing Users Meeting in Colorado, outside, at a brewery.

Thank you!

This post has been purposefully upbeat. Although the business side of things has gone well, all things considered, it has been a stressful year, and many in the PADT extended family have struggled and dealt with serious health issues because of this virus.

As we close out 2020, a truly memorable year, we simply want to thank everyone who joined us on this journey for both helping us along the way and for letting us help you get through it.