The post “A few thoughts after 100 blog posts” is my 100th guest blog article for the Phoenix Business Journal. That is a lot of 500 or so word rants and missives. Because I like round numbers, and I did write a lot of posts, I figured it would be ok to be a little self-indulgent and go introspective on the whole experience, and talk directly to you, my occasional reader.
Updated on 4/6/2018: Added a paragraph on our efforts in Austin, Texas and modified California to reflect our growth there.
Based in the ASU Research Park in Tempe Arizona, PADT has thrived and grown in the technologically oriented East Valley of the Phoenix Metro area. When people think about the company, they think about Phoenix and Arizona. Phoenix is even in the company name. What many people do not realize is that PADT has thriving sales and support offices in four other states. If we updated our name, it would be Southwest Simulation, Design, and Additive Technologies. However, SWSDAT is even worse than PADT! Worse yet, people might think we are from Switzerland.
As the company has grown so has our sales and support territory for the products we sell. And the best way to provide outstanding support to their high-technology customers is to be part of the local technology community. So starting with Colorado in 2010, the company has been investing in the communities that are allowing it to grow. Below is a brief overview of each office and what makes them unique.
Arizona and Colorado are like siblings, so alike in some ways, totally different in others. The Rocky Mountain state was the first state that saw significant growth for PADT outside of Arizona, so it was an obvious place to start growing. The bulk of our business there is around selling and supporting Stratasys Additive Manufacturing equipment. And to be blunt, it has been a great location for our engineering staff who literally could not take the heat of Arizona. Located in Littleton just south of Denver, we are close to our large Aerospace customers, and a quick drive to Boulder, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, and Golden where we also have clusters of customers.
The high-tech nature of the industry in the state fit perfectly with PADT’s strengths. From launch vehicles to mining, to cell phone cases, we have fit right in with our growing customer base. And part of our fitting there is the fantastic location on Littleton Blvd right next to the Arapahoe County courthouse. We rent a suite on the second floor a cool mid-century building that is walking distance from light rail and restaurants – a great location. If you ever visit, ask to see the bathroom and kitchen, both are a blast from the past.
PADT New Mexico
Our largest customer outside of the Phoenix area is the combined Sandia National Lab, and Los Alamos National Lab, and Kirtland’s Air Force Research Lab. All are located in New Mexico and are a major focus for us for Additive Manufacturing and ANSYS sales and support. That is why our New Mexico office is so important. It is located in the Sandia Research Park, right outside the Eubank entrance to Sandia National Lab.
The office provides a nice space for training as well as a location to hold office hours and meet with users who may be in locations we are not authorized to visit. Many of our non-lab customers are in that same park or nearby. This office has been a great base of operations for our continued growth in the state. This office may have the best views of any in the PADT family. Many of us also feel it also offers the best Mexican food options.
Utah has a small but very active technology community, and PADT’s presence in the state is growing quickly. Our office in Murray at the I-15 and 5300S is only 9 miles due south of downtown Salt Lake City. If you have not visited, the space is actually one of our more enjoyable offices to work in. One large room houses the sales and engineering team as well as a host of 3D Printers, supplies for maintenance, and a cool sitting area.
Working with so many customers in Utah leads to a lot of driving, tech companies seem to be evenly distributed along the I-15 corridor, so the local team does a lot of driving. However, the office is a great central location for meeting with customers and seminars and as a starting point for those drives to Provo, Park City, and Ogden as well as destinations in-between. As our business in Utah continues to grow, we may soon have to expand this office.
newest second most recent location is in Southern California, Torrance in particular. If New Mexico has the best views, this one probably has the worst… unless you like refineries. However, it is a central location that has served us well for almost two years now. Just down the street from our largest customer, Honeywell Aerospace, it is the ultimate home base for such a freeway dominated territory. Our local staff can get there fairly easily from their homes, and when the rest of us visit, its location near LAX is very convenient.
Our focus in that office right now is Simulation. Particularly ANSYS sales and support. Our SoCal customers like to drop by when they are in the neighborhood, and the PADT team there is constantly on the road out visiting them. It works great for our customers nearby, but since that office covers from San Diego North to San Luis Obispo, a random collection of coffee shops serve as an office for SoCal almost as much as our Torrance base.
Our growth in the region is quick, and we look forward to opening more satellite offices across an area that is larger in population and real estate than some countries.
Since publishing this article, we have added two new sales people to PADT California that will be working from home offices as well as dropping into Torrance as needed. They are based in Pasadena and San Diego, giving us better coverage of the South and North part of the region.
When people look at PADT and where we are located, they almost always say “You should open an office in Austin, the tech community there is a perfect fit for your skills and culture.” We finally listened and are proud to announce that our newest location is in Austin Texas. This new office will be initially focused on ANSYS Sales and Support across the great state of Texas. We have had customers for other products and services in the state for decades and are pleased to have a permanent local presence now.
We have hit the ground running.and have a growing group of customers who are now enjoying PADT’s famous support. We hope to add engineers and more salespeople as we increase our efforts in Texas. Right now we are trying to get them to understand that Arizona Cowboys are real cowboys.
Serving our Customers Better
Sometimes technology allows people to connect fairly well. However, nothing beats being local. The best way for PADT to support our customers is to not just be there for them technically, but also to be part of the communities they reside in. And that community spreads across the Southwestern United States, and we are proud to be members of the Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Southern California technical communities. People innovate everywhere, so we are there, local, to make innovation work for them.
The big technologies right now are Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and the automation of everything from manufacturing to our automobiles. These advanced technologies will transform how we live our lives. But ” While AI, IoT, and automation are taking over we forgot about genetic engineering.” This is something everyone, especially those in tech, need to stay on top of.
Lots of things come to mind on September 11th. The bravery of the first responders, the way the country came together after the attacks, the changes in how we live our lives every day now because of what happened. The most important lesson that we learned was that “On 9/11, we’re reminded that the unthinkable can happen.“
Yesterday ANSYS, Inc. did a webinar about a technology that was going to “Change the way simulation is done.” If you have been around the world of FEA and CFD for the 30+ years I have you have heard that statement before. And rarely does the actual product change match the hype. Not true for ANSYS Discovery Live. If anything, I think they are holding back. This is disruptive, this is a tool that will change how people do simulation. In this post I’ll share my thoughts on what it is and why I think it is so transformative, and then in the second half (go ahead, if you don’t want to listen to me go on and on about how much I like this tool, skip ahead) there are some tips on how to get your hands on it to see for yourself.
What is ANSYS Discovery Live?
ANSYS Discovery Live is a new multiple physics simulation platform that combines several key ingredients to produce a software tool that engineers can use to do almost instantaneous virtual prototypes of the behavior of their designs directly from their solid models. The developers at ANSYS, Inc. have combined their knowledge of advanced solver technology, making solvers parallel for Graphical Processor Units (GPUs, high-end graphics cards), direct solid modeling (SpaceClaim), and some advanced stuff on the discretization side I don’t think I can talk about. All of those things embedded inside SpaceClaim make ANSYS Discovery Live.
Once you have a solid model in the tool, you simply define what physics you want to solve and some boundary conditions, then it solves. In almost real time. Right there in front of you. The equivalent steps of meshing, building the model, solving it, extracting results, and displaying the results are done automatically. It may iterate a few times to converge on a solution, but in a few seconds, you will have a good enough answer to give you insight into your design.
And that is the key point. This is not a replacement for ANSYS Mechanical, FLUENT, or HFSS. It is a tool for exploring your designs and gaining insight into their behavior. It allows the design engineer, with very little training or expertise, to exercise their design and see what happens.
The product lives inside ANSYS Spaceclaim and can be installed on its own. It runs on Windows and requires a NVidia graphics card with a newer GPU (see below for more on that). Right now the product is in pre-release mode and anyone, yes anyone, can go to www.ansys.com/discovery and download it and try it out. And please, share your feedback. Expect the product to be released in the first quarter of 2018. Pricing and bundling have not been firmed up yet, but from what we have seen the plans are reasonable and make sense.
Why is it Unique in the Industry?
Some of the first comments I saw on social media about ANSYS Discovery Live after the webinar were that it is not a unique tool. There are other GPU based solvers out there. That is true. But even though those tools are super fast at solving, they have not been widely adopted. The ANSYS product is unique because it: 1) combines GPU based solvers for multiple physics and 2) is built into a fully functioning solid modeling tools. A third might be that it is also an ANSYS product, which means it will be backed technically and supported well.
Why I think that the Simple Fact that it Exists is Important?
During an interview for a magazine article about innovation in product development this week I was asked what is keeping innovation from happening more often. My answer was that most companies with the resources, both money and people, to innovate are choosing to acquire rather than innovate internally. They let others raise money, take all the risk, work out all the problems, deal with all the issues of trying to make something new. And then when they succeed, they buy them. There is nothing morally wrong with that approach, it is just inefficient and inaccurate. Every innovation has to not only survive its technical challenges, it has to survive being a startup.
What ANSYS, Inc. has done is the opposite. They could have purchased a GPU based solver startup and checked the box. But instead, they took people from different business units, several that were acquired, and put them together and said: “innovate… but make it something very useful.” And they did. The fact that they executed on the logistics of a new product that used new and old technology across physics and across software development realms, is fantastic. It makes me feel good about ANSYS, Inc’s true dedication to improving their products.
How will it Change Simulation?
In my career, I have had the same conversation dozens of times “Let me go out to the lab and tinker with it, I’ll figure out what is going on.” That is the way you had to explore your product to get a “feel” for what is going on. Simulation took too long and you became so wrapped up in the process of building and running a model that you could not really explore the behavior of your product. Now we can.
ANSYS Discovery Live is called Discovery Live not because anyone at ANSYS is a marketing genius (sorry guys…) but because that is what it lets you do. Discover the behavior of your product live. You simply play with it and see what happens. And this will change simulation because we know can move from verification or optimization to simply experimenting and gaining a deeper understanding, early in the design process. We will still do what is now I guess called traditional simulation. We will need more accuracy, more complex physics, loads, and behavior. But early on we can learn so much by virtually experimenting.
Is it the Perfect Tool Right out of the Box?
This is not a perfect-does-everything tool. First off, it is a pre-release. The basic functionality to make it useful is there. More than I thought would be available in a first release. But there are limitations because it is new, or because of the approach. It is not as accurate as more traditional approaches. The way it works takes some shortcuts on geometry and can’t include some behaviors. This should improve over time but it will never be accurate as more time-consuming approaches that simply have more functionality.
Over the next two to three years we will see it mature and add functionality and accuracy. The GPU’s the tool depends on will offer more performance for less money as well. This is a journey, but right now everyone I have talked to who has actually played with the pre-release is very happy with the functionality and accuracy that is there now. Because it is sufficient to do the experimentation and exploration it was designed to allow.
ANSYS, Inc. realized that this type of tool demos so well, and is so different, that a skeptical group of engineers will not accept what they see in a webinar as accurate. So they have made the pre-release available for use. You can download it and install it, or explore with it in the cloud through your browser.
- To get started, go to www.ansys.com/discovery and look around. The videos are awesome! When you are ready to try it out, click on Download Now. Fill out the form. Don’t complain. Yes you will get a few emails and a salesperson (gasp!) may call you. It’s worth some emails and maybe a phone call.
- Set yourself up there. There is a verification code step and once you put that in and create your login, you have to click on some legal agreements, including export controls. Save your login info, you will need it to get back in.
- After that either start the download or the Cloud Trial Option. The cloud trial didn’t work for me, read below how I got to that function.
- If you chose download it will download a big Zip File, over 1 GB. It is a full solid modeler and CFD/Structural/Thermal solver… so it is big.
- Once it is there, unzip, and run Setup.exe. follow the steps and you will be there.
- If you don’t have a graphics card that will run this, then use the cloud demo. Like I said above, the button didn’t work for me. If you have that problem or you want to use it after your first login, go to:
- https://discoveryforum.ansys.com/ and click on “Getting Started.”
- Scroll down a bit and find the “Cloud Trial” post. That one takes you to the page where you can find a server near you to try things out on. It’s pretty slick.
- If you need to get back here, use https://discoveryforum.ansys.com/ and log in with the email and password you gave at registration,
The only sticky bit about this whole thing is that it run a subset of Nvidia graphics cards. So you have to have one of those cards. According to the information in the forum:
ANSYS Discovery Live relies on the latest GPU technology to provide its computation and visual experience. To run the software, you will require:
– A dedicated NVIDIA GPU card based on the Kepler, Maxwell or Pascal architecture. Most dedicated NVIDIA GPU cards produced in 2013 or later will be based on one of these architectures.
– At least 4GB of video RAM (8GB preferred) on the GPU.
Also, please ensure you have the latest driver for your graphics card, available from NVIDIA Driver Downloads. You can also refer to the post on Graphics Performance Benchmarks. Performance of Discovery Live is less dependent on machine CPU and RAM. A recent generation 64-bit CPU running Windows, and at least 4GB of RAM will be sufficient. If you do not have a graphics card that meets these specifications, the software will not run. However, you can try ANSYS Discovery Live through an online cloud-based trial, which requires only an internet browser and a reasonably fast internet connection.
I didn’t know if my GPU on my laptop would work, so I went to https://www.techpowerup.com and put in my card model (nvidia m500m) and it told me it was Maxwell technology.
Go Forth and Discover, and Share
Don’t hesitate, download this and try it out. Even if you are a high-end combustion simulation expert that will never need it, if you are interested in Simulation you should still try it out. Use the forum to share your thoughts and questions. The gallery is already filling up with some fantastic real world examples.
Being able to grow your own replacement organ is one of those things, like flying cars, that we have been waiting a long time for. The combination of stem cells and 3D Printing may be what we need to get that new liver on order. In “How close are we to 3-D Printing human organs?” I go over where we are with this technology and what is needed to take those final steps.
As with any technology, automation of social media has been co opted for evil. A recent example of this with the President gave me a bit of a scare, and in “‘Bots’ are here, and they are scaring this tech guy a little” I share why and what we can do about it.
Self-driving cars are being tested in the Phoenix area now, and they will be available to businesses and consumers soon. Such a significant change will affect tech businesses, even if they are not in the automotive supply chain. In “Autonomous cars are coming soon. What you need to know” we take a look at the tech behind them and what businesses need to know about this disruptive trend.
I still can’t believe it. I’m still kind of mad. I went with my son to get his driver’s licence and it was a smooth and efficient process. After I got done reeling from this change in a cornerstone of common modern struggles, I realized that “If the DMV can be efficient, so can your business.” We no longer have an excuse for being inefficient, if the DMV can clean up its act we have to.
PADT and Stratasys have worked with Lockheed Martin to establish a new Additive Manufacturing Laboratory at Metropolitan State University in downtown Denver. The Lockheed Martin Additive Manufacturing Laboratory is the first-of-its-kind facility in Colorado. It is focused on giving students and industry access to the equipment and faculty needed to develop the next generation of manufacturing tooling, based on the use of 3D printing to make the tooling.
This is PADT’s third successful contribution to the creation of Academia + Industry + Equipment Manufacturer lab, the others being at ASU Polytechnic focused on characterization of 3D Printed parts and at Mesa Community College, focused on training the needed technicians and engineers for running and maintaining additive manufacturing systems. These types of efforts show the commitment from Stratasys, industrial partners, and PADT to making sure that the academic side of new manufacturing technology is being addressed and is working with industry.
We reported on the grand opening of the facility here,and are very pleased to be able to announce the official partnership for the Laboratory. Great partners make all the difference.
The ability to take a model of some object on a computer and make a physical copy with one machine, 3-D Printing or Additive Manufacturing, has been around for more than twenty-five years. Recently, the bug noise in 3D Printing has been around metal 3D Printing. It is a big deal, and in “What’s so exciting about metal 3-D printing anyway?” I explain why engineers are so head-over-heals for this new capability.
In our new modern world, much has changed. We are more connected and more mobile, working anywhere we need to. And with the emergence of the sharing economy we are letting others drive us and staying in other people’s homes. This impacts a lot of things in our lives, but one major input is that “Making a statement about who you are in a digital, shared world” is very different. Take a look at this post and think about it. How do you share who you are?