Desktop 3D Scanning with Geomagic Capture


Geomagic-Capture

If you have been following PADT closely for a while, you know that we have been working hard to find good scanning solutions for our customers since we started the company twenty years ago.  For many years we recommended professional inspection service providers that used traditional CMM devices to reverse engineer or inspect parts, we just didn’t have a good scanning solution in-house.

A few years back we found a great solution for many of our customers when we started using and selling Cross Sectional Scanners (CSS) from CGI. This technology works great with plastic parts and is highly accurate, especially for parts with internal features. However we still needed a solution for metal parts and parts that you can’t chop up when you inspect them.

sean-head-laser-scanSo we kept looking at scanners, we tried a variety of hand-held laser scanners.  We even made it on the local news using it on a local news anchor to scan his head. But we could not get the ease of use and accuracy we wanted for engineering.

Then Geomagic introduced the Geomagic Capture system and we gave it a try.  We feel that we now have a desktop scanning solution that we can recommend to customers and we have proven we can do engineering services work with. So we now sell the Geomagic Capture scanning system and provide non-destructive 3D scanning as a service.

Here is a great introductory video that shows the system and how it works:

Not a Laser

The big difference with this system is that it is not a laser scanner. It actually is a blue Structured-Light scanner.  Basically it projects a pattern of lines onto an object, and measure how the lines deviate from being straight. That deviation gives a very accurate measurement of the location of points on the surface of the object.  No laser, no reflective dots, no problems with stray data.  
geomagic-capture-scanner

In our testing the system seems to work on a variety of surface types and shapes.  If the object is reflective or too dark, you simply cover it with a chalky powder and everything is good.  Not using lasers, the device is also relatively small and compact.

A System: Hardware and Software

One of the reasons why we like this particular scanner over others is that it is a solution that contains both hardware and software. In fact, the scanner technology itself has been around for some time. What makes this scanner our choice is that Geomagic, experts in dealing with the output from scanners, developed the software that gathers and massages the data coming from the scanner. This makes a huge difference in ease of use.

Our engineers are still learning all the ins-and-outs on the system, but they were able to do productive work with it almost right out of the box.  The software steps you through the process and give really nice visual feedback while you are setting up a scan. This avoid the need to scan, review, fix something, try again, check… round and round.  And once you have good point data, you have the full suite of Geomagic tools to convert it into an STL file or into a usable CAD model.

When you purchase the Geomagic Capture system you have your choice of:

  • Geomagic Capture for SolidWorks
    Add-in software for SolidWorks, that presents the Geomagic tools you need in the SolidWorks interface you are used to working with.
  • Geomagic Capture for SpaceClaim
    Add-in software for SpaceClaim, combining best-in-class scanning, facet, and point cloud tools with a robust direct solid modeler, all in the same interface.
  • Geomagic Capture for Design X
    Powerful and comprehensive advanced reverse engineering that allows you to create feature-based CAD models directly from your scan data.
  • Geomagic Capture for Design Direct
    A bundle that includes SpaceClaim and the Geomagic Capture plug-in as a complete solution for those that do not have a CAD system that supports working with point data. This package is best if you have a CAD package other than SolidWorks or SpaceClaim.

Specifications 

Here are the specifications for the system:

Specification Value
Scan Speed 0.3 sec per scan
Field of View (Diagonal)/Near End – Far End 172 – 260 mm
6.77 – 10.24 in
Field of View (X-Y)/Near End – Far End 123×120 – 192×175 mm
4.84×4.72 – 7.56×6.89 in
Clearance Distance 300 mm
11.81 in
Depth of Field 180 mm
7.09 in
Resolution Average Points 985,000 per scan
Average Polygons 1.97 million per scan
Point to Point Distance 0.162 mm
0.000638 in
(at center of volume)
Accuracy / Near End – Far End 60 – 118 microns
Calibration Pre-calibrated

geomagic-capture-brochureYou can also download the brochure here.

Try it on Your Part

The best way to see if this is the right scanner for you is to contact PADT and have us do a scanning job for you.  As always with PADT we will not just do the work, but we will show you what we did and help you to see what your best solution is.

Named Selections + Object Generator = Awesome

Guess who’s back…back again.  Yes, just like Slim Shady, I’m back (returned to PADT and writing Focus blogs).

So run and go tell your friends that horrible pop cultural references have returned to ANSYS blog posts.  It’s been too long.

Getting back on track, the object generator debuted in R14.5 Mechanical.  You can access this feature in the toolbar (image below taken from R15):

How the pro's generate objects

What exactly does the object generator do?  Simple answer…it makes your life better.  It uses named selections and a single instance of an object (joint, spring, bolt pretension, etc) and replicates it across all entities in the named selection.  Let’s play around with this feature on the following (dummy) assembly:

image

Above is a t-pipe with three covers, one of them has bolt ‘bodies’ modeled.  We’ll use fixed-fixed joints to connect the two ‘bolt-less’ bodies together, and then define bolt preloads on the bolt pattern.  To get started, we need to build up the named selections. 

I’m planning on defining the fixed-fixed joint between the two cylindrical surfaces:

image

This is a pretty simple assembly, and I could easily just manually select them all, right-mouse-click, and generate the named selection.  In the real world, things aren’t always so easy, so we’ll get a little fancy.  First, create a named selection of the bodies that contain faces we want to joint together:

image

I’ve created two named selections, called ‘joint_cover’ and ‘joint_pipe’ and utilized the ‘random colors’ option to display them in different colors.  Next, I insert a named selection but set the scoping method to be ‘by worksheet’:

image

I’ll then use selection logic (MAPDL hipsters will recognize the logic as the xSEL commands):

image

Now, order is important here, as the selection logic ‘flows’ from top to bottom.  First, this named selection selects the bodies contained in the existing named selection ‘joint_cover’ (note:  this object MUST exist above the worksheet-created named selection in the tree).  At this point in time, we have two bodies selected.  Next, it converts my body selection to faces belonging to those bodies.  Finally, it filters out any face that has a radius less than .05m (units are set by the ‘units’ drop-down menu, values entered in worksheet scale when units are changed).  Hit ‘generate’ and you get the following:

image

You may need to switch to the ‘graphics’ tab (circled in red in the above image).  This is great, we now have all of our faces highlighted.  Next, we need to reproduce this behavior on the pipe.  Rather than redo all of this work, just right-mouse-click on our new named selection and select ‘duplicate’. 

image image

Select the duplicated named selection, and edit the first line to use a different named selection.  Hit generate:

image

Perfect.  We can go back and add/remove bodies to the existing named selections and re-generate the named selections to have it automatically re-create these named selections. 

Next, we’ll create the original ‘joint’ we want to re-create across the two flanges. 

image

After making the joint, make note of which part is the ‘reference’ and ‘mobile’.  For the image above, the cover is the ‘reference’ while the pipe is the ‘mobile’.  Highlight this joint and select the object generator:

image

If we use the object generator on a joint, it will ask us to define the named selections that contain the reference and mobile faces.  From above, we know that the cover faces are contained in the ‘cover_faces’ named selection.  We then duplicated that and swapped the body selection, meaning the faces for the pipe are contained in ‘cover_faces 2’ (I’m lazy and didn’t rename it…sorry).  Next, we define the minimum distance between centroids.  This acts as a filter for re-creating each joint.  What happens when we hit ‘generate’ is it looks at the distance between the centroids of each face in the two named selections.  If it finds ‘matching’ faces within that distance it creates the joint. 

image

In the image above, if I use a distance equal to the red line, I will get incorrect joints defined.  I’ll get the following (a=cover, b=pipe): 1a-1b, 1a-2b, 2a-2b, 2a-1b…

What I need to do is limit the distance to the blue line, which is big enough to find the correct pairs but filter out the wrong ones.  To figure out a proper distance, you can use the ‘selection information’ window to figure out the centroid information:

image

Once you’re set, hit ‘generate’:

image

What a time to be alive!  It’s always a good idea to go through joint-by-joint to make sure everything is correct…or you can always just count the number of joints created and confirm that the number is correct (I have 15 total faces in the cover_faces named selection…so I should have 15 joints…and I do).

Next, let’s look at the bolt pretension definition.  We start with a named selection of the face where the bolt pretension will be applied:

image

Next, we create our original bolt pretension load:

image

I’ve setup my bolt pretension to solve for a 100N axial load in load step 1 and then lock the solved-for relative displacement in for load step 2.  We select the bolt pretension in the tree, then select the object generator:

image

Select the named selection that contains the bolt faces, and hit generate:

image

This is incredibly useful for bolt pretension for two reasons.  The first reason is obvious…it significantly cuts down on the amount of work you need to do for large bolt patterns.  The second reason…you can only make changes to bolt pretension objects one at a time.  By that, I mean you cannot multi-select all your bolt pretensions and change the load and step behavior (e.g. change load to 200N, open in load step 2, etc). 

image

If you select all the bolt pretensions, the changes you make in the tabular data window are only applied to the first selected object.  All other bolt pretensions are kept the same.  So if you suddenly realize the pretension was setup incorrectly, it’s best to delete all but one of the pretension object, make the necessary changes, then duplicate it.  That way you can be sure all the bolt pretensions are correct (unless you’re simulating a bolt opening up…then ignore). 

One very important thing to note is that the object generator is not parametrically linked to anything.  If I go back and change the number of holes/bolts/etc in my model, I may need to re-generate the duplicated joints/bolts/etc.  The named selections should update just fine, assuming you didn’t open the hole up bigger than the selection tolerance.  I would recommend deleting all but the original joint/bolt pretension and just re-create everything after the CAD update (this may actually speed up the CAD transfer as it’s not trying to link up incorrect entity IDs).

Hopefully this will save you some time/frustration in your next analysis.  The documentation in R15 can be accessed here:  help/wb_sim/ds_object_generator.html

The Pets of PADT – March 2014

You can tell a lot about a person from their pets.  But what can you tell about a company?  We recently decided to share pictures of everyone’s pet to learn a bit more about each other, and to spend a little bit of time ooh’ing and ahh’ing over how cute some of these guys are. Some of these dogs actually were able to come to the office at one time. They all grew really big now but the bag of food for puppies is still in one of the break room’s cabinets.
From time to time someone’s pet visits the office and there is never a shortage of pet food and treats as everyone has contributed their extra stuff for surprise visits.

Enjoy:

Happy PI Day: 3.14

i 8 sum pi and it was greatBest wishes to everyone who loves math and enjoys being irrational and transcendental.  

Have you ever really thought about the fact that dividing  the distance around a circle by the width of a circle is an irrational number? That means that at least one of the distances can not be a whole number.  Have you ever really thought about that… you know who you are if you have.

A bunch of people brought fresh pies in this morning to share, and we shall all spend a little bit of time celebrating Pi.  We will also make fun of those weird people who somehow think e is a better number to get excited about… losers.

Here are some clever pi Pies I found on the interweb.  My favorite is the book pi pie.
google-pies

Introduction to APDL Book Turns One

PADT-Intro-APDL-coverWe got our monthly report from Amazon on our book  “Introduction to the ANSYS Parametric Design Language (APDL)” and we noticed that it has been one year since we published it.  This was our first foray into self publishing so we thought it was worth noting that it has been a year.

Being engineers, we are kind of obsessed with numbers.  The first number is a bit discouraging, 194 units sold.  That is not going to make any best seller lists (more on lessons learned below).  51% were sold on Amazon.com, 19% by Amazon Europe, and 16% on Amazon UK, with 13% sold by non-Amazon affiliates.  

Lessons Learned

This is our first time doing self publishing we have learned some lessons worth sharing:

  1. You can’t publish a work document as an e-book.  
    We figured we would format it for a paper book, then just publish the same file as an e-book.  WRONG.  The formatting, didn’t translate at all. If it was a novel, it would have worked fine, but with all the figures and code, it was a mess. So we took it off the site.  We have received feedback that this has kept some people from buying the book.
  2. Reviews matter.
    We got one review, and it was not good because they bought the E-Book (see 1).We have resisted the temptation to publish our own review… everyone does it… It would be great if anyone reading this could put up a review.
  3. We should have done this 5 years ago.
    The reality is that APDL usage is down as ANSYS Mechanical keeps getting better and better.  So the need to do advanced APDL scripting is not what it used to be. Plus, many new users are never exposed to APDL.
  4. Amazon fiddles with your price.
    It may or may not be a bad thing, but Amazon lowers your price if their affiliates start selling a book for less than you originally set the price at.  So the initial $75 price has gone as low as $55 when demand was high (several copies a week!).  In that the whole thing is an experiment, this has caused no grief but it is something to be aware of.
  5. Overall, the whole process was easy and a nice business model
    Let’s be honest, there is not a huge demand for a book like this. The CreateSpace.com (owned by Amazon) model is a great model for niche publishing like this. It was easy to upload, easy to monitor, and those fat royalty checks (what is the emoticon for sarcasm?) come in once a month. The best part is that because it is print-on-demand, there is no need pay for an inventory up front.

If you don’t have a copy (and only 190 some of you do so I’m guessing you don’t) head on over to our page on amazon and check it out.  You can spin it around and see the front and back cover!

If you are one of the select few, maybe write a review and help us out a bit?

ANSYS 15.0: Summary of Available Updates as of 3/11/14

ANSYS_r15.0Since the release of ANSYS 15.0 in December, 2013, ANSYS, Inc. has released 4 updates.  Here are details on each, so you can decide if you need to install them or not: 

15.0.1

This update fixes a defect related to CFD models with zero thickness walls (baffles).  The problem in the initial 15.0 release was that baffles do not display properly in ANSYS (Workbench) Meshing when viewing the mesh on Named Selections, and the baffles are not output correctly to CFX, Fluent, or Polyflow.  This update is available for Windows 32 bit, Windows 64 bit, and Linux 64 bit.

15.0.3

This update fixes a problem in the initial 15.0 release in which ANSYS LS-DYNA could fail with a stack overflow problem on Windows machines.  This update is available for Windows 32 bit and Windows 64 bit.

 15.0.4

This update fixes a license problem with the initial ANSYS 15.0 TurboGrid tool, in which TurboGrid on 64 bit Windows systems could check out a license for both TurboGrid and ICEM CFD.  This update is available for Windows 64 bit.

15.0.5

This update addresses problems in the initial ANSYS 15.0 release with ANSYS Mechanical Rigid Body Dynamics as well as any mechanical models that include joints.  Data from the Mechanical Redundancy Analysis tool was not being updated after redundancy analyses were performed, so the code could not identify redundant or inconsistent constraints.  This update is available for Windows 32 bit, Windows 64 bit, and Linux 64 bit.

PADT Turns 20 Today

PADt-20-Logo-Rect-500wAt 11:06 am on March 7, 1994 a clerk at the Arizona Corporation Commission placed their stamp on stack of paper titled: “Articles of Incorporation of Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies, Inc.” and a new company, and a new path in life for many people, was started.

2013-07-29 18.20.36Before that moment it had all been talk and ideas, now it was real. Still working their day jobs, the four founders spent their evenings and weekends trying to figure out how to convince customers to hire them, how to get computers to run ANSYS on, and how to raise money to buy a Stereolithography machine. Friends and Family stepped up and invested their money along with the founder’s savings to fund the crazy idea with an (in hindsight) incredibly long name.

After two decades PADT is now established and thriving, investing in other companies, and expanding into new geographies and businesses.  We could not have done it without all of the employees that have worked here through the years, the support of everyone’s family, our software and hardware partners, and of course our very loyal customers.  

There were a lot of reasons why we started PADT, and everyone that has joined us through the years has had their own impetus.  But, one common purpose motivated us in those early days, and still motivates us today:  to create a place where everyone actually wanted to go to in the morning.  That motivation will not make any business books, it has not made anyone super rich, nor will it make PADT the darling of Wall Street.    

What we can say is that after twenty years of going to work day after day, we can look back and confidently state that it is a motivation that still works today, and still makes for a more rewarding work life than many of our peers have experienced over the same two decades.

PADT-Offices
We want to thank everyone that has been on this journey with us. Everyone that has allowed us to make a living doing what we like to do, learning new things every day, and spending it with such fantastic people. 


#padt20

Comprehensive Online Course on 3D Printing Added to Lynda.com

The other day I got an email from Brenda Newhouse, the very talented owner of Newhouse Studios who helped us design and build the PADT website, on a link she had found on Lynda.com for a course on 3D Printing. Our to-do list always contained “produce comprehensive 3D printing online course” but we never got around to it. Now we don’t have to. (yay!)
up-and-running-with-3d-printing
The people at Lynda.com have created a really nice course that shocked us in its detail and accuracy, at least the parts we could look at for free. The listing of topics backs this up.  With the recent hype around 3D Printing, we often see postings that are mostly hyperbole or just wrong. Kacie Hultgren, the creator of this course, really knows what she is doing and covers all of the bases.  The production looks very professional as well… certainly not someone holding a phone while their buddy talks. 

You can get an overview here:

http://www.lynda.com/3D-Animation-Prototyping-tutorials/Up-Running-3D-Printing/151814-2.html 

It looks like Lynda.com charges $25/month, which is very reasonable.  If you are new to 3D Printing and want to learn more, this looks to be a great place to start.

New Open Position at PADT: Product Design Engineer

PADT Employees

We thought we were catching up by recently filling two open positions: CFD Simulation Engineer and a sales position in Utah.  But then another opportunity opened up to add a full time Product Design Engineer in support of PADT’s line of products for cleaning additive manufacturing parts.  Although this position will work with our Product Development team, it is actually part of our advanced manufacturing group since the role focuses exclusively on a single product line which that group designs, manufactures, and supports.   The job description is listed below, and can be found on our Careers Page along with the other currently open positions:

Electrical Engineer/Project Lead 
IT Support Engineer
Sales Support Specialist, 3D Printing
Product Design Engineer

Follow the directions on the Careers Page to apply. And by all means, feel free to pass this along to anyone you think might be interested.

Product Design Engineer

Job Overview:

This position primarily performs electro-mechanical engineering design, development, and validation for circulating tank products used alongside 3D Printing equipment. The product design engineer reports to the product manager and develops detailed requirements; creates the design in CAD; performs design analyses as needed; selects materials and components; creates component specifications and procures prototypes; works together with other engineering specialties and manufacturing to optimize performance, ease-of-use, reliability, and cost in the context of the overall product requirements.

Specific Tasks:

  • Design and develop new products or improvements to existing products, based on product requirements in collaboration with electrical engineering, industrial design, manufacturing, and other expertise as needed
  • Assist in development of proof-of-concept tests; procure parts and assemble test rigs; perform testing
  • Construct designs and engineering drawings in CAD files used by engineering and manufacturing
  • Generate component specifications, BOMs, and other required product documentation
  • Work with suppliers to develop unique components or understand component limitations
  • Help develop product validation and durability tests
  • Produce and maintain design-related documentation such as design analyses, CAD drawings, BOMs, technical specifications, and test results
  • Troubleshoot production engineering problems when requested; document changes

Desired Skills and Experience:

  • BSME with a minimum 10 yrs experience in electro-mechanical product design
  • Experience with electronic controls, motors, fasteners, and design for manufacturability a plus
  • Knowledge of manufacturing and assembly processes and variation
  • Comfortable working in a team environment to produce a design
  • Proficient in SolidWorks 3D (preferred) or similar CAD tool
  • Strong written and verbal communications skills

Caps and Limits on Hardware Resources in Microsoft Windows and Red Hat Enterprise Linux

windows-caps(Revised and updated February 10, 2014 to include pertinent, relevant Windows Server 2012 information as it relates to the world of numerical simulation)

Hi – One of our more popular blog articles from January 14, 2011. It has been over three years now and the blog article needs a refresh. It seems that as operating system provider’s release a new OS iteration, for Windows Operating System or Linux, that this may contribute to confusion when selecting the proper licensing for the numerical simulation computers physical hardware.

Hopefully this updated blog article will assist you in making sure your numerical simulation machines are licensed properly.

Sometime around 3am in October 2010. I found myself beating my head up against a server rack. I was frustrated with trying to figure out what was limiting my server hardware. I was aware of a couple limits that Microsoft had placed into its OS software. However, I had no idea how far reaching the limits were. I researched into two manufactures of two of the most used Operating Systems on the planet. I figured it would be best if I had a better understanding of these hardware limits. The physical socket and memory limit caps that are placed on the hardware by two of the most popular Operating Systems on the planet: Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

So now let us fast-forward over three years, not much has changed because change is constant. The new Windows Server 2012 changes up the naming convention on us IT geeks. So pay attention because the Windows Server Standard or Enterprise edition you may have been used to has changed.

Limits on Cores, RAM, and USERS by Operating System

  • Microsoft Windows Operating Systems
    • Windows 7
      • Professional / Enterprise / Ultimate
        • Processor: 2 Socket limit (many cores)
        • Core limits:
          • 64-bit: 256 max quantity of cores in 1 physical processor
          • 32-bit: 32 cores max quantity of cores in 1 physical processor
        • RAM: 192 GB limit to amount of accessible
      • Home Premium
        • RAM: 16GB
      • Home Basic
        • RAM: 8GB
      • Starter Edition
        • RAM: 2 GB
    • Windows Server 2008
      • Standard & R2
        • Processor: 4 socket limit – (many cores)
          • (4 – Parts x 12core) = 48 cores
        • RAM: 32 GB
      • Windows Server 2008 R2 Foundation  (R2 releases are 64-bit only)
        • RAM: 128 GB
      • HPC Edition 2008 R2 (R2 releases are 64-bit only)
        • RAM: 128 GB
      • Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter (R2 releases are 64-bit only)
        • Processor: 8 socket limit
        • RAM: 2TB
      • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise (R2 releases are 64-bit only)
        • Processor: 8 socket limit
        • RAM: 2TB
    • Windows Server 2012
      • Foundation
        • Processor: 1 socket licensed – (many cores)
        • RAM: 32 GB
        • User Limit: 15 users
      • Essentials
        • Processor: 2 socket licensed – (many cores)
        • RAM: 64 GB
        • User Limit: 25 users
      • Standard
        • Processor:  4 socket licensed* – (many cores)
        • RAM: 4TB
        • User Limit: unlimited
      • Datacenter
        • Processor: 4 socket licensed* – (many cores)
        • RAM: 4TB
        • User Limit: unlimited
      • R2
        • Processor: 4 socket licensed* – (many cores)
        • RAM: 4TB
        • User Limit: unlimited
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux – 64-bit
    • Red Hat defines a logical CPU as any schedulable entity. So every core/thread in a multi-core/thread processor is a logical CPU
    • This information is by Product default.  Not the maximums of a fully licensed/subscribed REHL product.
    • Desktop
      • Processor: 1-2 CPU
      • RAM: 64 GB
    • Basic
      • Processor: 1-2 CPU
      • RAM: 16 GB
    • Enterprise
      • Processor: 1-8 CPU
      • RAM: 64 GB
    • NOTE: Red Hat would be happy to create custom subscriptions with yearly fees for other configurations to fit your specific environment. Please contact Red Hat to check on costs.

Okay great but what operating system platforms can I use with ANSYS R15?

ANSYS 15.0 Supported Platforms

ANSYS 15.0 is the currently released version. The specific operating system versions supported by ANSYS 15.0 products and License Manager are documented and posted at: 
   www.ansys.com/Support/Platform+Support.

ANSYS 15.0 includes support for the following:

  • Windows XP and Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit Professional and Enterprise versions)
  • Windows 8 (64-bit Professional and Enterprise versions)
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
  • Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 (64-bit)
  • Windows Server 2012 Standard version
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.7-5.9 and 6.2-6.4 (64-bit)
  • SUSE Enterprise Linux Server and Desktop (SLES / SLED) 11 SP1-SP2 (64-bit)

Not all applications are supported on all of these platforms. See detailed information, by product, at the URL noted above.

Final Thoughts

Approximate additional licensing cost to License Windows Server 2012 for a Quad Socket CPU motherboard:

  • Windows Server 2012 Foundation: Please call your OEM partner
  • Windows Server 2012 Essentials: $429 + User Client Access Licensing $$$
  • Windows Server 2012 Standard:  $ 1,500  + User Client Access Licensing $$$
  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter: $ 10,500 + User Client Access Licensing $$$

References

 

Happy (nerdy) Valentine’s Day

Valentines-day
We could not pass up trying out one of the online aps that generate Valentine’s Day candy hearts. 

Good fun.  It didn’t take long to find a FFT for a standard heart beat (the equation) and maybe only the rotating machinery types among you will get the blue one’s message. 

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!

Time and Date Set for PADT’s 20th Anniversary Party

PADt-20-Logo-Rect-500wPADT’s anniversary party committee (yes, there are some “The Office” similarities) has been busy planning and making preliminary arrangements.  The date and time have been set.

The invitations will go out the first week in March, but you do not have to wait to put it on your calendar:

PADT’s 20th Anniversary Party

When April 10, 2014
5:30 pm – 9:00 pm
   
Where PADT’s Tempe Office
ASU Research Park
7755 S Research Dr, Suite 110
Tempe, AZ 85284

You can enter it yourself or add it via an iCal file with this link.  

You can also learn more at www.padtinc.com/20

We are sampling food from food trucks this week and will be making our choice on the catering soon.  This will be a fun and meaningful event for us, and we hope that as many of you as possible will join.

#padt20

Another Job Opening at PADT: Sales Support Specialist, 3D Printing

PADt-20-Logo-Rect-500wPADT had a record year in 2013 reselling and supporting Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) systems from Stratasys.  So good, that our team was swamped with all of the activity, especially as Stratasys continues to add new systems and materials.  In order to make 2014 another fantastic year in this area, we have opened a new position: Sales Support Specialist, 3D Printing.  This person will work with sales management, the salespeople, our suppliers, and our admin staff to make the whole process more efficient, and to allow us to be more responsive to our customers needs.  Here is the description for the position:

Sales Support Specialist, 3D Printing

PADT, the Southwest’s leading provider of engineering products and services, has an immediate opening within our 3D Printer sales team for the position of Sales Support Specialist.  This position will report to the manager of the team and has three roles focused on helping the sales team run effectively, efficiently, and exceed business objectives. The first role is to maintain the relationship between PADT and the hardware suppliers that PADT resells for by managing and coordinating the flow of information between parties. The second role includes planning and organizing marketing activities for the products being sold.  This includes providing assistance to the sales team across four states by scheduling and managing technical and administrative resources.  The final role is to work as an inside salesperson, frequently contacting existing customers to sell 3D printing material, maintenance contracts, and other services.  Time will be spent evenly working within these three responsibilities. 

Requirements:

  • BS or equivalent degree
  • Inside sales experience
  • Self-directed, proactive, and very organized
  • Able to communicate quickly and effectively both verbally and in writing
  • Enjoys and is good at multitasking
  • Strong Microsoft Office skills
  • Comfortable making a large number of phone calls
  • Experience coordinating marketing activities such as: trade shows, mailing campaigns, seminars, etc…
  • Enjoys being involved in new, leading edge technology

Preferred but not required

  • Outside sales experience

This position is located at PADT’s Tempe, AZ facility and all applicants must be US Citizens or Legal Residents.

You can also see the position, along with our other open postings and how to apply, on our career page.

Our current openings are:

3D Color Printing: Stratasys Publishes Nice White Paper on Maximizing Multi-Material and Color 3D Printing

connex3-machine
Stratasys just released a nice white paper on the uses of their new color technology in the Objet500 Connex3 system. This machine is more than just a way to print parts in a variety of colors, it allows you to load three different materials, including colors.
3D-Color-Printing-Colors-1The paper goes in to some detail on how the technology works, what the advantages are, and offers some use cases where beta testers in industry were able to apply the technology on their projects.  If you are interested in 3D Printing in general, and printing color parts in particular, you should download the white paper.

We’ve created some really great work with the custom label printing services. We’ve been lucky with the results as well. You get a lot of bang for the buck with good design and cheap printing. Just don’t skimp on the design please.

3D-Color-Printing-Pressure-Contour-1As always, if you can contact PADT at 480.813.4884 or sales@padtinc.com. Or visit our website.

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Help! My New HPC System is not High Performance!

It is an all too common feeling, that sinking feeling that leads to the phrase “Oh Crap” being muttered under your breath. You just spent almost a year getting management to pay for a new compute workstation, server or cluster. You did the ROI and showed an eight-month payback because of how much faster your team’s runs will be. But now you have the benchmark data on real models, and they are not good. “Oh Crap”

Although a frequent problem, and the root causes are often the same, the solutions can very. In this posting I will try and share with you what our IT and ANSYS technical support staff here at PADT have learned.

Hopefully this article can help you learn what to do to avoid or circumvent any future or current pitfalls if you order an HPC system. PADT loves numerical simulation, we have been doing this for twenty years now. We enjoy helping, and if you are stuck in this situation let us know.

Wall Clock Time

It is very easy to get excited about clock speeds, bus bandwidth, and disk access latency. But if you are solving large FEA or CFD models you really only care about one thing. Wall Clock Time. We cannot tell you how many times we have worked with customers, hardware vendors, and sometimes developers, who get all wrapped up in the optimization of one little aspect of the solving process. The problem with this is that high performance computing is about working in a system, and the system is only as good as its weakest link.

We see people spend thousands on disk drives and high speed disk controllers but come to discover that their solves are CPU bound, adding better disk drives makes no difference. We also see people blow their budget on the very best CPU’s but don’t invest in enough memory to solve their problems in-core. This often happens because when they look at benchmark data they look at one small portion and maximize that measurement, when that measurement often doesn’t really matter.

The fundamental thing that you need to keep in mind while ordering or fixing an HPC system for numerical simulation is this: all that matters is how long it takes in the real world from when you click “Solve” till your job is finished. I bring this up first because it is so fundamental, and so often ignored.

The Causes

As mentioned above, an HPC server or cluster is a system made up of hardware, software, and people who support it. And it is only as good as its weakest link. The key to designing or fixing your HPC system is to look at it as a system, find the weakest links, and improve that links performance. (OK, who remembers the “Weakest Link” lady? You know you kind of miss her…)

In our experience we have found that the cause for most poorly performing systems can be grouped into one of these categories:

  • Unbalanced System for the Problems Being Solved:

    One of the components in the system cannot keep up with the others. This can be hardware or software. More often than not it is the hardware being used. Let’s take a quick look at several gotchas in a misconfigured numerical simulation machine.

  • I/O is a Bottleneck
    Number crunching, memory, and storage are only as fast as the devices that transfer data between them.
  • Configured Wrong

    Out of simple lack of experience the wrong hardware is used, the OS settings are wrong, or drivers are not configured properly.

  • Unnecessary Stuff Added out of Fear

    People tend to overcompensate out of fear that something bad might happen, so they burden a system with software and redundant hardware to avoid a one in a hundred chance of failure, and slow down the other ninety-nine runs in the process.

Avoiding an Expensive Medium Performance Computing (MPC) System

The key to avoiding these situations is to work with an expert who knows the hardware AND the software, or become that expert yourself. That starts with reading the ANSYS documentation, which is fairly complete and detailed.

Often times your hardware provider will present themselves as the expert, and their heart may be in the right place. But only a handful of hardware providers really understand HPC for simulation. Most simply try and sell you the “best” configuration you can afford and don’t understand the causes of poor performance listed above. More often than we like, they sell a system that is great for databases, web serving, or virtual machines. That is not what you need.

A true numerical simulation hardware or software expert should ask you questions about the following, if they don’t, you should move on:

  • What solver will you use the most?
  • What is more important, cost or performance? Or better: Where do you want to be on the cost vs. performance curve?
  • How much scratch space do you need during a solve? How much storage do you need for the files you keep from a run?
  • How will you be accessing the systems, sending data back and forth, and managing your runs?

Another good test of an expert is if you have both FEA and CFD needs, they should not recommend a single system for you. You may be constrained by budget, but an expert should know the difference between the two solvers vis-à-vis HPC and design separate solutions for each.

If they push virtual machines on you, show them the door.

The next thing you should do is step back and take the advice of writing instructors. Start cutting stuff. (I know, if you have read my blog posts for a while, you know I’m not practicing what I preach. But you should see the first drafts…) You really don’t need huge costly UPS’, the expensive archival backup system, or some arctic chill bubbling liquid nitrogen cooling system. Think of it as a race car, if it doesn’t make the car go faster or keep the driver safe, you don’t need it.

A hard but important step in cutting things down to the basics is to try and let go of the emotional aspect. It is in many ways like picking out a car and the truth is, the red paint job doesn’t make it go any faster, and the fancy tail pipes will look good, but also don’t help. Don’t design for the worst-case model either. If 90% of your models run in 32GB or RAM, don’t do a 128GB system for that one run you need to do a year that is that big. Suffer a slow solve on that one and use the money to get a faster CPU, a better disk array, or maybe a second box.

Pull back, be an engineer, and just get what you need. Tape robots look cool, blinky lights and flashy plastic case covers even cooler. Do you really need that? Most of time the numerical simulation cruncher is locked up in a cold dark room. Having an intern move data to USB drives once a month may be a more practical solution.

Another aspect of cutting back is dealing with that fear thing. The most common mistake we see is people using RAID configurations for storing redundant data, not read/write speed. Turn off that redundant writing and dump across as many drives as you can in parallel, RAID 0. Yes you may lose a drive. Yes that means you lose a run. But if that happens once every six months, which is very unlikely, the lost productivity from those lost runs is small compared to the lost productivity of solving all those other runs on a slow disk array.

Intel-AMD-Flunet-Part2-Chart2Lastly, benchmark. This is obvious but often hard to do right. The key is to find real problems that represent a spectrum of the runs you plan on doing. Often different runs, even within the same solver, have different HPC needs. It is a good idea to understand which are more common and bias your design to those. Do not benchmark with standard benchmarks, use industry accepted benchmarks for numerical simulation. Yes it’s an amazing feeling knowing that your new cluster is number 500 on the Top 500 list. However if it is number 5000 on the ANSYS Numerical simulation benchmark list nobody wins.

Fixing the System You Have

As of late we have started tearing down clusters in numerous companies around the US. Of course we would love to sell you new hardware however at PADT, as mentioned before, we love numerical simulation. Fixing your current system may allow you to stretch that investment another year or more. As a co-owner of a twenty year old company, this makes me feel good about that initial investment. When we sick our IT team on extending the life of one of our systems, I start thinking about and planning for that next $150k investment we will need to do in a year or more.

Breathing new life into your existing hardware basically requires almost the same steps as avoiding a bad system in the first place. PADT has sent our team around the country helping companies breath new life into their existing infrastructure. The steps they use are the same but instead of designing stuff, we change things. Work with an expert, start cutting stuff out, breath new life into the growing old hardware, avoid fear and “cool factor” based choices, and verify everything.

Take a look and understand the output from your solvers, there is a lot of data in there. As an example, here is an article we wrote describing some of those hidden gems within your numerical simulation outputs. http://www.padtinc.com/blog/the-focus/ansys-mechanical-io-bound-cpu-bound

Play with things, see what helps and what hurts. It may be time to bring in an outside expert to look at things with fresh eyes.

Do not be afraid to push back against what IT is suggesting, unless you are very fortunate, they probably don’t have the same understanding as you do when it comes to numerical simulation computing. They care about security and minimizing the cost of maintaining systems. They may not be risk takers and they don’t like non-standard solutions. All of these can often result in a system that is configured for IT, and not fast numerical simulation solves. You may have to bring in senior management to solve this issue.

PADT is Here to Help

Cube_Logo_Target1The easiest way to avoid all of this is to simply purchase your HPC hardware from PADT.  We know simulation, we know HPC, and we can translate between engineers and IT.  This is simply because simulation is what we do, and have done since 1994.   We can configure the right system to meet your needs, at that point on the price performance curve you want.  Our CUBE systems also come preloaded and tested with your simulation software, so you don’t have to worry about getting things to work once the hardware shows up.

If you already have a system or are locked in to a provider, we are still here to help.  Our system architects can consult over the phone or in person, bringing their expertise to the table on fixing existing systems or spec’ing new ones.  In fact, the idea for this article came when our IT manager was reconfiguring a customer’s “name brand” cluster here in Phoenix, and he got a call from a user in the Midwest that had the exact same problem.  Lots of expensive hardware, and disappointing performance. They both had the wrong hardware for their problems, system bottlenecks, and configuration issues.

Learn more on our HPC Server and Cluster Performance Tuning page, or by contacting us. We would love to help out. It is what we like to do and we are good at it.