This Week in CFD


  • Is the sky really falling? A DoE and NSA report fears the U.S. may lose its lead in HPC within a decade. On the other hand, the article’s author thinks chasing an arbitrary milestone like exascale isn’t as optimal as continuous, organic improvement.
  • Also on the HPC topic, Fujitsu’s HPC Gateway promises to simplify access to HPC resources.
  • Onshape says you’re paying too much for your CAD software if you rarely use technical support. They cite 3 other reasons too.
  • Thunderbird Power is using STAR-CCM+ to design a wind turbine.
  • The CAD Society announced it’s annual award winners:
  • Here’s best of the visualization web for February 2017.
  • If you’re displaying math on the web using MathJax, you need to know that it’s shutting down at the end of this month.


  • Bulk materials simulation just got a bit more accessible with EDEM’s launch of a series of products EDEM for ANSYS, MSC, and Siemens.
  • Phi is new 3-D modeling software from start-up Phenometry (founded by former Spatial folks) which features n-sided surfaces and a web-based user interface that promised to “democratize 3-D design.”
  • Particle In Cell released Starfish v0.16.1, their 2-D solver for plasma and gas kinetics.
  • The latest version of Moldex3D (R15.0) includes automatic hex meshing for runners and much more.


4-D Printed Space Mesh Fabric

This so-called “space fabric” is a prototype from NASA’s JPL where they’re 3-D printing (or actually 4-D printing because it’s 3-D geometry plus function) woven metal for use in space as shielding, space suits, or solar arrays. Thanks to alert reader Carolyn for sharing this with me.


NASA’s Space Fabric looks like a structured grid to me. Image from NASA. See link above.

Another example of a metal, mesh-like fabric (of sorts) was interesting, but cannot be shown here without giving this blog post an R rating.

And how about a bonus?


Bonus: This so-called Q*bert Hex Mesh was shared by reader Jeff whom I’m hoping will point me at its original source including location and artist.

Bonus Science: Please take a moment to ponder how you’d simulate this in your CFD solver: a fluid with negative mass. Scientists have created a fluid that seemingly violates Newton’s second law because the acceleration opposes the direction of the applied force. The behavior of this fluid, a Bose-Einstein condensate, plays a little trick with inertial mass.

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Upcoming CFD Workshops

From the 2017 Q1 issue of The Connector:

badge-workshops-125x125Pointwise is heavily involved in planning and preparation for two AIAA workshops coming this summer held the weekend before AIAA Aviation in Denver. We are generating families of meshes to be provided to participants in the 3rd CFD High Lift Prediction Workshop. And we are helping organize the 1st Geometry and Mesh Generation Workshop. (more)

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This Week in CFD

Reading & Events

  • Cambashi and intrinSIM have worked together for market research in the form of the Cambashi CAE Observatory with information on 470 non-EDA firms. They place the worldwide market for simulation software at nearly $5.4 billion.
  • I haven’t yet had a chance to watch the recording of Chad Jackson’s webinar on The Five Trends Shaping Modern Engineering (hosted by Autodesk) but I recommend you do. [And then tell me about it. Like what exactly is “the visibility mandate?”]
  • Mentor Graphics’ blog post Doing What You Can’t (see image below) reminds me of a saying we have at Pointwise. “It takes us time to do really difficult things. The impossible takes only slightly longer.”
  • The ASSESS Congress 2017 (Analysis, Simulation, and Systems Engineering Software Strategies), an invitation-only event, will be held in the Washington DC area on 1-3 November.
  • Finally, an infographic I like. The history of CFD, CAD, etc.

Bovine CFD. Image from Mentor Graphics. See link above.

The Cloud

  • At COFES last week I saw Business Advantage present the results of their survey on “CAD in the cloud.” There’s a lot of data, but the information that caught my eye was one-third of respondents foresee no benefit from cloud-based CAD. Read more in WorldCAD Access’ summary of the presentation.
  • Here’s another look at the Business Advantage survey results from Beyond PLM.
  • SimScale touts the advantages of cloud-based CFD in their article 5 Reasons to Optimize Your Designs Through CFD Online. [Note: They are not referring to this CFD Online.]
    • Reduced start-up costs.
    • Availability that matches your needs.
    • Just as powerful as desktop-based CFD.
    • Everyone is always using the most up-to-date version of the software.
    • Your data is secure.
  • Consumers expect cloud-based tools to be easier to deploy [sadly, no argument from me] and easier to use [that’s debatable; it shouldn’t necessarily be so]. Digital Engineering delves into the details of simulation that’s Preconfigured for HPC.
  • Not cloud: future tech for HPC.
  • Not simulation in cloud, simulation in CAD.

MSC has integrated Actran and SC/Tetra for aeroacoustic simulations.


  • SimScale shared their 2017 Q1 platform updates including a mesh quality report.
  • The OpenFOAM Foundation reached their €100,000 fund-raising goal for 2017.
  • Envenio’s EXN/AERO was updated including improved CGNS support.
  • Modelon (model-based systems engineering) and Exa (CFD) are partnering.
  • CoolSim for data center CFD is now available as an AutoCAD add-in.



Must-see simulation of the week: STAR-CCM+ looks at the Titanic. Image from Siemens.

  • In the world of endurance racing, Williams Advanced Engineering will work with Ginetta on their LMP1 car including CFD. [Let’s have a little fun with this quote from the article: “CFD, computational fluid dynamics, is much more sophisticated than a wind tunnel.”]
  • Solidworks’ CFD is being used to improve the performance of water treatment plants.
  • Solidworks’ CFD for thermal is as easy to use as FEA, they say.

At Pointwise

Beyond the Grid

My tastes in art extend beyond abstraction into animation and when it comes to the latter I have a special love for works done in black and white. Add a grid like Johan Rijpma has done in his animation Extrapolate and I’m all in.

As first seen on Cartoon Brew, the CFDer in me sees Extrapolate as a cautionary tale about the dangers of pushing CFD beyond the boundaries where it’s well suited. At the same time, the video shows that everything starts and ends with the grid and all complexity in the drawing (the CFD solution) flows from the grid and extends down to a single grid point.

Read about how the drawings were made on the artist’s website.


Screen capture of the video Extrapolate by Johan Rijpma.

Happy Easter to all of you who are so inclined.

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Pointwise Visits Branch Tech for 3-D Printing Fun

Dr. Steve Karman from our applied research team recently visited Branch Technology in Chattanooga to see their 3-D printing robots and learn more about their patented freeform, 3-D printing technology called Cellular Fabrication (TM). Steve’s host at Branch was Dr. Bruce Hilbert whom you can read about in his This Is How I Mesh profile.


Dr. Steve Karman (left) from Pointwise and Dr. Bruce Hilbert from Branch Technology (right) pose near one of Branch’s 3-D printing robots.

You may recall reading that Branch Tech was recognized with our Meshy Award at last year’s Pointwise User Group Meeting for their work to use a Pointwise-generated mesh as the basis for a 3-D printed, architectural-scale pavilion at Cheekwood Gardens in Nashville.


Branch Technology’s Matt Culver (left) and Bruce Hilbert pose with a work in progress.

Branch’s innovative work in this space is exemplified by a piece installed at the Museum of Design Atlanta called TN-1. At the time, TN-1 (designed by Keith Kaseman, co-designer of the Pentagon’s 9-11 Memorial) was North America’s largest 3-D printed structure.

A further example of Branch’s work is described in back issue of This Week in CFD. They fabricated the new world’s largest 3-D printed structure, called Flotsam & Jetsam, for the Design Miami fare (structure designed by SHoP Architects).

Branch Technology’s 3-D printing is some of the most unusual applied mesh generation I’ve ever seen and Pointwise is happy to be working with them.


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Pointwise Events at AIAA Aviation

This year’s AIAA Aviation Forum and Exposition will be held at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel in Denver, Colorado. Pointwise will have staff at the conference presenting papers in technical sessions, demonstrating software and answering technical questions in the exhibit hall, and participating in several of the workshops. We hope to see you at any and all of these activities.

See all the details on our website:



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Flow Viz Event at AIAA Aviation

If you are presenting a CFD paper at AIAA Aviation (June in Denver), I encourage you to also enter the 2nd Bi-Annual FDTC/MSTC Flow Visualization Event. The message below comes directly from the event organizers.

Congratulations on having your paper accepted to 2017 AIAA Aviation Forum. In addition to presenting in your assigned session, we would like to extend you the opportunity of participating in the 2nd bi-annual FDTC/MSTC Flow Visualization Event.

The FDTC/MSTC Flow Visualization Event provides you the opportunity to showcase fluid-dynamic visualizations that support a technical concept that are typically too long to include in your presentation. The flow visualization presented should enhance the understanding of the accompanying technical paper; they may be the visualizations you created to complete your analysis.

The Flow Visualization Event will be held during the afternoon session on Tuesday, June 6th most likely in the foyer area outside the exhibit hall. 10 visualizations will be shown during each of the 30 minute time slots assigned. We will be providing large monitors; you will need to provide your own computer. While your visualization can last the entire time slot, we are recommending that it be approximately 3 minutes in length and be run on a loop. We are asking that you be present during your time slot to answer any questions that may arise. Our committee will be sure to de-conflict animation and presentation time slots.

At the conclusion of the event, awards will be presented for:

  1. Most Artistic Flow Visualization Animation Award
  2. Most Quantitatively Descriptive Flow Visualization Animation Award
  3. Most Comprehensive Flow Visualization Animation Award

If you are one of the three winners, your visualization will be displayed on a monitor in the exhibit hall for the remaining time that the exhibition hall is open. The visualization that you provide the committee for display should be approximately 3 minutes in length. As the three winning visualizations will be run on a continuous loop, we will need the visualization on either a thumb drive or CD/DVD for transfer to a single computer.

Please respond to this e-mail no later than April 21 [see email addresses below] to advise us as to whether or not you are interested in participating in the FDTC/MSTC Flow Visualization Event. If you have further questions, do not hesitate to contact me or any of the other Visualization Event committee members.


Sidra Silton
FDTC/MSTC Flow Visualization Event Chair FDTC Secretary

Other Committee Contacts:

Haoxiang Luo,
David Kao,
Kevin Colburn,

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I’m William Humber and This Is How I Mesh

William Humber, Senior CFD Engineer, ADSCFD.

I was born in New Jersey in 1984.  I did both my bachelors and masters work in Aerospace Engineering at Penn State University. While I was there I received the University Turbine Systems Research fellowship and spent my summers during grad school working at Pratt & Whitney in the Turbine Durability Group.  It was during a chance encounter there in 2008 that I met Bob Ni, the former head of CFD development for Pratt and Whitney.  My boss at the time, asked me if I could do some meshing work on the side for Bob.  The meshing work ended up with me joining Bob’s new company, AeroDynamic Solutions (ADSCFD), once I finished my graduate work.  I’ve been working with ADSCFD, primarily involved in meshing and post-processing technology development since then.

  • Location: Rutland, VT
  • Current position: Senior CFD Engineer, ADSCFD
  • Current computer: Hodgepodge desktop i7 with 32 GB RAM (Windows 7)
  • One word that best describes how you work: Multitasking

What software or tools do you use every day?

Some of the basic software that I use every day includes Visual Studio, Textpad, Intel Fortran Compiler, ParaView, and Excel 2003.  I’m mostly up to date with the rest of the Office suite but I still find the 2003 version of Excel to be superior to the modern versions.

What does your workspace look like?

Our company is virtual so everyone maintains an office in their house.  I have a main workstation in my office and then run my own mini cluster on site.

What do you see are the biggest challenges facing CFD in the next 5 years?

One of the main challenges we see is getting the man out of the loop whenever possible.  We did a webinar with Pointwise a couple years ago where we looked at different meshing strategies (multi-block structured, hybrid, fully unstructured) for a simple volute.  While the multi-block structured case gave the best results for a given mesh count, and ran the fastest, we found that the mesh generation time required meant that the potential speedup via parallel processing was much lower than the fully unstructured mesh.

The ability to remove the man from the loop is critical to implementing optimization schemes as well as when creating a design system, both of which are highly dependent on reliability, consistency, and quick turnaround time.

What are you currently working on?

We are currently spending much of our time on fluid-structure interaction development.  High cycle fatigue prediction is something we’ve been working on for a few years now in conjunction with the Air Force Research Laboratory and we’re finally getting to the point where we’re simply refining the process for commercialization.  In addition to development, a large amount of my time is spent on consulting work.

What would you say is your meshing specialty?

I’m not sure I would call it a specialty but a lot of my meshing ‘portfolio’ involves conjugate heat transfer meshes of engine hardware.

Any tips for our users?

The layers tab is definitely your friend as well as the ability to label the layers, especially for large complicated meshes.  Also, if you run many different software packages that require manipulating objects in 3D, a 3D mouse is an excellent investment that can significantly cut down the time required for certain operations.

What project are you most proud of and why?

We did a Phase II SBIR with the Air Force Research Lab for the development of a conjugate heat transfer capability to our solver that involved simulating a cooled turbine vane with over 600 film cooling holes.  Our initial results weren’t great, but over a year of root cause analysis we were able to resolve almost all the issues we were seeing.  In the end we were able to publish the most detailed conjugate film cooling simulation I had seen in the open literature up to that point.

What CFD solver and postprocessor do you use most often?

I use our solver, ADS Code LEO, exclusively as it handles both structured and unstructured meshes.  For post-processing I primarily use ParaView for visualization, but we’re pretty heavily dependent on Tecplot as well.  For lower level post-processing tasks I use a combination of internal utilities, Excel 2003, and Matlab.

Are you reading any interesting technical papers we should know about?

There’s an interesting paper that should be coming out soon that looks at a full wheel unsteady turbomachinery simulation that accounts for all the manufacturing variation in the individual airfoils.

Do you plan on attending any conferences or workshops this year?

ADSCFD will have a booth at TurboExpo this year.  So I’ll be in Charlotte in June.

What do you do outside the world of CFD?

I have many hobbies, but primarily I’m a ski instructor in the winter, ride road bikes in the summer, and play table tennis all year round.

What is some of the best CFD advice you’ve ever received?

One of the biggest challenges with CFD is how to reconcile differences with experimental data.  When you run a new case and see that first comparison it’s easy to get lost in all the possibilities of where things could be going wrong.  One of the greatest difficulties, and one I’m guilty of from time to time, is getting tunnel vision and assuming that the problem has to be something within my sphere of influence.  What’s important is to keep an open mind, and be methodical about identifying, and eliminating, all the possible contributors to the problem.

If you had to pick a place to have dinner, where would you go?

If I could go anywhere it would be Rodolfo’s Pizzeria in NJ from back in the late 90s (the original owners sold it sometime ago and it’s just not the same now).  If I was going somewhere tonight, probably The Prince and the Pauper in Woodstock, VT.

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