This Week in CFD


  • Product lifecycle management (PLM) might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to CFD, but CIMdata’s upcoming PLM Road Map 2012 conference (2-3 October in Plymouth, Michigan) does have a strong CAE track including presenters from Caterpillar and General Motors.

University of Chicago professor Sidney Nagel captured this photograph of the moment when a droplet of glycerol breaks away from the stream. High speed strobe, high magnification, and dark field lighting made this photo, called Two Fluid Snap Off, possible. Image from Discover. (Click image for source.)


Smoothing the cap over a swimmer’s head significantly improves hydrodynamic performance. Image from Desktop Engineering.

  • The Marussia Formula 1 team describes their use of CFD in this video (which was brought to my attention by F*** Yeah Fluid Dynamics).
  • It’s hard not to be interested in a CFD article that includes the phrase “hair management system” and reveals that ANSYS has 3D laser scans of 50 swimmers’ bodies. This article describes ANSYS’ work  on performance swimwear from Speedo.
  • Here’s a brief article about Autodesk Simulation 360, a pay-as-you-go, cloud-based, CAE service. Autodesk is also running a promotion, called Simulation Liberation, from 11 Sep – 31 Oct during which you can have free access to Simulation 360.
  • EnSight was used to make these videos of groundwater simulations.

Engineers Fear Social Media…

…but shouldn’t, according to product design and development blogger Mike Shipulski. [About a year ago I had used the term “hate” to describe that relationship.] In his post titled How To Accelerate Engineers Into Social Media Mr. Shipulski takes the position that fear is rooted in an engineer’s lack of understanding of information flow in social media. But once we learn that social media information flow is controllable everything will be copacetic. [OK, that’s his theory. I’m not certain I agree.] His advice is as follows.

  • “Stay away from Facebook.” [I agree with him that Facebook is the most “social” of social media (i.e. less work-related). But I find it much more understandable than he does, apparently.]
  • “To start, I suggest LinkedIn.” [True, it’s a fairly safe place to start. You basically park your resume online. Joining a group in which you’re interested and reading their conversations can be a good way to get involved. If only LinkedIn wasn’t so damn ugly and hadn’t been taken over by recruiters.]
  • “After LinkedIn, engineers should try Twitter.” [I would recommend this as the first place to start. Follow people you’re interested in and benefit from the ideas they share and do it all in 140 character chunks.]

The fact that you’re reading this blog tells me that you’ve already dipped your toe into the social media pool and perhaps this question isn’t for you, but why do you think engineers are reluctant to use social media? (First person who answers with “I don’t want to read tweets about where someone ate lunch.” or similar will be blacklisted.) Or do you think that reluctance is actually a myth?


  • Altair, maker of the AcuSolve CFD solver, was named computer software company of the year at the 2012 American Business Awards. The company, said to be the largest privately-held CAE software company, was recognized for their revenue growth (up 20% since 2010), HyperWorks 11.0 release, and their collaborative efforts in the area of public bus transportation.
  • ANSYS will be relocating their Pittsburgh-area headquarters to a larger facility (186,000 versus 107,000 square feet) beginning in 2014 Q4.
  • CD-adapco will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on 22 September for their recently completed $3 million headquarters renovation.
  • Fast growth got Tecplot named to Inc. Magazine’s Top 5000.
  • KARALIT, makers of no-mesh CFD software, received a €350,000 investment.


  • Not CFD: MSC released Nastran 2012.2 including improved fluid-structure interaction performance.
  • There’s a new release (version 4.1.0) of didactic CFD solver EasyCFD_G with SST turbulence modeling and axisymmetric capabilities.
  • You still have time to celebrate National Aerospace Week.
  • VirtualGrid released VRMesh v7.5 with enhanced accuracy and efficiency for triangulating point clouds.

Astronauts play with bubbles inside bubbles inside bubbles on the International Space Station. Click the image to watch the video.

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16 Responses to This Week in CFD

  1. IMO, I don’t think social media is up to the task of assisting engineers solve their problems. Site’s like cfd-online, which I think is great, doesn’t have enough people answering questions. Knowledgeable people don’t want to spend the time to do it. That’s not what excites them or it doesn’t server their purpose. And, information from vendors, through their blogs and sites like linkedin, is very questionable. And that is a massive shame. They obviously can, and should, produce higher technical quality material. I don’t know how some of them can read their own stuff without gagging. Engineers are better served by seaking direct contact with someone in their field, or by reading papers and journals. Industry’s expectations for quality of content for those venues is higher. I wish it was otherwise. Not very efficient. And, clearly, there is a lot of potential for networking, i.e. group think, through social media. But the noise out there is just too much of a hurdle. I love your blog John, but yours is the exception and not the rule.

  2. I read once that 40% of social media was pointless babble. So it occurred to me that the other 60% must be pointed babble! To Martin’s point it’s all about signal to noise ratio!

    John, Sidney Nagel’s image is simply exquisite – thanks for posting the link!

  3. John Chawner says:

    Martin:Thank you for the compliment. You wrote that engineers are better served by direct contact with someone in their field but that’s exactly what social media provides. I can follow another engineer on Twitter, for example, and benefit from their recommendations of new tools, new software releases, events they attend, etc. You can also develop an online rapport with someone in your field that you’ve never met. Which brings me to another benefit – in these days of tight travel budgets, social media allows this collaboration to occur online. Quality of writing is also a two-way street. Certainly there’s a lot of marketing drivel out there. But I’ve seen some technical papers that weren’t worth the toner used to print them. Which brings me to another benefit of social media – it’s person to person so it’s not like you’re reading an anonymous marketing piece, you know who wrote it.

  4. John Chawner says:

    Woody: Yes, that image of the droplet breaking away is cool. As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to include it on the blog. As for signal-to-noise ratio, like anything else it’s a matter of finding someone you trust and someone who produces good information. And once you find that person, you can’t expect them to be all-business all the time. That’s not how we interact with other engineers in the office or at conferences so we shouldn’t expect that online either. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  5. Great post, John.

    I think that blogs like Another Fine Mesh, also help immensely – in filtering out the noise from the plethora of info available on the internet. Martin has put forward interesting points in his comment, but personally, I find Linked In to be invaluable in establishing contact with fellow engineers (those that ‘condescend’ to reply to beginners like me, anyway). I’ve learnt a lot from the posts as well, but agree that establishing a one-on-one correspondence is the best way to go.

    The problem with relying only on papers and journals is that they are not accessible to everybody and the so rated high quality journals are horribly expensive. Of course open access journals with decent content are increasing along with great course material available online, free. That being said, I think very few researchers would refuse to email their paper to anybody, if approached in the right way.

    I think Linked In and CFD Online are quite different in terms of their purpose and work pretty well to serve that. Like the way Academia is about sharing reasearch and Research Gate is more focussed on discussions. I’d rate the activity on Linked In to be more intense than CFD online and probably more valuable/visible, in terms of establishing an online presence and the job market. Quicker replies to posts as well. The increasing problem, as you’ve mentioned, is the spam from job agencies.

    But CFD online scores on several possibilities : like the ability easily search the forums for existing posts and actually contributing to CFD via the CFD online Wiki, along with the option to use your contribution history as proof of your activity.

  6. John Chawner says:

    Thanks Shreyas. I wish I could get over my bias against LinkedIn. I realize it’s to your professional life what Facebook is to your personal life, and I use Facebook daily, but I just can’t get into the habit of using LinkedIn. Perhaps I’ll give it another shot.

    Having worked for decades with AIAA, I know for a fact that journal subscriptions and technical paper sales are a large portion of their income so I don’t see that material coming out from behind a paywall. I have also seen several attempts at online journals come and go – for reasons that I never investigated.

    Another issue that complicates the sharing of research from academia and government is how those organizations are now moving to monetize that research through licensing and other agreements.

    Thanks again for commenting.

  7. In regards to papers, yes there is junk out there and papers usually focus on the things that worked and not on what did not. But, there are great sites such as where one can get a lot of excellent information for free.

    As John knows from past discussions, I believe very much in the possibilities of social networks in regards to assisting engineers solve their problems. And I like to answer questions on Linkedin and cfd-online. But regardless of the possibilities that I perceive, when I have an aerodynamics problem I need to overcome I go to papers, journals, and texts over, and over, and over again. Or I call someone up or email them. I just can not find the answers directly through online social networks. Believe me, I want it to be different. But it is not. And this is totally different than programming issues. If I have a question about programming I go online and get an answer. I love that. As for product recommendations through twitter, etc, there is usually not much I can do with it on the spur of the moment.

    IMO, for many, aerodynamics is a “professional” product rather than a “consumer” product. Any tool that is used for aerodynamics enters a process. And, that analysis tool should be vetted. By the time it is vetted it is known in the community. A “just in time” social site is probably not required to find out about it. (I do like twitter for deals at restaurants etc.) Vetting is also true for conferences. In regards to non-analysis (i.e. lower risk) tools, people still don’t want to switch gears. Once you know what you got, you stick with it. If it is not broken, you don’t fix it. The last thing anyone wants is to unknowingly mess up a grid and/or analysis and lose man months of work. Plus, it is VERY embarrassing to mess something up and have your customer catch it. And, to put this in perspective, one man month is about $25K. And rest assured that if someone messes something up because they did not follow the process, and were not authorized to deviate from it, they are chewed out.

  8. Hi John,

    Here is an interesting thing. In the past I use of take for granted, or assumed, that aerodynamics and CFD were “professional” now I realize I’ve mentally created two categories, “professional” and “consumer”, to make life easier for me. For example, right or wrong, I’ve put KARALIT into the “consumer” category since they talk about being “meshless” but at the same time in the FAQ they state “For turbulent simulations, the immersed mesh option provided by KARALIT guarantees a highly accurate solution for solid walls while preserving the simplicity, accuracy and flexibility of the immersed boundary method.” Seems to me to be marketing fluff. How can a program be meshless but at the same time have a body fitted mesh immersed in a Cartesian grid? Anyway, just an example.

  9. John Chawner says:

    Hi Martin. You’ve written a lot to comment on. I know exactly what you mean about begin able to Google successfully for answers to a programming question while the results for an aerodynamics question or CFD question might be a bit more sparse. Granted, CFD is a fairly narrow specialty. But I do see academics more and more starting to post their work online and (hopefully) building up a resource we can all plunder. So why is this? I don’t think a lot of companies (which is where a lot of CFD expertise is) have converted to an online mode – it’s more the call for support, FAQ behind the firewall model. Before anyone says this is a problem of the commercial companies, recall that an OpenFOAM online documentation project was torpedoed by the holders of the OpenFOAM trademark because they considered it to be an unauthorized use of their trademark – their trademark on the name of an open source product.

    I am not certain where you’re going with the vetting idea as it pertains to sharing information online.

    Classifying CFD products as professional versus consumer is a really gray area and I’m not certain doing so on the basis of their marketing literature is a valid measure.

  10. Oh, I’m trying to answer the question for why do engineers (at least some of them) not want to use social media as others do. Professional engineers require complete technical data. One of my overall points is that engineering, for better or worse, is part of a design process. Some companies have very loose processes and others have very tight ones. As the project gets more costly, or risky in the sense of human interaction with the end product and reduction of margins, the design process, in general, becomes more complicated. Some engineers view social media as a means of finding out where to get reliable technical data or to get technical data such as specs (i.e. replace a handbook with social media). And it could work for that. But, as it stands now, another reliable way to do that is to call up the vendors, or others (professors, colleagues, etc.), and talk to them directly. Or read a handbook. You and I talked about this in the past. If someone with a license has a question they should call up, or email, the vendor rather than using an online social media such as cfd-online. IMO, and yours, that is the professional methodology. In regards to being “vetted”, the engineering process is heavily influenced by historical/legacy data. An engineer may want to change a process, design, or material, but, if the change does not have legacy backing, it is going to be a challenge to adopt it. That is what I’m referring to by being vetted.

  11. John Chawner says:

    I see your point now, Martin, and it’s one we’ve discussed before as you noted. As you note, not all information sharing is the same. There are questions you should probably only ask your vendors (e.g. I can’t make the software do something I need it to do) and other questions that might be better broadcast on social media (e.g. Do you agree with what so-and-so said during their presentation at AIAA Aerospace Sciences?). And you’ve pointed out before that a nice change would be open and updated vendor-specific forums for self-help on software or technology (i.e. CFD Online Forums, Stack Exchange).

  12. I can’t help but smile at the fact that we’re using social media to help understand the place of social media. Another benefit of social media!! 🙂

  13. Hi John and Martin,

    This is a very interesting discussion.
    What are your views on the effect of social media or as a means of connecting different technical departments within a company,a social and information portal,part of the intranet ?

    As a newcomer to the industry, I found that a comprehensive , well linked info system would be quite useful. I’d also like to be able to But there are of course, challenges in developing, establishing, maintaining and securing it.
    Could this be a potential tool in bringing about idea & resource pooling and inspired and enhanced teamwork ?

  14. John Chawner says:


    When I think of social media I think of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Therefore, I don’t see them as good tools for connecting difference technical departments within a company. There are other tools for that. For example, Pointwise maintains an internal wiki for sharing information of all types – technical and non-technical – and we’re all connected with an IM tool. Other companies use things like SharePoint. So if you want to call that social media, yes it works inside companies. But I don’t call it social media.

  15. Shreyas,

    I live in the middle of the Silicon Valley, and what John says is true even for the gorillas (Apple, Intel, Google, etc.) here. These companies, in general, do not use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. for their business communications and interactions. Companies use tools such as telephone, email, IM, Skype, Webex, VPNs, wikis, and screen sharing programs. There are also various document sharing programs, training tools, databases, and scheduling tools for internal, and to some degree, external use. Meetings and travel is a very big thing. Hours, and hours, and hours of it. Things are, in general, very structured. Could this be made more efficient? Definitely yes. Will it happen? Probably not. Well, nothing revolutionary or aggressive at least. Some companies here have a ton of money and the expertise so they could change things if they wanted to. But, conservatism is the name of the game. If it is not broken, don’t fix it. Again, it’s about the process. If someone messes up the process, profits fall, stocks sink, and bonuses are not given.

  16. Oh I forgot, Powerpoint slides. Lots of them. 🙂

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