This Week in CFD

Engineering + Art = Education

For you readers who are in academia, I recommend this article titled Solid Edge Used to Combine Art and Engineering at Utah State. It describes a collaborative freshmen-level project in which art students design something (aquatic in this case) in 3D, engineering students translate those drawings to CAD, and the object is then printed in 3D.

Not only do the two sets of students (who would be unlikely to cross paths otherwise) get to interact, but they build (literally and figuratively) off each others strengths and weaknesses and develop and appreciation for how the other half lives. The 3D printing grounds the project in reality by creating something tangible from sketches and computer screens.

From sketch (by Kristan Salinas) to CAD (by Sam Palmer) to 3D printing (at Utah State). Image compiled from images at the On The Edge blog.

From sketch (by Kristan Salinas) to CAD (by Sam Palmer) to 3D printing (at Utah State). Image compiled from images at the On The Edge blog.

This approach might not be new to you but it’s new to me and I endorse it wholeheartedly. And to do this at the freshman level is a great kickoff for the rest of the students’ academic careers. Of course, there are myriad ways to implement this – I’ve seen senior design courses where advertising or marketing students are brought in to try to “sell” what the engineers have created.

How could you add CFD to this?

News in Brief

  • Gompute has four OpenFOAM training courses scheduled for 2013.
    • Introduction, 5-6 February, Munich
    • Advanced, 25-26 February, London
    • Introduction, 23-24 April, Gothenburg
    • Advanced, 23-24 April, Gothenburg
  • Take a look back at last year’s high performance computing with the HPC Yearbook 2012.
  • CFD Letters is “the first short communications publication devoted exclusively to computational fluid dynamics.”
  • Here’s Autodesk’s annual holiday video. This time it’s CFD inside a snowglobe.
CFD inside a snow globe form Autodesk.

CFD inside a snow globe form Autodesk.

Democracy and CFD

I know what democracy is (government of  a state by the entire population or eligible members of that state) and I know what CFD is (colorful fluid dynamics). But what does it mean when you put the two together?

The term “democratization” has been coupled with CAE and CFD and has appeared with increasing frequency in various media. My most recent encounter was in the article Democracy and CAE at GKN Driveline from SAE’s Aerospace Engineering Online. The article describes how GKN Driveline has made various CAE applications available to “non-specialist engineers” across their enterprise.

Schematic of GKN Driveline's workflow for giving non-specialist engineers access to CAE. Image from SAE Aerospace Engineering.

Schematic of GKN Driveline’s workflow for giving non-specialist engineers access to CAE. Image from SAE Aerospace Engineering.

Through the use of standardized parts, templates, and pre-populated spreadsheet interfaces GKN Driveline has been able to “hide the complexity of simulation tools” to quote CIMdata’s Keith Meintjes.

Oh. Is democratization just a new buzzword for that? That’s nothing new. In the mesh generation world I recall work from the mid to late 1990s by Rocketdyne in which they used components of their general purpose in-house mesher to create an automated mesher for rocket nozzles. Narrowing the scope of an application has always been key to automation. That’s a major reason we added a scripting language, Glyph, to our mesh generation software – so that you could build templates that automate meshing for specific classes of geometry.

The UI of a Glyph script for Pointwise that automates meshing of jet engine nozzles. From the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of The Connector.

The UI of a Glyph script that automates meshing of jet engine nozzles. From the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of The Connector.

As for the use of “centralized computer servers,” we used to call that “time sharing” back in the 1980s.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not mocking the value of “democratization” or, more plainly, making CFD easier to use by non-specialists. I’m just wondering if we needed another word for it. After all, isn’t that one of the things that we’re supposed to be doing? Besides advancing the state of the art, we’re supposed to be creating useful tools.

Reducing the complexity of engineering tools is a good thing. However, that doesn’t make the tool or the physics behind it any less complicated. Engineers, specialists or not, must have an understanding of and appreciation for the computed results.

Learn, Explore, and Mingle with Pointwise at AIAA Aerospace Sciences


If you’ll be attending the AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting the week after next in Grapevine, Texas (just north of DFW airport) be sure to visit Pointwise in the exhibit hall, our launch pad for several events.

  • Learn: You can learn all about our Glyph scripting language in a no-cost seminar on Sunday 6 January (pre-registration required).
  • Explore: On Wednesday the 9th you can participate in brief, 30 minute demos, of the latest and greatest in our Pointwise meshing software.
  • Mingle: Also on Wednesday the 9th, join us for something to drink and eat at our reception.

For all the details, see our Pointwise at ASM web page.

Bubbles or Planets?

Is this a newly discovered exo-planet capable of supporting human life? Or a high resolution photograph of a soap bubble by Jason Tozer?

Planet or soap bubble?

Planet or soap bubble?

[Update 29 Dec 2012] It has been brought to my attention that the URL for CFD Letters ( goes to a porn site when viewed on a mobile device. I shared that information with the CFD Letters people via Twitter to see if they can correct it. I also removed the link from the post. My apologies to anyone who encountered this problem.

This entry was posted in Events, Hardware, News, Software and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to This Week in CFD

  1. Hi John,
    Great post, as always !
    The articles in the HPC yearbook 2012, were extremely interesting and informative.
    Especially in CFD and in the organisations with smaller teams; I think that understanding which kind of specification/computer will serve you, and the software you use best, is very important. An example would be, the huge benefits of a dual socket configuration over a single socket, for simulations.

    I was wondering if you had an idea about how many CFD packages today can use the GPU to solve, out of the box ? I do know that ANSYS CFX doesnt have this capability, as of now.

    I’d also like to know whether Pointwise’s meshing tools are designed to use multiple cores, and if so, when does this happen ?

  2. John Chawner says:

    Hi Shreyas. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Unfortunately, I don’t know which CFD codes use GPUs. We experimented with them about a year ago and decided that they weren’t worth the trouble. As for multi-core, Pointwise is multi-core now but in a limited fashion. At a minimum the GUI and core run in two threads. Certain commands such a Examine will also utilize multiple cores. We just need to implement that technology (we use Intel’s Threading Building Blocks, TBB) in other parts of the code.

Leave a Reply