I’m Simon Hubbard and This Is How I Mesh

Simon Hubbard, Lead CFD Process Engineer at Manor Racing.

Simon Hubbard, Lead CFD Process Engineer at Manor Racing.

I was born in Harrow in North London, which I don’t remember too much of as my parents moved to Leighton Buzzard (strangely linked to North London through its use as a pun name for the North London based pub rock band the Leyton Buzzards). Growing up I always liked cars and planes and figuring out how things worked. I raced 1/10th scale off-road RC cars (one of these, but from 1992) for a while, something I’m thinking about getting back into, whilst harbouring desires for an aero or helicopter equivalent (which I never quite had enough money for). My A-level physics project was to measure the deceleration of my RC car on surfaces with varying grip levels.

I carried on this theme studying Mechanical Engineering at Leeds for three years where I enjoyed the CFD course and did a final year project using CFX (version four, maybe…). I remember the pain involved in setting up a 2D model of the flow over a NACA airfoil and many afternoons spent fighting with boundary conditions.

My next stop took me to the then British Aerospace in Warton to work in the military aircraft and aerostructures department. I learnt a lot about real engineering but really wanted to be a bit closer to the physics. After a spell in the Future Projects Group characterising reusable launch vehicles for space applications (if you spend a little time researching the HOTOL space vehicle concept, you will see where the SABRE engine started), it was back to academia to look at wingtip trailing vortices at Imperial College using CFD.

My Ph.D. was a lot of fun and hard work. My focus was on computationally efficient methods. A lot of my simulations ran on a single core 1.6GHz chip accessing 512MB of RAM. Those were the days! I wrote a quasi-3D solver which was efficient as a result of being able to treat one of the space dimensions as being time-like so you could then march through space in this dimension in the same way as you do through time for unsteady simulations. Essentially, this makes the 3D problem a succession of 2D problems. The prerequisite are cases where you have a dominant flow in one of the spatial coordinate directions so that information can only flow in one direction. This makes the governing equations parabolic rather than elliptic. This work, combined with some details of turbulence modelling of vortices, and a look at vortex methods, made for a rewarding four years.

I spent three years as part of the CFD group at the BAR Honda and then Honda F1 team, which at the time was split into F1 folk and people doing external consultancy work. My main project was working on reducing drag for the British Olympics team in the development cycle for the Beijing Olympics. This was a great project as I got to do the CFD and then validate it in the wind tunnel and see the final designs tested at Manchester Velodrome (more on this later).

I did some further work on sportscars in the American LeMans series in the USA for the group that later went on to do the all-CFD Virgin F1 car. It still frustrates me how inaccurate much of the material in the media is on this subject. Next I went off to do something completely different for a while. I spent a year helping a local company develop their simulation and testing practices, lead their design group in the field of temperature controlled packaging, and then spent three years developing computational methods and tools for a piezoelectric inkjet manufacturer. I’d been tinkering with OpenFOAM for a while and it was here that I got to use and develop it, in anger, in the real world. This year I came back into F1 and am now helping Manor Racing with their OpenFOAM process.

  • Location: I live in Cranfield in Bedfordshire. It’s a nice village in the Home Counties countryside. I live on the other side of the airfield to the University. It’s nice to cycle through the campus and see some of the roads and buildings named after famous academics. I particularly enjoy going past Lanchester Hall, named after the English polymath who developed some of the first theories of lift and trailing vortex formation.
  • Current position: Lead CFD Process Engineer at Manor Racing
  • Current computer: Windows 7 laptop, Intel i7 2.6GHz, 16GB RAM and a Linux workstation (over VNC), Xeon, 32 cores, 512GB RAM
  • One word that best describes how you work: All-or-nothing

How do you know Pointwise?

I’ve known about Pointwise for a long time, but never had the chance to use the software. That’s mostly been due to the places I’ve worked, and it does maybe seem a little underrepresented in the UK. A lot of folk here seem to use ANSA from Beta CAE as a high end pre-processor. It’d be neat to have a go with Pointwise and see how it fares.

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

I’m worried that there aren’t enough people with good CFD domain competence to keep up with the rapid growth of CFD availability and reduction in cost effectiveness through cloud HPC. It’s a great tool that can add so much economic value across a range of applications and I wouldn’t want this to be limited by there not being enough people to support its proper use in industry – people who know which turbulence model to use, when to stop worrying about mesh dependency, etc. – and the potential not reached because of too many otherwise preventable mistakes and inappropriate use.

What are you currently working on?

Obviously, with the industry I’m in, I can’t say too much in detail here. I’m constantly trying to make the CFD process at Manor more efficient and accurate.

What project are you most proud of and why?

The cycling drag reduction project for UK Sport in the development cycle for the Beijing Olympics really stands out for me. From a technical perspective we made some innovative development to the CFD process to capture the effects of transition before specific transitional turbulence models were available. I was also involved in the whole development cycle. This involved performing the CFD, going to the wind tunnel, and then the velodrome, to see the design modifications we were making through each of the testing environments.

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

Nothing novel at the moment. I’m mostly looking at papers for turbulence model applications in OpenFOAM.

What software or tools do you use every day?

ANSA, OpenFOAM, ParaView. Text editors gedit and vi for scripting and OpenFOAM dictionaries. I do a little data analysis in Scilab and I spend a lot of my time in a bash terminal. And Google Chrome pretty much goes everywhere I do whether at home or work.

What does your workspace look like?

Simon's current workspace.

Simon’s current workspace.

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

I went to the ESI OpenFOAM conference in Cologne last month. It was great to see a presentation by Professor Spalding on the future of CFD. I was impressed with the diversity covering all relevant aspects from meshing to solving, as well as application and HPC performance. I’m hoping to go to the 12th OpenFOAM Workshop in Exeter next year.

What do you do outside the world of CFD?

I try to spend as much time as I can with my family. Sometimes that’s days out or events. And sometimes it’s just hanging out together doing something or nothing. I also like road cycling having spent much of my teenage years out in the countryside with friends and an OS map. This year I cycled from Land’s End to John o’Groats in 14 days. Bristol was very wet and Scotland was gorgeous.

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

It wasn’t so much direct advice, but I remain indebted to my Ph.D. supervisor who took me down the path of writing my own CFD code when a fair amount of Ph.Ds. were being done with commercial codes. Since then, I’ve always been an advocate of taking some time to understand exactly what the code is doing – it pretty much always pays off later on.

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

The Equinox restaurant at the top of the Raffles tower in Singapore. The food is great and the views are amazing.

About Travis Carrigan

A Pointwise engineer helping other engineers solve their meshing problems.
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