I’m Lucas Sanchez and This Is How I Mesh

I always thought this thing called CFD was exclusively for NASA and F1, things so far away from where I stand that they seemed unreachable. Yet here I am.

I’m from Murcia, a small region from the southeast of Spain with a climate similar to California but hotter and drier. I studied industrial engineering in university, a five-year degree with a strong focus on the theoretical bases underlying the main industrial fields: mechanics, electricity, thermal engineering, structures, and fluids. There I met Francisco Sanchez and Francisco Nicolas, my two colleagues who are brilliant in mathematics. While I finished my degree and went to study an MBA and work abroad (over the last five years I’ve lived in France, Greece, Mexico and Spain), they stayed at the university researching fluid dynamics for their PhDs.

A couple of years ago my colleagues saw that there was an underlying demand for numerical simulation in industries that no one was addressing. Lynx Simulations was born. From then on we have actively worked on a wide variety of applications ranging from solar trackers to combustion problems; although our main focus is on water treatment, as it is a very dynamic industry in the south-east of Spain, a region characterized for the lack of this resource. I joined my colleagues in September 2018 to help spread the image of Lynx Simulations and ensure a stable growth that allows us to progress and engage in more projects and more demanding applications.

We use open source software to provide competitive prices to industries that are not yet convinced of what CFD can do for them. The experience we have amassed within the OpenFOAM environment has provided us with a remarkable agility to adapt the code to the specific needs of each case. This expertise coupled with a solid engineering and mathematical foundation and we are able to address our clients’ needs.

This approach is not free of drawbacks however, and the learning curve can be very steep. Additionally, there are certain bottlenecks that are better solved using commercial software. That is why we got in touch with Pointwise on our quest to find a more efficient mesh generation software than the open-source alternatives.

  • Location: Murcia, Spain
  • Current position: Business Development at Lynx Simulations
  • Current computer: Hp Envy – Core i7 8th 1.8 GHz
  • One word that best describes how you work: Positive

How do you know Pointwise?

While looking for a meshing solution that is more efficient than the open source codes we use, Pointwise came up when we asked experts in the field.

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

Focusing on the business side, license cost and scalability are notable challenges for the spread of CFD. We are currently at a stage where technology still remains too expensive for SMEs to justify the initial investment outside the traditional fields where CFD is compulsory (aeronautics/automotive). Bear in mind that I speak from Spain where the investment in R&D is lower than in the U.S. In order for CFD to penetrate and diversify in markets and sectors outside the highly added value ones, the costs must decrease.

By costs I mean a triad composed of licensing costs, human resources, and computational costs.

  • License costs should be driven down. This will happen through competition. Even with a few dominant players in the market, there is currently a dynamic competition that produces high quality software.
  • Human resources remain too specialized. Currently, at least from our experience in Spain and Europe, you need a dedicated engineer with at least a master’s degree or a PhD working full time on simulation. Moreover, you need a deep understanding of the issue at stake to fully take advantage of CFD. This is a big limitation for SMEs that have limited investment resources in order to remain competitive by applying CFD.
  • Computational costs, not only for large simulations, but for small stuff related to simple design problems, still need a dedicated computer. By improving performance, the process will streamline over the next several years and ease-of-use will improve.

To address these limitations, my colleagues set up Lynx Simulations to provide an entry to CFD in fields where it is still a relatively nascent technology (e.g. water technology). We rely on open source software and our own work to drive down license and human costs. This allows us to offer a competitive price and to access clients that lack any previous experience with CFD or those are not fully convinced of its benefits. The downside is that open source software has a steep learning curve that makes it hard to find and retain qualified personnel. Also, certain aspects remain a bottleneck. We are looking at Pointwise as a possible solution to address the meshing process with the goal of engaging complex meshes and reducing mesh time. High-quality meshing is critical for the simulation and can be time consuming even for relatively simple tasks. Good meshing software directly impacts the time of delivery we estimate for our clients.

In regards to how the market will evolve, my predictions are that it will experience rapid growth due to the following reasons:

  • The inclusion of CFD within the CAD environment is going to increase the visibility of the CFD.
  • Solutions such as Azure, Amazon AWS, and cloud-enabled CFD providers will play a key role in making CFD simulations accessible to a wider audience by reducing simulation costs and/or implementing a friendly UX for non-expert users.
  • This will allow CFD to reach other potential markets, going from a research tool to a daily requirement for the design process.
  • Meanwhile, the market leaders will provide new and innovative simulation methods and functionalities at a steeper price.
  • Incorporation of CFD simulations in university courses at a larger scale will spread the knowledge of CFD and its application throughout the industry.

What are you currently working on?

We are currently working on simulating wind effects on solar trackers, dimensioning of a desalination plant and a biological reactor for a WWTP. My colleagues are also finishing their PhDs. They are almost there, but projects keep coming up. I am looking for new clients, promoting the business, and searching for new and interesting proposals to develop our knowledge and engage in more complex simulations.

What project are you most proud of and why?

I’m really proud of where we are now. We have created a highly technological business in a region that relies mainly on tourism and agriculture and are pushing a technology forward that will make our world a better place. It feels great to see how technology and communications allow knowledge to spread. We are living a wonderful time (2018 was not bad at all) where there are plenty of challenges that push us further and allow us to improve our understanding of nature itself. These things may seem irrelevant for engineers, the kind of things talked about in business courses, but at the end of the day when you are exhausted and things may not have gone the way you thought it would be, what makes you happy is the feeling that you are doing something meaningful.

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

Currently I don’t have much time as we are working full-time on ongoing projects, contracts proposals and promoting ourselves. That said, I cannot stop studying. As we are constantly dealing with projects that have a large component of R&D, I have to bring myself up-to-date with the state-of-the-art of what we are dealing with. It is part of my job to communicate with potential clients, to understand their needs, and offer them possible solutions that they may not know of because the technology hasn’t reached them yet.

What software or tools do you use every day?

Personally, I rely on Microsoft Office and Opera web browser for 99% of the stuff I do. I try to keep all my documents in the cloud so I can access them everywhere and from every device. Drive and OneDrive are my go-to for that.

My colleagues in the technical field use open source software for modelling and simulation. We use Salome for meshing, OpenFOAM, Code_Aster and Calculix as solvers, and ParaView for visualization. For other purposes we also frequently code in Octave.

What does your workspace look like?

My smartphone and laptop are my main tools, therefore I can easily work on the go. Mobility is an asset and we can remotely connect to our servers.

But most of the time we are in our office. Our main workspace is a small (180 square feet) where we have our servers, desks, and a couple of screens. Maybe there are too many computers. There are three of us now, so the setup fits us well for the time being. We constantly discuss the ongoing projects, the work we are doing, ideas, jokes, practically everything. We have good views of the bright blue sky and we recently printed a full sized poster with images of successful projects to decorate the walls and motivate ourselves. Frankly, it’s a great place because we get along so well.

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

I do! But they will be related to developing the business. Our current focus is on developing CFD for water technologies. Coming from the Mediterranean, especially a region where it barely rains, water is a scarce resource. My goal is to identify solutions in the industry that have margin to evolve and offer clients the possibility of applying CFD to improve those solutions.

What do you do outside the world of CFD?

I like hiking and climbing and try to spend my free time outside in nature. Also, I live three miles from the sea-side and the weather is always nice south of the Mediterranean. I have the privilege of a calm sea and beautiful beaches. Having lived abroad and seen some extraordinary landscapes, I’ve learned that the place that most resembles paradise is the one in which I grew up.

I’m an avid reader of all kinds of literature as well and easily find enjoyment reading any book I can find in Spanish, English and French. That’s become a problem when moving because I tend to buy and keep the books I read.

I’m also a motorcycle guy. I don’t have a car. While working towards my degree I built a couple of racing prototypes and now commute 60 miles every day with a 600cc bike no matter the weather.

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

I lived in Mexico City for a couple of years, a really awesome place to visit and to live with welcoming people and full of life. One place I miss the most is a small, gloomy, and greasy taco place near Zocalo, right in the heart of the city. Taqueria El Silencioso, on San Jeronimo street, is owned by a retired wrestler who makes really yummy tacos. Don’t expect it to be fancy, and if you are finicky then it probably won’t suit your taste. But, one always returns to those good old places where you loved life and keep invaluable memories of nights spent wandering around the neighborhood.

About Travis Carrigan

A Pointwise engineer helping other engineers solve their meshing problems.
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