This Week in CFD


  • The ASSESS Initiative‘s website is now live. Quoting from their website, ASSESS “is a broad reaching multi-industry initiative with a primary goal to facilitate a revolution of enablement that will vastly increase the availability and utility of engineering simulation, leading to significantly increased usage and business benefits across the full spectrum of industries, applications and users.”
  • ASSESS’ primary event is the ASSESS Congress, the 2017 edition of which will be held 01-03 Nov in Potomac, Maryland. (Invitation only.)

The Holovect is “the world’s first holographic desktop display” according to its Kickstarter page. Image from Holovect. [Will we someday be able to view more than one tet at a time? If you could, would you?]

[Not Fake] News

  • Monica Schnitger shares astute observations from ANSYS’ Q4 results including the following that I found notable.
    • The company has its sights set on doubling revenue from US$1 billion to US$2 billion.
    • During Q4, the company closed 7 deals worth more than US$10 million each.
    • M&A and flexible licensing options are two paths to their revenue goal.
  • 3D Systems experienced revenue growth in 2016 Q4 of 6% and is forecasting revenue growth of 2-8% for 2017. [My interest in 3D printing has a lot to do with the fact the process takes as input a mesh. And in at least one case, its output is a mesh too.]
  • Envenio summarizes’s survey on how engineers get information.
    • Vendor websites and digital publications are at the top of the list.
    • 40% report getting info from social media.
    • 80% will research online (i.e. Google) before contacting a company.

Hydrodynamic simulations have always fascinated me from the geometry standpoint: the combination of design (dam, spillway) and natural (riverbed, coastline) geometry. But the CFD simulations themselves are equally challenging with cool results. The simulation shown above was done by BC Hydro using FLOW-3D. The image comes from an article in CFD Review. [I think I’ve posted about this application before. Sorry for the duplication.]



Another cool CFD application done in FLOW-3D, this time for microfluidic particle sorting. Image from Flow Science. Click link for article and video. [This is where your tricorders are going to come from, Trekkies.]



Friendly reader Matt shared this gorgeous image of an SR-71 CFD simulation rendered using STAR-CCM+’s new ray tracing capability. Read more in Matt’s blog post. [I’m betting screen savers or desktop backgrounds made from this and similar images would be very popular.]

  • NASA has a Tumblr [not a surprise] and here they’re promoting 5 NASA software codes that can be freely downloaded and 3 of them are CFD [kinda surprising]: TetrUSS, KNIFE (part of FUN3D), and Cart3D.
  • Siemens PLM Software officially launched STAR-CCM+ v12.02.
  • Snas3D is a [new to me] structured, multi-block RANS solver.
  • CEI announced EnSight 10.2 for CFD post-processing. This updated of their software is said to have improved the quality and performance of visualizations.
  • Onshape shared 10 principles for improving user experience and the one that hit home for me was #10 Think about decisions, not options.
  • introduces us to cloud-based, thermal CFD startup Diabatix.

CFD simulation done on the SimScale platform comparing passive versus active ventilation. Image from SimScale.

Facets That Unite Us

It’s not often that my desire to see meshes and facets everywhere and my wife’s enjoyment of the textile arts intersects, but here we have it. What you see below is the Best in Show winner from QuiltCon 2017. Yes, that’s a quilt. As Australian quilter Katherine Jones says, she was inspired by a princess cut diamond to piece together cuts of solid colored fabric.


Katherine Jones, bling, 2017.

Bonus: Many terms in our industry get overused to the point of confusion. For example, I would make the case that “the cloud” and “democratization” are used so frequently and casually that they mean different things to different people. The same maybe true of “exascale” as pointed out in this commentary by the VP of IDC’s high performance computing group. Floating point computations may no longer be the king of HPC because of the varying demands of other applications that desire exascale (data mining, IoT, etc.). So we need to be clear in our communication and expectation of exascale systems, at least until (as the author points out) we hit the next major milestone, zettaflops. [Not to be confused with Catherine Zeta Jones’ performance in Playing for Keeps.]

Final Note: I wrote this while listening to electronic music described as a “cognition enhancer” and recommended to me by someone whose opinion I respect. Only you can decide, however, if it made this blog post any better than the previous ones.


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I’m Bruce Hilbert and This Is How I Mesh

Bruce Hilbert, Algorithms | Optimization Engineer, Branch Technology.

Bruce Hilbert, Algorithms | Optimization Engineer, Branch Technology.

My foray into CFD began in the fall semester of 2006.  Technically, I had been a Computational Engineering student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s SimCenter since the spring semester; but to that point I had only taken a couple of sophomore engineering courses (because I had a math background) and a linear algebra course I was all but qualified to teach (since I was already a mathematics professor at the community college up the road). So, Dr. Steve Karman’s Grid Generation course was my first “real” SimCenter course and I was woefully unprepared.  The course was heavy with programming assignments. I could compile “Hello World” and that was about it.  I distinctly remember needing to look up the syntax for a “for” loop while coding the first assignment.  But nine years and about 25,000 lines of code later, I managed to graduate with a Ph.D.

I was privileged to have a strong grid education under the tutelage of Steve Karman.  In many such engineering programs, gridding is an afterthought at best and a necessary evil at worst.  But Steve is a dedicated grid researcher who attracted lots of students, including me.  After his departure for Pointwise, it has fallen to me to mentor the remaining grid research students at the SimCenter, including Kristen Karman Shoemake, Steve’s daughter and former Pointwise intern.

But my real job nowadays is the Algorithms Engineer for Branch Technology, a large-scale 3D printing company.  By “large-scale” I mean we 3D print large objects for construction and art.  The objects in question are, in fact, nothing more than meshes which is where I come in.  As a consultant and now as a full-time employee, my job at Branch has been to develop algorithms that take meshes and turn them into code for our unique extrusion process.

Pointwise plays a critical role in this process.  All our creations start as a mesh in Pointwise.  The meshes are output and processed by custom code that I and our co-founder have written to create path motions for the robots that perform the extrusion.  In many ways, it’s much like the CFD process of mesh creation to solver, only our solver is a two-ton robot.

Location: Chattanooga, TN

Current position: Algorithms | Optimization Engineer, Branch Technology

Current computer:  MacBook Pro, 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7, 16GB Ram

One word that best describes how you work: Purposefully

What software or tools do you use every day?

Pointwise, of course.  The wall and furniture won’t grid themselves.  Besides that, I spend a lot of time coding in Visual Studio as well as in a plugin for Rhino called Grasshopper.  These are the tools we use to control the robot.

What does your workspace look like?


Branch is a startup so we have furniture scrounged from all over.  My desk was broken and headed for the dumpster before we found it.

What would you say is your meshing specialty?

The obvious answer is tetrahedral meshing since that was my dissertation topic.  However, what I do well is getting a good mesh for whatever application is in front of me by whatever means necessary.  That often means hacking together the capabilities of several pieces of software (Pointwise, SolidWorks, in-house codes, etc.) to get what is needed right now.  That was true during my time at the SimCenter and is true now that I’m at Branch…only now I’m the one who wrote some of the codes I’m hacking together.

What are you currently working on?

Right now we are concentrating on small projects like furniture, so I’m putting a lot of meshes on tables created by our designer.  Also, we are starting an overhaul of our algorithms and processes so I’m spending a lot of time writing code.

What projects are you most proud of and why?

At Branch Technology, I’m very proud of the work we’ve done to translate structured meshes into actual objects.  This work has taken a lot of thought and coding.  From my last job at the SimCenter, I’m probably most proud of the work we did analyzing drag-reduction devices on transfer trucks.  It’s very easy to point out side-skirts and base-flaps while passing a big rig and say “I helped analyze those things.”

Any tips for our users?

At the SimCenter, there were several things I always hammered into students about Pointwise.  First, save early and save often.  Lots of work is being put into a mesh so don’t let a power outage or a glitch in Pointwise set you back hours.  Second, the layer manager is your friend.  Too many times I’ve seen people just put everything in the first layer which quickly becomes cumbersome.  Finally, make sure the tolerances and model size are set properly at the beginning of your process.  I’ve been bitten by not doing that several times.

What CFD solver and postprocessor do you use most often?

None right now.  But in my SimCenter days we had our own in-house solvers and did most of our postprocessing in FieldView.  I did some postprocessing of my mesh work in ParaView for my dissertation.

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

Yes. Over the past year I’ve been investigating possible methods to build unstructured grids with our robots.  The most promising method so far is one my boss found in a paper entitled FrameFab: Robotic Fabrication of Frame Shapes by Huang et al. (Full citation here.)  It presents some very good ideas about how to fabricate any unstructured mesh and even cites our website.

What do you do when you’re not generating meshes?

I am a blessed man with a full life.  That is another way of saying I have a lot on my plate.  Outside of work, I have a wife and two school-age children.  I am also a deacon at our church.  Finally, I have a very active game group full of life-long friends that meets about every other week.

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

Nothing overly technical, but I will be attending a local design conference sponsored by one of our plastics suppliers, TechmerPM, called SHYFT.  Last year, SHYFT featured Jay Roger of Local Motors fame.  This year my boss, Platt Boyd, is one the invited speakers.

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

I was privileged to be educated by some great CFD engineers, not the least of which is the aforementioned Dr. Steve Karman.  Steve would always tell us “You cannot solve what you do not resolve.”  Another great piece of advice that sticks with me came from Dr. Timothy Swafford. Swaff would say, “There’s nothing more dangerous than answers that look about right.”  True in CFD, true in life.

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

That’s a hard question for two reasons.  One, I’m not very picky and not much of a foodie so my advice is suspect.  Two, there are so many good restaurants in Chattanooga that it can be a little overwhelming.  Putting aside even the high-end chains likes Ruth’s Chris, which I love, we have lots of quality restaurants like St. John’s, 212 Market, and Public House.  Even so, I would probably choose something like Champy’s, a fantastic local fried chicken joint, or the Bluegrass Grill which has awesome breakfast.

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The Connector Newsletter for 2017 Q1

The 2017 1st quarter issue of our The Connector newsletter is now available on our website at This issue features articles on


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This Week in CFD

Applications and Events

  • CFD investigation of the flowfield in a swimmer’s wake. (Registration required.)
  • The 2nd OpenFOAM French Users Meeting will be held on 21-22 March 2017 at the ISAT Engineering School. [Please pardon any factual errors due to my poor translation of the French language.]
  • Boom Technology is using CFD as part of their effort to bring back supersonic transoceanic air travel.
  • Keynote speakers from Boeing, Porsche, and more were announced for this summer’s NAFEMS World Congress.
  • The Call for Papers is now open for this September’s International Meshing Roundtable in Barcelona. Full papers are due 30 May.

Increased combustion accuracy is coming in STAR-CCM+ v12.02. Be certain to watch the video at the link. Also read the article because if a kid thinks it’s real fire, it’s real fire. [Just like if a kid says you’re fat, you’re fat.] Image from Siemens PLM.


  • Tecplot’s SZL server, available in Tecplot 360 2017, provides remote data access via a client-server architecture. Learn more from the video at the link.
  • Pointwise’s Glyph server, recently released as part of Pointwise V18.0 R2, provides the ability to use virtually any scripting language (e.g. Python, Perl) to execute Glyph commands via a client-server architecture. There’s a Glyph server webcast scheduled for 22 February.

Reduce fuel consumption by 11% using plasma? Read all about it from Symscape.

News and More News

  • Jacobs in Hunstville seeks to hire a CFD engineer.
  • Inside HPC shares this video and slide deck on the topic of exascale computing using Fortran. [I recall 30 years ago being told that while we didn’t know what programming languages would look like 30 years in the future, we did know that they’d be called Fortran.]
  • Digital Engineering’s article on Engineering the Software User Experience is a worthy read. In it they discuss four UI themes which I quote directly here:
    • make the model the menu;
    • reduce the initial barriers to entry;
    • progressive disclosure; and
    • customization is always an option.
  • NVIDIA reported revenue of US$2.17 billion in the calendar quarter ending January 2017. Statements in the article about their financial performance indicates in AI and related applications. Nothing about CFD or CAE.
    • But there is something about CFD in DEVELOP3D’s article about NVIDIA’s new double precision Quadro GP100.
  • Envenio interviewed Resolved Analytics’ Stewart Bible about CFD, cloud computing, optimization, and more.
  • [I only recently discovered] CrunchYard, a cloud service provider targeting CFD.

“Computational modeling will become a very important part of the personalization of medicine.” Hear this and more in a fascinating look at Dassault Systemes’ Living Heart Project. Image from Dassault Systems. 



In what probably should be my CFD application of the week, this screen shot is from a McDonald’s video showing their use of CFD to design the STRAW, an advanced straw for suctioning up their new chocolate shamrock shake. As first seen on Engadget. One month later and I would’ve chalked this up as April Fools fodder. At least they’re not taking themselves too seriously.

More Reticulation

Painter Kyle Sorenson focuses on “representing urban and metropolitan spaces through various forms of geometric abstraction.” The painting shown below caught my eye because it has been painted on birch wood creating just enough tension between the organic and inorganic.


Kyle Sorenson, Reticulation, 2013. Image from artist’s website. See link above.

Bonus: We talk a lot about topology in mesh generation. So I found the video Who (else) cares about topology? quite interesting. You may too. However, this clock composed of a triangular array of 15 circles is beyond my comprehension.

P.S. No This Week in CFD next week because it’s time to visit the mouse again.

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Survey Results: Best 3-D Pan, Zoom, & Rotate

We asked “Which software product has the most intuitive 3-D pan, zoom, and rotate tools, in your opinion.?” The results are in and you like SOLIDWORKS the best.


This highly unscientific poll (can you say “sample bias”?) yielded some interesting commentary too.

  • The best is “whatever I am used to.” This respondent must be a very practical person. And they also help prove the adage “Only a poor musician blames his instrument.”
  • 3D Connexion.” This wise user knows that a two-handed approach to 3-D software often works the best: traditional mouse for clicking in the GUI and a 3-D mouse from 3D Connexion for all the panning, zooming, and rotating of the 3-D model. This user probably also knows that Pointwise has supported 3D Connexions’ products for many years (see our supported hardware web page).
  • Make it configurable.” I agree, but this will be a case of do what I say not what I do. We hope to eventually make the 3-D controls fully user-configurable, but for now you have a handful of preference settings for mouse and keyboard controls.
  • Rotate.” I’m sorry, Sir, but this was not a popularity contest. (But I too probably would’ve chosen rotate over pan and zoom as my favorite.)
  • Minecraft.” I suppose I could log all my gaming time to “research.”
  • I think the default in Pointwise is pretty terrible.” And this, Madam, is why we ran the survey.

Thank you to everyone who responded.

Would you like to try the meshing software that tied for 2nd place for most intuitive pan, zoom, and rotate tools? Start your no-obligation evaluation of Pointwise today.



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This Week in CFD


  • There are some very cool charting and graphing features coming in STAR-CCM+ v12. What they call Chart Highlighting includes hover effects, leader lines, multi-series editing, and more.
  • Tecplot’s SZL technology (for smaller files and faster performance) has been integrated into NASA’s FUN3D solver.
  • Esteco launched Volta, their enterprise product for access, sharing and reuse of simulation data in a multi-disciplinary environment.
  • I just recently learned about Aither CFD, an open source, multi-block, structured grid RANS solver.

Column gas density from the “world’s highest resolution [10,048**3] simulation of turbulence ever done.” Image Federrath et al. Click here for paper.



Screen capture of a video on RealFlow’s website showing an example of their fluid simulation work – in this case a TV ad for Disney’s World of Color show. See link below. [Was there any doubt this is the example I’d use here?]


  • TFAWS 2017 (Thermal & Fluids Analysis Workshop) will be held 21-25 August in Hunstville.
  • The 3rd Gmsh Workshop will be held 29-31 March in Lanzarote. [Being a geography-challenged American I had to research Lanzarote to discover it’s the eastern-most Canary Island and is nicknamed the “island of eternal spring.”]
  • Website for the 12th OpenFOAM Workshop is now up.
  • A video of Dr. Peter Vincent’s presentation, Toward the Industrial Adoption of GPU Accelerated CFD, from last year’s GPU Technology Conference is now online. [Full disclosure: Pointwise is mentioned.]

Screen capture from a video discussing the application of CFD to surfboard design. Read the article (which links to video).



Thermal simulation of an integrated circuit die. Image from Mentor Graphics. See link above.

A CFDer’s Artist

Art doesn’t get more directly applicable to CFD than this. Mark J. Stock’s work “explores the tension between the natural world and its simulated counterpart.”

In particular, his video work entitled Smoke Fire Water (see image and link below) hits very close to home for me. In the artist’s own words: “Virtual fluids are nothing of the sort. To define a virtual fluid in 0s and 1s requires an underlying data structure (as does defining anything digitally). When stripped of all normal visual context, a fluid reveals this (computational) structure. These are the building blocks upon which virtual simulations of reality are based.”

I highly recommend you explore the artist’s website.


Mark J. Stock, Smoke Water Fire, 2008. This is a screen capture of the video. MUST WATCH.

Bonus: The photo below is neither a simulation nor an experiment. Fluid Porcelain is just what it sounds like: a porcelain bowl designed and produced by Aylin Bilgic [sorry about the lack of diacriticals] to have the appearance of a fluid. I can’t imagine this being shipped to a buyer and arriving in one piece but if any one of you decides to make a purchase, send me a photo when you receive it.


Fluid Porcelain by Aylin Bilgic. Image from Behance. See link above.

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Pointwise User Group Meeting Showcases Pointwise V18

From the 2016 Q4 issue of The Connector:

badge-ugm-125x125Attendees at the Pointwise User Group Meeting 2016 were the first people to get hands-on training with the new Pointwise V18. In addition, they saw technical presentations on applications, scripting, higher-order meshing and future development plans. (more)

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