CFD doesn’t mean Color For Directors

Technology for technology sake doesn’t make sense in this economy. So to help you gather ROI information for your management team, my blog will focus on the business side of simulation. I’ll share how design engineers using CFD have improved product functionality across a wide range of industries and applications while shortening their time to market cost-effectively. And to add a bit of spice, I’ll feature “state of the union” interviews with industry pundits on a regular basis.

16 September, 2014

In my job I need to exercise a fair bit of creativity. Sometimes my ideas are readily picked up. Some require a lot of massaging and some never see the light of day… I used to take criticism of my ideas personally but not since hanging out with engineers. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from you guys is that there’s no such thing as failure – only outcomes. As Thomas Edison famously said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If a design fails to meet specifications it isn’t a failure. It’s an iteration and provides you with useful information.

Keeping this statement in mind is particularly helpful when you’re setting up models for analysis. One of the most complicated tasks related to CFD is meshing. Some consider it a black art that takes years to master. A mesh needs to be fine enough to provide you with an accurate result but the finer the mesh the longer the solution might take. So experience definitely counts because you’ll need to play with the mesh until you’ve achieved the right balance … a mesh nirvana of sorts. I remember back in the early 00’s meeting an analyst who would spend a couple of months refining the mesh on jet engines he was testing. Iteration after iteration … refining the mesh. And the more time you spend on meshing the longer you spend on analyzing the design (something that would slow down the entire This is a cost you pay for using traditional CFD software. No wonder some design engineers shy away from using CFD but I’ve got news for you.  The new generation of CFD solutions such as FloEFD, feature the latest in technology so you can reach mesh nirvana quickly :-)

Let me introduce you to the Visual Instruments Operations Division at Seiko Epson Corporation in Toyoshina Japan. The group is involved in designing projectors. Projectors are a necessary bit of kit for every conference room. If you’re like me you don’t really notice them until you realize that you have to make a presentation and the projector is missing, it’s not working or the fan inside it whines so loudly that as a presenter you start yelling at the top of your lungs. Not a fun experience for either party in the room!

Cooling airflow verification inside of the whole enclosure. Image courtesy of Seiko Epson Corporation. All rights reserved.

Cooling airflow verification inside of the whole enclosure. Image courtesy of Seiko Epson Corporation. All rights reserved.

Their analyst team started using thermal simulation back in the 90s. And in 2009, the organization adopted FloEFD to help enable design engineers analyze their own designs (as opposed to wait for the analysts) and speed up productivity. I found it interesting to read about their adoption of CFD during the early stages of the design process and how they optimized the design of their projectors while accounting for factors such as heat sources, noise and even humidity. It was fascinating to read that among their requirements for selecting CFD software for use by design engineers was that all members of the team had to be able to use it with ease of meshing being a top criteria. So by using FloEFD, their design engineers can now modify designs as they are developed. Fantastic! To read about Seiko Epson and their experience with upfront CFD please follow this link.

Pretty cool, no?

And as projectors go, the one in our conference room drives me batty. If only someone could figure out how to make all of our laptops work with it without having to revert to black magic and incantations, our meetings would actually start on time :-) Or maybe I’ll go have a chat with the IT group and see if we can get one of these beautiful Seiko Epson projectors… hmmm I feel a plan hatching!

Until next time,

PS. Thought I’d tell you guys about this brilliant initiative by Google and IEEE – The Little Box Challenge and its $1M prize! All you have to do is design a smaller power inverter (they’re looking for a reduction in size of 10x or greater). If anyone can do this, it’s you guys! And if you need a bit of help on the testing side get in touch with us. You’ve got until the end of Sept 2014 to register and it and runs through 2015. I look forward to reading about your efforts and drop me a line if you enter the contest!!! I’ll be cheering for you from the sidelines :-D

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26 August, 2014

I moved to England 10 years ago – actually it’ll be 10 years come September 1st. During this time I have seen rain, rain and even more rain. I’ve even lived through some tepid winters and downright cold summers.  In fact, I’ve adopted an endearing habit of the English and have become obsessed with the weather. Take last year for example. We had some nice weather in April (chilly but with warm sun so it was actually quite pleasant), a handful of days of proper summer weather in June, July and August. If you totaled up all the days it was something like 30 days.  And I remember turning on the heat in early September because summer left these shores well before the autumnal equinox.  That was pretty much the extent of our summer.

This March we had some lovely warm sunshine so I thought that was it and spent as much time as I could outdoors. Then April happened to be nice too. And low and behold the nice weather stayed with us in June, July and August. This is the first summer since 2006 where I actually got an English tan and remained tanned – when I went to LA a couple of weeks ago I wasn’t the palest person in the room for a change.  Of course the downside of heat in a country where it doesn’t get hot often is lack of air conditioning. Some office buildings and stores are kitted with AC but a majority of buildings including my office are not (the same kind of situation you find in San Francisco). Quite frankly we don’t need it 95% of the time and I prefer fresh to canned air any day (your skin doesn’t dry up like a lizard’s nor do you feel compelled to wear a fleece and fingerless gloves in 90 degree weather because the AC has two settings – freeze or deep freeze).  But during that 5% …

A simplified model of the hallway and my office. All rights reserved - Mentor Graphics Inc.

A simplified model of the hallway and my office. That’s me in the corner :- All rights reserved – Mentor Graphics Inc.

Working in the airflow biz, I’ve learned a few tricks over the years. Now when it gets really hot, I turn up the AC in the conference room at the end of the hallway, place a fan just inside the doorway to push the air down the hallway and the offices down on our end get to enjoy lovely cool air. That is until someone books the conference room and shuts our supply.

A colleague who’d never seen my set-up before was rather intrigued by it on the first hot day of summer. He walked into my office with a rather bemused look on his face and told me that the airflow wasn’t optimized. He adjusted the fan before returning to his end of the building (which is air conditioned). The next day he came in bearing gifts. He’d built a rough model of my set-up including me and my office and analyzed it so he could give me additional tips/tricks to improve the airflow. BTW that’s me in the corner being hot (and no this isn’t the prettiest CFD plot but it communicates what it needs to easily and without any fuss). Fantastic! He suggested a two fan model – a second fan down the hallway just inside my office door to push the cool air into my office. As soon as we deployed his suggestion my office became noticeably cooler. One happy customer right here :-)

This type of conversation probably takes place on a daily basis around the world. No, not the turn up the AC and put in a couple of fans down the hallway but the use of CFD to optimize hot and cold airflow in buildings. By using CFD architects and facilities managers can easily optimize airflow in structures of all kinds without much fuss or ceremony and without having to subject the occupants to unnecessary discomfort. And in case you’re wondering, we have a vast amount of educational material that can be very helpful if you’re trying to solve an airflow problem or two. Just follow this link to our resource library and have a good look.

Oh and I’m very pleased to say that my office has since been kitted with a lovely AC unit which keeps me nice and comfy but I’ve hardly used it since installation. It seems our summer has come to an abrupt end because we’re expecting the temperature to drop drastically in a couple of days (yup, it’s still August!). But I’m not going to complain. We’ve had a lovely summer.
Until next time,

PS. And to prove it’s been a nice summer here’s a picture I took in mid-May while out on a walk near Derby

A sunny afternoon near Derby. All rights reserved.

A lovely late spring walk near Derby.


15 August, 2014

I’m a keen walker and hiker. I prefer 10-15 mile excursions – anything short of 8 miles is hardly worth getting out of bed for and anything over 15 miles can be challenging (especially if there are lots of hills involved). Last month a friend of mine cajoled me into signing up for a charity walking marathon. The 26.2-mile walk starts at 9 pm in London and continues until the morning (here’s a route map if you’re interested). I’ve done 30-mile walks but over the course of two days so training for this walk has been interesting to say the least. After a 15-mile practice walk three weeks ago I realized that my hiking boots were not up to the task – they’re heavy and the pounding on concrete proved extremely painful. So I started looking for a pair of shoes that offered greater cushioning.

I popped into a store specializing in walking/running shoes while I was in LA last week and the friendly chap insisted on analyzing my walking style to find the optimum shoe. After walking and standing on a pressure pad of sorts, I received a detailed explanation of my walking style — apparently I’m a neutral walker who puts a lot of pressure on the heels. I could have told him that but the use of the equipment seemed to make him happy and the graphics looked cool so I went along with it (I wish I’d taken a picture of the plot). He picked out my ideal combination of shoe inserts and two pairs of shoes – one was a rather loud combination of metallic blue and green while the other was an 80’s inspired neon pink and orange set. Not being shy about sporting loud colors, I power-walked around the shop for a good 10 minutes in both pairs (dodging around people in the shop was a good simulation of what I’ll be going through during the actual event). I couldn’t decide which one I liked best so the salesman told me that if I were to join their membership club I could take my preferred set home and wear them for 30 days. If for any reason I didn’t like them then I could bring them back during that period and they’d fit me with another pair. I signed on the dotted line and promptly carried my metallic blue shoes away (they should come with a free pair of sunglasses ;-)). I wore my shoes for a few days around town and I’m happy to report that I didn’t need the 30-day guarantee but it was good to have that safety net.

I really like the try before you buy concept. I especially like it when buying high ticket items. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that when buying a new car or a new house? Ok I know you can do a test drive but it usually consists of 20 minutes of tootling around city streets while the dealer is talking about the virtues of the car. Or even worse, how will you know whether you’re moving to a new place with a neighbor who is not very neighborly? Unfortunately no one offers those options. But thankfully you have that option when looking for a new CFD solution! Our innovative Virtual Labs enable engineers to try our software at no cost and without having to download anything. You simply try the software of your choice on the cloud quickly – BTW the speed/performance is pretty impressive if I may say so myself but I’m rather biased. To learn more about our CAD-embedded general purpose CFD FloEFD for Creo Virtual Lab please follow this link. And to learn more about our Flowmaster thermo-fluid simulation Virtual Lab please follow this link.

So there you have it. Try before you buy CFD without having to download anything or joining any clubs. Now if only we could find something like this from hardware companies we’d be golden!
Until next time,

23 July, 2014

I went out to a dinner party this past Saturday. I sat next to an ex-colleague who I now consider among my dearest friends. I met him five jobs ago – a while back we decided that it was kinder to our psyche to talk about jobs as opposed to the number of years. He is a brilliant engineer and has many years of simulation software use under his belt. He leads a team of several junior engineers who work on projects so nowadays he doesn’t get to play with software as much. But a recent project had brought one of the junior engineers to his knees so my friend was only too happy to roll-up his sleeves and get his hands dirty (so to speak). And before you say it, yes, we do talk about other things but invariably at one point or another we end up chatting about all things simulation.

Anyway, he started explaining the problem to me. I won’t go into the details but he was talking about the difficulty in meshing the model. I sat there quietly as he told me about how he fixed the mesh to get the project back on schedule. After about 15 minutes of listening, I couldn’t contain myself anymore so I blurted out why aren’t you using the automatic mesher? Our software can handle that problem without requiring all these steps. I finished that statement and pretty much everyone sitting at the table physically ducked – prepared for the verbal onslaught. You see, mentioning brand names is a no-no because a few of my friends are from the industry and use competing products. So brand name discussions can become rather heated philosophical type discussions similar to the goodness of apple pie and the flag… Thankfully he was in a good mood so he responded with a rather amused giggle and I took that as a cue to change the subject.

The evening progressed and we were several topics removed from our discussion but I still couldn’t shake the thought. Yes this is a competitive market but surely no one can be expected to deal with technology that is too difficult to use. I know meshing is a black art. But it seems that there’s this belief “in order for us to solve complex engineering problems we need difficult to use software otherwise it won’t be good enough” is so ingrained in the collective psyche that it has become a rule. The longer we believe it, the more it weaves itself into the fabric of our belief system and the more we guard it. And once something becomes a belief or habit, it’s very hard to change it… well for me it does.

Simulation results on an LED with FloEFD for Creo.

Simulation results on an LED with FloEFD for Creo created with Virtual Lab.

A few years back we published a whitepaper called the 5 Myths of CFD specifically to address these types of beliefs. During the past six years of invalidating those myths we have discovered a few more! If you’re interested in reading about those newly discovered myths, then I’d like to encourage you to download and read the 10 Myths of Computational Fluid Dynamics  And if you’d like to debunk some of those myths for yourself then give FloEFD on the cloud a try. We call it the Virtual Lab and it lets you try FloEFD for Creo for free (just follow this link for more information).   You don’t need to download anything. All you need is an open mind, your myth busting hat and a desire to see what the excitement about CAD-centric CFD is all about.
Until next time,

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26 June, 2014

Recently a couple of my friends came to England to do a grand tour of the island. We arranged to meet half-way through their three week journey. The plan was simple. I would take the train from London to Norwich where they’d pick me up and we’d drive 181 miles north to York for the weekend. By we I mean Alan was going to drive while Susan and I were going for a ride. A perfect opportunity to catch up on three years worth of gossip.

After a very enthusiastic greeting at the train station, we made our way to the parking structure where they’d left the car. Now I am always conscious of having visitors from the States around and tend to walk on the outside so I can yank back those who look the “wrong” way when attempting to cross roads. After our 10 minute walk I was overjoyed at not having to rescue anyone … after all they’d been traveling around England for a few days by then and used to looking the other way. I nested among the luggage in the back and started catching up with my friends.

Then the real fun started.

We stopped at a red light where the SATNAV instructed us to make a left-hand turn. Alan proceeded to make his left turn accompanied by a rather loud and surprisingly shrill Noooooooo from yours truly. In case you haven’t driven in England, it is illegal to make a left-hand turn on red (in the States you are allowed to make a right turn on red only when it’s safe to do so and if there are no signs forbidding you). Thankfully there was no one around except for one woman who as she drove by gave Alan the dirtiest look ever (and it was richly deserved).  Apparently they’d been doing that for days. Yikes… I wonder how many traffic cameras have tagged them in the process.

Strictly as a measure of self-preservation, I moved to the center seat, barricaded myself on both sides by bags and became a back-seat road rules interpreter for Alan. This sign means the other car has priority over us while using this stretch of the road so you need to wait HERE. Unless otherwise posted, if there are streetlamps around in a city/town/village, the speed limit is 30 so we really should slow down a bit… You get the picture. Let’s just say my blood-pressure dropped back to double digits only after we reached York and left the car in the parking lot for the remainder of the weekend.

Fast forward to this week. There seems to be a veritable cornucopia of articles about self-driving vehicles in the news. For example, I just read an article about how driver-less vehicles are gaining popularity even off-road!  The article had a great snippet about how the State of Michigan requires that while testing these vehicles on public roads a human needs to be in the driver’s seat at all times in case something goes wrong.

Now, our company provides a wide range of technology that helps engineers make amazing progress towards making driver-less cars a reality. I think I recently read that electronics account for 40% of traditional car production costs (I also seem to remember that percentage increases to 65-70% for electric cars). That’s a lot of electronic components. So from thermal characterization to thermal simulation we’ve got the right enabling technology to help engineers design these next gen electronics.

It’s all fantastic.

But when I hear about driver-less vehicles I get a bit sad. I’m not against progress but I’m a motorhead and I love driving. I smile from ear to ear as I drive on some of these winding English country roads with the wind in my hair. Pure bliss! So I am not overjoyed at the thought of giving up control of my car to… well… my car (and you know how much I adore my Mini). It’s like the Beach Boys song… fun, fun, fun, til “daddy” took the T-Bird away… just replace the word daddy with a car manufacturer of your choice and you see what I mean. No more going for a drive for the fun of it… instead you go for a ride (that is until someone learns how to hack the system). Intellectually I understand the benefits but the emotional side of my brain is having a really hard time with this. That is until this morning when thinking back at my adventure from a couple of weekends ago, I realized that in cases where you’ve got a driver who’s used to driving on a different side of the road, then maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all. I think car rental companies would welcome this market niche for sure :-)
Until next time,

PS. If you ever make it to this side of the pond, please do venture outside of London. Bath, Cambridge, Devon, the Peak District, and York (among many others) are just as wonderful. Besides I promise the natives are friendlier than their London counterparts and even speak the same language – well almost ;-P

View of York Minster - the largest gothic cathedral in North Europe. All rights reserved, N Saye

View of York Minster – the largest gothic cathedral in North Europe. All rights reserved, N Saye

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5 June, 2014

I’ve been traveling a lot lately – a bit for business, a bit for pleasure. Being a seasoned traveler I refuse to fly budget airlines. Call me a snob but I like certain creature comforts. You can take away your packets of peanuts/pretzels. You can get me to pay for my meals and drinks. However, I draw the line at legroom. I’m used to rubbing knees and shoulders with strangers while traveling on trains and buses in England. It makes for some awkward smiles and a bit of shuffling but in the end everyone finds an angle that they can tolerate for the duration of the journey (more often than not it helps if you’re a contortionist). Yes I know I’m just shy of 5’6 but when there is less than a couple of inches of room between my knees and the seat of the passenger sitting in front of me then even my eternally happy soul becomes a bit grouchy. Especially on long-haul flights. I loathe to think how someone even a couple of inches taller than me feels sitting in the same seat.

Some airlines are dealing with the situation by adding extra legroom to a select number of seats in the main cabin and charging a premium for them. Others deal with it by getting rid of all reclining seats to give passengers more room. Allegedly reclining seats lead to all sorts of troubles on planes. And I agree… I’ve been witness to a few temper tantrums in my day. The situation isn’t fun for anyone – including the poor souls having to endure sitting next to a seemingly normal person who has turned into a sweating raging oversized 2-year-old. A couple of years ago I made the mistake of suggesting to the guy sitting across the aisle from me that perhaps he should put the laptop on his lap. His “face of thunder” told me to mind my own business which I proceeded to do promptly for the remainder of the flight. And oh, over the years I’ve practiced my newfound skill many a times.

Cabin comfort seems to be on manufacturers’ agenda too.

According to a recent Businessweek article Boeing’s new 777X jetliner is undergoing major design changes to allow for more creature comforts. Their crack design teams are considering factors such as changing entertainment needs, noise-dampening and improved air quality. Brilliant! I can personally vouch for the need for improved airflow and quality. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have sat down in my seat only to be immediately assaulted by a stream of freezing air from above my head. And any attempts at fixing the flow results in either an even more aggressive arctic blast or a sorry excuse for any air flow. Or even worse, sitting near someone who is sneezing and coughing and knowing that due to poor air circulation in the cabin you too will be exhibiting the same symptoms in a few days time … perhaps even in time for your journey home :-) Ahhh who says travel isn’t filled with excitement and intrigue!?!

Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics.

Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics.

I suspect CFD will play a prominent role in their design studies. One of my esteemed colleagues, Dr. Andy Manning, recently made a presentation on cabin comfort and how 3D simulation can help engineers create better designs. The presentation aptly named Planes, Trains & Automobiles: Cabin Comfort using CFD  is brilliant and features detailed studies on thermal comfort in passenger cabins and how conditions can be improved. Or if 1D system simulation is more your scene, then please check out the whitepaper titled Computer Simulation of an Aircraft Environmental Control System. The whitepaper features the use of 1D CFD for simulating the cooling pack as well as the aircraft distribution system and how to use this technology to predict the impact of possible design changes on system performance.

Unfortunately CFD can’t do much about solving legroom or the inevitable lost luggage problems but at least when we start using the new generation of planes/trains/automobiles we’ll all arrive at our destinations a bit more refreshed and hopefully without having witnessed any air rage incidents. And that my friends is a good start.

Until next time,

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6 May, 2014

The first time I came to London I was 5 years old. I’m pretty sure my parents dragged me to all the usual touristy places but I only remember disjointed fragments.

Feeding ducks in Hyde Park.

Sitting on the jump seat in a black cab.

Holding on to my dad with one hand and holding on for dear life to my new bestie, a rather large light-brown teddy bear, while standing outside Hamleys. Come to think of it we must have been quite a sight because I remember hordes of people smiling down at me and me proudly beaming my goofy smile back at them.

And strangely enough I remember the streetlights. Unlike the ones back home, these lights were orange and gave the foggy sky a rather eerie glow. When I returned to London in my 20s, I remember smiling to myself upon seeing the streetlights again. Their orange glow brought back a flood of happy childhood memories.

London on a clear summer night. Image courtesy of N Saye. All rights reserved.

London on a clear summer night. Image courtesy of N Saye. All rights reserved.

Alas my beloved orange lights are disappearing from London streets. They are being replaced with new more powerful and energy efficient LED lights.  According to a recent article from LEDs Magazine, by 2016, the city of London plans on upgrading 35,000 streetlights to LED luminaires. This project will cost the city about £11 million and is expected to reduce emissions by 9700 metric tons annually and save the city £1.85 million. While it’ll take the city a few years to pay back the investment, the ROI is clear.

Since LEDs are temperature sensitive, thermal management of LED streetlights can be quite challenging as illustrated in a recent article titled Simulation Enables Optimum LED Street Light Heatsink Design in LEDs Magazine. That’s why BUCK d.o.o., a company specializing in architectural and medical lighting, uses CFD simulation software. While working on a new streetlight design alongside Panasonic Serbia, the team used FloEFD to answer questions such as

  • How much airflow is needed to take the heat away at 55°C ambient temperature from a 140W high-power LED module?
  • In what way can they provide the optimum heat dissipation surface?
  • Where do the hottest air pockets form?

The article answered all of these questions and more. And as icing on the cake, this luminaire design was deemed so “cool” that it won the Good Design Award from the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design. To read the article  please follow this link.

As a tech junkie I celebrate new technology. But I can’t help feel a tinge of sadness whenever I see another orange streetlight disappear. You see the light right outside my house was replaced with an LED one without much ceremony a few months ago. While I now feel much safer walking home late at night, I miss laying in bed catching a glimpse of the orange light through my bedroom blinds hoping to remember some long forgotten childhood memory.
Until next time,

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15 April, 2014

One of my recent social media feeds hit me like a ton of bricks over the weekend. “Yesterday belongs to the past. Tomorrow is the future. Today is a gift – that’s why it’s called the present” (Bill Keane). I sat there blinking at it for a while letting the thought sink in. You see I recently had discovered that while out walking some 600+ miles around the English countryside over the past couple of years I would stop just long enough to take a picture or two which I’d take home and post online – trying to share my life with my friends and family dotted across the globe. But recently while uploading a video I realized that I wasn’t living in the present – I wasn’t enjoying the moment as it was happening. I was saving the moment and then looking at it after the fact. Being a bit of a dreamer I believed that my head was always in the future… it never occurred to me how much time I spent looking back…

I guess we all do that to some extent … looking back and then thinking about the future.

Fifty years ago, during the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the movers and the shakers predicted what the future held for us:

•    Human habitats on the moon and under water
•    A picture phone where you’d see the person you were calling
•    Computers that did more than crunch numbers and offered recipes or answered questions
•    Robots that talked and moved
•    Jetpacks that allowed us to move around freely

Well some of these have come to pass – Robots that talk and move are now more than just something from SciFi movies but I must admit that while Asimo is cute I still find the more realistic looking ones a bit unnerving (just watch these two and you catch my drift). On a more down to earth level, I have spent countless hours on my mobile laughing with and looking at my loved ones. I’ve also been known to use my tablet and mobile to answer all kinds of questions. Come to think of it can you believe how much processing power now fits in the palm of our hands? Still blows my mind when I think about it because I cut my teeth on the DEC PDP-11 as a young whipper snapper. Yeah… that was the height of technology back in the day :-)

None of these beautiful gadgets would have been possible without advances in technology and most probably thermal simulation and testing – as electronic devices got smaller and smaller, more and more components were packed into a smaller space creating all sorts of thermal challenges for engineers. And without solutions such as FloTHERM, FloTHERM XT, FloEFD and T3Ster we’d have a lot more problems due to heat.

Will we ever have human colonies on the moon or under water and will I ever trade-in my beloved Mini for a jetpack? Who knows! I’ve decided to break the cycle and not constantly look back or look to the future. I live in the now. With all this beautiful technology around us, it’s a good time to be alive, don’t you think?
Until next time,

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27 March, 2014

I knew something was up when I was driving home last night. It took me 60 minutes to go 3 miles. In other words, traffic was flowing way slower than normal. I got to the Teddington/Kingston roundabout and noticed that the road going to Teddington had been shut due to emergency roadworks. So most of the traffic that went through Kingston and headed to points north needed to be diverted. In other words: Mayhem! Chaos! Traffic jam!

I doubt you’ve ever been to Kingston so let me describe it for you. Kingston (in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames) is an ancient market town where Saxon kings were crowned and is one of the major metropolitan centers in greater London. Some genius a few years ago decided to turn its main roads into a one-way system. This one-way system is at the heart of the city and you go round and round until you branch off at each major artery to go to points north, south, west and east. And to make matters worse the city is right next to the Thames River and has a pedestrianized zone; hence, you need to use a bridge or a select few roads to get around. In short, the city is a massive network or system consisting of a series of one-way roads connected by roundabouts. Easy enough when there are no accidents or roadworks. But a nightmare if there is ever an accident or more often than not roadworks. So last night, traffic quickly jammed across all branches because of a blockage at one point. This morning traffic was just as bad due to the same problem. If you follow this link  you’ll find a map of the area and a huge yellow arrow where the road is currently closed.

According to Russell, Rys and Mandavilli, roundabouts are the “most effective type of intersection traffic control available today”. That may be true but according to yours truly when you build multiple ones on the back of each other then you run the risk of choking instead of moving traffic. Quite simply, the system grinds to a halt. Not good if you live in Kingston or have the misfortune of going thru Kingston to get to Richmond, Surbiton, Twickenham, Hampton Court, M3 … yeah you get the picture.

While I was sitting in traffic this morning I started thinking about this problem and what systems engineers deal with on a regular basis. If you look at roads as a system or a network, the result of a blockage is an annoyance. My 3-mile, 20 minute commute becomes a 3-mile 1 hour commute. So I listen to the news/music and look into my fellow commuters’ cars (and more often than not wish I hadn’t). In some systems, such as those on airplanes, a blockage in the fuel or hydraulics system can become catastrophic.

1D Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software such as Flowmaster can help systems engineers model and analyze fluid mechanics in complex systems and is used by companies across a wide range of industries to reduce development time and costs of their thermo-fluid systems. If you are interested in learning more about Flowmaster then please feel free to read any of the free whitepapers or watch the on-demand webinars in our library here.  I hope you find them helpful in picking up pointers in designing your systems. As for me, I could cycle to work but today’s forecast is spring showers which in BBC weather-speak means rain so cold and solid (!) that it’ll remove a couple of layers of skin so I think I’ll stay put for the day.

Until next time.

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11 March, 2014

I’d like to think of myself as a pretty competent person – throw a problem at me, I’ll find a solution for it. Case in point. Last week I noticed some cracks suddenly appearing in the kitchen walls and ceiling. The kitchen sits directly underneath the bathroom. The cracks looked like they were appearing where the bathtub was located and they felt damp. Doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce this one… the sealant around the bathtub in the shower was failing.

I don’t know about your patch of the woods but finding anyone to fix anything in Surrey is pretty much impossible. All the construction folks are busy fixing the damage wreaked by the recent floods. I could ask a friend but felt rather embarrassed to admit that I had never done this – there was always a guy in my life who attended to such matters … my father, a landlord, or ex-husband. Being an emancipated woman I decided to face this challenge head on. After all, I have mastered the art of dispatching spiders without screaming (well, it’s now more of a whimper but at least my neighbors don’t call to make sure I’m ok), topping the pressure in my tires and even assembling lots and lots of flat-packed furniture on my own without killing myself in the process. Yes, I can… that’s my motto. So like any self-respecting newbie I started my research. After watching a few videos on youtube I headed out to my local DIY store. I hunted the various bits and bobs and reserved last Saturday for my latest adventure.

After breakfast on Saturday morning I put on my “working” clothes and tucked straight in. After a bit of to’ing and fro’ing and a whole lot of chin scratching I managed to seal around the bathtub.  It doesn’t look perfect and I’m sure the next time I’ll do a much better job of it but in the process of doing the task I realized that I needed a master list of things to do when sealing a bathtub … a how to guide. For example, the back of a wet soapy teaspoon is much more effective for smoothing out the sealant than the gadget I bought for £3 ($5). Or fill the bathtub with water and then seal around it. This way the sealant will be at its most expanded state but do not, and I repeat, do not sit down to get a better angle on smoothing out the sealant while standing in the bath tub because you’ll get wet. Yup rookie error but you betcha I won’t make that mistake again.

Now wouldn’t it be nice if someone were to create a series of practical “how to guides” for engineers? Well, search no more because (drum roll), our panel of experts have just published a series of whitepapers to help guide engineers new to the world of thermal simulation (or even not so new but needing a refresher). Please feel free to download and read any of these free whitepapers:

11 Top Tips for Energy-Efficient Data Center Design and Operation… A High-Level ‘How To’ Guide
12 Key Considerations in Enclosure Thermal Design – a High-Level “How to” Guide
10 Tips for Streamlining PCB Thermal Design – a High-Level “How to Guide”
10 Tips for Predicting Component Temperatures – a High-Level “How to Guide” 

Mentor Mechanical solutions apply at every stage. Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics. All rights reserved.

Mentor Mechanical solutions apply at every stage. Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics. All rights reserved.

The titles are all pretty self-explanatory and yes I could have listed them in numerical order but at Mentor Mechanical we advocate an enclosure down to the component-level simulation philosophy and if you really think about it a data center is just a massive enclosure hence the topsy turvy listing. So you see, there is method to my madness … not all the time but most of the time :-)

I really hope you enjoy reading these papers and I’d like to thank our panel of experts who wrote and contributed to these whitepapers – Drs Parry, Bornoff, Clark and Manning as well as Mr Blackmore. Talk about a thermal simulation dream team!
Until next time,


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