Posts Tagged ‘FloEFD’

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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25 March, 2013

You all know what a chatterbox I can be when I’m excited about something. So believe you me when I say the past few months have been excruciatingly hard for me. I’ve been sitting on some pretty big news and I’ve been itching to tell the world all about it.  Now that the cat is officially out of the bag, there’s no holding me back…

FloTHERM XT as the enabling technology in the EDA/MDA design flow.

The news I’m referring to is the announcement of our latest new product, FloTHERM XT. We officially announced the product last week but I’m just coming out from under the avalanche of emails and meetings post announcement to have a quick informal chat with you about it. For those of you who haven’t heard the news (and I can’t imagine there being many) FloTHERM XT is the coolest electronics cooling simulation solution to be introduced to the world in a long time. Like its sister product FloTHERM, FloTHERM XT is a specialized product – designed for use by the design engineer and the analyst who wants to optimize cooling of their electronics. What is really neat about FloTHERM XT is that it has also been designed to be used earlier in the design process – from concept through to verification and prototyping. So it brings the EDA and MDA (mechanical design analysis) flows closer so engineers can use the same design data throughout the design flow to create an even better design.

Leveraging the electronics cooling DNA from FloTHERM and the CFD technology from FloEFD, FloTHERM XT can make light work of solving complex electronics cooling problems. It also supports direct interfaces with all major MCAD software as well as Expedition Enterprise EDA software so you can import data when you need it, from where you need it. By bringing the two flows together, FloTHERM XT makes it possible to reduce the number of late-in-process errors. And it lets you quickly validate each design thereby enabling you to do more “what –ifs” to identify the best possible design … faster.

FloTHERM XT can be used for many electronics cooling applications in a wide range of industries.

Now I know I’m biased but I’ve also been in the CAE business for quite some time so it takes a lot to impress me. The first time I saw this product I congratulated the development team for creating such an elegant product. And yes I mean elegant. Because FloTHERM XT is such a radically cool product, we couldn’t just use the written word to describe it. So we created a short 7 minute video that beautifully describes the MDA/EDA design flow. To watch the video, simply follow this link. And if we’ve piqued your interest and you’d like to know more about how FloTHERM XT can improve your design flow then please attend this free online presentation on May 8th.  The presenter Ian Clark is the Product Manager for FloTHERM XT and he has been intimately involved in the design and delivery of this product so he is the best person to tell you more about it.

The electronics cooling simulation market just got hotter. And I like it.

But some people can’t handle the heat so they’ve started some rather silly rumors. So let me dispel them for you. FloTHERM XT does not replace FloTHERM. These two products each have a vibrant product roadmap and will continue to sit beautifully alongside one another in the design process flow because they each satisfy a different need in the electronics cooling simulation market. And anyone who tells you otherwise is telling you a big fat boldfaced lie!

Until next time,

PS. Unlike the electronics cooling simulation market, temperatures in England remain unreasonably low (notice I didn’t say unseasonably… it’s unreasonable that we get snow in the spring especially since we’ve been experiencing winter weather since oh last October?). Brrrrr….

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6 September, 2012

I live in a 3D world –3D simulation that is.  I remember when my work life went from 2D to 3D. I used to sit in a cubicle across from a software developer who specialized in graphics. He was a pesky lad. Whenever he’d get stuck on a particularly difficult piece of code he would throw missiles of all kinds at me – anything from crumpled pieces of paper to rubber bands and paper clips. I don’t know why I was blessed with this treatment but ignoring him would only result in more missiles being launched at me at a more frequent rate so my only option was to throw them back at him. Before you’d know it we’d be in the middle of a war involving a few other cubes. On this day he had been particularly quiet – a bit too quiet. At the end of the day he leaned into my cube, made an exaggerated point at his screen and coolly said “this stuff is in 3D man” in his thickest California surfer dude accent. And that’s how my marketing world went from 2D to glorious 3D images and animations.

All fluid flow problems are 3D so it’s natural that we would like to solve flow problems in 3D as well. But 3D simulation has a cost – depending on the size of the model and its complexity simulation can take a long time (especially if you use a traditional CFD code).

So imagine my surprise when I heard about 1D CFD. I first became aware of 1D CFD when my division acquired a company called Flowmaster. Flowmaster provides 1D software for the simulation of thermo-fluid systems. 1D CFD can be the ideal solution for solving a wide range of system-level problems such as those encountered in liquid or gas systems ie piping networks of any size or complexity. Engineers can quickly try out variations of the system design, see the impact on the entire system and ultimately find a reliable and optimized design.

Having lived in a 3D CFD world for quite a few years, the first thing that popped into my head was which one is better?

The correct answer is depends on your problem. Both 1D and 3D CFD let engineers improve their understanding of fluid flow and engineering designs and lots of companies use both to improve product and system design. But they each have strengths that make them a better fit for solving different types of problems. For designing complex systems 3D CFD is extremely accurate but it can be “computationally expensive” especially if you have a large/complex model.  1D CFD on the other hand offers a faster solution speed; however, it requires a lot of data to characterize the 3D elements of a system accurately.

Rarely do systems or components exist on their own… usually a system consists of a series of components. So wouldn’t it be great if we could harness the power of 3D and use 1D CFD to solve large system problems. Well, that brings us to why we acquired Flowmaster. Thanks to this acquisition, we now provide a tightly coupled general-purpose 3D-1D CFD simulation software solution. With this combination, engineers can characterize the more complex elements of the system in 3D and then insert those models and data into the 1D system-level simulation. Here’s a snapshot of the process. Design engineers run the analysis on components in FloEFD, save the results, and open the saved files containing the needed data in Flowmaster for analysis of the entire system.

Why is this unique? Because this is the first 3D-1D solution that can actually be deployed straight from the box without any customization and translation of data. And that means you can start becoming productive faster and achieve a return on your investment (ROI) faster.  By exchanging  data between the two simulation tools until convergence is reached for both the 1D and the 3D models we get better boundary values and more accurate system behavior. So in this case 3 plus 1 equals to a lot more than 4 – it results in a much better system-level design than ever thought possible without breaking the bank. This combination can be used in many applications involving complex heat transfer or geometry. And quite clearly this new coupled solution has captured the imagination of the engineering community judging by the amount of press it has gotten lately around the world.

So. Which one is better? The answer is they’re each great on their own but together they offer you an even better solution.
Until next time,

PS. I did manage to get Paralympic cycling tickets at the last minute and had the most awe-inspiring 3 hours of my life at the Velodrome (affectionately called the Pringle because of the shape of the building).  6000 of my closest friends and I watched as Team USA won a silver and a bronze and Team GB won a gold and a silver. I of course cheered everyone heartily (much to the delight of the people sitting next to me who decided to join in). To sum up that day, it was magic!

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21 May, 2012

I’m not a fan of soccer (urm I mean football). I’m more of a Rugby gal myself. But on Saturday I along with 100+ fans played sardines in a small  pub and jostled for the best viewing position in front of one of the handful of TVs to watch the European Cup game.  The pub erupted when England scored the winning penalty shot. I had not seen so many grown men scream, dance and cry with joy at the same time. The festive attitude spilled on to the streets, trains, tube and buses across London (and dare I say England?). We had just watched history being made. On that night, Chelsea achieved what many had thought was the impossible.

I like seeing the impossible made possible. I guess it’s because once you see footage of the moon landing, nothing seems out of reach. Obviously others thought the same thing. Looking back at my life I remember smiling with awe as a child when I saw a Concorde plane sitting on a runway at Heathrow as my plane inched by, as I watched footage of the first shuttle take off successfully and as I saw the news coverage of the peace accord between Egypt and Israel. Anything is possible.

And that’s something that the design engineering team at Bronswerk Heat Transfer clearly believes in.

Bronswerk Heat Transfer is very well known for their high-capacity air-cooled coolers that are widely used in the energy industry. The engineering team wanted to solve a rather hairy problem. Fans used inside a gas- or oil-field cooling system are large. They can be up to 33 ft in diameter. Depending on the application you may need a dozen or even hundreds of fans.  Aside from the energy consumption (to run these fans) you also need to worry about the noise pollution impact. Now the fans for these types of applications usually deliver a maximum efficiency of about 50%. So the million dollar question was – can efficiency be increased to 80% with less noise, less energy consumption and reduced operational cost?

The team decided to try a few new concepts and to use CFD to validate the results. The team at Bronswerk have been using the Creo Parametric (formerly Pro/ENGINEER) embedded CFD solution named FloEFD for a few years and trust the results. Mr. Guus Bertels, the Associate Director of Advanced Design and Analysis at Bronswerk had this to say about their use of CFD “over the past few years, we have used both CFD tools and physical measurements to characterize the behavior–particularly the aerodynamics–of large air-cooled cooling systems. We have learned that concurrent CFD often can produce data that would be impossible to acquire with measurements because of physical constraints, the Heisenberg principle and other factors.”

The amazing Whizz-Wheel. Image courtesy of Bronswerk Heat Transfer.

The team decided that solving the problem was really a system-level effort that involved redesigning the fan blade configuration, the inlet/outlet architecture as well as other parts. The design process was quite comprehensive and you can learn more about it by following this link.  Their new fan called the Whizz-Wheel has broken every record and the cooling system based on it is fast breaking all industry records for energy efficiency, noise reduction and weight savings. “The new Bronswerk cooling solution includes fans and housings that take their technology cues from gas turbines, aircraft wings, and a generous helping of homegrown creativity. The practicality of these creative touches was validated quickly and accurately with CFD. In addition to their purely quantitative output, the CFD simulations enabled us to explore bold ideas–without risking project budgets and schedules” said Mr. Bertels. Now that sounds like a perfect recipe for making the impossible possible and achieving a healthy Return on Investment (ROI) for simulation to boot.
Until next time,

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15 May, 2012

I admire mechanical engineers. I really mean it. If the world ever implodes, then I want to be hanging out with you guys. You know how to build and fix things. I on the other hand can probably contribute to the betterment of future society by picking berries (so long as I don’t have to deal with any creepy crawlies) or by spreading good cheer – I can’t help it I’ve got a sunny disposition (that is after 9 AM). Yup, that’s about as helpful as I’ll be in say a zombie apocalypse.

Anyway, I’ve learned a lot from you guys. So I thought it would be fun to talk about that today. The top 10 things I learned from y’all.

10.  Anything and everything mechanical is fascinating. By now you know that I drive a convertible. On the few days of the year when the weather is nice enough to drive with the car top down in England, I usually get an audience when it’s time to put the top up or down. The guys marvel at the mechanics of the roof rising at the touch of a button and talk about all the systems moving the roof. I admit in the past I never paid much attention to such things. I just took them for granted until the day they didn’t work. Now, thanks to you I am more curious. I look at all things electronic and wonder if FloTHERM was used at some point to ensure effective cooling.

9.  Choose your words carefully. You are very precise with your language. It took me a while to learn this but I finally realized that I needed to pick my words carefully in order to communicate effectively with you. Case in point. I usually ask for extra ice in my coke glass whenever I order a drink – it’s an American habit that is hard to break in the land of little or no ice cubes. I also always wrap my glass in a napkin. After the first month or so of tagging along with the guys to lunch, one of them asked me why I always wrap-up my glass. I said “the glass sweats and becomes slippery so this way I’m not likely to drop the glass”. After considering my answer for a moment, the engineer said I think the word you’re looking for is condensation. And the whole table started discussing this at length. At that moment I realized that I needed to pick my words more carefully. Months later, we were working on a presentation for a press tour. One slide just kept getting flagged by the review team as being wrong. After asking a series of questions I realized that the problem wasn’t with the whole slide but with just one word – I think the problematic word was “cause” so we changed it to “contribute” and all was fine. Someone complained that the team was being pedantic but I knew that they weren’t trying to be difficult. They were just being factually accurate. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that.

8.  When taking an engineer out on a sales call, be prepared to have them tell the truth –warts and all. In sales the golden rule is to never say no. If someone asks you about some functionality which your software doesn’t have, you just keep asking questions to find out whether that feature is important to the sale or whether it is a “nice to have”. Engineers on the other hand don’t have any problems with saying no.  I think that’s probably why engineers feel comfortable buying stuff from other engineers. It’s because they know they’re getting a straight answer.

7.  Engineers test you. When engineers meet you, they always ask you a question to gauge your technical level. They’re not being difficult … they are just trying to see where you fit on the technical spectrum so they’d know how to answer you. I learned this the hard way because I now know enough about things to be dangerous. So now whenever I meet an engineer I always start the conversation with “I am not an engineer”. In response I usually get a smile and detailed explanations that even I can understand. We both walk away happy having communicated effectively.

6.  There is always room for improvement. By nature engineers like to tinker with things because there is always room for improvement. Sometimes I feel like a 5 year-old kid who keeps repeating “are we there yet?” when working on a presentation or a brochure. So I have learned to be patient because invariably the end product is always better.

5.  My definition of a cool picture is different than yours.  Another thing that I admire about engineers is that you are practical and “smoke and mirrors” don’t really hold much value for you. When you look at simulation results, you are perfectly happy looking at the basic plot lines and charts. I on the other hand need to communicate with managers who like pretty pictures and colors. So my definition of a cool picture is probably way different than yours. That’s why some of the guys in our building run the other way when they see me trolling the hallways looking for a volunteer to do a couple of screen grabs. But the handful who still brave the elements do turn out some brilliant images (yeah, you know who you are and to you I am eternally grateful).

4.  Engineers are nice people. Just so that we are clear, when I say “nice” I am using the American definition which is “pleasant, agreeable, and delightful”. By nature most engineers are introverts so as an extrovert it would be really easy to just roll on by. But I tell you, as a group, engineers are the nicest bunch of folks I have ever met. That’s why whenever I meet one I make sure to get to know them well. And in this world, you can never have enough nice people around you.

3.  Physical testing is expensive. I’ve been in the simulation market for more years than I dare to admit out loud. However, I am still astounded at how much companies spend on physical testing. I heard that Bentley crash tests hundreds of cars every year. Gulp. That is a lot of money (not to mention lovely cars being destroyed) in the name of safety. But then again, if I ever could afford to buy one of those bad boys, I’d want to know that I’d be safe.

2.  Not doing physical tests can be even more expensive. Funny… you didn’t expect me a simulation-junkie to say this but it’s true. Sometimes you do need to do physical tests. For example, a new customer decided to invest in our T3Ster product for thermal characterization testing because their largest customer told them that their product specs were not worth the paper they were printed on. Ouch! It’s a good thing their customer told them _before_ they decided to take their business elsewhere.

1.  Simulation is meaningful. I remember the very first whitepaper I ever read on the topic of simulation. The subject was about meshing and it was during an interview. I read the opening paragraph a couple of times before admitting defeat. At that point, the CEO of the company (who also happened to be a respected engineering professor) gave me a quick lecture on what it all meant and before I knew it I was a part of this fascinating world. Since then I’ve learned a lot about engineering. I also know that some still believe that simulation is hocus pocus. But I am a believer especially when I hear from experienced engineers who say that simulation gives them new insight into the performance of their products. One of my favorite engineers, Mr. Guus Bertels with Bronswerk Heat Transfer, has an extensive background in the field of aerodynamics. Mr. Bertels was involved in the design of one of the most beautiful flying machines, the Concord, so you would be right to think that he has seen it all but even he has this to say about simulation: “The information generated by FloEFD especially for the taxing complexity of cooler aerodynamics is far beyond data obtainable through physical measurement and experimentation”.

So thank you engineers everywhere! You have made this a better world for the rest of us and thank you for letting me be a part of your world.

Until next time,

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12 April, 2012

I suddenly find myself needing to buy a car in England. I won’t bore you with why I had to let go of my beloved Audi but instead let me tell you that renting cars in England especially when you don’t drive stick shift is really really expensive.

That is a very pleased blogger sitting in her fave car last year (and so happens her fave color too) :-)

Being a rather sensible person, at first I thought I should get a VW Golf. Firstly you can’t beat German engineering. Secondly, you get awesome MPG (I went thru 2 weeks in December on a single tank of gas with my rented Golf). Lastly, it’s small enough so I can still park it in London but it is roomy enough that if I want to throw my bike in the back, I can just lift the hatch, drop the passenger seats and throw the bike in there. When I mentioned my plans to my best friend I got a back-handed compliment – you are so good, you always pick the sensible option. Hurumph! It’s one thing to call yourself sensible but when others call you that what they really mean is “you are so boring” … it’s a good thing she’s an old friend and can get away with telling me the truth even when I don’t want to hear it.

And so began my odyssey for finding a new ride.

I really liked having a convertible so I wanted to stick with one. There are plenty of choices in England but being the _sensible_ person that I am I quickly discounted all cars but a handful because of resale value and purchase cost … I would love to buy an AC Cobra for example; alas, the bank manager doesn’t see it my way. And in case you’re wondering that is the only car on the face of the planet that’ll get me to learn how to drive a stick shift. But I digress.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Minis and really wanted one when I first moved to England. But the last time around the sensible choice was made and a Golf was bought instead. This time around I’m going for both fun and sensible: it is German in design, it’s small, it’s not very thirsty (depending on the engine picked), and it’ll be a heck of a fun ride when it’s not sitting in city traffic.  Having decided on the Mini, I started doing my research to see which model/ year offered the best ROI when I ran across this article. If you can’t be bothered to read the article, what caused me concern was this:  “Under high operating temperatures an electro-migration can occur at the circuit board installed in the additional water pump. This can lead to a failure of the additional water pump or smoldering and even a fire cannot be excluded.” Oh dear.

According to the Guardian, 235,000 cars worldwide were affected including about 30,000 cars in the UK (one car even allegedly caught fire in the UK). Mini has offered to replace the water pump at no charge and the process takes about an hour. I can’t imagine this exercise has been an inexpensive one for the company. Aside from being a PR nightmare, the recall will cost millions in material and labor (I tried to find a more exact number but unfortunately my handy dandy research department, Google, is not being very helpful).  Anyway, I wonder what went wrong. Was it a manufacturing problem? Was it a design problem that could have been easily fixed thru simulation with FloTHERM or FloEFD? I guess we’ll never know but I wanted to write about this because the fact of the matter is in this day and age product recalls still happen. Even to the big guys. And they are costly. So it’s best to catch design problems before they become a PR nightmare. As for me and my Mini, I’m still going full steam ahead. I’ve got a couple of test drives scheduled for next week and hope to come home with a new (well new to me) car that’s already been retrofitted. I must admit that if I have to deal with London traffic then I’d much rather do it in a fun zippy car… even if I am going only 7 miles per hour.

Until next time,

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14 February, 2012

Back in December I heard something on the radio that made me both sad and happy at the same time. It turns out that the last neon sign in Piccadilly Square in London was to be turned off by the end of the year. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing London at night, Piccadilly Sq is a sight to behold (for a picture click here ) The neon sign in question had been in use since 1987 and is the one belonging to Sanyo (shown prominently in the picture). The 340 square ft neon sign has been replaced with one made up of LEDs. Come to think of it, walking around London this past Christmas, the whole town was draped in LED lights.

I always thought of neon lights as something that was quintessentially American but they were actually invented by a Frenchman in 1910. They first appeared on the American shores in Los Angeles in 1923 in a car dealership and they quickly caught the imagination of a nation. By the 50s neon lights were everywhere and because of their close association with advertising they became known as the light of the American dream. According to the announcement, Sanyo wasn’t too worried about efficiency/inefficiency of neon lights – they just wanted something a bit more modern to showcase their logo for the Olympics.

I’m not sure everyone else would have that priority – most folks worry about efficiency first. So I went looking for something to help me understand the difference between the two. I found a document from 2006 which stated that neon lights were actually more energy efficient. With that said, this is a 6 year old document and as far as I know LEDs have changed by leaps and bounds during this period so I suspect LEDs have not only caught up but surpassed the performance of neon lights (if you know more I’d love to hear from you). And they are becoming more and more popular – you can quickly gauge the importance of LEDs by reviewing the US Department of Energy’s website or just walk around any major metropolitan area around the holidays. However, the LED market is still in its infancy and is having teething pains. According to a presentation made at the Strategies in Light conference last week, Jim Brodrick, the US DOE’s Solid-State Lighting Program Manager, cost is one of the most frequently mentioned impediments to adoption of solid state lighting. He also mentioned that reducing cost while maintaining high quality manufacturing is a key challenge for LED manufacturers.

I agree with Mr. Brodrick. Reducing cost and maintaining high quality is a key challenge met by not only LED manufacturers but all manufacturers of discrete goods. That’s why market leading organizations are adopting software simulation tools such as FloTHERM or FloEFD or thermal characterization testing solutions such as T3Ster (and some combine the two for an even more comprehensive solution) to shorten their design process, create higher quality products and reduce their costs. If you’re interested in learning how software simulation or hardware testing can help you create better and higher quality products with less cost then have a look at our website for free whitepapers and on-demand presentations. I’m sure you’ll find lots of good/helpful advice.

There is a reason why 19 of the top 20 LED companies use our solutions.  So why don’t you come and see our experts at Semitherm in San Jose California (March 18-22) – we’d love to meet you and help you solve those tough problems too.
Until next time,

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22 November, 2011

Have you ever had one of those days where it would have been better to have stayed in bed with the duvet pulled up firmly above your head? I’m sure most of us have had those kinds of days. Last week I was suffering from this malaise. I curbed the front wheel of our new car on the way to work, I dropped my breakfast bagel after taking the first bite (and yes a dropped bagel exhibits the same behavior as dropped toast… butter side down except my bagel had cream cheese and it was a mess to clean up but I digress) and when I got in to work I got an email informing me that the big project was still missing a major component and that a disaster was looming in the shadows. By 10 o’clock I was convinced that the day was going from bad to worse and that I would have been more productive had I just stayed in bed.

CFD analysis on a drone. Image courtesy of Mentor Graphics.

Sometimes a bad day can rapidly deteriorate into a very bad day.  I read this story a couple of weeks ago (Daily Mail, November 1, 2011). About four years ago, several police departments in England decided to invest in some drones to help them keep an eye on criminal activity from the air.  The remote-controlled drones can monitor activity from around 150ft and cost about £13,000 each. One police department (in Merseyside, England) used the drone to make a grand total of 1 arrest. A few days after making that arrest, they lost the drone due to power loss over water. I would think that was a bad day for those guys. An epic one at that. The powers that be issued a statement that they have decided not to invest in drones anymore because “the cost of training officers to operate the drone and the inability to use it in all weathers, outweigh its value and they will rely on the police helicopter for aerial cover.” They also mentioned that they had given the officers controlling the drone “words of advice” which apparently in cop speak means a reprimand of sorts. Wow…

This is very typical of what most managers do. They buy into an idea and make the initial investment but they see training as an unnecessary expense. So they leave the operators to their own devices and when they fail then it is the employee’s fault… not that insufficient training was provided to them on how to use the equipment, software, whatever. I actually see this quite often in the simulation world.

Let’s face it, simulation software is not cheap but when used properly it can pay for itself many times over. But life is not that simple is it? By the time you get the approvals for purchasing the software, very little money is left for training. Since you are a bright lot, you take on the task of training yourself. It takes you a few weeks (if you are lucky) or a few months (if you’ve bought traditional CFD software) to figure your way around the software. In the meantime, you’ve got to work on your projects. Talk about trial by fire. Unfortunately in the ensuing rush to get productive you may not learn all the little shortcuts or tricks that would make your life easier. Sometimes you manage to get your work done but sometimes you get so frustrated that you throw your hands up in the air and throw the software and the computer that houses it out the window while screaming “forget about CFD. Forget about simulation. I’ll stick with physical testing.”

Even though we pride ourselves on the ease of use of our solutions, be it FloEFD, FloTHERM or FloVENT, we always support our customers by providing short yet comprehensive training courses on the use of our solutions. These courses are held on a regular basis at various sites (click here then pick your geographical region on the upper left hand side and pick the product to see the classes in your region) or if you have special requirements our consulting team can provide onsite training customized for your needs at your location (check here for more information). Even power users can benefit from attending a “top up” session from time to time. At our last user meeting, we held several advanced training sessions. Afterwards many of them said that even though they’d been using FloTHERM for 10+ years, they still learned a few new tricks! So it’s never too late to get some training.

I don’t want to drone (ha-ha, I’m getting really cheesy in my old age) on about training.  We all know that training can pay back for itself several times over in increased productivity. And that’s what we’re all about here.
Until next time,

PS. I’d like to wish my fellow Americans a very Happy Thanksgiving. Unfortunately I won’t be able to celebrate with my family this year (waited too long to book tickets). Instead I’m hoping to drag a couple of my lovely English friends to a pub serving Thanksgiving dinner. There will be lots of Americans around so that should be an interesting experience for us all!

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14 October, 2011

For the past few months I’ve been talking about our user meetings – the Mechanical Analysis Division User2User meetings which are taking place all over the world.

The venue was built at the site of an old castle.

I just came back from the meeting in Germany and I can quite honestly say that it was one of the most energizing meetings I’ve attended in a long time. This was a meeting of “firsts”: the first time we as Mentor Graphics held a user meeting in Germany, the first time we met with a group of our customers in a non-sales environment and the first time we got a chance to seek “no holds barred” feedback from customers. So I wasn’t really sure what to expect — all I knew was the anticipation was killing me.

Upon arrival Germany greeted us with sunny skies and lovely warm temperatures. We took that as a sign that the meeting was also going to be a warm one and we weren’t mistaken. The venue was a charming place built on the site of an old castle in Friedewald Germany – we even got a chance to explore the grounds during the off hours. Over the course of the three days our agenda consisted of a mix of technical content provided by our staff on various topics relating to FloTHERM, FloEFD and T3Ster and application stories provided by our customers such as Dr. Lautenschlager, Mr. Riebel, Mr. Benze and Mr. Windischmann. I know our products are very flexible tools but I am still astounded whenever I hear how they are used to solve complex problems in products that we as consumers use on a daily basis and quite often take for granted.

We learned a lot in the classroom...

But the meeting wasn’t all hard work. We also got a chance to go on a very educational tour of a salt mine. At the lowest point, we were 800 meters below sea level driving at what felt like mach speed thru tunnels barely wide enough for our trucks. The climax of the tour was a grotto deep in the belly of the earth where salt crystals took on the look of jewels put on display. Who knew that good ol’ common table salt could be so beautiful. Absolutely breathtaking.

We also learned a lot in the salt mine. Image courtesy of Mr. Struller.

It has now been a few days since we have all returned back to work and if there’s one thing that has stayed with me is this.  By the end of the three days we were no longer a group of polite strangers who were attending a technical conference. We were friends and colleagues sharing laughs and experiences. Mind you there was no exchange of proprietary information — we were simply enjoying learning from one another. And I’m willing to bet that the next meeting will be even more fantastic because we now all know what to expect.

If you like the sound of this type of meeting, then I strongly urge you to register for your regional Mechanical U2U event next year. It really is a great opportunity to learn lots of new things and make a few new friends.

As for me, what did I learn? I learned that we have some fantastically smart engineers as end-users and I for one can’t wait to catch-up with each and every one of them at the next meeting. Team Germany, thank you for making this meeting such a huge success. See you next time!
Until next time,

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4 July, 2011

I don’t particularly care for airports. You rush to get to them. You rush thru check-in and push your way thru never-ending queues to go thru security and get the prerequisite pre-boarding massage (I seem to get pat downs as I go thru security a lot and even though I gladly submit to them I’m starting to think that they are a new service that the airlines provide and thus deserve a proper marketing name ;-)). Then you wait, wait and wait some more until your flight is called. Yup, I admit it. I’m not the most patient person and sitting in airport lounges drives me up the wall. So I’m really glad that I’ve got my Blackberry.

Not exactly a passenger plane or anything related to avionics but a rather cool CFD animation done with FloEFD. Animation courtesy of Mentor Graphics.

I can sit there and while away the time: I read and answer emails or make urgent phone calls (a bit unpleasant as you have to constantly stop talking until the overhead announcements are over and done with). On my last trip, I’d been super efficient. While standing in the baggage drop-off line for 30 minutes (I’m not joking, I had already checked in online and just needed to drop off my bag), I  answered my emails so by the time I got to the pre-board lounge at 6 PM on a Friday night I had nothing to do. Mind you Frankfurt airport is massive (lots of shopping and good eats) but after 4 days of early morning wake-up calls and late nights I was just too tired to do anything but to plop down on a chair. After a couple of minutes of polite conversation, my colleague pulled out his iPad and we each retreated into our own worlds. After 5 minutes of people watching I spied the newspaper rack across the hall and realized there was an English newspaper there — my salvation from boredom. I sauntered over and picked up a copy of the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail offers a mix of hard news news with celebrity gossip and faced with the prospect of sitting idly or reading something it offered an acceptable solution.

Once settled on the plane, I retreated into the world of Daily Mail. The first half of the newspaper brought me up to speed on world affairs. Then low and behold on page 25, tucked in the corner I found an article that jumped off the page (at least to me). There were 3 other stories on the page but the relative font size of the title of this article in compare to the other 3 meant that 1) this article was the least important of them all or 2) it’s news they wanted to bury. I suspected it had nothing to do with importance – I won’t bore you with the details of the other three articles except one was about death, the second about money and the last one, well, I’ll use the more business-friendly term of passion. The clip in question was titled “One Mobile ‘can make a plane crash’” (Daily Mail, June 10, 2011). Not what you want to read while sitting on a plane.

The basic gist of the story was that “using just one mobile or electronic device during a flight can cause a plane’s systems to shut down”. According to the article which was based on a leaked confidential research paper, a single Blackberry or an iPad could cause the autopilot to disengage and turn on critical warning lights. Allegedly. I’m saying allegedly because the size of the data they had looked at was rather small: 230 passenger and cargo flights out of 49,000+ (I’m afraid the latest stats I could find were for the year 2000, where we had 49,000+ flights per day worldwide … I’m sure 11 years on we can conservatively say that we have a much higher figure). With a small enough sample you can get supporting evidence for pretty much anything. So I’m sticking with allegedly. But for the sake of argument, if this is true, then even one case is problematic – especially for the folks on the said plane.

Let’s say one case may be possible. How do the numbers stack up? If you have travelled in the past year, you’ll have noticed that there are a lot of iPads around. On a typical 777 with 3 classes of service, we have about 300 passengers. If we assume that 25% of passengers have either a BB or an iPad (and I am seriously underestimating here because a large portion of those travelling tend to have both), that is 75 potential gadgets that could allegedly wreak havoc on a single flight. Not all 49,000 flights are 777s but if you start multiplying away, you’ll start seeing some astronomical figures. If you think I’m not conservative enough, then fine… let’s say 10%. That still is 30 gadgets and 30 people who need to keep those gadgets off. I always make sure to turn off my phone before I get on the plane but I wonder how many people in the last minute rush forget to do it? And how many people rely on their gadgets to keep them entertained during the flight? On my return flight from the States last month, the teenager sitting next to me put down his iPad only while eating or using the facilities – the rest of the time he was either playing a game or watching movies. Any system or process is only as strong as its weakest link.

If and it’s a big IF, this is possible, why would this still be an issue in this day and age of modern engineering?  Maybe I’m naive but with such a wide selection of simulation tools available for avionics design (everything from thermal to electromagnetic analysis) why should we experience or even talk about these types of interference? I’m willing to kinda sorta maybe accept interference issues on older planes but on newer planes? If this is really an issue then this news shouldn’t be hidden away in the corner at the back of newspapers and I truly and well hope that you guys, the engineering community, are looking into it.  Surely one would get better ROI from simulation for fixing a potential problem than from the other option.

On every flight there is always one person who grumbles about having to turn off phones/ebook readers/MP3/PCs players during takeoff/landing. Maybe all flight attendants should carry a copy of this article with them and show it to those folks. Or maybe we should all be mindful that the more likely answer is that their request has got nothing to do with interference. Takeoffs and landings are the two most vulnerable stages of a flight and in case of an emergency the crew needs our full attention – mind you, I’m sure you’d notice the panic/pandemonium around you regardless of how engrossed you are in your game/music/movie. But if even the most impatient person, yours truly, can stand to bear 20 minutes without doing something I’m sure you can too.
Until next time,

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