From Piles to Power – My First PADT PC Build

Welcome to the PADT IT Department now build your own PC

[Editors Note: Ahmed has been here a lot longer than 2 weeks, but we have been keeping him busy so he is just now finding the time to publish this. ]

I have been working for PADT for a little over 2 weeks now. After taking the ceremonial office tour that left me with a fine white powder all over my shoes (it’s a PADT Inc special treat). I was taken to meet my team, David Mastel – My Boss for short, who is the IT commander & chief at PADT Inc. and Sam Goff – the all-knowing systems administrator.

I was shown to a cubicle that reminded me of the shady computer “recycling” outfits you’d see on a news report highlighting the vast amounts of abandoned hardware; except there were no CRT (tube) screens or little children working as slave labor.
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Sacred Tradition

This tradition started with Sam, then Manny, and now it was my turn taking this rite of passage. As part of the PADT IT department, I am required by sacred tradition to build my own desktop with my bare hands – then I was handed a screwdriver.

My background is mixed and diverse but mostly has one thing in common. We usually depended on pre-built servers, systems and packages. Branded machines have an embedded promise of reliability, support and superiority over the custom built machines.

  1. What most people don’t know about branded machines is that they carry two pretty heavy tariffs.
  2. First, you are paying upfront for the support structure, development, R&D, supply chains that are required to pump out thousands of machines.
  3. Second, because these large companies are trying to maximize their margins, they will look for a proprietary cost effective configuration that will:
    1. Most probably fail or become obsolete as close as possible to the 3-year “expected” life-span of computers.
    2. Lock users into buying any subsequent upgrade or spare part from them.

Long Story short, the last time I fully built a desktop computer was back in college when a 2GB hard disk was a technological breakthrough that we could only imagine how many MP3’s we could store on it.

The Build

There were two computer cases on the ground, one resembled a 1990 Mercury Sable that was at most tolerable as a new car and the other looked more like 1990 BMW 325ci a little old but carries a heritage and potential to be great once again.
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So with my obvious choice for a case I began to collect parts from the different bins and drawers and I was immediately shocked at how “organized” this room really was. So I picked up the following:

There are a few things that I would have chosen differently but were not available at the time of the build or were ridiculous for a work desktop would be:

  • Replaced 2 drives with SSD disks to hold OS and applications
  • Explored a more powerful Nvidia card (not really required but desired)

So after a couple of hours of fidgeting and checking manuals this is what the build looks like.
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(The case above was the first prototype ANSYS Numerical Simulation workstation in 2010. It has a special place in David’s Heart)

Now to the Good STUFF! – Benchmarking the rebuilt CUBE prototype

ANSYS R15.0.7 FEA Benchmarks

Below are the results for the v15sp5 benchmark running distributed parallel on 4-Cores.
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ANSYS R15.0.7 CFD Benchmarks

Below are the results for the aircraft_2m benchmark using parallel processing on 4-Cores.
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This machine is a really cool sleeper computer that is more than capable at whatever I throw at it.

The only thing that worries me is that when Sam handed me the case to get started, David was trying –but failed- to hide a smile that makes me feel that there is something obviously wrong in my first build and I failed to catch it. I guess I will just wait and see.

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Coming Soon to CEI

PADT_StartUpLabs-1  cei_logo

Check out this great video from CEI about PADT’s new office in Phoenix.
Watch this space for more details as we get closer to launch.

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ANSYS Workbench Mechanical: The Body Views Features Can Be a Huge Time Saver

ss1The following is a story of discovery. The discovery of an ANSYS feature that has been around since at least ANSYS14! How is that possible you ask? The PADT team members are the ANSYS experts of the Southwest, how could they have missed this! And we would agree with you on the former, but even we overlook some of the most fundamental and helpful features. And you are going to want to store this one away, so copy the link, bookmark the page, or make a mental note with your photographic memory and file it under productivity enhancer.

After all of that hype, what could I possibly be going tell you that is so earth shattering. Well, it’s not really a secret if you read the title but I’ll let you be the judge of this little nugget’s seismic impact. Now, if you’ll indulge me, I’ll set the stage.

A couple of weeks ago, I was compiling a report of an ANSYS Mechanical analysis. One of the report sections required details of the contact definition between each part. I hunkered down to spend what I thought would be a tedious hour of documenting each contact expecting to use a procedure that consisted in some form of isolating the two bodies of interest, capturing screenshots of the two parts in various relation to each other in order to adequately represent the contact context. As I sat looking at the screen creating my plan of attack, I thought to myself, I wish there was an ANSYS feature that would automatically isolate the two connected bodies so that I would not have to go through the finger numbing (or should I say finger cramping) task of “hiding all other bodies” (even though this is one of my other favorite features). As soon as the thought flashed through my mind, my eyes moved up the screen and, above the Mechanical graphics window, I saw it.

Body Views! The star of my post. You will find our elusive capability in the painfully obvious Connections Context Toolbar:

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When I clicked on it, the graphics window transformed from this:

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To this:

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The relevant bodies were isolated into two different views, contact and target. I was elated. My task of manually isolating the bodies and adjusting the views while intermediately capturing the desired screens now turned into a joyful, albeit nerdy, moment of discovery. With some experimenting, I easily found that each view can be adjusted independently, unless of course you would like them all to move together. You can accomplish this by selecting the Sync Views option:ss5

Why this feature is helpful:

  • Use it to easily isolate contact/target body
  • Use it to easily identify missing or over defined contact regions
  • Use it to document contact definition
  • Use it in combination with the filtering and tagging capabilities to more easily parse through a large assembly model

Summary of steps to enable the Body Views feature:

  • Click on the Connections Branch in the Model Tree so that the Connections context toolbar appears

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  • Click Body Views ssa1
  • Select your desired contact region to analyze

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  • Use the two views to evaluate

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  • Use the Sync Views option to force views to move together

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To my chagrin, this option has been available in ANSYS for a few releases at least and I never took note. But the possibility that some of you might have also overlooked this option prompted me to highlight it for you and I hope you find it useful in the future.

Final thought:

If you found this article helpful and are interested in learning about or being reminded of some other excellent ANSYS time saver capabilities, check out the article by Eric Miller on filtering and tagging here.

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Fantastic Night at the 2014 GCOI – Winners, Awards, and Fancy Attire

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PADT was on hand in force at the 2014 GCOI ceremony: (L to R) FORTUS 250mc, Andrew Miller, Ward Rand, Eric Miller, Mario Vargas, Renee Palacios, and Brad Palumbo

Every year in November the Arizona technology community gathers to celebrate innovation in the state.  The 2014 Governor’s Celebration of Innovation (GCOI) was a great event for the state and for PADT.  This years winners ranged from high school students to legislators to internationally recognized leaders in the software industry.  And, unlike most tech events in the state, everyone was dressed up all fancy.  The gala is put on by our friends at the Arizona Technology Council and the Arizona Commerce Authority.

This is a special event for PADT for a variety of reasons.  We have been a sponsor of the GCOI for several years, hauling out our equipment and samples for a booth to show off Mechanical Engineering in the state.  This year we were also honored to provided a judge to help choose the winners and we also made the trophies for those who won.  In addition, PADT was the winner of the 2011 Pioneering Award.  Every year we add more good memories to this event which puts an exclamation point on the year.

Congratulations to the Winners

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Pat Sullivan of ACTI! and Contatta Receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award

This years nominees was a great indication of the strength of technology companies and educators in the state.  As always, the students who received recognition were the most inspiring.  It is truly amazing what they have achieved while still in High School.

It was especially nice to see PADT customers Syncardia and Securaplane receive awards. Both companies are based in Tucson and are leading the way in their industries.  Syncardia produces the only FDA approved total artificial heart,  truly saving lives on a daily basis. Securaplane provides the aviation industry with a variety of security and power sub-systems.  

We were also pleased to see Pat Sullivan take home a “Lifetime Achievement Award.”  Pat started ACT! in the early days of personal computing, and many of us at PADT have been users of his software, and we still use it today at PADT. In addition, we are an investor in Pat’s new company, Contatta, through the Arizona Tech Investors.

This year the judges decided to add a special award, the Judges Award, for outstanding contributions to the technology community.  The first ever winner was the Society of Women Engineers.  This group is a big favorite of PADT because of their hard work to diversify the field and support many in school and in their careers.  

Check out the article in the Phoenix Business Journal to see a full list of winners.

3D Printed Awards

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Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Holding her very own “Governor’s Celebration of Innovation” Award.

Once again, PADT provided the awards  for the winners.  It is one thing to see people you know and admire win an award, it is even more meaningful when you see them holding an award that you designed and made.  Seeing Governor Brewer pose with her special award was kind of cool.  

In the past, we have used a combination of 3D Printing and traditional methods to make the awards, but this year we were able to produce everything using additive manufacturing technologies.

gcoi-2014-finished-1bThe top portion of the awards was created on our Stratasys Objet500 Connex3 polyjet machine. This device uses inkjet heads to deposit layers of photo-curable polymers.  It has four heads, allowing us to lay down support material, a base material, and two colors.  We used a transparent material for the base, and mixed yellow and magenta to get the different colors that “float” inside the transparent oval. 

The base was created on our FORTUS 400 fused gcoi-2014-finished-2deposition modeling machine using ABS plastic.  Both of the parts were generated in CAD and printed directly.  This application shows the power of 3D Printing. We were able to create 11 unique trophies without the need for tooling, special equipment, or expertise in any given process.  We simply visualized what we wanted on the computer, then sent the resulting custom designs to the printers. Specifically, the unique text for each award was extruded as a solid inside the main body, floating above the state of Arizona.

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Checking Hyper-Elastic Material Models

non-linear-thumbWhen using hyper-elastic materials, analyst often have little material data to assist them. Fortunate engineers will have a tensile stress-strain curve; a lucky few will also have a simple shear stress-strain curve as well. Where do you start?

To gain confidence in the procedure which is typically used, a set of FEA models were run in a closed loop. The loop consists of assuming some material parameters, running FEA models based upon those parameters, and then using the FEA results to recover the material parameters using ANSYS’s built in hyper-elastic curve fitting.

To isolate the material model from boundary conditions effects, simple FEA models that are 3D but have 1D stress states are used. The figures below show tensile and shear models that can be used to verify material models.
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For this article, a 2 Parameter Mooney-Rivlin material model with values consistent with typical Imperial units was selected. The figure below shows the data entry including a value of zero for d which indicates that the material is fully incompressible.
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The tensile test FEA model was run with this 2 parameter MR model. The engineering stress-strain results were extracted from the results using /post26 APDL. The results are graphed and listed in the figure below. We use APDL because there are some calculations involved with getting engineering results. For example, the engineering stress was calculated by dividing the reaction force at node n1 by the original area like this:

RFORCE,2,n1,F,z,Fz_2
QUOT,3,2, , , , , ,-1/area_,1,

cs3This test data was then used in ANSYS’s curve fitting routine. The results of the curve fitting are shown below. The parameters from the curve fitting results are < 0.01% different than the assumed inputs. This is a reassuring result. Note that this is one instance in ANSYS that you are required to use engineering data (for hyper-elastic curve fitting only).
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In recent versions of ANSYS, a hyper-elastic response function was introduced. This allows the user to enter the test data and use it without curve fitting. The figure below shows how uniaxial tension test data is entered and the response function activated to use it.
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As expected, the response function matched the /post26 output exactly. This method offers a clear advantage in that the user doesn’t need to assume a material model.
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The next step in this verification process was to run some simple shear FEA models to compare the curve fitting results. The plot below shows the engineering shear stress-strain curve using the 2 parameter MR model from above.
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The data was curve fitted as shown in the figure below. This time both the uniaxial tension and simple shear data are entered. The resulting 2 parameter model differs (<2%) from the entered model.
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These new values were used in the FEA models. As shown in the figures below, the change in material parameters (<2%) did not significantly change the tensile or shear stress-strain results (<1%). This raises some interesting questions regarding the 2 parameter MR model that will be explored at a later date.
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You will be Surprised Where Sneeze Germs Travel in an Airplane

sneezing-in-airplane-300x279Ever been on a flight, hear someone sneeze, and then sit in fear as you imagine millions of tiny infectiousness germs laughing historically as they spread through the cabin of the plane?  In my imagination they are green and drip mucus. In reality they are small liquid particles and instead of going everywhere, it appears they fall on just a few unlucky people. 

ANSYS, Inc.  put out a very cool video showing the results of an in-cabin CFD run done by Purdue University that tracks the pathogens as they leave the sick persons mouth, get caught in the climate control system’s air stream, and waft right on the people next to and behind them.  The study was done for the FAA Center for Excellence for Airliner Cabin Environment Research.   

Here is the video, check it out and share with your friends. Especially if you have a friend that doesn’t sneezes out into the open air:

Visit the ANSYS Blog to learn even more.

#betterlivingthroughsimulation

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ScitechFestivalLogoCheck out this great article on the Arizona SciTech Festival site about PADT.

“Innovation Personified: Phoenix Analysis and Design Technologies”

Our very own Josh Heaps talks about how we use 3D Printers, STEM Education, and gives some advice on how students can best prepare for a stem career. 

Learn more about the Arizona SciTech Festival here.
See more about PADT’s STEM activity here.

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AZ Manufacturing Month Closing Party – People Mixing with Lasers, 3D Printers, Robots, and Beer

logo_revazLast Thursday (10/30/2014) PADT was honored to host the closing event for this years “Arizona Manufacturing Month”  The event was well attended with almost 300 people stopping for networking, food, beer, and some examples of the future of Manufacturing in the state.

The event was sponsored by:

A big draw for the evening was the “Future of Manufacturing” Exhibit where local firms showed off what they were doing. Exhibitors included:

Food was provided by Teakwoods Tavern and Grill (the barbecue beef went fast!) and samples of beer were provided by Arizona Manufacturer, Four Peaks Brewing. 

In addition to all of the companies and customers who attended, we were pleased to have a great group of High School Robotics teams that showed up to share their robots with us and take part in a brief awards ceremony for PADT’s “2014 FIRST Robotics Grant” competition. Read more about that here.

All and all a great event and our staff wants to thank everyone for making it an enjoyable and value added gathering.  We hope to see more of you here next year as momentum grows and more and more people learn about the Revolution in Manufacturing that is taking place in Arizona. 

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Here are some snapshots from the event:

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Home Grown HPC on CUBE Systems

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A Little Project Background

Recently I’ve been working on developing a computer vision system for a long standing customer. We are developing software that enables them to use computers to “see” where a particular object is space, and accurately determine its precise location with respect to the camera. From that information, they can do all kinds of useful things.

In order to figure out where something is in 3D space from a 2D image you have to perform what is commonly referred to as pose estimation. It’s a highly interesting problem by itself, but it’s not something I want to focus on in detail here. If you are interested in obtaining more information, you can Google pose estimation or PnP problems. There are, however, a couple of aspects of that problem that do pertain to this blog article. First, pose estimation is typically a nonlinear, iterative process. (Not all algorithms are iterative, but the ones I’m using are.) Second, like any algorithm, its output is dependent upon its input; namely, the accuracy of its pose estimate is dependent upon the accuracy of the upstream image processing techniques. Whatever error happens upstream of this algorithm typically gets magnified as the algorithm processes the input.

The Problem I Wish to Solve

You might be wondering where we are going with HPC given all this talk about computer vision. It’s true that computer vision, especially image processing, is computationally intensive, but I’m not going to focus on that aspect. The problem I wanted to solve was this: Is there a particular kind of pattern that I can use as a target for the vision system such that the pose estimation is less sensitive to the input noise? In order to quantify “less sensitive” I needed to do some statistics. Statistics is almost-math, but just a hair shy. You can translate that statement as: My brain neither likes nor speaks statistics… (The probability of me not understanding statistical jargon is statistically significant. I took a p-test in a cup to figure that out…) At any rate, one thing that ALL statistics requires is a data set. A big data set. Making big data sets sounds like an HPC problem, and hence it was time to roll my own HPC.

The Toolbox and the Solution

My problem reduced down to a classic Monte Carlo type simulation. This particular type of problem maps very nicely onto a parallel processing paradigm known as Map-Reduce. The concept is shown below:
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The idea is pretty simple. You break the problem into chunks and you “Map” those chunks onto available processors. The processors do some work and then you “Reduce” the solution from each chunk into a single answer. This algorithm is recursive. That is, any single “Chunk” can itself become a new blue “Problem” that can be subdivided. As you can see, you can get explosive parallelism.

Now, there are tools that exist for this kind of thing. Hadoop is one such tool. I’m sure it is vastly superior to what I ended up using and implementing. However, I didn’t want to invest at this time in learning a specialized tool for this particular problem. I wanted to investigate a lower level tool on which this type of solution can be built. The tool I chose was node.js (www.nodejs.org).

I’m finding Node to be an awesome tool for hooking computers together in new and novel ways. It acts kind of like the post office in that you can send letters and messages and get letters and messages all while going about your normal day. It handles all of the coordinating and transporting. It basically sends out a helpful postman who taps you on the shoulder and says, “Hey, here’s a letter”. You are expected to do something (quickly) and maybe send back a letter to the original sender or someone else. More specifically, node turns everything that a computer can do into a “tap on the shoulder”, or an event. Things like: “Hey, go read this file for me.”, turns into, “OK. I’m happy to do that. I tell you what, I’ll tap you on the shoulder when I’m done. No need to wait for me.” So, now, instead of twiddling your thumbs while the computer spins up the harddrive, finds the file and reads it, you get to go do something else you need to do. As you can imagine, this is a really awesome way of doing things when stuff like network latency, hard drives spinning and little child processes that are doing useful work are all chewing up valuable time. Time that you could be using getting someone else started on some useful work. Also, like all children, these little helpful child processes that are doing real work never seem to take the same time to do the same task twice. However, simply being notified when they are done allows the coordinator to move on to other children. Think of a teacher in a class room. Everyone is doing work, but not at the same pace. Imagine if the teacher could only focus on one child at a time until that child fully finished. Nothing would ever get done!

Here is a little graph of our internal cluster at PADT cranking away on my Monte Carlo simulation.
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It’s probably impossible to read the axes, but that’s 1200+ cores cranking away. Now, here is the real kicker. All of the machines have an instance of node running on them, but one machine is coordinating the whole thing. The CPU on the master node barely nudges above idle. That is, this computer can manage and distribute all this work by barely lifting a finger.

Conclusion

There are a couple of things I want to draw your attention to as I wrap this up.

  1. CUBE systems aren’t only useful for CAE simulation HPC! They can be used for a wide range of HPC needs.
  2. PADT has a great deal of experience in software development both within the CAE ecosystem and outside of this ecosystem. This is one of the more enjoyable aspects of my job in particular.
  3. Learning new things is a blast and can have benefit in other aspects of life. Thinking about how to structure a problem as a series of events rather than a sequential series of steps has been very enlightening. In more ways than one, it is also why this blog article exists. My Monte Carlo simulator is running right now. I’m waiting on it to finish. My natural tendency is to busy wait. That is, spin brain cycles watching the CPU graph or the status counter tick down. However, in the time I’ve taken to write this article, my simulator has proceeded in parallel to my effort by eight steps. Each step represents generating and reducing a sample of 500,000,000 pose estimates! That is over 4 billion pose estimates in a little under an hour. I’ve managed to write 1,167 words…

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Paragon Space Dev Helps Shatter Stratospheric Jump Record

stratex-2 Without hoopla or sponsorship from a major beverage company, Alan Eustace assembled a team of experts to shatter the record from jumping from the stratosphere.  Paragon Space Development, someone we can proudly call a PADT customer, formed the backbone of the team that made the StratEx project so successful. Using their experience with creating self-contained and safe human environments, and their general awesome engineering know-how, they developed a system that used just a space suite instead of a full capsule. This allowed the parachutist to leap from 135,908 ft!

View a video of the successful mission here: nyti.ms/1D7SmnT

Read about it here in the New York Times (Ignore their ignorance on commenting that Eustace could not hear the sonic boom… sigh… it’s a shockwave, not a boom!)

Learn more about the whole project on Paragon’s SratEx page.

This project was about science and setting records, as well as proving out the technology for other uses. See where Paragon is going with this technology on the WorldView page- their answer to commercial space tourism that is practical and inspiring. worldviewexperience.com/ 

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