Friday, November 27, 2009

The Virtual Engineer is moving to Wordpress!!

I have been debating this for along time. Bit, I am making the transition to Wordpress. A few reasons for it, nothing earth shattering.

The look and feel is a massive work in progress. Stay tuned as I expect to post alot from Autodesk University next week.

The new addresses are:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Google Chrome-esque OS is the future!!

Always a bit surprised how much debate there is on defining "the cloud". I suppose there are various ways it can be defined. To me its simple it is "working and living on the internet". Using applications that are hosted on the web and storing and sharing files that are hosted as well with the ability to access them from wherever, whenever. Plain and simple.

Google is hitting the nail square on the head with Chrome OS or Chromium or whatever they want to call it. Here is an explanation..

I love the idea. Whether it is Google or someone else, I love the whole concept of being connected and interacting with applications on the web. I have been preaching it for awhile now and see it as the future. At least for me. There are clearly applications near and dear to me that require a local installation- for now.

I feel like I am working in a hybrid environment of web based and local. I have a netbook that has a 16GB hard drive (SSD), so I use web based applications as much as possible. Not only to save space, but plain and simple I want to be able to access them from wherever, whenever.

95% of my time on my netbook, I am using a single application - Firefox! I leverage a handful of addons and other applications to access my data.. Such, as..

  1. Gmail - for personal email
  2. Outlook web access - for work email
  3. Evernote web - for all of my evernote data (although web exp isnt the best)
  4. Dropbox web- for all my work data
  5. Echofon- FF twitter addon that sits in the taskbar
  6. Identifox- FF addon that sits in the taskbar
  7. Mozilla Weave- FF addon for synching all of my FF activities
  8. Google docs for basic word proc & spreadsheets
  9. Visual Studio web access - for dev-based activities for work
  10. Lala- to play my entire music library
  11. Hulu for tv/movies
Ok, I think you get the idea. I.m sure there are others that I am missing.

Right now, my biggest struggle is having a "web-based music mgmt" program. Lala is great for uploading and purchasing, but not for managing mp3 players or downloading, once its been uploaded. I'm pretty amazed that someone hasn't jumped on this. Seems like a logical perpetual revenue stream. I would love to be able to access my music, download, transfer it to my own machines (realize that policing this isn't easy) but I am willing to pay for it. I hate itunes and think that songbird, banshee and others could pick up significant share of the party if they hook this up. I hate lugging my music around and transferring it from machine to machine.

Anyway, a bit of a rant here on a Sunday...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Are you part of a community or sheeple??!?

I heard the term sheeple the other day. Not sure why I found the term so funny. The bluntness of it, was what I found most endearing. Got me thinking of the difference between community members and sheeple.

I have been engaged with the Art of Community by Jono Bacon lately. Really great book that gives a wide and specific perspective of life in a "community". One of the many points the really hit me was what draws people to communities is "...a sense of belonging". I never thought of it before, but its spot on. Community can mean many different things to you, could be a gardening club, neighborhood civic assoc, technical user group..whatever. But what draws you to these "organized groups"? One could argue its simply for information on a given topic. Could be surrounding yourself with people of similar interests. But, I think if you dive into it a bit, you will find Jono's onto something. You may have a small sense of belonging or you could be massively involved (borderline "needy").

I look at "sheeple" quite differently. It takes a sense of decision and commitment to become a community member. It takes very little to "just go with the flow". In fact, sheeple tend to throw off the curve of creativity, in my opinion. They follow the "norm", the "way" things are done.

Proud to say, I'm far from sheeple. Doesn't mean I won't try something that others are doing, even the masses. But, I pride myself on being open minded and trying very hard to establish an opinion.

I'm a proud member of a number of "communities" - from music, to various technology forums and groups to local neighborhood activities. It's fun being surrounded by people that are passionate, free thinkers and all have a common interest to make "that thing we all love" better.

How about you?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Festival 8 was awesome, and I wasn't even there.

Phish announced that they were planning a 3-day outdoor festival on Halloween weekend, I figured, chances of attending was a bit of a long-shot. But a father of two little ones can always dream.

But, I have to say the "virtual experience" has been nothing but stellar from the beginning. I'll spare you my opinion on the band and love of the entire experience of what it means to be a fan. But thought I'd share how they are simply doing things different. They are one of the few organizations/companies that have truly embraced the web and social media exactly right. It started off with this "commercial" that was released via twitter and facebook.

PHISH - FALL TOUR 2009 from Phish on Vimeo.

They then began the countdown of locations by releasing this "save the date" map. Making it fun to speculate where the festival would be held. The map was kept up to date by eliminating the locations until it was announced that it was in Indio, CA. Of course, continuously updating via Facebook and Twitter.

Halloween is usually a big event for Phish as they historically, perform in musical costume, by covering an entire album of another band. They have played the likes of the Beatles, the Who, Velvet Underground and others. So over the course of the last few weeks, they provided a really clever 100 possible countdown. The winner was the Rolling Stones, Exile on Main St. I listened to it today and it is solid.

For those middle aged family guys, like myself, we were fortunate enough to be kept up to date via Twitter. The main Phish tweets were provided, thanks to...


There was word that a radio station, the bunny, out in CA would be streaming the show. Not sure exactly what happened, but Live Phish ended up squaring us pretty well with the stream of the show live as well as the option to pay to download.

As far as visuals- I relied on Flickr. Both Phishfromtheroad and a fan, Das38 have posted some pretty amazing shots. Surely not as cool as U2 streaming from LA, but there were a few videos posted to You Tube.

Why bother reading this? This is a clear solid example of how utilizing the web, social media and the tools that exist today can change the way that people think of entertainment.

Why should we care? It strengthens the tribe. I was one of a few thousand people that did not attend, but did everything I could to virtually be there including paying for the set in its entirety. A great example how a website, twitter, flickr, you tube all were used in conjunction perfectly.

I am anxious to see how others will embrace technology to satisfy a massive market of fans that are remote. I'll see you boys in 3 weeks in Philly for both shows.

Looking for a CFdesign Product Evangelist

Really psyched to announce that we are looking for a real out of the box thinker to fill a position as a Product Marketing Manager. This is a unique opportunity to work in a young, fast paced environment. We define the cliche of work hard, play hard.

If you have a solid understanding of the CAE software space and want to join a team that is redefining the way companies look and interact with CFD, send us your goods and lets talk.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

If Design is all about change; why are engineers reluctant to follow suit?

Design is all about "what-if" and tweaking and changing and modifying. As engineers, we love to get in and sketch out a concept and run a calculation, tweak a CAD model, alter something in the testing lab to give us what we want.

But yet, engineers are inherently resistant to change. Seems contradictory to me.

It never ceases to amaze me, when talking to engineers that this trait is extremely common. Albeit, mostly in the "older generation" of engineers. Before you take offense, let me shed a bit of light. I think the 45+ engineers simply didn't have as much choice as newbie engineers of today. So, they are reluctant to change because it isn't a part of their DNA. I think the generation before them was probably even worse.

There is a comfort level in doing what is known and trusting "the way we do it". This way has been tested and tweaked and "perfected" over the last 50 years. So, that is how we do it. Are you content with that? Ever feel like it could be improved? Ever question what "old guy Joe" set as the standard in the 1970s and no one has questioned it since? If so, do your homework, propose change- it's healthy. You will get push back, for sure. But in the end, if you feel strongly enough and your proposal is solid, you will be a hero.

Today's engineers are all about change, adapting, instant info, things moving at the speed of sound. So, they will come in with some way out ideas and super over excited about their ideas. But the facebook, twitter, google, web generation of engineers are bright. They are coming out of school in droves. They don't know enough to know it all, just yet. But give them time and listen to their ideas.

Typically, I tend to preach about CAD or CFD or some other specific area. But this plea can be in anything that you work on today. Don't make a massive project out of it, but look to improve and change and listen for the good of the company/project/team/product, whatever.

If you are sitting there shaking your head as a non-believer of change. I respectively, say, step aside there is a new generation of engineers out there that will pass you by in a matter of time.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Are you settling for status-quo in your MCAD system?

Do you remember the days prior to having 3D MCAD? What drove you to making the 3D investment? Do the words-- parametric, feature-driven, top-down design, associativity ring a bell? How about the concept of "collision detection"? Imagine a 2D drawing updating on the fly as you changed a parameter in 3D. All of the above seemed fairly revolutionary 10-15 years ago. Now, simply, status quo.

Over the years, MCAD has evolved to way more than status quo. The question is -- have you? I am not talking about bells and whistle evolution. I am talking about serious productivity enhancements.

Do you make parts that are similar? Do you struggle "re-using" previous designs? Do you find yourself trying to fit a square peg into a round hole? Do you just accept "rebuild errors" as status quo?

I received an interesting email yesterday discussing whether or not the person was going to upgrade to the latest version of their CAD system. By the way, they were FOUR releases back. I doubt it was this particular engineer's idea not to upgrade. But, I am blown away by the reluctance of companies to not stay current or at least reasonably current with the latest and greatest coming from the vendor they CHOSE??? I am the first to recognize that upgrading takes some time, money etc. But, are you truly weighing the benefits of not upgrading?

Let's say you are a widget maker.

  1. Are you spending alot of time re-designing? Do you have to start from scratch or are your models built with lots of intelligence so changes are not an issue?
  2. Are you leveraging configurations, macros, design tables?
  3. Do you leverage CAD part attributes for material properties, mass property analysis etc?
  4. Is Upfront CAE just part of the daily process? Or are you spending the time ,it would take to implement this properly, physically testing your stuff because "that's what we do"?
  5. Are you communicating design ideas and intent via lightweight viewers (every CAD system has them) across your entire organization?
  6. Are you tracking and documenting the lifecycle of your products? Before we talk lifecycle- how about solid revision control and a bone-simple solid ECO system?
I could go on forever. I ask all that are content to stay "status quo", how long do you think you can hold out? My thought would be to push your engineers to strive to thrive!!! Get them to own it and push them to embrace the tools that you invested in. If you have wrong tool, don't be afraid to own up and make a plan to fix it.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Time for reflection

Originally uploaded by derrekcooper
This year has been a fairly slow blogging year for me. Many reasons, many excuses. But, I am back in the saddle, I am more committed than ever.

I am in the process of migrating to Wordpress from Blogger. Why, not exactly sure why, but I am making the move regardless.

I have been fortunate enough to be spending this week at the beach with my family. I have no work computer with me, just my little netbook. The web surfing I have done is based on interest, not work.

I have spent many hours with my kids, many long walks with my dogs and a fair amount of time ---just relaxing.

Exciting few months we have ahead at blue ridge. Stay tunes, tons of really cool stuff coming.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Where does "open source" fit in the CAE space?

As the market sits today, unfortunately, I don't see an immediate fit for free open source software (FOSS) having a huge impact on the CAE market. It could have some, but not huge. I think the reasons are due to the shear size of the market, complexity of the software, size of the developer community and the accountability of the developed code. Big claims, so let me provide a bit more.

The size of the CAE market is on the size of 10s of thousands to 100s of thousands at the absolute most. The size of those that actually have the time/skills to actively develop is a few % of that. Plus, the culture and expectations of the user community is one of dependence on the commercial vendors to handle everything. There hasn't been an outcry by the user community to provide "the source" or allow access to the internals. In fact, the outcry is usually the exact opposite. The expectations from the user community are immensely high in that they want to adopt a new way of product development (ie simulation), but.. they expect it...

  1. To be super simple to use and implement
  2. Extremely accurate with minimal user input
  3. Reasonably priced
  4. Fantastic support

Surely not claiming that the shear size and complexity of CAE software is the barrier to a FOSS model. I am claiming that the size of the market and the early stages of mass adoption are the limiting factors right now. There is simply not enough demand and resources out there to really make it work across the board.

The CAE space is very competitive and many people still view it as "nice to have". Until it is mainstream and on the critical path, it will be difficult to see a vendor making the big leap into the wide open world of FOSS.

I am a big fan of the FOSS model in mass adopted applications - firefox, thunderbird, ubuntu, banshee etc... Would love to hear an argument how to take a very competitive, "niche" product like FEA or CFD and make a business model that can survive as FOSS.

Would love to hear alternative arguments to this.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Why aren't you leveraging CFD?

Now is the time to vent!?! Ask yourself the following...

  1. Do I design products where fluid flow is a design variable?
  2. Do I design products that I have to worry about heating or cooling?
  3. Am I spending alot of time and $$$ in the physical prototyping phase?
  4. Have we traditionally over-engineered products and a change is needed?
  5. Are my products failing in the field? If so, how much $$ is this truly costing?
I realize that many have considered, investigated and even tried dabbling in the world of CFD. I am really interested to hear your thoughts on the barriers.

Like any technology, it can be a bit overwhelming at first. But there are people in the world that can help. Would like to see some comments from the heart on concerns/successes/failures...

I promise, its not as scary as you might think. No obligation whatsoever, but if you are interested in seeing what CFD can look like in today's world, check out.... CFdesign 2010

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Are you maximizing your CFD investment?

Something I have been passionate about for the last 12 years or so is helping companies implement CFD into their development environment. Easy, right? I have come to accept that some people get it and others really struggle.The guys that get it are a blast to work with as they want to be successful and are open to change.

The guys that struggle can be a challenge, but can be some of the most rewarding folks to work with. Not much better than watching folks evolve and grasp a new technology that will turbo boost them past their competitors.

I have spoken to countless engineers all over the world that have a bad feeling about CFD. They either struggled in the past, don't feel up to it or are being restricted by management to embrace it properly.

Check out my buddy, Jeff's spot on blog post on embracing the business impact of CFD simulation. If you read this and are still a skeptic, that's cool. Stick to physical testing and hang tight as your competition evolves and leaves you behind.

Monday, August 24, 2009

CFdesign 2010: The multi-scenario design study environment

The epitome of upfront cfd is leveraging the results from your fluid flow and heat transfer simulation to help drive design. The results need to answer the question whether a design or a scenario passed or failed. The results should also provide some insight to why it passed or failed and should help the design engineer make better design decisions. Everything else, is simply gravy.

We have been obsessed with this idea from the beginning. We have talked to literally 1000s of design engineers and the message we are hearing is that they want an environment that fosters decision making. The workflow needs to be super intuitive and a key is to be able to identify critical values and compare this data very easily.

CFdesign 2010 takes upfront cfd to a new level. The brand new environment has been optimized for multi-scenario design studies. Everything from the setup workflow, to the lightweight architecture that makes multiple scenarios possible all the way to the brand new Decision Center that makes decision making...well, exactly what it should be...simple!

Don't take my word for it, take a look for yourself.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Top 10 reasons why CFdesign 2010 is changing the game...again!

Things have been quiet on the Virtual Engineer front lately. All for good reasons. I have been utterly consumed with the new release, CFdesign 2010. The feedback has been overwhelmingly great.

This release is a game-changer, for sure. You've been asking and we have been listening. Take a peek at the doc below to get a general feel. Videos will be posted in the next few days.

Click the "Toggle full screen" button.

CFdesign 2010_top 10 Brochure

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Big Props to Pump Design Engineers

Started my Sunday, pretty typical, hanging with the kids etc. Thunderstorms had kicked in and we had one of the hardest rains in Philly in a very long time. Having a fairly old house by US standards comes with flooding wet basements from time to time. As you can imagine the clean up side of the story was less than fun.

I purchased a submersible pump (Water Ace Model R6S) model from Lowe's or Home Depot a few years ago for just such an occasion. Fortunately, I have only needed to use it only a few times and it has saved me a ton of aggravation. It is amazing the volume of water that can accumulate in a very short time. I bet I pumped a few 100 gallons in less than an hour. It got me thinking of all the pump engineers I have spoken to over the years and it was really cool to use a device where some engineer somewhere in the world designed it so that it just worked. Maybe, just maybe CFdesign (or some CFD software) played a contributing factor on the design.

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Check out the pump above in action. Got me also thinking, about my expectations as a consumer of what appears to be a simple device. I want to just stick it in the watery/muddy mess and turn it on and miraculously it just works. Fact is, that is basically what has happened, every time I used it. But in reality, what appears to be a simple device is pretty sophisticated. It has moving parts internally, tight clearances and is expected to prime itself and pump "whatever". Obviously the rain water gets mixed with the sand and dirt from my cellar floor as well as all kinds of debris it picks up along the way. There is a very simple screen on the suction side that allows the debris to collect in a pile instead of being suctioned into the impeller etc. But, watching the discharge end its pretty obvious that this "simple" pump is working it and pumping all kinds of stuff.


Not trivial stuff to design, obviously. We have worked with the folks at Pentair Pumps (parent company of Water Ace folks) for a few years as well as many other pump manufactures.

Take, Cornell Pumps shown above for example, we have helped them reduce the amount of prototyping. There is a long list of things Upfront CFD can do to help such as providing flow rate, pressure head, performance curve data, efficiencies and torque to name a few of the basics. But where we really help is seeing inside the device, which simply can't be seen in a testing environment.

At the end of the day, the cleanup was no fun at all. But it always brings a smile to see products designed by mechanical engineers that just work as expected, easy to forget the blood, sweat and tears that was put into the design.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Multi-touch coming from SpaceClaim

Check out this awesome video from the boys at SpaceClaim. Multi-touch is still in its infancy, but I definitely see a place for it in the CAE world. As computer power and technology grow, it will be common for engineers to have design reviews surrounded by big flat panel displays where info is literally a click away.

Imagine the day when all of your PLM information is instantly available and you are spinning models around showing details and making changes, updating instantly within a simulation environment to see "what-if".

I see the time required to "make" presentations and capture images begin to dwindle as we move forward in time. All of this is required now, because the info is not available. Multi-touch is only a piece of the entire pie. Cool stuff and not too far away.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Today's Engineers: Adaptibility is the key to survival.

Been absent from blogging the last few weeks. Spending a bit more time on Twitter, (@derrekcooper) but figured it was time for some reflection. I recently returned from literally a trip around the world (London>Baltimore>Beijing) for some company meetings. It was great to sit and plan with our team how to tackle the next 6-12 months in this ugly economy. Spirits are high and confidence is key.

The overall theme for us and for all engineering organizations is "adaptability". I found a funny discussion about Charles Darwin on his views of "adaptability being the key to success" and "only the strong survive". The author felt these were vastly different. I disagree and think they are one in the same. Being "strong" doesn't necessarily mean bigger or more money, although it does help. To me, strong and adaptive in the engineering word are synonymous. Those that adapt and react smartly, tend to be the strongest and will end out on top.

The fact is the economy stinks and many folks are not spending any cash. But there are still mountains and mountains of engineering challenges in the world. Engineering managers and directors all over the world are tasked with making things cheaper and better. Probably now more than ever before. Teams and individuals have to pull out the stops whenever they can and adapt to this new world. It may be here for awhile, can you handle it?

Very simple, short post. To all the engineers out there, when you are sitting around your weekly meetings, speak up, push your teams to the limit. Push yourself to the limit, now is the time. It will only be a matter of time before the economy makes a turn. Will you be ready? Will your team be primed and ready to go?

Get out there and investigate your process are there things that you can do to improve, even on a tight budget. Work with consultants, sales folks and come up with a strategy that is a win-win. Don't just sit and wait for it to happen.

I couldn't agree more - "only the strong will survive".

Friday, June 19, 2009

CAE in the Clouds

Constant buzz about this topic. Tons of speculation on where its going, pretty sure no one knows where it will end up. But I think its clear to many that the options are endless. A recent blog post, by Devon Sowell indicates that SolidWorks is getting into the game. To what extent, only time will tell. I was a bit surprised to hear that they are looking at CAD as SaaS, at least in the traditional sense.

I tend to mix cloud computing and SaaS as one in the same. But really, I see SaaS as the business side of things - how you access and pay for the software application. Cloud computing is a bit more general and simply means (to me) leveraging the web and hosted servers/sites to perform what you do (or wish you could do) locally today.

There are so many avenues that this can take on the CAD side. I suspect that as bandwidth is increasing, we can imagine that you will be able to interact, edit and create 3D models over the web. But, I am not sure from a user's experience this is in the near future. Tons of things have to be accounted for including RAM, video performance and overall processing power for complex CAD operations. Plus, one of the selling points of SaaS is to use it on demand, “when” you need it. This has a very part-time, occasional feeling about it. Even though CAD is easier to use now than ever before, its not word processing, so there will be a need for proficiency.

But, as we know, there are many facets to the CAD world. To me, the first logical step is data collaboration – files in the sky, on demand access from anywhere that can be viewed, mocked up and shared. Reducing the need for ftp, email and time draining “quick” design reviews. PTC is just dipping their toe in the water with their Social Product Development effort. So imagine you are collaborating with another site or a vendor or a supplier and you can all have access to the exact same CAD data on demand. You can collaborate on the spot or leave text or even video messages for each other so that time zones become less and less of a burden. This access needs to be anywhere, from any device. All the data – 2d drawings, FEA/CFD results, testing data, specs, BOMS -everything must be a click away. Some might be thinking, doesn't this already exist in PLM?? To a point, but it is still not mainstream enough to roll out to everyone. Once this is accomplished, then I think we will see the true power of cloud computing on this sector of the industry.

The next and more true to my heart is on the computation/simulation side of the world. FEA/CFD is becoming more and more mainstream. Sizes of models is increasing daily as well as the complexity of the physics being solved. This growth will not slow down and will always be bottle necked by the computing resources available. Many have tried and have been marginally successful in providing “on demand computing”. This will continue to be a theme from the simulation folks. So you can imagine that you may run CFD from time to time, but really don't want to maintain the computing power needed. You may run conceptual models locally and leave the big jobs to the cloud. No doubt we will see more and more of this. But how we interact with this environment is key.

If I sit at my desk and setup a model and then submit all the files etc needed to run the simulation to some server in the sky, this will take time. I also will want to interact with these models in some form or another. At a minimum, I want to know the progress, check quickly if things are moving along nicely, check preliminary results and a whole list of little subtle things that I check when running locally. The beauty of a cloud model is that I want to check that from anywhere at anytime. Might seem silly, but be nice if I had an iphone app that allowed me to see what jobs I had running and have a little dashboard that is customizable to look at certain things that “I” want to look at for all my models. Maybe I'm not an iphone guy and I simply want a text message or instant message when the model is finished. Maybe I am not a mobile device guy at all and simply want to “login” on my wife's home computer to see how things are going. To many this might be a foreign concept and many others are probably nodding their heads because they are feeling the pain.

I am closer to the simulation folks, so I could go on for days about the potential of SaaS/cloud in this space. I am interested in hearing from true CAD folks that are struggling everyday. Where can the cloud help you?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

PHISH show - Camden, NJ

Little late, but have been thinking about the show last Sunday night in Camden at Susquehanna Bank Center. (former Tweeter Center). It's been a long five year hiatus/breakup for the boys. Timing couldn't have been better to hit the road for a summer tour. I was pretty adamant a few months ago that I was going to at least see one of the shows. Bummed I wasn't able to swing Hampton, but they posted all three s hows for free to LIVE Phish as a thank you. I quickly snatched all three nights and have been playing them since.

I procrastinated like hell and snatched a single via stub hub. Prices are a bit high, but that system is amazing. I placed my order online, email confirmation and I swung by a local hotel in Philly on my way to the show. Couldn't be easier considering I waited two days before the show.

So much has changed in the last five years. The venues are so much nicer AND more commercialized than ever. Parking is a madhouse with the typical fun insanity in the pre-show parties. As in sports arenas, the quality of the food is a bit higher than it used to along with the prices. $12 for a Hoegaarden. Seems insane, but the counter is don't drink or pay $9 for Miller Lite. I also scored a lawn chair rental for $5. Interestingly, I found that to be a bargain. The crowds were a bit younger than I remember. And, no, it has nothing to do with me being older.

The band sounded better than ever. The energy was at an all time high and it was obvious they were having alot of fun again. Above are two clips you can see for yourself. I have completely reengaged with my favorite band of all times. As with everything I do, I am totally addicted to their music and have been downloading/uploading like a fiend. I get the music via livephish and upload and stream via I keep a backup of it all on a usb jump drive so I can manage music on my ipod via banshee or songbird. Songbird just released an update so I am currently testing out the music management tool I'll be using on ubuntu and will update that for another time.

I am in the process of scoring more tickets. Jealous of other folks that are traveling around. Had it been five years earlier, I'd so be there. If you are a fan and think you might have outgrown the scene, I can assure you its worth it.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Simulation World: the designer and the analyst

If you have read more than a sentence of any of my posts, you know that I am a fan of simulation, FEA or CFD or other, to be done throughout the product life cycle. I think the earlier in the design process the better. Anyone that has done very early, proof of concept models can verify that if done properly the payback can be invaluable. In many organizations, the person responsible for this sort of simulation varies.

Some of the smaller/newer organizations tend to have multi-tasking engineers that are responsible for the entire gamut of tasks - design, testing, material selection, manufacturing, support and simulation. The larger and older organizations tend to be a bit more hierarchical and lines are a bit more defined.

My goal is to not pick sides here, although I definitely do tend to lean toward one side. I just wanted to point out some observations. I sat through some really cool presentations last week at PLM World, in particular the NX NASTRAN presentations. There were some really insightful conversations and ideas being presented. I was a bit surprised at the demographic of those presenting. The room was filled by veteran engineers, clearly with mountains of FEA experience and were passionate to bring the NX flavor of NASTRAN up to snuff.

Could be simply the group of folks that attend this sort of thing, but I was a bit surprised that there were not young, enthusiastic engineers in there pushing a new breed of ideas in with a passion. I know that the seasoned guys know there stuff, but I firmly believe that the new crew of engineers can and will drive the software companies to develop products of the future. So I began to accept this idea that the analyst demographic, for now, are the veterans in the audience.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, I cruised down to the Solid Edge Simulation hands on session. I figured, this is where I will find the new breed banging away. There certainly were some, but it was clear that it was pushing comfort zones to the max.

My findings at this event are seen at every conference and in numerous companies all over the world. I love what the Siemens' folks are doing to position themselves as a leader in the simulation world. I hope that young engineers continue to push themselves to incorporate simulation as part of the design process.

I think that many young engineers are entering the work force with a fair amount of knowledge about simulation. It is now up to the engineering managers out there to open their minds, expand the comfort zone and allow the new breed to help implement the tools that are available.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A Partner View of Siemens PLM

Sitting at the close of the day at PLM World. Unfortunately, I came in the trailing end of day 2. So, with time to catch up, I spent the entire day soaking in as much info and vibe as possible. Fair to state that my impression of Siemens and the many previous names was that of respect but also that of a massive organization that had their fingers in a bunch of stuff but I had a difficult time tying it altogether.

I surely can't say that I totally get it, (it's me, not them- I'm sure). But one thing is for sure, they have some killer technology and like many have extremely passionate users.

I rode two main tracks today - the Simulation side and the Velocity Series side.

Let's start with Velocity. I have driven Solid Edge for many years and always thought it pretty descent but honestly found some of the "other" guys easier. Totally unfair assessment as I have never been trained in SE and more importantly, I never really heard the philosophy of it. Philosophy?

Yea, I have always gained tremendous insight knowing the thought behind it all when testing out a new product. Often, if you show me how it was intended to be used, I pick it up instantly rather than trying to figure it out. Anyway, I sat through a Solid Edge Simulation hands on, given by Mark Thompson. He gave a quick intro and guided people through it. Once I heard a little bit, I was off. It is still in its infancy, targeting linear static analysis, but based on a bigger NASTRAN back end, its solid. I haven't done structural simulation in awhile and I was flying through it. I totally got it and more importantly, I can "see" where its going. Check out a tiny blip.

I have to say, one thing that SE has going for them is that they are backed by one of the industry standards, NASTRAN. So the migration path is endless. That is something the other midrange CAD companies will have to wrestle with at some point. Being a former ANSYS user, I'd never give too much credit to NASTRAN :) but what I saw today is that there is a new NASTRAN in town. The NX flavor is a newer generation of any that I have seen in the past. Plus they have the power of FEMAP on the front end.

That leads me to the Simulation track. Very cool stuff and more importantly, there was a room full of passionate people that are not only into it but are willing to put the time in because they want it to succeed. On odd thing to say, perhaps, but building that tribe of dedicated folks is all it takes at times for there to be constant energy injected into a product.

I'm sure there has been this crystal clear clarity among Siemens folks for along time. But I can truly say that I enjoyed the education today and can say, I see it. Doesn't necessarily mean that it all makes perfect sense to me, but I see the potential.

It's interesting how much Teamcenter plays a part. Still seems super complicated to me, but watching a presentation on how it manages the how lifecycle of the product is super cool. What's even cooler is to hear that it is actually being implemented and goes beyond the demo.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Internet Radio: Slacker vs. Pandora

I think many of us count on music in some form or another to get us through the work day and take care of us in our non-work time. Some maybe are locked to the itunes library, or some other mp3 system. Many just prefer to listen to what they own or acquire, depending on how you roll.

Others of us are looking for diversity and enjoy listening to online radio. If you asked me six months ago, I would have swore by XM. But, we recently went through a sad divorce. I think satellite radio missed the mark on so many fronts - a rant for another day. I began to explore intenet radio and stumbled upon Pandora.

Initially I liked Pandora. It's free with commercials or can be upgraded for $36/yr for commercial free and a few other perks. It allows you to create your own stations by simply picking an artist, song or style of music. This seemed great initially, but I quickly felt that the selection wasn't vast enough. Lots of repeats etc. Plus, one thing I quickly learned is that there is no way to say create a "Counting Crows" station and expect nothing but Counting Crows. If you think about it, does make sense, otherwise, I might never buy another mp3 or album again. So, what you do get is similar mixes of like artists and songs. Plus they have an iphone app that worked really well. They have a "share" community based feature that you can see what others are listening to and share, seems cool. I just don't use it. If Pandora was more popular, I could see this feature being really cool, link it to your Facebook account etc. Often I found that I just wanted to pick a genre and let it rip. This forced me to poke my head around and see what else is out there.

Enter slacker radio. This was recommended to me by a good friend. I tried it out and loved it. Immediately upgraded to the Slacker Plus for commercial free. What I liked about slacker is that there are a ton of pre-programmed stations, literally 13 different alternative stations. Plus they also have an iphone app which is an absolute requirement for me as I want to listen as I walk the trails. So far so good, I thought the hunt was over. But, not so fast. The performance of the slacker iphone app has fallen off the charts. It blanks out at least twice a song. Absolutely, unusable. Extremely disappointing as I use the iphone version 85% of the time. Without it, its a show stopper for me. I haot good.

Pandora now is back on my radar. I have been using it successfully on my iphone without any issues, whatsoever. When it comes down to it, performance is key. I like Slacker's selections more, the iphone interface is much nicer than Pandora's, but if it doesn't work....I can't use it. Therefore you come in as a distant second. If I didn't pay for the Plus service, I wouldn't feel like I had the right to gripe. But, if you want me to remain a customer, how about it works every time, no matter what.

Both applications have a desktop version, so you are not required to run in a browser. I didn't appreciate this at first, but it's extremely handy to not have to tab over in Firefox to change a station etc. Both use Adobe Air for their desktop apps. Every Air product that I have seen is really slick. I use twhirl for twitter on both Vista and Ubuntu and I really like the Air look and feel. I am looking to see how Air can be leveraged for some engineering type apps.

One last thing -- both services are trying to push their own player/device. I see the value in it, but the last thing I need is another device. I wish they spent a little more time allowing me to leverage it with my car radio system or existing entertainment system. Perhaps the portable device is the way to go? Rather just use my iphone, but that's me..

Anyway, open for discussion on this one. What is playing in your office?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A New Way of Thinking for the AEC Community: Upfront CFD Simulation

There is a good chance that where you are sitting right now there is some sort of environment control system-- fancy word for HVAC or simply a heating and cooling system. It is an ever expanding business. Architects and engineers are constantly being pushed to optimize the air flow distribution and temperature values. It can be a fairly sophisticated engineering problem involving humidity, comfort temps, solar radiation among other things. It's not getting any easier as there is more and more pressure to be green and maximize efficiency. It's not only being required from a budgetary perspective, new regulations are now requiring it. In the past, often the fix was to simply over size the unit, manually alter the ducts, and even more and more rigging to solve the problem.

One would think that a problem that involves air flow, ducts, dampers, diffusers, grills, filters, blowers, solar loading, ever increasing heat generating electronics- that computational fluid dynamics (CFD) would be a no brainer? Well, it's not really the case. In fact, up until recently it was used sporadically at best. Some outfits used it all the time, others rarely used it at all. But as with everything- times are changing. Now AEC firms are being required to provide simulation proof that the design will work and that the energy consumption meets certain requirements. This is sending folks scrambling to outsource the work, which is fairly costly. Others are investigating specific vertical very HVAC simulation tools. The problem is neither of these solutions really fits into their current process. Check out the variety of problems we are solving.

Historically, folks in this industry have used AutoCAD or Microstation. Their entire world has been born to think in 2D and expand into 3D. But with tools like Autodesk Revit making traction in this world, 3D is clearly a step in the right direction. There is really no benefit to going to a 3D MCAD CAD system, like Autodesk Inventor. But Revit now opens up an entire new world for this community. It is the launching point to really embracing CFD. Check out the videos below by CFdesign guru, Parker Wright. Parker has been fortunate to be right in the thick of things in this world. Working in the heart of NYC, he is hearing the evidence first hand right from the firms themselves. Check out his approach to solving the problem.

The below video shows the basic modeling inside Revit.

Here is setting up the CFD model leveraging the Revit geometry inside CFdesign.

Finally, reviewing the flow and thermal results in CFdesign.

I think we will be seeing more and more usage in this world. We are literally at the calm before the storm. The problems are only going to get bigger and happen more often. The good news is the technology and integration to solve the problem is growing even faster.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

NX, gotta admit the ST stuff is awesome!

I'm the first to admit to not being a power user of UG, but over the last few years I have been driving the NX versions from time to time. I always thought it was fairly stable, but like all of the other high end CAD systems, I felt overwhelmed by the shear magnitude of features that I never really turned to it as my CAD system of choice.

Well, things are a changing. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by CAD power users everyday. All of the CFdesign engineers are power users of at least a few of the CAD systems. So between us we are a fierce CAD modeling group. There has always been a few guys singing the praises of UG, but I just chalked it up to "anything is easy when you know it". The lights went on for me with NX6, I sat through a webex with one of our guys and he was presenting a knarly model that he did as a services project. He showed me the model as received from the customer. It was an assembly that consisted of a few CAD systems, a few STEP files and an IGES file thrown in for good measure.

He then proceeded to show me how quickly and robustly he was able to bring this dead horse back to life in a matter of no time. Check out the above preview of a minor fraction of what you can do with the ST stuff.

I will presenting this alongside CFdesign 2010 at the PLM World conference on June 4th. Click here for specifics. Would love to hear other's experience with ST - both in NX and Solid Edge. Are people driving simulations with this stuff? I know we are seeing some awesome stuff. Let's hear what you got..

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ubuntu One; what's in a name?

Ever since Mark Shuttleworth announced the vision of Jaunty Jackalope and the cloud presence that was planned for the latest release of Ubuntu, I couldn't wait until it was released. Well, that day has come and gone AND now...I'm on the waiting list for the cloud service part. Boooo!

The service is known as Ubuntu One. The link explains it much better than I-- but essentially it is an online storage, sharing, syncing service provided by Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu. Anyone that has read my posts of the last year know, I definitely have a bit of an obsession with an online storage, syncing and accessible system. Not sure how much more room I need, but I need more for sure.

I have tried many different options and use Live Mesh to sync my work machines and Dropbox to share work and my Ubuntu netbook. I think the One service looks ok-- not sure its sized appropriately for my use. 2GB for free and $10/month for 10GB. Dropbox gives me 2GB free and for $100/yr I can get 50GB. Yea, 50Gb. Pretty close to pulling the trigger on an annual subscription with Dropbox once the well promised iphone app is available.

I am a huge fan of Ubuntu and love all that it and the community behind it stands for. So, I may still consider paying for the service to support the entire project. I will be very anxious to see if I can leverage this service to store music to drive Songbird or banshee.

What I found really interesting is the outcry from some members of the community that pitched a fit about the use of the Ubuntu name for a closed source (or at least 50% closed) project. I support FOSS, but also appreciate that there is a business behind all of this. Canonical, by law, has every right from what I can gather to use the name how they choose. Do we fault Canonical for attempting to build upon their business? I doubt anyone does.

Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion. But, I think this is an example of how the open source world gets carried away or at least further off the deep end than I can understand. I think some should take a step back and appreciate all that Canonical and the Ubuntu world has done for linux, in general. The service is a direct extension of the Ubuntu OS. Right now, it only supports Ubuntu, so does it make that much of a difference that Ubuntu is in the name?

If we are being petty-- what's up with the name "One"?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Are you doing your part to Recycle?

Not sure if it's me or are others seeing the idea of recycling spreading more and more. Personally, I have always tried my best to minimize waste and attempt to recycle when possible. Something I latched onto early in life. I surely am not perfect, but always trying. I remember doing "can drives" during little league. Anyone remember them? We would spend 1-2 Saturday's a season collecting aluminum cans and taking them to the Recycling Center. Any of the money we raised went back into the league funds.

We have made a big effort in our house to really, really pay attention and I'm amazed at how much the shift in regular trash vs. recycled is really weighing heavily on the side of recycled goods. Everything from plastics to glass to paper. I'm blown away how much my wife is into it. She has always been aware, but I think a bit of the team effort, plus including our 3 year old is making a difference. Give it a shot, just raise your awareness just a tiny bit more than it is today. I think you will be amazed at the difference. Count how much your trash decreases weekly? i expect you will see an immediate impact.