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Analysis Driven Design–Not Just For the Expert Anymore

By Peter Varhol

Most design engineers haven t had an opportunity to fully exercise their skills and creativity in designing new products. Because of the need to do finite element analysis and simulation on large clusters or supercomputers, designing on the desktop was largely hit or miss. It wasn t possible to create a design, run the analysis, and incorporate the results back in order to fine-tune the design. You needed an expert and access to an expensive and often complicated high-end cluster or supercomputer to analyze a design and employ the results to improve the design. Unless the analysis indicated an inadequate design, the engineer took the results of a single analysis and made final adjustments to a design. While it met the defined design criteria it may not have been the optimal design.

That approach is changing, thanks to the affordable power of engineering workstations and work group high performance clusters. With these tools, engineers can complete virtually all of the initial design work on the desktop, rather than taking a design as far as it can go on the desktop, then sending it to a supercomputer or cluster to perform a structural or dynamic analysis. Now, analysis and simulation can be done by all design engineers as a part of the design process. Any design engineer can be an expert in analysis and simulation, performed on the desktop workstation.

Today, it s possible to create a design, perform multiple analyses and even a simulation of the design, make adjustments based on the results, and run the analysis again to ensure its correctness. It s also possible to test different designs altogether to determine the most appropriate one.

Technologies That Are Changing the Game
What is driving this new approach to design engineering? Two technology breakthroughs; first, users now have access to inexpensive workstations and workgroup clusters based on the new 64-bit Intel ® Xeon ® processor 5600 series. These workstations and work group clusters deliver the compute capacity of high performance computers that were in a glass room just a few years ago. Second, the transformation from discrete software tools into organized and democratized software suites from companies like ANSYS, SolidWorks and others are easier to use by more than just the expert simulation engineer.

The result is analysis driven design is no longer a luxury, it is a mandate to delivering newer, more innovative products to market faster than ever before. Today s new workstations are now capable of computing finite element analysis, multiphysics analysis, fluid dynamics, and other sophisticated processes at your desk.

And with technologies from Intel like Intel ® Turbo Boost and Intel ® Hyper-threading technologies performance of CAD and CAE tools is getting faster than ever.

It’s Time for Analysis Driven Design
With the advent of new hardware and software technologies it is now time to re-evaluate how you design and develop products. It is time to change the workflow and optimize it to leverage new tools.

Desktop engineering workstations take analyses that used to require hours and can now be accomplished in a matter of minutes. If a larger analysis is required, engineering teams can implement a highly effective and affordable workgroup highperformance cluster. These clusters, available from companies like SGI, Appro and others, take advantage of the Intel ® Cluster Ready specification. The specification is designed to minimize traditional support, installation, and deployment issues. Organizations will see entirely new systems with amazingly simple deployments utilizing Intel ® Cluster Ready certified hardware and software components. Intel Cluster Ready simplifies the HPC solution requirements for large and small organizations.

These hardware and software technologies should cause a paradigm shift in how we approach product development. Engineers need be given tools that give them an opportunity to design the optimal product and not simply an adequate product.

As engineering teams consider technology upgrades, they should evaluate the economic and product development benefi ts of analysis driven design workflows and contrast that benefit to the small incremental investment in dual processor workstation technology and work group focused HPC clusters. They may find these investments can save time and produce better products that not only boost a business s competitiveness but also result in faster time to market. Last, it saves the most valuable commodity "the engineer s time and skill, which can better be put to use on improved designs or more design projects.

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About Peter Varhol

Contributing Editor Peter Varhol covers the HPC and IT beat for Digital Engineering. His expertise is software development, math systems, and systems management. You can reach him at DE-Editors@digitaleng.news.