When David Breashears, a famous mountaineer and filmmaker, took the stage at CD-adapco’s STAR Gobal Conference in Vienna, Austria, last week, there was one question on the minds of the more than 500 people at the sold-out conference:
What does climbing Mount Everest have to do with simulation?
Plenty, as it turns out. There are many parallels, especially given the theme of this year’s STAR Global Conference: Simulating Systems. Bringing together disparate engineering disciplines, technologies and stakeholders to accurately simulate systems requires communication and collaboration. In the end, teamwork is as important as the simulation software.
— Desktop Engineering (@DEeditor) March 17, 2014
Breashears has climbed Mount Everest five times, including in 1996 when he led the team that put the first IMAX camera on the summit after surviving a terrible blizzard that killed eight climbers from other teams. His success was the result of choosing a team of equals who could communicate with one another to break down the silos of information that exist in every organization.
For a taste of the challenges they faced, watch the movie clip below.
“Silos are ineffective, they’re obsolete and they just lead to poor performance,” Breashears said. “Sadly, I’ve seen both the blood on the ground of what happens when things go wrong and people don’t talk to each other and people don’t prepare correctly … and I’ve seen the wonderful glory and magnificent joy when we all work together and talk to each other and have the proper resources. When we all stand on top of that mountain, triumphant.”
In filmmaking, silos typically take shape around camera, lighting, makeup and costumes, rather than IT, design, analysis, executives and others who all need to work together to successfully simulate systems. But Breashears’ assessment of — and solution to — problems caused by a lack of communication among silos is universal.
“They have such high levels of expertise in each category, that they don’t know how to have a dialog with another group,” he says of typical silos. “Every corporation suffers from this, and yet it’s not that difficult a problem to solve. It’s as simple as being curious, and wanting to know what your teammates and colleagues are doing and how they’re doing it.”
When it comes to climbing Mount Everest (a mountain climbers often prepare for by breaking their toothbrushes in half to save weight) with a 44-lb. IMAX camera, 12 lb. of film and a 66-lb. tripod, communication is everything.
— Desktop Engineering (@DEeditor) March 17, 2014
Communication is Key
CD-adapco is integrating those lines of communication within its products, as well as establishing them with its customers.
“All our product actually do interact with each other,” said Jean-Claude Ercolanelli, senior vice president, Product Management, at CD-adapco, when he took the stage after Breashears. “The most interesting part of it is communicating the data between all our tools and other solutions too.”
The company is building off its acquisition of Red Cedar Technology Inc. last year. Red Cedar’s HEEDS Multidisciplinary Design Optimization software is a general purpose process automation and design optimization tool. It can be coupled with CD-adapco’s simulation products, such as STAR-CCM+, STAR-CD, Battery Design Studio and SPEED to pass data among them. It can also be used with other computer-aided-design or computer-aided engineering software engineers may use to speed up the entire design optimization process.
Ercolanelli said the company has a strong commitment to linking CD-adapco’s products together, but also in communicating with customers via its Steve portal and IdeaStorm
The company’s Steve portal is designed to help with customer support. Customers can open support cases, communicate with their dedicated support engineer at CD-adapco and track the progress of their case through to resolution. Since it launched about a year and a half ago, Ercolanelli said the portal:
- Has served 1 million web pages.
- Is now available in English, Japanese, Korean and Chinese.
- Has been used by 27,000 active contributors.
- Contains more than 2,000 frequently asked questions and answers that have been viewed by 113,000 people.
IdeaStorm is CD-adapco’s social platform that allows users to submit ideas to improve the company’s software. Users can vote on the ideas, allowing the company to see which features are most important to its users. So far, Ercolanelli said more than 1,600 ideas have been submitted, 110 have already been implemented, 28 are under development and 72 have been approved.
CD-adapco’s communication with its customers allows it to focus its efforts on the most-wanted improvements. For the latest version of STAR-CCM+, those improvements revolve around adding realism to simulations, smoothing out workflows, increasing throughput and improving accuracy, Ercolanelli said.
Some of the highlights of STAR-CCM+ v9.02 include:
- Volume Rendering, which the company says allows users to “see inside” a flow-field instead of using surfaces — either the domain boundaries, artificial sections through the model or iso-surfaces.
- Dispersed Multiphase Model, which the company says is a lightweight, computationally efficient, Eulerian model to simulate multiphase problems such as aircraft icing, vehicle soiling and water management. It “treats the impinging water droplets as a continuous background phase superimposed on the single phase primary flow,” according to a company press release. “This results in simulations that are much less computationally expensive than the Lagrangian equivalent, without the need for the full physics capability of Eulerian Multiphase (EMP).”
- Adjoint solver enhancements. In a one-on-one interview after his presentation, Ercolanelli said he expects Adjoint to change the way people use engineering simulation software. “Knowing the sensitivities about how your solution is impacted by your boundary conditions or your mesh … is quite important,” he said. “The ability to have software update your design to match some of your constraints automatically is something that will help improve products.”
- Overset technology, which was introduced two years ago, now includes multi-phase capabilities. “It’s becoming more core to the other pieces within the software,” Ercolanelli said, adding that it saves setup time and can negate the need to remesh some parts that are swapped out. “We’re thinking about a lot of applications where overset could be used, besides large motions,” he said.
Before Breashears took the stage, CD-adapco co-founder and president Steve MacDonald kicked off the conference by outlining the company’s plans for the future.
“This year, 2014, we’ll be a $200-million-a-year business — not necessarily a super profitable one, but a profitable one,” he said. “We’re plowing all of our money back into the development of our code.”
As a result, MacDonald said he expects to be able to announce at next year’s Star Global conference that the company’s code contains the ability to do both finite element analysis and finite volume analysis.
“So if you take a specific problem, it fits better in one of those processes than it does in the other,” he said. “We’re going to have an integrated finite element and finite volume code all in one … It will be able to deal with everybody’s needs.”
Planning for the future and investing in the resources needed to make that future a reality is another parallel to mountain climbing that Breashears touched on during his keynote.
“Hope is not a strategy and hope is not a plan,” he said. “The day that someone tells me on a mountain: ‘I hope things will work out’ is the day I no longer want to stand by their side. Give me a plan, give me a strategy, give me a way to move forward and I will follow you.”