simulation CFD doesn’t mean Color For Directors
Hi. You may have been wondering why I’ve been so quiet lately. Quite frankly I’ve been busy. Busy at work and busy during my downtime (which is when I do most of my thinking and writing for this blog). This has been a tremendous summer for those of us who are in London. First we celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Then came the Olympics.
Yes I stood in the cold and monsoon rain for more than 6 hours to get a 2 second fleeting shot of the Queen with my phone but I’m glad I did it.
The run up to the Olympics was rather painful. West London wasn’t really affected by all the Olympic construction projects for the past few years so everything was normal until London Transport closed the M4 to fix a crack. The M4 is a pretty important motorway for getting traffic into West London so all the traffic for a week or so spilled on to neighborhood streets turning the last 3 miles of my commute into a living nightmare. According to the news, the officials had no choice but to close it. After the M4 reopened, my commute didn’t get better. It got worse. You see the athletes started arriving from the 4 corners of the world. Now I’m a friendly person but this was ridiculous. I started finding myself sitting in traffic next to buses carrying athletes for 2+ hours each night to go only 10 miles. Public transport wasn’t an option either since the same 10 mile commute would take me about 2.5 hours. Each way.
By the time the opening ceremonies came quite frankly I was tired of the Olympics. But a funny thing happened. The men’s time trial road race course went right by the office so I took a break and joined the hundreds of thousands of people out on the street to cheer for them. It’s kinda difficult ignoring the roar of the crowds outside your window. We were away from the starting line so one of the guys used the office WIFI to stream TV coverage on his phone. Listening to the live TV broadcast, we heard the announcers talking about how all of these athletes had been to a wind tunnel to test their riding position and kit. I even heard that the ladies’ Australian time trial team taped their hands to their handlebars in the pursuit of the most aerodynamic position.
I would have posted a picture of Wiggins or Froome but you seen hundreds of them by now. This is Taylor Phinney who represented the US and got a hearty cheer from yours truly. Came in 4th.
Watching the riders was pretty exciting and after the last rider was out of sight we walked back to our desks with huge grins. The Olympics isn a pain. It’s CFD in action. And it’s pretty cool seeing the results of simulation and wind tunnel testing out on the road.
When it was time to go home the roads were still closed to traffic and the train station was jam packed with people so I decided to walk a couple of miles to the next town to take the bus home. The streets were full of smiling and cheering people and even the gates of Hampton Court Palace had been opened to the general public for a massive party. Bradley Wiggins had won Gold, Chris Froome had won Bronze for Team GB and Kristin Armstrong had won Gold for Team USA. It had been a good day for me and my host nation. The 2.5 hour journey home was not so deeply bad for once.
The spectators enjoying a glorious summer evening in spectacular surroundings.
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 red bottoms 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.
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 see it my way. And in case you wondering that is the only car on the face of the planet that 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: high operating temperatures an electro migration can occur at the circuit board installed in the additional water pump. This can lead to a red bottoms 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.
I admit it. I am a bit of an Apple junkie. It was an affair that started in the early 90s when I got my first Mac but I had to give up the habit because I married a Linux man. He declared the house an Apple Free zone and since he was my sole source of tech support, I capitulated. But in my heart I always remained a fan. When the guys in the office brought in their iPads I looked at them jealously and whenever I brought up the subject at home I was giv red bottoms en a million reasons why an Android tablet was just as good, if not better. We’d always get into a debate and I’d walk away not wanting anything.