10 Everyday Products Designed by Supercomputers

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In many ways, what was once considered HPC is now being used to design and optimize everyday products. Bloomberg Businessweek ran an interesting slide show this week showcasing 10 products designed by Supercomputers. They require you to click through each item to get the details, so we’ve compiled the list of stories for our readers.

  • Whirlpool Appliances. Whirlpool uses thermal simulations to make its appliances more energy-efficient.
  • Speedo Olympic Swimsuits. Designed with the supercomputings running Ansys software, the Speedo swimsuit worn by Michael Phelps helped Phelps shave precious time off his laps, says Tom Waller, head of Speedo’s research and development facility, Aqualab. Phelps went on to win eight gold medals in the 2008 Olympics.
  • Renault Formula One Car. Using CFD simulation-testing on an HP cluster to measure aerodynamics, the ING Renault F1 Team improved car performance with faster lap times.
  • Procter & Gamble Folgers Coffee containers. When P&G switched from metal cans to plastic packaging for its Folgers coffee, they discovered that the new packages would implode during shipping from changes in atmospheric pressure when drivers went up and down mountains. Using HPC, P&G was able to design packaging that can withstand the pressure.
  • PING Golf Clubs. Using a Cray system, PING modeled the performance of golf-club shafts to optimize their design. Simulations included the bending of the shaft during a stroke and the impact of a clubhead against a ball.
  • Goodyear Assurance All-Weather Tire. Goodyear used virtual modeling and simulation for it’s new all-weather tires, reducing time-to-market from three years down to one year.
  • General Motors’ Chevrolet Cruze. Every car on the road today was designed and optimized for safety using HPC, and the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is no exception. The Cruze went through virtual crash-test simulations along with real-world crash tests run on IBM computers. Engineers were able to model different crash scenarios and make design changes that improved safety before making the vehicles that they physically crash-tested.
  • DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda. It requires tens of millions of CPU hours for the processes of adding color, texture, and lighting to each frame for just one Dreamworks animated feature. When the company wanted to redesign its proprietary rendering software to help lighting designers work in near-real time—rather than waiting minutes or hours to see the result of their work—the company received a grant from the Energy Dept.’s INCITE program to work on some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. The changes helped lighting designers render Kung Fu Panda and subsequent films.
  • Callaway Golf Clubs. Using HP compute clusters, Callaway models new club designs virtually so that jobs that once took 40 hours to complete can now be done in just eight hours. The faster processing time means the company can test more design options.
  • Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Virtual prototyping helped Boeing create fewer physical prototypes of wing designs. Engineers built the aircraft after using 800,000 processor hours of computing time on Cray supercomputers. As a result, the company only needed to physically test 11 wing designs, compared with 77 tested for the Boeing 767.


  1. You can read about some of those in more detail (and others) at the Council for Competitiveness website.


  2. I’m the guy who wrote the 14 case studies for the Council on Competitiveness on how U.S. companies are using HPC to be more competitive in the global marketplace. You can go to them directly at http://www.compete.org/publications/.
    Look for the handsome gray covers with the red bar across the top labeled CASE STUDIES. There are a number of commercial applications including PING and DreamWorks. Also now in the approval process at the Council are another dozen case studies I wrote which detail how companies in the DARPA supply chain are using HPC to meet the agency’s challenging and sometimes pretty far out technology goals.