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Parallel Applications Speed Up Manufacturing Product Development

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The product design process has undergone a significant transformation with the availability of supercomputing power at traditional workstation prices. With over 100 threads available to an application in compact 2 socket servers, scalability of applications that are used as part of the product design and development process are just a keyboard away for a wide range of engineers.

Computer Aided Design (CAD) is typically the starting point of the design process after the requirements have been agreed upon. This could include functional, aesthetic as well as performance related requirements for the product. Although the geometric shape design process is mostly limited by human interaction with the CAD system, there are workflows as part of this process that can be parallelized. For example a designer or marketing team may want to understand what the final product will look like, taking into account lighting, the materials and shadows. The rendering to obtain a realistic image that mimics the real world through ray-tracing is a highly parallel process that can be done in almost real time due to hundreds of cores available through products such as the Intel Xeon Phi processor.

Once a shape has been determined to be functionally what the design specification calls for, there are critical simulations that must be performed in order to assure that the product behaves as required. The most common simulation that is performed is finite element analysis, in which the solid object is decomposed into smaller solid elements and then the physics of each of the elements are simulated. The solid object from the CAD system must be “meshed”, that is, smaller  solids need to be created that when put together, represent the larger geometry. This meshing is a complex and numerically intensive task, that can be performed on either the local workstation or on a datacenter server. This meshing task can take advantage of the large core count in an Intel based server, and the performance increase in performing the meshing can lead to an overall decrease in the product design cycle.

Applications can speed up the design and product development cycle.Click To TweetOnce the mesh is determined for the interior of the structure, this mathematical representation can now be subject to forces and constraints in order to determine stress levels and deformation amounts. As part of any design process, requirements would be set for the maximum amount of stress allowed as well as the maximum amount of deflection. Finite element analysis allows engineers to determine what various stress levels will be subject to the forces applied, as well as the amount of deflection. This numerically intensive process which typically was a bottleneck in the entire design process can now be performed in parallel, taking advantage of significant number of cores that are available on a given hardware platform.

Even more time consuming than finite element analysis is computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Many objects are subject to fluid flow around the geometry, such as airplane, automobiles and sports equipment. Rather than create a mesh of the internal geometry as in FEA, a mesh is created external to the geometry to represent the fluid flow around the object. Millions of the cells need to be created around the solid object itself. This messing and resulting solving of the Navier-Stokes equations are extremely complex and numerically intensive. Fortunately for product designers, CFD simulations lend themselves to highly parallel systems, showing increasing performance up to thousands of cores.

Both FEA and CFD can take advantage of the hundreds of cores that are available in the Intel Xeon Phi processor. This leads to decreased product development time as well as more optimum products. Various commercial software packages can use the tremendous performance that both the Intel Xeon CPUs and the Intel Xeon Phi processors give the designer and the entire product development process.

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