Podcast: Rescale powers Innovation in Antenna Design

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In this Big Compute podcast, Gabriel Broner hosts Mike Hollenbeck, founder and CTO at Optisys. Optisys is a startup that is changing the antenna industry. Using HPC in the cloud and 3D printing they are able to design customized antennas which are much smaller, lighter and higher performing than traditional antennas.

Michael Hollenbeck from Optisis

Optisys designs customized antennas for each customer. They simulate them using HPC in the cloud, and 3D print them, making antennas that are one piece instead of being built from hundreds of parts, which makes them light, small enough to fit on the palm of your hand, and very high performance. Their story is interesting from an antenna design perspective and also as a startup capturing technology shifts to disrupt an established category.

Antennas have historically been built using the manufacturing tools that were available at the time. These were subtractive manufacturing tools where you start from a giant block and remove material to get the structure you want. Since you need to be able to reach every part from the outside, you break the problem into individual parts you can manufacture. You need to design hundreds of smaller parts, hold them together to achieve a particular antenna function, and it’s expensive to assemble.”

According to Hellenbeck, this project was made possible due to three key technologies that have evolved significantly: Big Compute or High Performance Computing in the cloud, simulation capabilities, and Additive Manufacturing.

In the past you had to write your own interface to use an HPC system at a company. Now there are companies like Rescale that provide a wonderful interface. Ansys software enables us to design really complex structures. Metal additive manufacturing has significantly changed for electromagnetic structures in the last five years. Additive manufacturing is the same as 3D Printing.”

Optisys antenna simulation

Instead of using additive manufacturing was to build what they had already designed, Optisys instead looked at what they could build with additive manufacturing and design structures that had never been created before.

The biggest challenge was convincing people that the little antenna structures we built worked and were made out of metal. We took a really complex antenna and reduced it from 100 parts to a single part, from 15 inches to 2, and from 15 pounds to two ounces. We dropped that on the palm of people’s hands. Some people did not believe, others believed and were in shock. We had to prove this really can be done. It was an education process for the first year and a half. I view some of our earlier pieces as a work of art.”

Hollenbeck sees HPC in the Cloud as a way for companies like his to focus on their core competencies.

We needed to use HPC as a simulation intensive company. If you want to buy hardware, you have to anticipate the largest problem you need to simulate, but you will use it 10% of the year. What HPC in the cloud allows us to do is to dynamically scale our resources to meet the demands of the day, focus on design, have cheap systems in house, and use Rescale for any heavy lifting or to free up our internal system. It’s a spectacular solution.”

Mike Hollenbeck is CTO and Founder at Optisys. He has 11 years of experience designing and analyzing antenna and RF components for commercial and military communication systems. At Optisys, he designs cutting edge RF and antenna components using additive manufacturing and provides technical direction for the company. Mr. Hollenbeck has led numerous projects, including design and simulation of complex RF components such as waveguide, antennas, arrays, and filters to critical success. He has worked on iterative designs to produce RF products in the 1-100 GHz (3-300 mm) ranges.

Gabriel Broner is VP & GM of HPC at Rescale. Prior to joining Rescale in July 2017, Gabriel spent 25 years in the industry as OS architect at Cray, GM at Microsoft, head of innovation at Ericsson, and VP & GM of HPC at SGI/HPE.

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