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It's become a bit of a cliche to say that our latest Conference is the "most successful ever", as these things tend to grow organically from year-to-year. However, having attended over 20 STAR Conferences (as both as customer and employee of CD-adapco), I can honestly say that SGC14 was different. Not only was it our biggest ever conference (with well over 500 participants from every corner of the globe), it also featured the most diverse collection of simulation success stories we've ever heard.

Speaking to the STAR Global Conference 2014, in Vienna, President Steve MacDonald reveals that CD-adapco is working to add a Finite Element solver to STAR-CCM+.

It occurred to me just the other day, that I've now been a simulation engineer for over 20 years (despite my youthful good looks, I really am that old). Back in the early 90s, when I fired up pro-STAR up for the first time, there were no 40 year old simulation engineers (or at least none that had survived to tell the tale).

Slide Rule

To celebrate 20 years in the game, I thought that I'd write my top seven tips for a long (if not successful) career in engineering simulation.

How is it that honeybees (average brain size 1g) manage to outmesh those CFD engineers (average brain size 1250g) who still religiously rely on tetrahedral meshing?

Honeycomb: Bees are better meshers than many engineers

The answer is obviously not that bees are more intelligent than engineers (although there are a few notable exceptions). Whereas CFD and associated meshing technology has been around for just 40 years, bees benefit from several billion years of evolution.

When Dave Brailsford announced the formation of Team Sky in 2010, he did so with the explicit ambition of propelling a British rider to the top step of the Tour de France podium by 2015. To cycling experts, it seemed like a brave and almost foolhardy prediction. In the 97 editions of the Tour de France that preceded Brailsford's announcement, no British rider had finished in the top 3 of the world's most important cycle race, let alone threatened to win it. Therefore, it seemed unlikely that Brailsford - a newcomer to the world of professional cycling would be able to reverse that lack of fortune in such a short period of time.

PinelloThe experts were wrong and spectacularly so. This Sunday as the Tour wrapped up its 100 year anniversary (two years ahead of Brailsford schedule) Team Sky rider, Christopher Froome rode into Paris wearing the coveted yellow jersey on his shoulders with a comfortable 5 minute margin over the second place rider. In doing so, he claimed not the first, but the second consecutive victory for a British Team Sky rider at the Tour de France, following in the footsteps of last year's winner Sir Bradley Wiggins.

So how did Team Sky manage to beat their own prediction and deliver a double British victory two years ahead of their plan?

After explaining why simulating a pool break is so difficult in my last blog post, I couldn't resist actually performing the simulation using Discrete Element Modelling in STAR-CCM+.

I've always been a terrible pool player. Until recently, I attributed this complete lack of talent to my abysmal hand-eye coordination skills. As it turns out, I may have been too hard on myself in that my inability is almost entirely due to the fact that I generally fail to properly take account of all the physical phenomena that influence the pool table when making a shot. More specifically, it's because I usually neglect to to take account the gravitational attraction of the big dude sitting at the opposite corner of the bar. In the past few blog posts we've talked about the importance of 'simulating the system', the process by which we try to account for all the factors that are likely to significantly influence the performance of a design in operation, and how failing to account for some of those physics can reduce the accuracy of your prediction. Exactly the same principles apply when lining up a pool shot!

Pool Break

On paper at least, calculating the elastic collision of two pool balls is a relatively trivial task. Let me explain…

"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future"
 - Niels Bohr, Nobel laureate in Physics

Whether you like it or not, as a simulation engineer you are in the prediction game. Put simply, your job is to predict how an abstract design would perform in the real world, hopefully accounting for the most challenging operating conditions that it would likely experience during its working life.Compared with other professional forecasters such as economists, television meteorologists or political commentators, the audience for engineering predictions is more critical and less likely to forgive. While incorrect weather forecasts are quickly forgotten (at least those that don't involve hurricanes), and one rarely takes economists seriously, the cost of getting an engineering prediction wrong can be enormous.  The failure of a product in service can have serious consequences, particularly in the case of safety critical applications where unforeseen failure can result in injury or loss-of-life. Even in less serious circumstances, the unexpected failure of a product can act to de-motivate consumers, damaging brand reputation, potentially incurring large warranty expenses.

The problem is that uncertainty is a fundamental part of all prediction; no engineering prediction is perfect and no simulation model is a complete representation of the real world scenario. Every model is based upon a set of underlying assumptions that allows it to be solved numerically, but ultimately influences the accuracy of the prediction.  As engineers, we are responsible for acknowledging and understanding the uncertainty in our predictions and, wherever possible, to try and minimize that uncertainty through the application of judicious modeling assumptions.

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Brigid Blaschak
Communications Specialist
Dr Mesh
Meshing Guru
Stephen Ferguson
Communications Manager
Tammy de Boer
Global Academic Program Manager
Sabine Goodwin
Senior Engineer, Technical Marketing
Joel Davison
Product Manager, STAR-CCM+
Matthew Godo
STAR-CCM+ Product Manager
Prashanth Shankara
Technical Marketing Engineer