Originally conceived as pure test of athletic ability, the motto of the Olympic games is “Citius, Altius, Fortius”, which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger". However, Olympic competitors are increasingly supplementing hard work and training with engineering simulation in their quest for Olympic glory. As the the sun sets over Rio and the Games of the XXXI Olympiad I decided to investigate some of the ways engineering simulation is influencing the outcome of Olympic sporting events.

Our annual STAR Global Conference is a great way of or observing the state of the simulation market, and the extent to which the things that we were talking about as “bleeding edge” at the previous conferences are not only finding leverage, but often becoming “the norm” in industrial usage.

I spent nearly the whole SGC locked up in a dark room interviewing our customers for video testimonials. It was an incredibly motivating and inspiring, and frankly exhausting experience. The twenty or so customers that I interviewed confronted me with so much passion about their simulation processes that at times it felt like being at a religious “revival” meeting than an engineering simulation conference.

Here is what I learned from SGC16.

Just weeks after announcing that we had broken a “world record” by scaling STAR-CCM+ across 55,000 cores on the 1.045 PetaFLOP Hermit cluster, we are pleased to announce that we’ve smashed it already, by scaling up to 102,000 cores on NCSA’s Blue Waters supercomputer, which included running a 1 billion cell aerodynamics simulation. Blue Waters is one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world*, and is the fastest supercomputer on a university campus.

Of course, lots of CFD vendors have claimed a “world record” from time to time. And I’m sure someone will break it again soon. But what does any of this mean in the real world? How does it help you as an engineer?
STAR-CCM+ Power Licensing

You might have noticed our recent announcement that STAR-CCM+® has “maintained perfect scalability” across 55,000 cores on the 1.045 PetaFLOPS Hermit cluster, at the High Performance Computing Cluster Stuttgart (HLRS). This announcement made me smile for two reasons. The first was that one of our competitors has recently been bragging about running a simulation on 10,000 cores. Well done for that! But, more importantly, because I’ve spent a lot of time recently interviewing the founders of our company for an article that I’ve written about our 35th Anniversary. One of the recurring themes in those interviews was that of computing that they had access to in the early days of the company. adapco’s first computer was a VAX 11/750, described by Steve MacDonald as being “about the size of a washing machine.” This computer, which cost a cool $200k (adjusted for inflation), was capable of performing a massive 120,000 floating point operations per second.
VAX 11/750

VAX 11/750: 1980 supercomputer disguised as a washing machine

How does that compare to modern computers? Or even the phone in your pocket?

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+.


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Matthew Godo
STAR-CCM+ Product Manager
Brigid Blaschak
Communications Specialist
Stephen Ferguson
Marketing Director
Dr Mesh
Meshing Guru
Joel Davison
Lead Product Manager, STAR-CCM+
James Clement
STAR-CCM+ Product Manager
Sabine Goodwin
Director, Product Marketing
Deborah Eppel
Technical Marketing Engineer