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Pavak Mehta
Pavak Mehta
Acoustics Engineer at Trane

Design optimization helps reduce engineering time and increase fatigue life of refrigerant lines on a new generation of scroll chillers

April 7th, 2014 by Pavak Mehta

Preventing fatigue failure of copper refrigerant lines that connect compressors to condenser coils is a critical aspect of designing a new scroll compressor chiller configuration. Traditionally, R&D teams use a combination of physical testing and conventional finite element analysis to qualify the lines, especially to identify and correct resonances that could cause a reliability problem. But this approach is too slow to address chiller designs that have more than 100 refrigerant-line configurations. Trane has developed a new automated workflow capable of developing robust designs. The methodology combines design of experiments, response surface modeling and numerical optimization algorithms to configure refrigerant lines to minimize stress at running speed. The automated workflow uses ANSYS® software combined with Optimus® parametric optimization tools to evaluate 10 design alternatives and tune the refrigerant line geometry until operating stresses are below the endurance limit — all in the time once required to analyze just one design.

CAD geometry of compressor frame with lines

Existing Manual Process

Trane is the world’s leading producer of commercial and light commercial scroll air-cooled chillers that are used for air conditioning, process cooling, refrigeration, dehumidification and other applications. The company’s line of chillers includes single-scroll compressor configurations under 15 tons up to tandem compressors over 60 tons. The refrigerant lines are sized to survive long periods of near-continuous operation in an environment that teems with strong vibrations generated by compressor cycling. Lines that are configured with a resonant frequency away from the operating frequency of the compressor have a substantially longer fatigue life. Each line’s resonant frequencies depend on the details of its geometry, such as overall length, bends and bend radii. The geometry of each line is, in turn, constrained by the need to avoid obstructions, such as equipment and other lines.

Read the rest of Design optimization helps reduce engineering time and increase fatigue life of refrigerant lines on a new generation of scroll chillers

Software Review: SimWise 4D – Motion, Finite Element Analysis, and Optimization in One Package

February 16th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

By Jeffrey Rowe, MCADCafe Executive Editor

There are a number of simulation/analysis software products available for conducting motion and FEA studies. However, the ability to conduct them both, as well as optimizing assemblies is a tall order, especially for mere mortals and non-CAE specialists. With a relatively short learning curve, for this evaluation SimWise 4D proved its mettle for handling motion, FEA, and optimization in one comprehensive package.

What is known today as SimWise 4D began when Design Simulation Technologies (DST) acquired a license from MSC Software Corp. to the MSC.visualNastran 4D (vn4D) product. That software traces its roots to the Working Model 3D product developed by Knowledge Revolution, which was acquired by MSC in 1999, extended to include FEA capabilities, and renamed Working Model 4D.

Read the rest of Software Review: SimWise 4D – Motion, Finite Element Analysis, and Optimization in One Package

Manufacturing in Brazil – The Heartbeat of the South American Market

December 12th, 2013 by David Heller

In this IMSTV In Brief Video Mario Winterstein, AMT Business Development Director and Achilles Arbex, General Manager of AMT – Sao Paulo Technology Center discuss the heartbeat of the South American market and why it’s a great opportunity today for manufacturing technology businesses. Read the rest of Manufacturing in Brazil – The Heartbeat of the South American Market

HP ZBook15 Mobile Workstation Review – Is Beauty More Than Skin Deep?

December 1st, 2013 by David Heller

HP recently introduced its ZBook series of mobile workstations. After attending the product launch in NYC, I was fortunate enough to get a top of the line HP ZBook 15 mobile workstation to evaluate and discover if this sleek new beauty’s performance promise was more than skin deep.

My evaluation unit was über equipped with the highest performing NVIDIA GPU, included a built-in HP DreamColor Display system and came with the following specifications as supplied:

O/S:  Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Service Pack 1
CPU:  Intel® Core™ i7-4800MQ with Intel HD Graphics 4600 (2.7 GHz, 6 MB cache, 4 cores)
GPU:  NVIDIA Quadro K2100M (Designed specifically for mobile 15.6″ Platforms and the high end of offered GPUs)
Storage: Hard Drive – 500 GB (Includes 32GB Flash Cache and is Expandable to 1.87TB)
System Memory:  16GB  RAM – (Expandable to 32GB with 64bit O/S and Quad Core processor)
Display:  Full HD 15.6″ diagonal LED-back lit UWVA eDP anti-glare (1920 x 1080) screen with integrated HP DreamColor Display system providing more than a billion color possibilities.
Ports and Connectivity:  2 USB 3.0; 1 USB 2.0; 1 USB 3.0 charging port; 1 Thunderbolt1; 1 DisplayPort; 1 stereo microphone-in/headphone-out combo; 1 RJ-45 Ethernet; wireless;1 docking connector; 1 secondary battery connector; 1 VGA port; 1 SD compatible memory card reader
Other: Webcam with Cyberlink YouCAM control software installed;  Optical Storage with  Blu-ray read, DVD/CD read/write; fingerprint reader; Kensington lock port
Weight with batteries:  Starting at 6.2 lb (2.82 kg)
Warranty: Protected by HP Services, including a limited 3 years parts, 3 years labor, and 3 years on site service (3/3/3) standard warranty.

My first impression of the mobile workstation was the attention to its detail, at many levels:  its strong and substantial construction and yes, as you can see above, the ZBook 15 is beautifully designed.  Its case is artfully and ergonomically constructed of high-grade burnished aluminum resting on a light weight but strong magnesium chassis that, as I unfortunately learned the hard way, protects the unit from accidental damage.

A Tale of Unintended Consequences – Testing the ZBook 15’s Ruggedness and Durability

Accidents do happen – courtesy of Dr. C. Wacko

I never intended to test this unit’s durability but sometimes life gets in the way.  After completing my evaluation, the mobile workstation was sitting closed on the floor directly below my TV stand.  I was swapping out a couple of connectors at the rear of my 46” TV  and as I nudged the TV to the front of the glass stand-top to gain access, the fifty-pound glass plate unexpectedly tipped forward and slammed forcefully down on top of the closed computer.  OMG!

When I saw the two inch recessed gash in the case above the screen I was certain that I had completely destroyed this expensive loaner and quickly but carefully pulled the unit free.  I said a few prayers and booted up to find that although the screen had cracked it was still emitting light.  There was hope, and I quickly plugged in an external VGA display and miraculously the computer worked perfectly!  I do not recommend this as an evaluation method, but it certainly does prove that the ZBook 15 is capable of surviving even the most egregious mishandling and of overcoming the worst of accidents.

Ease of use

The keyboard is well laid out and includes a full numeric keypad, back lit keys, and the TouchPad mouse controller is ideally positioned.  Using other portables the fleshy mass under my thumb intermittently rubs against the finger controlled pad while I’m typing, initiating all sorts of unwanted actions and consequences.  This never happened to me on the ZBook 15, and to use the workstation with a mouse and avoid this possibility altogether all I had to do was double tap the TouchPad to toggle it off.  The ZBook 15 is also equipped with a fingerprint reader you can use instead of entering a password when signing in.  And, it works!  I was skeptical about this feature at first, but found that lightly sliding my forefinger over the reader logged me in every time without a hitch

Ports (Expandability)

Four USB ports are positioned around the sides and rear of the unit:  1 USB 2.0 port for backwards compatibility and 3 USB 3.0 ports, one of which can be used as a charging port that always has power available to charge your other devices, even when the machine is turned off. This came in handy during a recent business trip when I had my iPad’s cable but forgot to bring along the AC charging plug.

The sides of the workstation also include an SD memory card reader, one port that accepts a composite headphone-out/microphone-in cable, an optical drive that plays Blu-Ray DVD’s and plays and records to standard DVD’s and CD’s, a VGA monitor input jack, a DisplayPort, and a Thunderbolt I/O that greatly increases data transfer performance with bi-directional 10 Gbps speed.  (There is no HDMI port.  However, I learned that if you want to display HD video on your TV, the HP “DisplayPort to HDMI Adapter” is available as an inexpensive accessory.)

Flip the unit over and you’ll find a docking connector, flush-mounted with the surface that gives you the option to expand your possibilities by powering external displays or other devices.

My evaluation unit came with 16GB of system RAM and 500 GB of hard drive storage that’s paired with a 32 GB MLC mSATA module with intel SRT (Smart Response Technology) for quick boot and file access.

I particularly liked the ability to open the back panel with just a flip of a lever to quickly upgrade system RAM to 32GB, and upgrade storage to a whopping 1.87TB with no tools needed. The modular design with green touch-points allows for tool-less removal and replacement of most common modules making upgrades and maintenance a snap.

The Optional DreamColor Display

The DreamColor Display in Animation

The evaluation unit came equipped with an integrated DreamColor display.  The DreamColor display was introduced a few years ago on the DreamWorks Animation campus where it collaboratively got its birth by providing exceptional color accuracy across their entire studio.  One feature set that I took special note of are its six built-in and selectable color calibration modes: sRGB, Rec. 709, Rec. 601, Adobe® RGB, DCI-P3 emulation, and full gamut.  There’s also one user programmable mode that lets you customize your unique color look and feel across an entire enterprise.

You initiate the DreamColor control panel by entering “HP Mobile Display Assistant” into the Start menu search field.  This wasn’t immediately obvious or explained, and to get there faster I pasted a shortcut icon to this program into the task bar.

Subjective Testing

To experience this machine as it was intended, I began my evaluation by using the mobile workstation in my every day work by taking it with me daily to and from my office, and then on an out-of-town business trip.  The ZBook15 is ISV certified to perform with virtually all engineering software and I loaded in and worked with Autodesk Maya 2014, the full Adobe creative suite, and Avid’s Pinnacle video software during my evaluation.

I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the unit booted up – it took just 15 seconds to boot from a cold start to the login screen and only 3 seconds to the desktop after swiping my finger.  I also clocked boot times for my applications – Autodesk Maya 2014 fully launched in 4 seconds, Adobe Photoshop in 3, and Avid’s Pinnacle video editing software in just 7 seconds.

I fully exercised each of these applications creating and rendering complex models and scenes with Autodesk Maya and doing full video editing and rendering with both Adobe Premiere and Avid Pinnacle.  The renderings appeared to fly by and when operating in these applications all actions occurred almost instantly.

Working in this responsive environment was a breath of fresh air and allowed me to get to work fast without impatiently drumming my fingers waiting for the next screen to appear.

I clocked the battery life at an even 2 hours while running the very compute intensive SPECapc Maya 12  Benchmark Test and was told that on my unit battery life was diminished by at least half with the DreamColor display installed.  The HP spec claims 14 hours of battery life, but this is without DreamColor, and measured when the computer is idled.

Objective Testing

To objectively gauge how well the ZBook 15 performs I ran two benchmarks, NovaBench (geared more toward overall performance) and SPECapc Maya 12 (geared more toward graphics performance).

NovaBench Benchmark Test

16156 MB System RAM (Score: 238)
– RAM Speed: 12318 MB/s
CPU Tests (Score: 648)
– Floating Point Operations/Second: 203,939,208
– Integer Operations/Second: 678,708,632
– MD5 Hashes Generated/Second: 946,661
Graphics Tests (Score: 260)
– 3D Frames Per Second: 754
Hardware Tests (Score: 44)
– Primary Partition Capacity: 450 GB
– Drive Write Speed: 143 MB/s

Total NovaBench Composite Score: 1,190

The ZBook 15 scored well above average.  41,004 NovaBench workstation benchmark tests were performed over the past 3 months and the average composite score for these was 864 compared to the ZBook 15’s score of 1,190.

SPECapc Maya 12 Benchmark Test
I chose to run the Maya test because of its many complex and compute-intensive operations.  This comprehensive test puts Maya through its paces by evaluating four Maya projects (.ma) from wireframes, to texturing, shading and mentalRay rendering.  It also measures time expended while doing physics calculations for liquid, smoke, cloth, streamers, hair and deformations.  It runs each of these tests four times and calculates and displays all of the details and a composite score of the test results.  The composite score for the SPECapc Maya 12 benchmark I ran on the ZBook 15 was:  GFX – 272 and CPU – 347 putting it on a par or faster than the majority of the newer workstations we’ve tested recently.

Final Thoughts
With its slick ergonomic design, extreme power and build quality the Zbook 15 is ideally positioned to meet the needs of today’s crunch-time world where computational horsepower and mobility can be game changers.  Its starting point price of $1,699 makes it competitive with desktop workstations and well within reach of its intended professional audience.
HP ZBook 15 Mobile Workstation

Pros:  Ergonomic and attractive design; excellent price/performance ratio; build quality; connectivity options; configurability; easy expansion; ruggedness and reliability.

Cons: None significant, especially noteworthy since this is one of three new ZBooks just released.
Price (As configured for review): $2,999. Prices start at $1,699
Final Grade: A


For More Information about the HP ZBook 15 mobile workstation:


IMTSTV ‘IN BRIEF’ Video – Aircraft Markets in an Age of Extremes with Richard Aboulafia

November 22nd, 2013 by David Heller

Here’s  the latest In Brief video from IMTSTV.  In Brief is a quick update on news and events from around the manufacturing industry, featuring interviews with industry experts, how-to tips for business, and more. Investigates is an in-depth look at some of the most important topics in the manufacturing industry. Upcoming episodes will focus on topics like smartforce development, reshoring and more.

IN BRIEF: Aircraft Markets in an Age of Extremes with Richard Aboulafia

AMT’ – The Association For Manufacturing Technology’s Industry Economist, Russ Waddell got his wings at the Global Forecasting and Marketing Conference (GFMC) 2013. He discusses the recent trends and future outlooks on aircraft markets with Richard Aboulafia, Vice President, Analysis at the Teal Group Corporation in a new IMTSTV program.

Two New IMTSTV ‘IN BRIEF’ Videos – Fiscal Reality & Global Forcast

November 18th, 2013 by David Heller

Here are two of the latest In Brief videos from IMTSTV.  In Brief is a quick update on news and events from around the manufacturing industry, featuring interviews with industry experts, how-to tips for business, and more. Investigates is an in-depth look at some of the most important topics in the manufacturing industry. Upcoming episodes will focus on topics like smartforce development, reshoring and more.

IN BRIEF: Fiscal Reality with Alan Beaulieu

November 18, 2013

AMT’s Industry Economist, Eric LeMasters caught up with Alan Beaulieu, President of ITR Economics at the 2013 Global Forecasting & Marketing Conference for a quick update on the current Fiscal Reality. Alan’s presentation at the conference covered projections for machine tool orders as well as an outlook for the general economy.

YouTube Direkt

 For more on the Fiscal Reality go to

IN BRIEF: Global Economy, Global Forecast with Adrian Cooper

AMT’s Industry Economist, Russ Waddell talks with Adrian Cooper, CEO of Oxford Economics and long time presenter at the Global Forecasting & Marketing Conference. Adrian provides some insight on the next downturn in the economy, exchange rates impacting global supply chains, and what it takes to create a global economic forecast.

YouTube Direkt

For more on the Global Forecast go to

Arena Releases Four New Products That “Will Change Manufacturing”

November 8th, 2013 by David Heller

Before  Thomas Friedman published his ground-breaking book “The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty First Century,”  Arena Solutions, the pioneer of cloud-based product lifecycle management software, predicted a global business paradigm shift and the tools necessary for manufacturers to remain competitive in a global market.

Friedman’s book title is a metaphor alluding to the fact that there are several business “flatteners”, such outsourcing, supply chaining, work-flow software, uploading and the importance of collaboration, that have turned the world into a global market; these flatteners have also leveled the playing field in terms of commerce, where all competitors have an equal opportunity.

In November, Arena launched four unique new solutions — Arena Demand, Arena Projects, Arena Exchange, and Arena API; Individually, these applications allow manufacturers of all sizes to aggregate material demand, project manage with greater visibility, securely share build packages across global supply chain teams, and integrate their business systems with Arena’s products. Collectively, these products consitute a paradigm shift in how manufacturers embrace PLM solutions to transform their manufacturing operations and maximize business results.

Here’s a breakdown of the four new products introduced within Arena’s Fall ‘13 Release:

  • Arena Demand — provides manufacturers with part visibility to calculate and forecast aggregate material needs to better negotiate the purchasing decisions of suppliers.
  • Arena Projects — connects the project schedule directly to the product record to increase change visibility and drive efficient, accurate development.
  • Arena Exchange — offers OEMs a secure, flexible environment to initiate collaboration with multiple users, at all differing supplier levels, throughout their global supply chain. No supplier’s licenses or provisioning required.
  • Arena API — allows customers to develop lightweight and flexible integrations from their enterprise application infrastructure and custom interfaces to Arena PLM.

Improved visibility is one of the themes and key benefits of their Fall ’13 release. Demand and Projects specifically address the lack of operational transparency that frustrate many modern manufacturers.  When OEMs outsource their manufacturing, they also outsource their material planning, leaving them blind to the total quantity of parts they’ll buy over the next year. Because Arena Demand provides OEMs with parts visibility across product lines (both broad and deep) users can forecast aggregated material demand to better negotiate bulk discounts. Similarly, Arena Projects empowers OEM Project Managers with greater visibility into the true advancement of the product record to eliminate decentralized project miscommunication and product error.

Another theme of Arena’s new release is the importance of securely sharing product data that applies to both the exchange of information across supply chain teams as well as transfer of data from Arena PLM to other business systems. While OEMs want efficient supply chain approval processes, they don’t always want to give their primary supply chain contact’s second and third teams access to their PLM system.

Arena Exchange allows OEMs to forward, filter, and share build packages across their supply chain’s own supply chain, enabling more robust team collaboration.  Lastly, with Arena API, customers can open a portal from their ERP or other business system directly into Arena’s product family to access BOMControl data.

For manufacturers, a flat world offers new global opportunities as well as new supply chain challenges, especially with OEMs increasingly outsourcing their manufacturing needs. Arena seems to really understand manufacturer’s needs by addressing the most important manufacturing challenges facing OEMs today.

By Guest Blogger John Papageorge (Arena Solutions)

Autodesk’s Intention to Acquire Delcam

November 7th, 2013 by David Heller

Yesterday we published an official announcement by Autodesk stating their intent to purchase CAM software company Delcam.  They recently acquired HSMWorks, another high end CAM company, and I spoke with Anthony Graves, Autodesk CAM Product Manager for their HSMWorks CAM software, to learn what impact this potential acquisition would have on HSMWorks and Autodesk.

In answer to my questions Anthony pointed me to a blog post he made today and that I’ve republished below:

“What we can state at this time is the following:

Autodesk remains committed to the development of HSMWorks, Inventor HSM, and the integration of our existing, next generation CAM technology into our cloud services. We just released HSMWorks 2014 with support for Solidworks 2014, and we are planning to launch our beta of Inventor HSM (3D) sometime over the next few months. A successful acquisition of Delcam would not affect our current plans.

Delcam, like many other vendors, including Autodesk Partners Gibbs & Associates and Vero, offers a broad range of capabilities that our current CAM offerings do not support. Delcam has the well-earned reputation as an industry leader and all of the experience and technology that helped them achieve that distinction. You could say, with the addition of Delcam into the Autodesk family, Autodesk will be uniquely positioned to offer the best in both integrated CAM and stand-alone CAD/CAM, to all users regardless of their chosen CAD platform. It’s all about providing the best tools to users – something Autodesk is committed to.

For those of us inside the Autodesk CAM Team this is an exciting development. Over the years there has been a shared respect for each others technology and we have had a great relationship between members of our two teams. The possibility of these two teams being able to share ideas and technology will drive innovation, performance, and quality for the broadest range of machining disciplines.

If you have any questions, please direct them to Carl White, our Sr. Director of Manufaturing Engineering, here at Autodesk. His email is

Anthony Graves
Product Manager, CAM
Autodesk Inc.”

The 2013 Boston COMSOL Conference: Attendees Get Their Hands On COMSOL’s New Version 4.4 Pre Release

October 17th, 2013 by David Heller

For the ninth consecutive year the COMSOL Conference was held this year in Boston from October 9th through the 11th and will now visit seven countries wrapping up in Tokyo in December after hosting more than 2,000 enthusiastic users.   I visited from California and while driving to the conference I was taken aback by the colorful beauty of New England in the autumn and then, when I arrived, by the highest level of excellence on display at the conference.

New England in the Fall “Sugar maples turn yellow with a tinge of pink. Swamp maples turn red, almost all the shades of red, so that the valleys are like carmine rivers. Birches and aspens turn golden and coppery and white ashes go through that incredible series of colors that range from yellowish-green to blue-tan to greenish-blue to purple, and then bronze, to tan, and to rust.” (Hal Borland)

Let’s simulate that!

I’m always awed by this spectacle of color and I suspect that out of the 330 attendees at this year’s annual COMSOL Conference in Boston more than a few were thinking how they could model and simulate this natural phenomenon using COMSOL Multiphysics. :)

The day started with a keynote by COMSOL CEO Svante Littmarck who introduced the COMSOL Multiphysics 4.4 pre release with all its new features, and I’ll cover these in detail later in this article.  This was followed by three compelling user presentations:

Siddiq Qidwai with the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C. told us how he uses COMSOL Multiphysics to mitigate structural corrosion which is a formidable challenge both in terms of the cost to the maritime industry and the time and effort required to perform accurate computational modeling. In his talk he described his investigation into the effects of microstructure on corrosion pit growth and its effect on mechanical performance highlighting the technical challenges he faced and then overcame by taking advantage of the numerous options available from an evolving COMSOL library.

Julie Slaughter of Etrema Products in Ames Iowa told us how she uses multiphysics models to design magnetostrictive transducers and how vital to her work COMSOL Multiphysics and these models are.   In her simulations and studies she uses magnetic, mechanical, acoustic, thermal single domain models, magnetic, magnetostrictive nonlinear models, and magneto-mechanical linear coupled models at different states of the transducer development cycle from concept to optimization, proof-of concept, and finally to design verification.

Peter Woytowitz of LAM Research in Fremont California wrapped up the keynotes by sharing how LAM uses COMSOL Multiphysics in semiconductor fabrication. Peter showed  how computational modeling  is being applied to wafer fabrication equipment, IC device modeling that includes solid, fluid, electrical and plasma modeling, to enable progressively higher transistor densities, better architectures, reliability and speed. He also took a look into the future where molecular dynamics and quantum chemistry modeling will play an increasing role.

All attendees were able to download this release to see and learn about the new features for themselves.  They then had the opportunity to attend one or more of the conference’s thirty mini courses, each focused on a specific simulation challenge, to sharpen their skills and then to apply this new found knowledge to their work.

Community is Key

Community and sharing is a major part of the conference and in the exhibit and display room I was surrounded by a dedicated community, connecting and sharing.  These professionals came to the COMSOL Conference to sharpen their simulation skills, pick up new modeling tools, and to learn from colleagues who face similar simulation challenges, and they were really making the most of it.

What piqued my interest were posters mounted on panels throughout the room.  Seventy-four user-created poster info-graphics were on display at the conference and each poster showed how each person or organization used COMSOL Multiphysics to simulate, study and solve a wide range of engineering challenges, including some very esoteric and interesting applications like the flow around a flying saucer micro air vehicle, and how human brain electrical conductivity relates to epilepsy.

Each poster contributor was more than happy to explain their work, and these simulation devotes also created and presented one or more of the 178 presentations and 104 papers given at the conference.

When this Conference series concludes in December COMSOL will combine all the user presentations and put them online for a few years.  You can go to their site  now and peruse this growing resource of past user presentations and papers.  COMOL’s done an excellent job of organizing the material so you’ll get to the study you’re looking for fast.


There were also seventeen exhibitors on hand; the bulk of them certified COMSOL consultants who help users get the most out of the software along with companies including Mathworks MATLAB, SpaceClaim and Simpleware.     MathWorks (MATLAB) and SpaceClaim demonstrated their software with LiveLink® bidirectional data transfer between COMSOL Multiphysics, while Simpleware showed their tool and how they import analysis-ready meshes directly into COMSOL Multiphysics.

COMSOL hasn’t yet released a video that explains all the features offered in the new version 4.4 pre-release.   However, I’m presenting below their most current video that covers their previous 4.3b release and describes the many new innovations added to COMSOL Multiphysics over the past year.

Six New Add-On Modules Provide More Functionality

It all starts with COMSOL Multiphysics that includes the desktop graphical user interface and core physics interfaces for mechanical, electrical, fluid and chemical applications.  You can then augment and drill down into each of these areas with add-on products that offer specialized physics interfaces, dedicated models, solver technology and post processing tools aimed at specific application areas, and that are all compatible with each other making it easy to mix different physics together.

Since last year, six new add-on products have been added to the required core COMSOL Multiphysics interface   including ones for Wave Optics, Semiconductors, Multibody Dynamics, Microfluidics, Molecular Flow, and Electrochemistry.   And, with the 4.4 release, COMSOL has also introduced their new Mixer add-on module that I’ll also cover in this article.

Meet COMSOL’s new Version 4.4
 Intuitive ergonomics at its finest!

The COMSOL Multiphysics user interface has been completely reworked and improved in v4.4 and now sports a ‘Windows’ style ribbon menu at the top of the GUI.  The ribbon gives you an instant overview without having to drill down, making your experience more intuitive and reducing clicks to show options so you can spend more time focusing on the work at hand and less time having to think about how to use the interface. 

Read the rest of The 2013 Boston COMSOL Conference: Attendees Get Their Hands On COMSOL’s New Version 4.4 Pre Release

HP‘s Big Workstation Launch Wows ‘em In the Big Apple

September 12th, 2013 by David Heller

September 4, 2013

This year’s HP global workstation product launch event was the biggest I’ve ever attended, and the most exciting in terms of the revolutionary new product offerings presented and the people I met and interviewed.

We gathered early on Wednesday morning in a large hall in the NYC Sheraton Hotel, right in the midst of bustling Times Square, and to get the ball rolling were treated to speeches by some heavy hitting HP workstation users.

Mark Russell, Independent Producer, Director and Vfx Specialist

Mark Russell – Director, Producer, and Vfx Expert

First at bat was Mark Russell, and he hit it out of the park.  Mark is an independent director, producer and Vfx creator who produced the soon to be released Paramount Pictures, Martin Scorsese film ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ a tale of financial intrigue that’s now in post production and destined to become a blockbuster when it hits theaters on November 15th, 2013.

We were treated to some video outtakes from this production that showcased the VFx work that Mark supervised for this film that was primarily shot and produced on Long Island and in Manhattan, just a quick subway ride to Brooklyn where Mark lives.

When you watch the film you won’t know where reality ends and CG takes over, it’s done that well.  One series of fly-over shots  were taken of a mansion in the Hamptons with multiple takes from a 4-bladed radio controlled miniature helicopter equipped with a super high-definition camera that transmitted the video wirelessly to an HP workstation on the ground for processing and viewing in real time.  The mini-copter stays in the air for less than a minute before running out of juice and the ground crew had to plop in new batteries fast to get this small bird back in the air before the ‘magic’ light evaporated.  The perfect lighting conditions occur close to sunset and the perfect light window lasts only around thirty minutes, so the film crew had to be super organized to shot this series in the allotted time, and keeping everyone and everything organized was a major part of Mark’s job.  Oh, and they did make a rendered CG Model of the mansion that you can’t tell from the real thing for shots that the mini-copter just couldn’t cope with.

The mansion fly-over was a special effect, but not necessarily a CG Vfx one.  Computer generated effects were reserved for scenes that couldn’t be done practically without CG.  For example, there’s a scene in the film where a helicopter flown by a drunken pilot dangerously skirts buildings scattering terrorized pedestrians.   Mark and his team made me believe it was the real thing and saved a lot of lives and money in the process by not trying this stunt with a real helicopter, buildings or really panicked people .  No one was hurt and the pilot wasn’t arrested for DUI.

In another scene, a luxurious 100 foot + yacht glides in to a picturesque Mediterranean harbor.  The harbor and beautiful setting are real, but the Yacht isn’t.  Rumor has it that this mini luxury liner goes up in explosive flames later in the movie, and you just don’t want to do this with a vessel that could cost between $10 and $60 million dollars coupled with annual operating expenses that could top $500K a year …. That’s more than I made last year!  OMG.

So, what’s the hook?  HP workstations of course.  Mark has an HP portable workstation virtually glued to him, and uses it daily to organize his crew, communicate, and do Vfx work on the fly.  HP compute power was used during the filming of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and now Mark and his team along with others are burning the midnight oil hunched over HP displays doing post production and editing work, pulling together thousands of shots and transforming these bits and pieces into a stunning movie. Read the rest of HP‘s Big Workstation Launch Wows ‘em In the Big Apple

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