HPC And Manufacturing

Once I was discussing my job with a friend, and I mentioned that his company was evaluating our software for purchase. He was surprised: “don’t you all work with people that own supercomputers?” He was very surprised to learn that his company – a large manufacturing company – owns that kind of computing power and was immediately curious how investing in high performance computing benefitted the company he worked for.

How It Works At A High Level

At one point in product design, the process worked something like:

  1. Design a prototype based on past experience, applied science, preference, etc.
  2. Physically build the prototype.
  3. Test the prototype.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until you are satisfied the prototype is ready for mass production.

Obviously, physically building producing and testing the prototype can be very expensive – in dollars and time – and limiting in the kinds of tests that you can conduct. A manufacturer taking full advantage of high performance computing might have a process that works more like this:

  1. Design a prototype based on past experience, applied science, preference, etc.
  2. Simulate the prototype in software.
  3. Using applications that simulate fluid dynamics, structural analysis, etc., test the prototype virtually.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until you are satisfied the prototype is ready for mass production.

Benefits of HPC-driven Manufacturing

This process is in many cases cheaper to conduct than the first, while also being faster and producing a superior amount and quality of tests. For example, we have all probably seen car commercials that show footage of test collisions for cars. When one conducts this test, first you have to build the car, which is neither fast nor cheap, and you are obviously limited in the numbers of crash tests you can perform. If you are performing this test in software, you don’t have to build anything physically before testing it, and you have far fewer restrictions on the number of tests you can run. If you want to see how a new material will perform, how different sizes and numbers of crash dummies are affected, or how snow, rain, heat, cold, would alter the collision, you can add and test those variables without having to destroy a car each time. If you want to alter things an inch this way or that way, change angles by a degree or two, or tweak anything about the car or collision scenario, you can do all of these things in software before you build, and in a lot less time ultimately allowing a product to get to market faster.  Intersect360 recently conducted a study in manufacturing and found that “72 percent reported that they believed increased adoption of advanced computational methods would lead to competitive advantage for their companies.” To read more about this study and the benefits of HPC read the white paper title “Meeting the Challenges for Complexity and scale for manufacturing workflows”.

Flexibility

Due to government regulations, discoveries of new materials, benefits of alternative materials, and endless other factors, manufacturers need to always be on their toes. A manufacturer with well-integrated HPC processes can more easily adapt and be ready as these factors affect their products. If a manufacturer is looking at re-purposing an existing product, one can easily re-test that product under the new conditions which weren’t previously applicable. When updating the design or modifying things in any way, no new plants or prototypes have to be produced. The parameters and analyses of the software simply have to be altered.

Moab Brings Value
Moab is an ideal scheduler for this kind of workload. We currently use Moab and Torque to help many clients in manufacturing accomplish the exact goals mentioned above. Moab provides efficient scheduling for dumping all of the computational jobs into the queue and then comparing results at the end, but it also supports more integrated workflows such as running a series of calculations until an ideal is met within a certain threshold, or running making a series of conditional decisions on performing different simulations based on different results. Moab is a product worth investigating whether for any manufacturing organization, whether it’s beginning to leverage HPC or looking to enhance the current process.

Conclusion

In short, manufacturing which integrates the benefits of high performance computing is likely to produce higher quality products in shorter amounts of time than manufacturing which follows older, more traditional practices.

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