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The Challenges and Benefits of HPC in Design Engineering

Mar. 22, 2016 ⋅ Categories: Design & Engineering

Historically, large companies have dominated the high-performance computing market. However, in a very data-driven world that is rapidly demanding new technology, more small and mid-sized businesses are able to benefit. Growing beyond budget and resource limitations, design engineering is one industry where HPC is beginning to take off, though adoption is still comparatively slower.

The Complicated History of HPC and Design Engineering
The relationship between design engineering and HPC has been lengthy. Fueled by the need for effective simulation, design engineering has always needed a certain level of software. In a special guest feature for InsideHPC, Bill Clark of Scientific Computing World wrote that the relationship began around 20 years ago, when commercial computational fluid dynamics came onto the scene.

CFD, he explained, is about finding engineering solutions through advanced computer software and resources. Back when CFD first arrived, it allowed researchers to fix issues with turbulence, heat transfer and combustion. Today, the problems are even more complex and demanding. Because simulation is now such an integral part design engineering, HPC is too. It took a long time for the two to be so harmonious, though, which is why HPC development for smaller operations within the industry has been so slow.

“While most organizations don’t have access to 36,000 cores today, it won’t be long before these extreme core counts are commonplace,” Wim Slagter, the product manager of HPC, ANSYS said in a press release. “And even today’s users who are running at much lower core counts will see direct benefits through considerably greater efficiencies. The results will be more amazing products to customers much faster than ever.”

Accessibility and affordability are the two biggest hurdles that design engineering has faced in implementing these technological advancements. InsideHPC explained that “cost and complexity” have often excluded mid-sized organizations or engineering departments within larger companies from traditional HPC environments. Fortunately, these restrictive conditions are dissipating, paving the path to an era of HPC with wider availability.

What the Future Holds for the Industry
Now, however, the latest batches of HPC clusters offer groundbreaking solutions for design optimization. These cost-effective and accessible clusters can support the most advanced simulation software, which allows engineers to significantly cut down on design time and more efficiently test their ideas. Desktop Engineering also points out how computing prices and power have had an inverse relationship, with the former decreasing and the latter steadily growing.

According to Desktop Engineering, the rise of HPC can, for the most part, be credited to the “crowdsource” environment where new tools are being created. In the open source community, they are free to use, but quality can be questionable. However, that shouldn’t deter design engineers from using these resources. To help design engineers navigate them, the publication offers a handbook outlining HPC trends and how they can serve the industry. One chapter focuses on the foundation Open HPC, which hopes to regulate crowdsourced efforts so these affordable tools can be assured for quality.

It’s no wonder that InsideHPC has called this time for modern design engineers a “perfect storm.” With the specific challenges they’re facing, having the right technology to create solutions is more important than ever. Thankfully, the industry is being given the resources to overcome the restrictions of the past, and those tools will only continue to grow and improve as the relationship between HPC and design engineering progresses.

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