Published in collaboration with NCMS
Digital Manufacturing Report

News & information about the fast-moving world
of digital manufacturing, modeling & simulation

Language Flags

Manufacturing Fuels Supercomputing Growth

Big rigs have become a staple of the American highway, but lately they've become an uncomfortable metaphor for our country as a whole. They're big, they're wasteful, and harmful to the environment.

This problem led Mike Henderson, president of SmartTruck to drastically rethink the way his trucks were made. “Trucks,” he explained, “are fairly unaerodynamic devices. Half their fuel goes to defeating aerodynamic drag.”

And because of air quality legislation in California, Henderson is looking for a solution for any of his trucks passing through the state. The law requires that any truck must feature low rolling resistance tires and approved aerodynamic devices that will help to cut down on the rigs' gas guzzling and emissions.

But developing addons that meet the EPA SmartWay regulations require extensive simulations on a multitude of components and assemblies—the sheer complexity of which a regular workstation can't handle.

“Almost every piece of a truck produces wake and they mix with other wakes,” said Henderson in an interview with NPR. “It would take over a week to do a single calculation” to simulate a part's interaction with the rest of the truck.

So Henderson looked to borrow a supercomputer that solve these problems for him. Specifically, he went to the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which houses Titan, “the most powerful computer in the world for open science,” according to Suzy Tichenor.

We've already seen trucking companies take advantage of high performance computing to meet the DOE's goals for its Super Truck Program, which aims to improve big rig fuel economy by 50 percent. Even SmartTruck has gone to Oak Ridge in the past to use its Jaguar super.

Nonetheless, Titan is a major step up, offering roughly 27 petaflops, or 27 quadrillion calculations (or operations) per second to Jaguar's 1.7 petaflops. And just for context, a quadrillion is a million billion.

“It's a big boy,” said Tichenor.

And businesses of any size—even small businesses like Henderson's—can apply to tap its power. And if the companies make their findings public, the service is free.

On top of being able to test a prototype truck without first manufacturing it, HPC simulations have the added benefit of allowing engineers to clearly view all aspects of airflow that would have been invisible in a wind tunnel.

“It probably got us to market a year faster than we would have had we not used it,” Henderson said.

Two years ago, when SmartTruck went to Oak Ridge for its Jaguar super, it was looking to speed up the development of its UnderTray System, which funnels air away from the wheels to reduce drag. Using HPC clusters already at the company's disposal would have meant modeling one part of the system at a time, which would take four days for each component. But with Jaguar, the simulation time went from weeks down to hours, demonstrating what supers of any size have to offer.

And other companies with complex engineering problems have taken note. Over the past year alone, Tichenor said that the number of Titan applicants has increased 20 percent.

“We've definitely seen a growth in the number of companies that are applying because modeling and simulation allows you to accelerate the research and development process dramatically,” she said.

And the HPC adoption doesn't stop there. According to Earl Joseph with international market research company IDC, “the market has been growing at a rate we've never seen before.” Despite pricetags upwards of $10 million for a mid-sized super, Joseph said that even the recession hasn't made a dent in their sales.

“Supercomputers grew 65 percent in 2009 alone, last year sales grew another 29 percent. You're not seeing those growths in any other sector right now,” said Joseph.

The next big innovation in supercomputing that could be coming to manufacturers' doorsteps is “exascale computing,” where the machines are a thousand times faster than Titan. But oddly enough, the greatest hurdle keeping these from reaching businesses won't be their pricetags, per se.

“The biggest problem right now is the electrical bill,” Joseph said, referring to the $30 million to $50 million bill that an exascale machine would rack up annually. “To build that big of a computer you almost need a nuclear power plant right next to it.”

But once someone inevitably finds away around it, he says the race for an even greater super will press on.

RSS Feeds

Subscribe to All Content

Feature Articles

Titan Puts a New Spin on GE’s Wind Turbine Research

Unlike traditional energy sources, wind is a trouble to tame, which has led GE to turn to advanced simulations at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to put the technology on track to cover 12 percent of the world's energy production.

Lighting a Fire Under Combustion Simulation

Combustion simulation might seem like the ultimate in esoteric technologies, but auto companies, aircraft firms and fuel designers need increasingly sophisticated software to serve the needs of 21st century engine designs. HPCwire recently got the opportunity to take a look at Reaction Design, one of the premier makers of combustion simulation software, and talk with its CEO, Bernie Rosenthal.

D-Wave Sells First Quantum Computer

On Wednesday, D-Wave Systems made history by announcing the sale of the world's first commercial quantum computer. The buyer was Lockheed Martin Corporation, who will use the machine to help solve some of their "most challenging computation problems." D-Wave co-founder and CTO Geordie Rose talks about the new system and the underlying technology.

Short Takes

Local Motors and ORNL Partner for Automotive Manufacturing

Jan 24, 2014 | Local Motors, a vehicle innovator, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have announced a new partnership that they hope will bring change to the automotive industry.

Robots Showcase Skills at DRC

Jan 22, 2014 | A month ago, the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials (DRC) commenced. The main goal of the event was to aid in the development of robots that will someday respond to natural or even man-made disasters. At this year’s DRC, prototype robots from 16 teams were put through a series of trials in which they were to showcase their skills.

Advanced Modeling Benefits Wind Farms

May 25, 2011 | Advanced computing resources optimize the site selection of wind farms.

Not Your Parents' CFD

Oct 13, 2010 | Outdated beliefs stand in the way of greater CFD adoption.

Manufacturers Turn to HPC to Cut Testing Costs

Oct 06, 2010 | Supercomputing saves money by reducing the need for physical testing.

Sponsored Whitepapers

Technical Computing for a New Era

07/30/2013 | IBM | This white paper examines various means of adapting technical computing tools to accelerate product and services innovation across a range of commercial industries such as manufacturing, financial services, energy, healthcare, entertainment and retail. No longer is technically advanced computing limited to the confines of big government labs and academic centers. Today it is available to a wide range of organizations seeking a competitive edge.

The UberCloud HPC Experiment: Compendium of Case Studies

06/25/2013 | Intel | The UberCloud HPC Experiment has achieved the volunteer participation of 500 organizations and individuals from 48 countries with the aim of exploring the end-to-end process employed by digital manufacturing engineers to access and use remote computing resources in HPC centers and in the cloud. This Compendium of 25 case studies is an invaluable resource for engineers, managers and executives who believe in the strategic importance of applying advanced technologies to help drive their organization’s productivity to perceptible new levels.

Conferences and Events

Featured Events

Copyright © 2011-2014 Tabor Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Digital Manufacturing Report is a registered trademark of Tabor Communications, Inc. Use of this site is governed by our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.
Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Tabor Communications Inc. is prohibited.
Powered by Xtenit.