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Online, Interactive, 3D Finite Element Stress Analysis Using High-performance Computing (HPC) Cluster

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Statics and Strength of Materials

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1010.1 - 25.1010.16

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Paper Authors


Zachary Vick University of Oklahoma

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Kurt C. Gramoll University of Oklahoma

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ONLINE, INTERACTIVE, 3D FINITE ELEMENT STRESS ANALYSIS USING HIGH- PERFORMANCE COMPUTING (HPC) CLUSTERABSTRACTThe use of a remote, HPC cluster in solving 3D finite element method (FEM) problems for engineering educationwas investigated. An online, interactive engineering tool was developed to explore the potential for remote versuslocal computing of complex geometry stress analysis using FEM. This engineering tool was created using the Flashprogramming language, ActionScript, because of its advantages in graphically creating a virtual design and analysisenvironment user interface. Additionally, the compiled form of a Flash project is easily embedded into a webpage,ensuring widespread accessibility.In this engineering tool, 3D models in a COLLADA (COLLAborative Design Activity) (.DAE) file format can beuploaded from local memory. The tool then volumetrically meshes the geometry using tetrahedral elements to a userdefined level of refinement. Loads and boundary conditions can be applied to the model, and the program solves fornodal displacements and the stress seen in every element. The COLLADA file format was selected as it is one of themost widespread and popular file formats for 3D modeling among free modeling software packages, includingGoogle SketchUp and Blender. When paired with one of these 3D graphical packages, the engineering tool providesa costless alternative to commercially available, expensive, locally run 3D FEM packages.It was found that the use of this engineering tool has many advantages to traditional, locally installed softwarepackages for both industrial and educational purposes. An online, interactive engineering tool is accessible from anymachine with internet access and requires no cost to the user to install and run, unlike the most widespread FEMpackages. Educationally, this allows students to access a robust FEM package outside of class time and withoutneeding to purchase the software packages used in most FEM classes.The use of a remote HPC cluster in solving computationally intensive problems has numerous advantages to localcomputation. The HPC cluster has much greater computing power than most personal machines, greatly reducingthe computational time required for 3D FEM problems that commonly approach 50,000 degrees of freedom for evensimple models used in education. In this case, the computational time no longer depends on the processing power ofthe local machine as the most complex calculations are performed remotely. This opens up the possibility ofcomplex FEM analysis to be performed from more portable hardware, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones.The only requirements become internet accessibility and Flash support of the hardware.The major limitations of this engineering tool were found to be the time required to transfer data to and from theremote server and large increase in computation time when problems were too large to be completely solved usingthe HPC cluster’s local memory. It was found that for most cases, the transfer time to and from the remote serverwas negligible when compared to the decrease in computation time as compare to the local machine. All clustercomputations were done on a 32 node, 382 cell cluster (Intel CPUs running under windows 2008 HPC Server R2system) at the University of Oklahoma dedicated to engineering education. All simulations are internet-based, andare freely open to others to utilize at their institutions.

Vick, Z., & Gramoll, K. C. (2012, June), Online, Interactive, 3D Finite Element Stress Analysis Using High-performance Computing (HPC) Cluster Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

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