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HPC-enabled simulation streamlines prototyping

28 February 2016

High Performance Computing (HPC)-enabled simulation aids from Comsol Multiphysics are helping this specialist electrical equipment manufacturer get the best designs to customers more quickly than ever before.

Block Transformatoren-Elektronik is a leading manufacturer in the field of coiled products that are used in a wide variety of industries. The company designs custom transformers, power supplies, EMC filters, and reactors, which usually have to meet precise specifications concerning working frequencies, product sizes and weights, electrical power losses, electrical insulation, as well as varying environmental conditions. Moreover, equipment of this type must often have product lifetimes of 30 years. Marek Siatkowski, who is responsible for all of Block’s simulation activities, takes up the story:
“Depending on the customer’s application, there are restrictions to the materials that may be used. For example, in railway applications, the materials must meet strict requirements like flammability standards, smoke toxicity in case of fire. We don’t just open our catalogue and they pick a device. The customer specifies a size and their requirements and each time we must do a new set of calculations.”

Under all these circumstances, Block found it increasingly difficult to design inductors and transformers with aging simulation software. To save costs and in order to provide improved services to their customers, the company needed to find a way to reduce the number of prototypes it created before finalizing a design. With this in mind, the company turned to the Comsol Multiphysics software for its ease-of-use, flexibility, and HPC capabilities.

“We can model new devices and find critical areas, where, for example, electromagnetic losses are high or the temperature of the device reaches some threshold,” says Siatkowski. “With Comsol Multiphysics, we can identify these areas and simulate the relevant physics effects so that we can quickly and accurately find ways to improve the design.” 

The research department is analysing magnetic characteristics and hysteresis losses in several soft magnetic materials in the Block testing laboratory. One of the main reasons the company uses Comsol software is that it allows them to easily insert their own formulas developed over years for all these characteristics and to use them for their simulations.

Achieving greater throughput
Block is benefitting from the Comsol software HPC capabilities by running their simulations on a multi-core workstation with no limit to the number of cores, as well as on a cluster with no limit to the number of compute nodes. This offers improved efficiency regardless of whether a simulation is run on a workstation or a cluster, and allows the R&D team to quickly deliver products most suited to customers' requirements.
Siatkowski uses Comsol to set up models for many of Block’s devices, which are often difficult to calculate analytically, but have a geometry that can be based on a few parameters and specific customer’s needs. One example of a model that Siatkowski built was for a dc choke.

“With Comsol Multiphysics, I can run a simulation that has parameters like width, height, thickness of the wires and so on, and explore the entire design space defined by our teams and customers," he explains. "Our product developers and sales teams can now work more efficiently and easily find the best solution. For smaller models, I can build a model on my workstation and run the computation there. But for the larger models, my workstation is not fast enough and does not have enough memory.”

It's all in the architecture 
This is where the flexible nature of Comsol comes into play, with Blockfully benefitting from the available HPC capabilities, supported by the software architecture and generous licensing. Siatkowski instead runs his models on several computers with multiple cores.

“I’m currently using a cluster with 22 cores and 272GB of RAM and I can easily run my simulations remotely on it,” he says. “Comsol supports distributed memory computing where each node of a cluster can also benefit from local shared memory parallelism; this means that I’m getting the most out of the hardware available.”

After executing the simulation on the high-performance computer, Siatkowski reviews the result on his workstation, where he can then also perform post-processing. “The benefit of this is that during the simulation itself, my workstation is free and I can continue with other work and even do pre- or post-processing on other models. Comsol's architecture allows us to be more productive and service our customers better.” 

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