User Interface Changes Enhance Productivity
This development note highlights some of the changes to the FLOW-3D graphical user interface that will benefit users by making model setup, simulation and post-processing easier and more robust.
Navigator and Workspaces
When users first open FLOW-3D version 9.3, they will notice a brand-new tab called Navigator. In the Navigator, users can create Workspaces in which multiple simulation input (prepin) files can be grouped together for ready reference.
What is a Workspace?
- A Workspace is a container for simulation input files. The included files can be related by project, by client, or by another basis logical to the user. Workspace files can be stored anywhere in a user's hard drive, and by themselves take virtually no space—they're only pointers identifying the location of simulation files.
- Workspaces can help you organize your work, not only within FLOW-3D, but also on your hard drive (see the Workspace Examples box below).
- When testing alternative parameters, an original input file can easily be copied and the changes tested without lots of extra steps.
- You can have multiple Workspaces, which are listed in a tree structure ("Portfolio") in the Navigator tab.
Figure 1: New Workspaces with simulation files.
Each Workspace and each simulation file associated with that Workspace will have a directory on the hard disk. The default location for new simulation files is the directory of the Workspace in which the new simulation is located, but the user can specify other locations. The default directory where Workspace directories are saved can be specified.
Advantages of Workspaces
An engineering services company might wish to use use a distinct Workspace for each project for a client, with each simulation file in the Workspace representing various aspects of the client's design, or improvements to the model as work progresses on the job.
The R&D department of a manufacturing concern has groups of simulations that are related to work on a specific development for an internal “client.” Workspaces can be used to hold the simulation files for each of these tasks.
Storing files. Many users will find it useful to organize associated simulations by storing them as subdirectories in a directory together with a workspace file that essentially mirrors that directory structure. However, simulation directories from different locations on your disk can be added to and saved in a single Workspace without changing the location of the simulation file or the destination of any of the files FLOW-3D generates, such as results files, message files, and so on.
Running multiple simulations in Batch Mode. Another valuable benefit which users gain with Navigator is the ability to line up multiple projects, each with its own settings, to run in “batch mode,” such as before leaving for the weekend or on vacation. In this way, Workspaces can be used to assemble disparate simulations to be run serially, with the associated FLOW-3D files being written to the original file directory locations.
Use of Workspaces is not mandatory; users can open FLOW-3D and either start a new simulation or open an existing prepin file without organizing a Workspace, just as in prior versions.
Figure 2: Restart options
Setting up Restart Simulations
Another important change to the interface is in setting up restart input files. In the new Restart options dialog box, the user can select an flsgrf file located in the directory where the prepin file is located, or browse to find a results file in any other directory. In addition, a drop-down menu shows all the time frames available for restart selection in the results file as shown in Figure 2.
Other Notable Changes:
- The ability to enter via dialog boxes all of the parameters required by the General Moving Object, Collision and the new Deforming Objects models, as well as for mass sources and mass-momentum sources. An example for the GMO model is shown in Figure 3.
- Selection of solver version (single precision, double precision, etc.), simulation units and number of processors to execute on (for users with the SMP parallel version of FLOW-3D) is now made in the Global tab of Model Setup, so that each simulation in a Workspace can have its own unique selections.
Figure 3: Moving objects setup
Several changes have been made to the process of launching and monitoring a simulation.
Changing Solver Options on the Fly
The new Runtime Options feature, which was described more fully in the Fall 2007 Newsletter, is the ability to make changes to numerical settings during a simulation to make it run more efficiently. The new Runtime Options tool allows the user to change most of the numerical options during the simulation, without the need to stop or even pause it.
Figure 4: Simulation options
A New Approach to Launching Simulations
Simulations are now launched from the main FLOW-3D menu bar. The Finalize tab has been removed from the Model Setup tab and its function added to the Simulate tab, combining preprocessor, simulation and post processing messages in one place. There is a new selection in the main menu bar, Simulate, which gives the user options to preprocess only or to run a selected simulation, to run all simulations in a selected Workspace, or to run all open simulations.
In addition, users with multiple solver tokens will now be able to run more than one simulation from within the same instance of the FLOW-3D GUI. After launching one simulation, the user need only select another simulation in the Portfolio, then click on Run Simulation from the Simulate menu to launch the second simulation.
Figure 5: Zoom in on results
Another convenient new feature is the ability to zoom in on the graphs displayed in the Simulate window, giving the user the opportunity to more closely evaluate the progress of a simulation.
The user can zoom in on an area of interest by left-clicking and dragging his mouse across the graph. Multiple zooms are allowed. Right-clicking on the mouse backs out of the zooming.
Other Helpful Changes to the Simulate Window:
- When a user opens a prepin file for which a simulation has been previously concluded, the graphs and the data displayed in the Simulate window during the running of the simulation will be shown again.
- The graphing function scales much more dynamically as a simulation proceeds.
- Grid lines are displayed in the graphs.
Visualization is an area of great interest to users, and version 9.3 adds some noteworthy new post-processing features.
Because users are now simulating larger problems, their resulting flsgrf files are getting larger and larger. This is an issue Flow Science is focusing on heavily. Currently, FLOW-3D renders all iso-surfaces for all selected time frames before displaying results. To enable users to more-quickly render their 3D results, the version 9.3 post-processor writes to disk only the first selected time frame in a results file (unless the user decides otherwise). All other time frames are shown and available for selection in Display.
Displaying STL Files for Simulation Results Using GMO
Users often want to import STL files into the 3D Display window to show sharper images of their geometry. Where the GMO model was used, however, it was not possible to have the STL file track the moving object in version 9.2 or earlier versions. Now, however, results files generated with the version 9.3 solver contain data capturing the location of the STL file as it moves through the domain. This data can then be imported into the Display window by checking a new STL check box in the Analyze tab.
Figure 6: Sharper, crisper STL file display.
Other Post-Processing Additions:
Figure 7: Mesh slice function
- Users can use the Mesh Slice function on multiple mesh blocks in Display (see Figure 7).
- New icons in the Display tool bar allow the user to:
- Directly print images.
- Display and move the Time reading.
- Launch animations.
- New still-image output options are available in 3D Display (jpeg and png) and 2D Display (jpeg).
- Users can display the length scale for X, Y and Z in 3D Display.
In summary, the upcoming release of FLOW-3D has a substantial collection of very useful and practical improvements for users. We plan to continue developing this exceptional user interface that is modern, intuitive and comprehensive.