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Hi, I’m Peter Weitzman, and I’m the president of Agile Engineering Software at Concepts NREC. I lead a team of software developers, application engineers, product managers, and salespeople who develop, sell and support specialized software for the design and manufacturing of turbomachinery. I have been doing this job for the past eight years. We have two major software product lines: CAE (computer-aided engineering) and CAM (computer-aided manufacturing). The CAE software is a complete design suite for turbomachinery that starts with the thermodynamic cycle and goes all the way to detailed 3D design, including 3D CFD and FEA. The CFD part of the system is the Fine Turbo product from Cadence (formerly NUMECA), which we have integrated seamlessly into our overall design system and are in the process of integrating into the Cadence FidelityTM platform. The CAM software is called MAX-PAC, and it starts with a 3D geometry of a turbomachinery component and generates 5-axis CNC machining instructions to mill the part.
Turbomachinery is rotating fluid machinery, so pumps, compressors, and turbines are the main classes of turbomachines. Turbomachinery components are found in gas turbine engines, rocket engines, turbochargers, large refrigeration chillers, many industrial process compressors, oil and gas pipelines, electronic cooling, many green energy recovery devices, and consumer products like vacuum cleaners and hair dryers.
Examples of turbomachines.
I manage people who develop and integrate CFD codes, and I do run CFD from time to time, but I don’t consider myself a “CFD person.” My undergraduate and master’s degrees are in electrical engineering (from Tufts University and the University of Colorado, respectively), and I designed microwave integrated circuits for a year before I went back to school at Dartmouth for my Ph.D. My Ph.D. project was to develop a PDE solver (for the paraxial wave equation), which was a beam propagation method to calculate the “flow” of light in optical fibers, including nonlinear effects, so I do have an appreciation for what it takes to develop a numerical PDE solver. It was during my Ph.D. project that I developed a love of coding that launched me on my path in engineering software.
John: My Cadence colleagues will appreciate your graduate study of electrical engineering. But you put “flow” in double quotes. Are you going to tell me that photons don’t flow because that’s what they’re telling me about electrons; that they just vibrate in place.
Peter: Good question, I had to first ask ChatGPT to define flow which came back as:
"Flow refers to the movement of a substance, material, or energy in a continuous, smooth, and uninterrupted manner. Flow can occur in many different contexts, such as the flow of a liquid through a pipe, the flow of air over the wings of an airplane, or the flow of electricity through a circuit. In general, flow involves the movement of something from one place to another, often driven by forces such as gravity, pressure, or momentum. The concept of flow is important in many scientific and engineering fields, as well as in everyday life, where it is used to describe the movement of traffic, information, or ideas."
So based on this definition, and according to quantum optics, photons do flow, and there is no need for the double quotes, but if we use the electromagnetic theories to describe light, then the "vibrate in place" concept works well. It’s the old particle-wave duality, both answers are correct.
I started work at Concepts NREC as a software developer, working on what is now known as AxCent (more on that later). I became the software development manager, and then my career took a very different direction. A mentor of mine suggested that I change jobs and move into sales. I had already been doing the software demos for all the salespeople but didn’t ever see myself in sales. I took a chance and moved into sales and found out I was good at it. It was my sales career that allowed me to leave Concepts NREC for ten years, during which time I started the US division of DEM Solutions (now a division of Altair), ran sales and marketing at a hardware company, and eventually ran two companies as president and general manager before I was hired back to Concepts NREC as the president of the software business.
What do you see are the biggest challenges facing CFD in the next five years?
I will answer the question more broadly than CFD and talk about the challenges facing CAE and CAM in the next five years. The big one is AI; it is coming, and there is no stopping it. The challenge will be to harness it in meaningful ways that help engineers do their job better by taking advantage of past knowledge in a way that helps them design better products faster.
John: Have you asked ChatGPT how to design turbomachines?
Peter: I did, and the results looked reasonable to me, a non-expert. What impressed me most was its ability to process natural language: both my question and how it displayed its response.
What are you currently working on?
The software team at Concepts NREC is working on many projects, all in turbomachinery design and manufacturing software. I want to highlight the project we are working on jointly with Cadence to integrate the Concepts NREC suite of CAE tools inside of the Fidelity platform. The Fidelity Agile product will be a single platform for the design and analysis of turbomachinery from conceptual design through 3D CFD. By building on Fidelity, we can provide our customers the wirh best of what Concepts CNREC and Cadence have to offer in a single platform and workflow.
A centrifugal compressor design in Fidelity Agile.What project are you most proud of and why?
If I have to pick one thing I am most proud of in my career, it is the AxCent product. AxCent is a specialized CAD system for turbomachinery. I inherited AxCent as a Fortran code with a homegrown UI. I wrote the first lines of code converting AxCent to an object-oriented C++ code with a “modern” Windows-based user interface and was the sole developer for three years. Later I hired the team, led by Alex Plomp, who is still the lead developer, and I have been involved in selling and managing the product for most of my career. AxCent is our best selling product and has become the industry standard for turbomachinery 3D design. Any time you are driving a turbocharged car, flying in a helicopter or regional jet, watching a rocket take off, sitting in a large, air-conditioned building, or vacuuming with a Dyson product, there is a good chance that the device that is powering the vehicle or cooling the building or moving the air has an AxCent file somewhere.
John: That’s a fantastic thing to be able to say. It is how I feel about Fidelity Pointwise’s use across the aerospace industry.
Are you reading any interesting technical papers we should know about?
I would recommend any of the work that my colleague Mark Anderson has written in the past 20 years in the area of turbomachinery design. You can find them on the Concepts NREC blog, SpinOffs.
What does your workspace look like?
My home office. Thanks, John, for the motivation to tidy it up for this picture!
What software or tools do you use every day?
Of course, I use all of the tools from Concepts NREC, especially AxCent. I do probably spend more time in Outlook, Excel, Word, and PowerPoint than anything else. I still like to code and use Python.
What do you do outside the world of CFD?
I have two sports that are my passions: cycling and cross-country skiing. I own five bikes, all of which I use, and I am a big fan of the n+1 equation, which is the solution to the question “how many bikes do you need” where n is the number of bikes you currently own. I race mountain bikes and lead a local weekly group ride which averages about 40 people. When the snow falls, I put my bikes away and get out on cross-country skis.
I am a husband to my amazing wife and proud father of two adult sons. One son is in the US Navy, and the other designs rocket engine pumps using AxCent and CFD! What is some of the best CFD advice you’ve ever received?
I’ll change this to what is the best professional advice I ever received, which is “talk to a customer every day.”
If you got to choose, where would you and I go for dinner?
If you came to my hometown of Lebanon, NH, we would go to Salt Hill Pub. If we could choose any place on earth, we would go to Japan and have a 15-course Kaiseki dinner at one of the many places my Japanese partners and customers have taken me over the years, most recently in Nagoya last fall, where we had the very carefully prepared blowfish below.
John: I’ve never had blowfish, but I have had a fantastic, multi-course meal in Kyoto in a beautiful setting. I lack the words to explain how wonderful it was.
Thanks for sharing all this about yourself and Concepts NREC. If any of our readers are interested in learning more about turbomachinery design and CFD, they can contact us through our website for a consultation and free trial license.