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MITx’s edX course uses Akselos for complex engineering simulations on Compute Engine


Today’s post is about Cloud Platform customer Akselos, a platform that enables engineers to design and assess critical infrastructure – such as bridges, buildings and aircraft – via advanced simulation software.

When you enter a tall office building or drive over a giant bridge, it’s likely you don’t think twice about the work that went into ensuring these massive structures stay standing.

Lucky for us, engineers answer myriad design questions before the structures are ever built: How thick do the beams need to be? How will different materials weather over time? Lucky for these engineers, software like Akselos helps answer these questions. And now, students around the world can use this same software when they participate in MIT’s massive open online course, Elements of Structure.

Akselos, which is built on Google Compute Engine, enables software-based large-scale simulations, allowing engineers to virtually prototype complex infrastructures– keeping us all safe on those bridges.

Computational simulations are a key tool in all engineering disciplines today. The current industry-standard technology is called Finite Element Analysis (FEA). However, large-scale 3D FEA simulations are computationally intensive. It can be unfeasible to use FEA for many applications of practical interest, such as modeling large infrastructures like bridges, buildings, port equipment, offshore structures or airframes in full 3D detail. These types of simulations require amounts of RAM that often exceed the capacity of a desktop workstation (sometimes over a terabyte). Even if the simulation does fit in RAM, it may require hours or even days of computation time. If time is at a premium, 3D FEA of large-scale systems is too slow.

Akselos aims to make high-end simulation technology faster and easier to access. Its software is based on new algorithms (developed at MIT and other universities in the US and Europe over the past decade) that are 1000x faster than FEA for large-scale, highly detailed simulations. Fast response times are crucial in practice because engineers typically need to do hundreds or even thousands of simulations to perform studies for a piece of critical infrastructure, such as analyzing the vibrational characteristics of an entire gas turbine under all operating frequencies. With Akselos, studies like this can be completed within one day.

With Akselos, each simulation model is composed of hundreds or even thousands of components. And each component contains various properties (e.g. density, stiffness) or geometry (length, curvature, crack depth) that can be changed with the click of a button. In order to handle this giant data footprint, Akselos’s software runs on Google Cloud Platform and utilizes Google’s storage solutions as well as Replica Pools to scale its computing resources.

Akselos’s initial deployment on Google Compute Engine occurred when Dr. Simona Socrate, a Senior Lecturer in the Mechanical Engineering Department at MIT, decided to leverage its fast simulation technology to help students in her structural analysis course, 2.01x, on edX. Dr. Socrate wished to integrate simulation apps that run in the web browser into her course so students could explore subtle effects in structural mechanics in an interactive and visual way. Previous attempts to integrate simulations within university courses had been unsuccessful because the tools are typically too complicated for students to master.

Following Dr. Socrate’s direction, Akselos developed a series of WebGL browser apps to support the course’s learning experience. To handle the scale required for the 7,500 students who were signed up for the course, Akselos deployed the simulation back-end on Compute Engine. The apps were tested to sustain up to 15,000 simulation queries per hour at 99.9% uptime. The simulations ran on Google Compute Engine without a hitch during the 4 month course, with a very positive response from the students.

In parallel with the edX deployment, Akselos has opened up its cloud-based simulation platform, which is now used by a growing community of engineers around the world. The company aims to put powerful simulation technology into the hands of as many people as possible to enhance design and analysis workflows across many engineering disciplines. With the software deployed on Compute Engine, Akselos is well on its way to providing faster, easier, more detailed simulations for every engineer.

Feed Source: Google Cloud Platform Blog
Article Source: MITx’s edX course uses Akselos for complex engineering simulations on Compute Engine

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