Tech Briefs

Software Aids Visualization of Computed Unsteady Flow

Unsteady Flow Analysis Toolkit (UFAT) is a computer program that synthesizes motions of time-dependent flows represented by very large sets of data generated in computational fluid dynamics simulations. Prior to the development of UFAT, it was necessary to rely on static, single-snapshot depictions of time-dependent flows generated by flow-visualization software designed for steady flows. Whereas it typically takes weeks to analyze the results of a largescale unsteady-flow simulation by use of steady-flow visualization software, the analysis time is reduced to hours when UFAT is used. UFAT can be used to generate graphical objects of flow visualization results using multi-block curvilinear grids in the format of a previously developed NASA data-visualization program, PLOT3D. These graphical objects can be rendered using FAST, another popular flow visualization software developed at NASA. Flow-visualization techniques that can be exploited by use of UFAT include time-dependent tracking of particles, detection of vortex cores, extractions of stream ribbons and surfaces, and tetrahedral decomposition for optimal particle tracking. Unique computational features of UFAT include capabilities for automatic (batch) processing, restart, memory mapping, and parallel processing. These capabilities significantly reduce analysis time and storage requirements, relative to those of prior flow-visualization software. UFAT can be executed on a variety of supercomputers.

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Software for Testing Electroactive Structural Components

A computer program generates a graphical user interface that, in combination with its other features, facilitates the acquisition and preprocessing of experimental data on the strain response, hysteresis, and power consumption of a multilayer composite-material structural component containing one or more built-in sensor(s) and/or actuator(s) based on piezoelectric materials. This program runs in conjunction with Lab- VIEW software in a computer-controlled instrumentation system. For a test, a specimen is instrumented with appliedvoltage and current sensors and with strain gauges. Once the computational connection to the test setup has been made via the LabVIEW software, this program causes the test instrumentation to step through specified configurations. If the user is satisfied with the test results as displayed by the software, the user activates an icon on a front-panel display, causing the raw current, voltage, and strain data to be digitized and saved. The data are also put into a spreadsheet and can be plotted on a graph. Graphical displays are saved in an image file for future reference. The program also computes and displays the power and the phase angle between voltage and current.

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Advanced Software for Analysis of High-Speed Rolling-Element Bearings

COBRA-AHS is a package of advanced software for analysis of rigid or flexible shaft systems supported by rolling-element bearings operating at high speeds under complex mechanical and thermal loads. These loads can include centrifugal and thermal loads generated by motions of bearing components. COBRA-AHS offers several improvements over prior commercial bearing-analysis programs: It includes innovative probabilistic fatigue-life-estimating software that provides for computation of three-dimensional stress fields and incorporates stress-based (in contradistinction to prior load-based) mathematical models of fatigue life. It interacts automatically with the ANSYS finite-element code to generate finite-element models for estimating distributions of temperature and temperature-induced changes in dimensions in iterative thermal/dimensional analyses: thus, for example, it can be used to predict changes in clearances and thermal lockup. COBRA-AHS provides an improved graphical user interface that facilitates the iterative cycle of analysis and design by providing analysis results quickly in graphical form, enabling the user to control interactive runs without leaving the program environment, and facilitating transfer of plots and printed results for inclusion in design reports. Additional features include roller-edge stress prediction and influence of shaft and housing distortion on bearing performance.

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Web Program for Development of GUIs for Cluster Computers

WIGLAF (a Web Interface Generator and Legacy Application Façade) is a computer program that provides a Webbased, distributed, graphical-user-interface (GUI) framework that can be adapted to any of a broad range of application programs, written in any programming language, that are executed remotely on any cluster computer system. WIGLAF enables the rapid development of a GUI for controlling and monitoring a specific application program running on the cluster and for transferring data to and from the application program. The only prerequisite for the execution of WIGLAF is a Web-browser program on a user’s personal computer connected with the cluster via the Internet. WIGLAF has a client/server architecture: The server component is executed on the cluster system, where it controls the application program and serves data to the client component. The client component is an applet that runs in the Web browser. WIGLAF utilizes the Extensible Markup Language to hold all data associated with the application software, Java to enable platform-independent execution on the cluster system and the display of a GUI generator through the browser, and the Java Remote Method Invocation software package to provide simple, effective client/server networking.

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XML-Based Generator of C++ Code for Integration With GUIs

An open source computer program has been developed to satisfy a need for simplified organization of structured input data for scientific simulation programs. Typically, such input data are parsed in from a flat American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) text file into computational data structures. Also typically, when a graphical user interface (GUI) is used, there is a need to completely duplicate the input information while providing it to a user in a more structured form. Heretofore, the duplication of the input information has entailed duplication of software efforts and increases in susceptibility to software errors because of the concomitant need to maintain two independent input-handling mechanisms. The present program implements a method in which the input data for a simulation program are completely specified in an Extensible Markup Language (XML)-based text file. The key benefit for XML is storing input data in a structured manner. More importantly, XML allows not just storing of data but also describing what each of the data items are. That XML file contains information useful for rendering the data by other applications. It also then generates data structures in the C++ language that are to be used in the simulation program.

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Pattern Matching Software for Machine Vision Applications

The first step of pattern matching always includes a learning process. A “gold” master is used to create a template. This template is used for identification purposes on all subsequent parts. A score is generated depending on how well the object or feature under inspection matches the original template. You can take advantage of pattern matching in applications that include alignment, gauging, and inspection, as reported in “PCBased Software for Pattern, Color, and Color Pattern Matching”, Photonics Tech Briefs (only in select issues of NASA Tech Briefs), June 2003, page 10a.

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Improved Process for Fabricating Carbon Nanotube Probes

An improved process has been developed for the efficient fabrication of carbon nanotube probes for use in atomic-force microscopes (AFMs) and nanomanipulators. Relative to prior nanotube tip production processes, this process offers advantages in alignment of the nanotube on the cantilever and stability of the nanotube's attachment. A procedure has also been developed at Ames that effectively sharpens the multiwalled nanotube, which improves the resolution of the multiwalled nanotube probes and, combined with the greater stability of multiwalled nanotube probes, increases the effective resolution of these probes, making them comparable in resolution to single-walled carbon nanotube probes. The robust attachment derived from this improved fabrication method and the natural strength and resiliency of the nanotube itself produces an AFM probe with an extremely long imaging lifetime. In a longevity test, a nanotube tip imaged a silicon nitride surface for 15 hours without measurable loss of resolution. In contrast, the resolution of conventional silicon probes noticeably begins to degrade within minutes. These carbon nanotube probes have many possible applications in the semiconductor industry, particularly as devices are approaching the nanometer scale and new atomic layer deposition techniques necessitate a higher resolution characterization technique. Previously at Ames, the use of nanotube probes has been demonstrated for imaging photoresist patterns with high aspect ratio. In addition, these tips have been used to analyze Mars simulant dust grains, extremophile protein crystals, and DNA structure. This NASA technology is being commercialized through Convergent Science and Technology Inc. ().

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