It’s More Than Just Water Over the Dam

By Tim
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Historical image of Keokuk Power Plant, and Lock and Dam 19

Historical image of Keokuk Power Plant, and Lock and Dam 19

I grew up in Keokuk, Iowa, exploring the rugged, tree-covered bluffs of the Mississippi River, overlooking the monolithic Powerhouse of Lock and Dam 19. The megastructure, completed in 1913, put Keokuk on the international map as home to the largest, single powerhouse, electricity generating plant in the world.

As a kid, I took tours of the Powerhouse and was awed by the rows of humming and hot generators. It was a little scary to be so close to so much electricity being produced. While there is often controversy over the environmental impact of dam construction, hydroelectric power is, at its best, clean, renewable energy. According to Ameren Corporation, the owner and operator of the Keokuk power plant, an average day of operation of the plant saves the equivalent of nearly 1,000 tons of coal.

Dams are also amazing feats of engineering.

The sheer size of the structures that were built prior to the use of computer aided engineering (CAE) make dams, such as the Hoover Dam, even more awe-inspiring. With the addition of CAE to the engineers toolbox, the size, complexity, and power generating capacity of hydroelectric dams have grown substantially.

With CAE, engineers are able to virtually test the structure of the dam, its components, and systems to gain greater confidence in the safety and reliability of the dam and its power generating systems. Finite Element Analysis and Computational Fluid Dynamics software are being used, not only for the design of new plants, but also for the monitoring of performance and structure integrity of existing dams and modernizing and upgrading power plants to improve power output, ensure their safe operation, and extend their operational life.

Three Gorges Dam

Three Gorges Dam

Today, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam by total capacity is the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River in China. Since its construction, there has been extra attention given to the testing and analysis of vibrations in the powerhouse structures caused by various kinds of dynamic loads. Researchers at School of Civil and Hydraulic Engineering at the Dalian University of Technology have written a paper on their use of Abaqus FEA from SIMULIA to analyze the strength of concrete substructure and superstructure in powerhouse #15 undergoing natural vibration frequencies.

Engineers at Norconsult, a global, multidisciplinary engineering and design consultancy located in Norway, use Abaqus FEA to perform static and dynamic structural analyses of arch dams, single and double-curvature shelled structures, and slab and buttress dams. According to their Dam Engineering brochure, their engineers also use Abaqus for permeability flow modeling of porous material in embankment dams and temperature gradient modeling, calculation of crack width, reinforcement and stress and strain in concrete dams.

Abaqus is not the only solution from Dassault Systemes being used in by dam and power plant engineers. Recently, we announced that the HydroChina Chengdu Engineering Corporation (CHIDI) selected our PLM solutions to facilitate investigation, design, and collaborative management of hydropower plants. CHIDI has significantly shortened project timelines, reduced total costs, and improved the collaboration between cross-functional teams of designers and engineers.

Having grown up overlooking a historic dam and power plant, I know a little about the power generating process, but I really take it for granted. I know the water falls over (or flows through) the dam, causing turbines to spin, and generators then create electricity. But, that’s about the extent of my working knowledge.

So, I found this short video on how hydroelectric power is created to be  informative.  Check it out, you’ll gain a better understanding of the complex, multiphysics that engineers have to take into consideration in the design and operation of a dam and power plant.  YouTube Preview Image

The next time you see a hydroelectric power plant in action, you will know that indeed, there is more to it than just water spilling over a dam.

Power Me Up, Scotti.

P.S. – This is the first in a series on how realistic simulation is being used in all energy sectors to improve energy exploration and production of energy to power our world. Stay tuned.

Teens Use 3D to Protect Centuries-Old Architectural Heritage

By Herve
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cathedral project1
You’ve probably heard teenagers sighing something like “everything I’m learning at school is useless!” There are many reasons behind this typical reaction and I certainly understand that studying the intercept theorem could be boring if never applied to real-life challenges.

To help teens out of this ‘academic funk’, the “Ma pierre à l’édifice(*)” contest  helps students by combining history, literature, mathematics, technology and the arts to serve a civic-minded, real-life useFUL project.

pierre-edificeLast year, the French Ministry of Education, the “Observatoire du Patrimoine Religieux” (OPR, Religious Heritage Observatory) and Dassault Systèmes signed a general agreement defining a yearly contest dedicated to students aged 12-14. The contest drives teenagers to study in-depth a religious building (historical context, architecture, techniques to measure its dimensions…) using most of the disciplines taught at schools.

One example: As you may know, it is almost impossible to obtain a detailed plan of a 300-year old building. To measure the height of a bell tower, students may refer to Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island and see how the engineer Cyrus Smith determined the height of a cliff using the intercept theorem. There are many other ways to make such measures and they are detailed in the teachers’ guide proposed for free to participants.

Based upon their own measures, observations, digital pictures and on-site visits with architects, the teens create 3D representations of historic religious buildings using 3DVIA Shape. Students publish their models on and OPR embeds them via the 3DVIA plug-in to their official online inventory. Today the OPR digital inventory includes a portion of the France’s religious buildings but they hope to complete their online collection in the coming years.

pierre-edifice1Last spring, seven junior high schools selected by the Ministry participated in a pilot phase. The winners from the Collège Centre du Creusot and Collège Victor Hugo de Nevers were awarded on November 6th, 2009 during the International Heritage Show held at the Louvre museum.

Here’s an interactive 3D look at digital models from the winning teams.

The first is Eglise Saint-Henry situated in Le Creusot:

And here’s a less-traditional Eglise Sainte-Bernardette du Banlay, situated in Nevers:

The 2010 edition is now open for French school registrations and more information can be found on the official website (in French).

Do you know of any similar projects going on in other countries?  Please share!



Hervé Foucher

Hervé Foucher works for Dassault Systèmes Education Department and is in charge of online communities for students and educators.

(*)For those who are not familiar with French, the name of the project is a play on words. The expression “Apporter sa pierre à l’édifice” (word for word “to bring one’s stone to the building”) means to bring a willingness of working on a project, even if it’s a small contribution. At the same time, the stone and the building refer to the monuments OPR tries to protect.

A 3D Community Comes of Age, A Year at 3DVIA

By Cliff
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2009 was a very BIG year for 3DVIA. 3DVIA grew leaps and bounds this year, proving that users are responding to our mission of democratizing ‘3D for everyone’.  In 2009, grew to almost 150,000 users and our warehouse of 3D models grew to almost 20-thousand.  We also launched an impressive lineup of new products and services.

So much happened for 3DVIA this past year that a simple blog post might not do it justice.  Rather than mentioning all the great things that were accomplished this year, I created this video of many of our achievements.  Enjoy!

If you are interested in any of the products or services mentioned in the video, here is a quick list:


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