It’s More Than Just Water Over the Dam

By Tim
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.

A Different Kind of Virtual World: 3DVIA Scenes

By Cliff

3DVIA Scenes has been recently mentioned as another Virtual World, but we must state that is not exactly the case. There are some major differences between other virtual worlds and 3DVIA Scenes…Here are four key differences between 3DVIA Scenes and other virtual worlds:

1- The Vision

2- The Open format

3- No software required

4- Social Development

Let me elaborate…

1- The Vision: We’re starting off with the basics.  Currently, 3DVIA Scenes allows anyone, at any skill level to create a 3D environment.  Eventually, 3DVIA Scenes will allow you to build amazing new environments for many purposes, from full realistic games to lifelike simulations.

2- An Open Format: Other Virtual Worlds have one trait in common:  proprietary formats.  3DVIA Scenes allows users to use 3D Models with common formats, such as COLLADA (.dae), 3DXML, 3DS, and many more.  3DVIA Scenes also allows direct export from Dassault Systèmes software such as CATIA, SolidWorks, and 3DVIA Shape to, then directly into your Scene.

3- No Software required: Okay, so not exactly “no” software…The 3DVIA Player is a lightweight plugin for your web browser, but no extensive software is required.

4- Social Development: Yes, most applications are social, but 3DVIA Scenes is collaborative, allowing others to change your design, no matter where they are (we’ll, as long as they have Internet access).

As for an example:  This week, I produced this video simulation of my home renovation.  I wanted to allow my wife and others to walk through the redesigned kitchen, before it had been remodeled, and before we start tearing down the walls.  I was able to easily build this walkthrough using 3DVIA Shape (produced the 3D floorplan, lights, etc.) and 3DVIA Scenes (added the models).  I then, sent a URL to my wife, who was able to walk around the remodel herself.  We were able to discuss changes in the design online, in 3D.  This made it easy for her to make important decisions about the remodel before it becomes a reality.

This is the power of 3DVIA Scenes:  A 3D World which anyone can create, allowing common 3D format files, a collaborative environment, with a vision for the future.  This is the future of collaboration, training, simulation and gaming for the web.


For more detailed information on 3DVIA Scenes, it’s benefits, or if you are interested in being a part of the Beta Team, check out this post from Marc on

Less than 17 days to go until SolidWorks World 2010

By Matthew

SolidWorks World 2010

It’s that time of year again. Everyone here at SolidWorks is in a mad last-dash effort to get ready for SolidWorks World 2010. And this year promises to be a big one. Why, do you ask?

Well, for starters, we have this season’s most lauded filmmaker delivering the big keynote. That’s right–James Cameron, creator of Avatar, will be appearing to discuss his movie, the ways 3D is becoming part of our everyday experience, and who knows what else. Maybe he’ll even talk about Rambo.

But that’s not all. Like any SolidWorks World, you’ll see a few things that everyone looks forward to every year like the ten most-requested product enhancements and sneak peak at SolidWorks 2011, as well as some big surprises and guests. Naturally, I can’t tell you anything about those. We’ll also have hundreds of Certified SolidWorks Professionals racing awesome RC cars, a big car show on Tuesday night (sensing a theme?) and hundreds of breakouts and hands-on sessions. And last I heard, we’ll have over 100 partners putting in appearances at the partner pavilion.

If you’re already planning to attend SolidWorks World, be sure to say hi if you see me. If you’re a blogger or Twitter user, I’ll even be hosting a tweetup Sunday night after the evening reception. I’m still working out the details, so be sure to keep an eye on the SolidWorks blog or Twitter next week. And if you just want to keep up on what’s happening at the show, here are a few places you might want to add to your bookmarks and RSS reader.

See you in Anaheim!

The SolidWorks Blog

SolidWorks on Twitter

SolidWorks World on Twitter

SolidWorks World #SWW10 hashtag

SolidWorks 2010 Flickr group

SolidWorks on YouTube

SolidWorks Blog Squad & Forum Posts

SolidWorks 2010 YouTube group

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Beyond PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), Dassault Systèmes, the 3D Experience Company, provides business and people with virtual universes to imagine sustainable innovations. 3DSWYM, 3D VIA, CATIA, DELMIA, ENOVIA, EXALEAD, NETVIBES, SIMULIA and SOLIDWORKS are registered trademarks of Dassault Systèmes or its subsidiaries in the US and/or other countries.