High Performance (Potato) Chips

By Michael Feldman

May 5, 2006

“I’m going to be talking about things that are very familiar to people,” said Tom Lange, Director of Modeling and Simulation at Procter & Gamble (P&G).

Not the kind of introduction you normally think of when someone speaks about high performance computing applications. But this is exactly what Tom Lange talked about at the High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) Conference in Newport, Rhode Island a few weeks ago. His presentation was titled “The Aerodynamics of Pringles.”

Tom Lange has spent over 27 years at Procter & Gamble, modeling products, processes and production systems — everything from how the aerodynamics of potato chips optimizes production to how baby size affects diaper leakage. Although P&G has really only used high performance computing for the last 10 years or so, its origins go back to the late 70s.

“When I joined Procter & Gamble in 1978, we had high-end IBM 360/370 kinds of computers that we used to solve statistics problems,” said Lange. “Our first finite element analysis kind of problem — something that would look more familiar to a supercomputing person today — we solved using a Boeing computer in the middle of the 1980s. So our exploration of the use of simulations to improve our ability to innovate for the consumer is a legacy that is not just a few years old, but in fact more like 15 years old.”

Today, P&G has a fairly typical setup for commercial users of high performance computing. Lange said they have a heterogeneous computing environment — a shared memory SGI Altix system and a multi-hundred-node cluster. Choosing which system to use depends on their suitability for the specific type of modeling/simulation application.

As far as software goes, P&G gets its codes from a variety of sources. They use software packages from ISVs like Abacus, Fluent and LS-Dyna. Most of P&G’s proprietary code is implemented with user-defined functions within these packages. Lange calls this his “commercial-plus” strategy. At P&G, they have not attempted to maintain internal codes.

P&G also uses some national laboratory codes from both LANL and Sandia National Labs. “The same weapons code used at Los Alamos for more sophisticated purposes is used for combustion code in automotive applications and at P&G for paper products manufacturing,” said Lange.

Procter & Gamble tells its story

Unlike its competitors, P&G’s been publicizing how it uses high performance computing technology for a few years now. Other companies have been much more reticent to share their HPC story with the masses. Even Lange admits this story would not have told at P&G in the 1980s. But the nature of product manufacturing has changed.

“We’re in a global competition for ideas,” said Lange. “There’s no illusion at Procter and Gamble that it’s the only place where smart things happen. Since that illusion is not there, our willingness to say what we do know gives us the hope we’ll learn from others. If we’re just sitting in the back hiding, not saying anything, that doesn’t improve our innovation.”

Procter & Gamble does appear to have a more strategic focus on using HPC technology than its competitors. Lange’s position — the director of modeling and simulation — may be hard to find at other companies that produce package goods. Although modeling may have been used to help with product and package design at P&G ten or fifteen years ago, it wasn’t seen as a critical asset. But today, Lange believes there is an increasing awareness to use this technology to develop and improve products. This mirrors what has happened in other sectors — defense, electronics, automotive, aerospace, oil & gas — in the last decade or so.

Lange believes his willingness to speak at conferences like HPCC helps him connect with others in government and industry that deal with similar types of problems. He is hoping to develop some good relationships at the conference, leading to possible future collaborations. Lange uses events such as these to get to know his counterparts in other organizations.

“I know my counterparts at Chrysler, I know my counterparts at Dreamworks, I know my counterparts at Morgan-Stanley,” said Lange. “I would have never met those individuals if I hadn’t been involved in things like [HPCC]. In a lot of ways they all have similar jobs to mine. They’re trying to bring computing to their innovation process.”

Lange believes that collaboration between the defense, automotive industry, and package goods industry is quite possible. For example, P&G models many of the properties of skin to develop the interaction of its lotion products. Those models could be relevant for a crash test simulation at Ford Motor Company or a battlefield armor protection simulation for the Army.

“In my world I’m worried about wrinkles and freckles,” said Lange. “I’m just trying to make everyone’s life just a little better. But the science and engineering of making everyone’s life a little better has an amazing similarity to what are some of the more complex problems in safety and defense.”

High Performance Pringles

In general, Procter and Gamble use high performance computing modeling to design consumer package goods for a variety of its products: Ivory, Pringles, Charmin, Downy, Tide, Crest, Mr. Clean, Pampers, and a whole range of Hugo Boss products. A fairly recent success story is the Folgers Coffee plastic canister, which features the so-called “Aroma Seal.”

“There’s a lot of complex science and engineering associated with that particular container,” said Lange.

He explains that structural integrity is especially important for hermetically sealed packages. This type of container must be able to withstand pressure changes in elevation when they’re being transported — for example, during shipping, when the product is being driven over 11,000-foot mountain passes. Metal containers are very resistant pressure changes. But metal has drawbacks in maintaining the flavor profiles of foods, such as coffee, whose aroma is a result of its volatile oils. Metal does not react well with those volatile oils, so the coffee flavor tends to degrade over time.

Plastic, on the other hand, is better at preserving the coffee flavor profile. However plastic is not as good at maintaining its structural integrity when undergoing pressure changes during transport. Lange said this can be overcome if you just make the plastic really thick, but this is not very practical from a consumer acceptance and environmental point of view. So the challenge was to design a plastic container that would be both strong and practical for the consumer. For this, Procter and Gamble had to resort to sophisticated computer-aided engineering.

“That plastic coffee canister — the Aroma Seal package — would not exist without modeling,” said Lange. “Packaging, in general, is where this [modeling] gets applied — whether you’re talking about a Tide bottle or any of our liquid products.”

At P&G, product modeling is used to design a range of properties associated with a package, including its manufacturability, its strength and it resistance to leakage. In some cases, modeling is used to create more efficient packaging, so that fewer raw materials are used. This benefits both the manufacturer, because it is less expensive to produce, and the consumer, because its lighter, more compact and friendlier to the environment.

According to Lange, their paper products, including disposable diapers, toilet paper and paper towels is another area where a lot of modeling takes place. Also, substrate-based products such as Swiffer, Bounce, Thermocare have also benefited from high performance computing, employing chemoinformatics and molecular mesoscale modeling to predict the behavior of liquid solutions. Lange said that none of these products would be on the store shelves without modeling.

And then there’s Pringles. One of the reasons the aerodynamics of Pringles is so important is because the chips are being produced so quickly that they are practically flying down the production line.

“We make them very, very, very fast,” said Lange. “We make them fast enough so that in their transport, the aerodynamics are relevant. If we make them too fast, they fly where we don’t want them to, which is normally into a big pile somewhere. And that’s bad.”

Lange notes that the aerodynamics of chips is also important for food processing reasons. In this case, the aerodynamic properties combine with the food engineering issues, such as fluid flow interactions with the steam and oil as the chips are being cooked and seasoned.

Future Applications

Lange thinks that he will be able to use more advanced codes, such as human biomechanical modeling, on next-generation computers. At P&G, he would like to apply biomechanical modeling to design more user-friendly packaging. To the degree Procter and Gamble’s products interface better with the full range of humanity, the more likely he’s going to able to deliver a preferred product in the marketplace.

Lange describes one possible application of this from his own experience. He said he noticed that his mother-in-law, who has arthritis, leaves tops ajar or the caps off on a variety of containers around her home, because it’s too painful for her to continually open and close them.

“It’s a classic engineering dilemma, said Lange. “How do I make something that never leaks but opens easily? Introducing the human into this, in a full biomechanical way, is a complicated problem. It puts a huge demand on computing.”

Lange said that if they had more computing power, they could also perform much finer-grained molecular modeling. For example, they could simulate the nanoscale behavior of liquids. With this capability they would be able to predict the stability and opacity properties of different liquid solutions. Today he can only address those problems with very simple mesoscale representations.

Lange thinks it’s a shame when he occasionally hears his counterparts in the aerospace and automotive sectors say their systems are fast enough today — that no more computing power is really needed. He believes there are problems in all engineering domains that have yet to be addressed because of a lack of computing capability.

“My appetite for computing is insatiable,” admitted Lange. “For every factor of ten that Moore’s Law gives me, I can make use of every bit of it!”

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

RSC Reports 500Tflops, Hot Water Cooled System Deployed at JINR

April 18, 2018

RSC, developer of supercomputers and advanced HPC systems based in Russia, today reported deployment of “the world's first 100% ‘hot water’ liquid cooled supercomputer” at Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JI Read more…

By Staff

New Device Spots Quantum Particle ‘Fingerprint’

April 18, 2018

Majorana particles have been observed by university researchers employing a device consisting of layers of magnetic insulators on a superconducting material. The advance opens the door to controlling the elusive particle Read more…

By George Leopold

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’s introduction of an ARM-based system (XC-50) last November. Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Hybrid HPC is Speeding Time to Insight and Revolutionizing Medicine

High performance computing (HPC) is a key driver of success in many verticals today, and health and life science industries are extensively leveraging these capabilities. Read more…

Hennessy & Patterson: A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture

April 17, 2018

On Monday June 4, 2018, 2017 A.M. Turing Award Winners John L. Hennessy and David A. Patterson will deliver the Turing Lecture at the 45th International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA) in Los Angeles. The Read more…

By Staff

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’ Read more…

By John Russell

IBM: Software Ecosystem for OpenPOWER is Ready for Prime Time

April 16, 2018

With key pieces of the IBM/OpenPOWER versus Intel/x86 gambit settling into place – e.g., the arrival of Power9 chips and Power9-based systems, hyperscaler sup Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cloud-Readiness and Looking Beyond Application Scaling

April 11, 2018

There are two aspects to consider when determining if an application is suitable for running in the cloud. The first, which we will discuss here under the title Read more…

By Chris Downing

Transitioning from Big Data to Discovery: Data Management as a Keystone Analytics Strategy

April 9, 2018

The past 10-15 years has seen a stark rise in the density, size, and diversity of scientific data being generated in every scientific discipline in the world. Key among the sciences has been the explosion of laboratory technologies that generate large amounts of data in life-sciences and healthcare research. Large amounts of data are now being stored in very large storage name spaces, with little to no organization and a general unease about how to approach analyzing it. Read more…

By Ari Berman, BioTeam, Inc.

IBM Expands Quantum Computing Network

April 5, 2018

IBM is positioning itself as a first mover in establishing the era of commercial quantum computing. The company believes in order for quantum to work, taming qu Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

FY18 Budget & CORAL-2 – Exascale USA Continues to Move Ahead

April 2, 2018

It was not pretty. However, despite some twists and turns, the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget is complete and ended with some very positi Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This