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!

Simulating Car Crashes with Supercomputers – and Lego

October 18, 2019

It’s an experiment many of us have carried out at home: crashing two Lego creations into each other, bricks flying everywhere. But for the researchers at the General German Automobile Club (ADAC) – which is comparabl Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

NASA Uses Deep Learning to Monitor Solar Weather

October 17, 2019

Solar flares may be best-known as sci-fi MacGuffins, but those flares – and other space weather – can have serious impacts on not only spacecraft and satellites, but also on Earth-based systems such as radio communic Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Federated Learning Applied to Cancer Research

October 17, 2019

The ability to share and analyze data while protecting patient privacy is giving medical researchers a new tool in their efforts to use what one vendor calls “federated learning” to train models based on diverse data Read more…

By George Leopold

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

NSB 2020 S&E Indicators Dig into Workforce and Education

October 16, 2019

Every two years the National Science Board is required by Congress to issue a report on the state of science and engineering in the U.S. This year, in a departure from past practice, the NSB has divided the 2020 S&E Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

Making High Performance Computing Affordable and Accessible for Small and Medium Businesses with HPC on AWS

High performance computing (HPC) brings a powerful set of tools to a broad range of industries, helping to drive innovation and boost revenue in finance, genomics, oil and gas extraction, and other fields. Read more…

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Intel FPGAs: More Than Just an Accelerator Card

FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) acceleration cards are not new, as they’ve been commercially available since 1984. Typically, the emphasis around FPGAs has centered on the fact that they’re programmable accelerators, and that they can truly offer workload specific hardware acceleration solutions without requiring custom silicon. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

How Do We Power the New Industrial Revolution?

[Attend the IBM LSF, HPC & AI User Group Meeting at SC19 in Denver on November 19!]

Almost everyone is talking about artificial intelligence (AI). Read more…

What’s New in HPC Research: Rabies, Smog, Robots & More

October 14, 2019

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

NSB 2020 S&E Indicators Dig into Workforce and Education

October 16, 2019

Every two years the National Science Board is required by Congress to issue a report on the state of science and engineering in the U.S. This year, in a departu Read more…

By John Russell

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Simulates Braking – on Mars

October 14, 2019

NASA is planning to send humans to Mars by the 2030s – and landing on the surface will be considerably trickier than landing a rover like Curiosity. To solve Read more…

By Staff report

Trovares Drives Memory-Driven, Property Graph Analytics Strategy with HPE

October 10, 2019

Trovares, a high performance property graph analytics company, has partnered with HPE and its Superdome Flex memory-driven servers on a cybersecurity capability the companies say “routinely” runs near-time workloads on 24TB-capacity systems... Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel, Lenovo Join Forces on HPC Cluster for Flatiron

October 9, 2019

An HPC cluster with deep learning techniques will be used to process petabytes of scientific data as part of workload-intensive projects spanning astrophysics to genomics. AI partners Intel and Lenovo said they are providing... Read more…

By George Leopold

Optimizing Offshore Wind Farms with Supercomputer Simulations

October 9, 2019

Offshore wind farms offer a number of benefits; many of the areas with the strongest winds are located offshore, and siting wind farms offshore ameliorates many of the land use concerns associated with onshore wind farms. Some estimates say that, if leveraged, offshore wind power... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Harvard Deploys Cannon, New Lenovo Water-Cooled HPC Cluster

October 9, 2019

Harvard's Faculty of Arts & Sciences Research Computing (FASRC) center announced a refresh of their primary HPC resource. The new cluster, called Cannon after the pioneering American astronomer Annie Jump Cannon, is supplied by Lenovo... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DARPA Looks to Propel Parallelism

September 4, 2019

As Moore’s law runs out of steam, new programming approaches are being pursued with the goal of greater hardware performance with less coding. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency is launching a new programming effort aimed at leveraging the benefits of massive distributed parallelism with less sweat. Read more…

By George Leopold

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

Chinese Company Sugon Placed on US ‘Entity List’ After Strong Showing at International Supercomputing Conference

June 26, 2019

After more than a decade of advancing its supercomputing prowess, operating the world’s most powerful supercomputer from June 2013 to June 2018, China is keep Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hardware That Powered the Black Hole Image

June 24, 2019

Two months ago, the first-ever image of a black hole took the internet by storm. A team of scientists took years to produce and verify the striking image – an Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Intel Confirms Retreat on Omni-Path

August 1, 2019

Intel Corp.’s plans to make a big splash in the network fabric market for linking HPC and other workloads has apparently belly-flopped. The chipmaker confirmed to us the outlines of an earlier report by the website CRN that it has jettisoned plans for a second-generation version of its Omni-Path interconnect... Read more…

By Staff report

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Kubernetes, Containers and HPC

September 19, 2019

Software containers and Kubernetes are important tools for building, deploying, running and managing modern enterprise applications at scale and delivering enterprise software faster and more reliably to the end user — while using resources more efficiently and reducing costs. Read more…

By Daniel Gruber, Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

Intel Debuts Pohoiki Beach, Its 8M Neuron Neuromorphic Development System

July 17, 2019

Neuromorphic computing has received less fanfare of late than quantum computing whose mystery has captured public attention and which seems to have generated mo Read more…

By John Russell

Rise of NIH’s Biowulf Mirrors the Rise of Computational Biology

July 29, 2019

The story of NIH’s supercomputer Biowulf is fascinating, important, and in many ways representative of the transformation of life sciences and biomedical res Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Bits: Neven’s Law (Who Asked for That), D-Wave’s Steady Push, IBM’s Li-O2- Simulation

July 3, 2019

Quantum computing’s (QC) many-faceted R&D train keeps slogging ahead and recently Japan is taking a leading role. Yesterday D-Wave Systems announced it ha Read more…

By John Russell

With the Help of HPC, Astronomers Prepare to Deflect a Real Asteroid

September 26, 2019

For years, NASA has been running simulations of asteroid impacts to understand the risks (and likelihoods) of asteroids colliding with Earth. Now, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing for the next, crucial step in planetary defense against asteroid impacts: physically deflecting a real asteroid. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This