Opennovation News
Engineering Consulting with Open Source Tools
February, 2008

Opennovation is an engineering consulting firm founded by Adam Powell with a focus on using and helping others to use open source software for design and analysis in engineering disciplines such as mechanics, fluid flow, heat transfer, and chemical reactor design.  Opennovation News is a new means of bringing you updates on the company and the broader world of open source software for engineering.

Opennovation News is planning approximately one issue per month.  If you would like to receive it via email, please click here or send email to news@opennovation with "subscribe" in the subject.  Contributions and comments are welcome, please send them to


Powell Wins TMS MPMD Education Resource Award

The Materials Processing and Manufacturing Division (MPMD) of The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS) gave its first Education Resource Award to Opennovation Principal Adam Powell and Boston University co-authors Rachel DeLucas and Uday Pal.  Powell authored the winning presentation entitled "Boundary Element Electrochemistry Modeling" based on work with DeLucas and Pal on magnesium electrowinning.

The presentation gives an overview of electrochemistry in materials processing, discusses goals and methods of simulating electrochemical processes, and presents details of a boundary element model of magnesium production by solid oxide membrane (SOM) electrolysis.  The SOM process is a low-cost method of primary production of metals from their oxides invented by Uday Pal, and Pal and Powell have worked together on its application to low-cost production of magnesium and titanium.  Simulations shown in the presentation used the Julian boundary element code written by Powell and named after his late graduate advisor Julian Szekely.

The contest goal is to create high-quality resources for the Education Community on the Materials Technology @ TMS (MT@TMS) website.  As the TMS Education Committee Chair, Powell was interviewed for last month's MT@TMS Education front page article.  Powell's other contributions to MT@TMS include links into various parts of the Materials Digital Library Teaching Archive, to which he contributed most of the resources on transport phenomena.

The presentation is available for download in PDF and OpenDocument formats.

CAELinux 2007

CAELinux is a new live DVD Linux distribution which includes multiple open source software packages for computer-aided engineering (CAE) tasks such as computer-aided design (CAD), finite element analysis (FEA) and visualization, including:

CAD/meshing   General FEA   Fluid dynamics   General tools   Visualization
  • Salomé
  • Code_Aster
  • OpenFOAM
  • Octave (like MatLab)
  • QCad
  • Elmer
  • Gerris
  • R, RKWard (stats)
  • Salomé
  • GMSH
  • CalculiX
  • Code_Saturne
  • Scilab
  • VTK
  • Netgen
  • Impact
  • OpenFlower
  • wxMaxima
  • Paraview
  • TetGen
  • MBDyn
  • A Linux distribution is a fully-functioning Linux-based operating system and application suite, the Linux equivalent of a Windows install CD but also including substitutes for Office, Photoshop, Illustrator, Quicken, databases, file and web server, and other software.  Well-known general Linux distributions include: RedHat Enterprise Linux, SUSE LINUX by Novell, Debian GNU/Linux, and Ubuntu Linux by Canonical, which Dell pre-installs on some systems.  In general, there are two families of distributions: the RedHat family uses the RedHat Package Manager format (.rpm files) for software packages, and the Debian family uses the Debian package format (.deb files).  CAELinux is based on PCLinuxOS, which is in the RedHat family of distributions.

    New Debian packages: OpenCASCADE, Salomé, SPOOLES

    Opennovation Principal Adam Powell has completed three new Debian packages for the OpenCASCADE, Salomé and SPOOLES programs. OpenCASCADE is an engineering application framework with libraries supporting design and visualization functions and its own scripting engine.  Salomé is a flexible graphical environment which includes CAD capabilities using OpenCASCADE, meshing using multiple backends, and visualization using both OpenCASCADE and the Visualization Toolkit (VTK), making it a user-friendly general finite element pre- and post-processor.  SPOOLES is a sparse matrix solver subroutine library developed at Boeing Phantom Works with support from DARPA which several simulation programs use for their calculations.

    In addition to making it easier to install these programs on Debian-based systems (Debian, Ubuntu, Linspire, Linux Mint, etc.), these packages also fully integrate them into the operating system.  For example, they link program documentation into the Debian documentation system, create entries in the application menus, and facilitate use of their libraries of subroutines.

    To download package files (sources and AMD64 .debs), click: OpenCASCADE, Salomé, SPOOLES.  As a Debian Developer, Powell has already uploaded SPOOLES into the main Debian GNU/Linux distribution, and plans to upload the other two packages after further refinement.

    New additions to

    The site is envisioned as a community portal for open source engineering.  In the last two months, it has nearly doubled in size, thanks mainly to contributions from Francesco Poli.  New additions include:

    Needless to say, with such an array of software for solving various types of problems, there is a need for order, for some means of efficiently sorting among them and choosing the right tool for a given job.  For this reason, in the long run, will include reviews and ratings of programs, news updates such as new code releases, and general discussion boards.

    And if you need assistance with installation, operation, customization or support of any of these open source tools, come to