Parallel Strategies for Crash and Impact Simulations

K. Brown, S. Attaway, S. J. Plimpton, B. Hendrickson, Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering, 184, 375-390 (2000).

We describe a general strategy we have found effective for parallelizing solid mechanics simulations. Such simulations often have several computationally intensive parts, including finite element integration, detection of material contacts, and particle interaction if smoothed particle hydrodynamics is used to model highly deforming materials. The need to balance all of these computations simultaneously is a difficult challenge that has kept many commercial and government codes from being used effectively on parallel supercomputers with hundreds or thousands of processors. Our strategy is to load-balance each of the significant computations independently with whatever balancing technique is most appropriate. The chief benefit is that each computation can be scalably parallelized. The drawback is the data exchange between processors and extra coding that must be written to maintain multiple decompositions in a single code. We discuss these trade-offs and give performance results showing this strategy has led to a parallel implementation of a widely-used solid mechanics code that can now be run efficiently on thousands of processors of the Pentium-based Sandia/Intel TFLOPS machine. We illustrate with several examples the kinds of high-resolution, million-element models that can now be simulated routinely. We also look to the future and discuss what possibilities this new capability promises, as well as the new set of challenges it poses in material models, computational techniques, and computing infrastructure.

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