By Heather McCoy
Manager, Sales and Marketing, Programs
Pointwise's newest distributor, Chris Sideroff, Ph.D. of Applied CCM Canada has completed the Pointwise trifecta: employee, customer and distributor.
Dr. Sideroff started his Pointwise journey in 2007 as an employee and later left Pointwise to become a customer at W.R. Davis Engineering Ltd. in Ottawa, Canada. He recently established his own company, Applied CCM Canada, becoming Pointwise's first distributor in Canada.
Dr. Sideroff took some time to chat with me about his path to becoming a Pointwise distributor.
Why did you get into engineering to start with and why CFD (computational fluid dynamics)?
As a kid, I was always interested in airplanes and anything that flew. I also had a natural aptitude towards science and math. My desire to move away from small town life and to learn more led to me to pursue a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.
How I got into CFD was a little more serendipitous. During my senior year of engineering school, I found myself a little disillusioned with the available jobs in my part of the world. Nearly all my classmates were moving on to prosperous careers in the petroleum industry but the aero-itch was still there for me. As fate would have it, during the final semester of my degree, the instructor in my compressible flow course, Dr. Jeff Yokota, inspired me to consider a graduate degree. Before becoming a professor, Jeff was a CFD researcher at NASA Glenn (then called NASA Lewis) so he had a lot of knowledge and experience to share. My strengths were fluid dynamics and numerical methods. With those two skills, CFD was the obvious choice.
You have been a Pointwise employee and a Pointwise customer. What made you want to be a distributor of Pointwise and how does it feel to be on yet another side of the business?
I suppose having been an employee and a customer I had to become a distributor to complete the trifecta. Seriously though, having been both has provided me with the right skills and perspective to be distributor. I think the perspective aspect is the most important. I understand what engineers look for in software, and I also understand what it takes to produce successful software. So depending on whom I'm speaking with - customer or Pointwise - I can seamlessly switch hats.
I have always been an independent thinker and because of that I suppose there has always been a desire to start my own company. It took me a while to gain the skills and confidence to realize that starting my own business was the right thing do. Through Pointwise, both the company and software, I have gained a lot of knowledge about meshing and the CFD industry. Given that, it seemed like a natural fit to add Pointwise to the portfolio of products Applied CCM Canada offers. Plus Pointwise has a great bunch of people to work with.
You have had a lot of Pointwise experience. What do you usually tell people when they ask you about Pointwise, the product?
That's a good question. Pointwise has built a globally recognized and respected name. More often than not I am approached about Pointwise rather than the other way around. By that I mean my conversations about Pointwise are usually about how it might be able to fix their meshing problem rather than me trying to find a place for Pointwise. Given my knowledge of Pointwise, I determine if there's a good fit between their problem and what Pointwise can do. There are occasions where there isn't a good solution with Pointwise - which I am forthcoming about - but more often than not, Pointwise has a solution.
More specifically, I tend to make the point that Pointwise has structured meshing capabilities. Despite the desire for the industry to move towards unstructured everything, structured meshing is, in my opinion, still the most reliable meshing approach. When one considers the entire investment of simulation prediction - by that I mean from creation of a virtual model to a manager reading reports with CFD data - the time required for a structured mesh is often worth it.
Now that you are a distributor, have you learned anything new from customers in Canada about Pointwise or the CFD market in general?
I have only been a distributor in Canada for three months so it's difficult for me to identify something unique about Canadian user's experiences at this point. During my 15+ years of involvement with CFD, I have found CFD to be a very global profession. By that I mean, how people apply CFD in one location often translates well to another location. I hope to share my global experiences gained while at Pointwise, to users in Canada through Applied CCM Canada.
I have received a lot of positive feedback from the existing Pointwise customers about having a local presence. Because Canada is next door to the U.S., for niche industries and products Canadian companies often have to rely on U.S. companies, who often do not have a physical presence in Canada, for sales and support. Therefore, it is easier for a Canadian company to efficiently provide those services.
What opportunities are out there for Applied CCM Canada and Pointwise in Canada?
I believe there are many opportunities for Pointwise in Canada. While I mentioned Pointwise has a globally recognized brand, I still find industries and regions where it is an unknown quantity. Most have heard of the name but don't necessarily know the product and its reputation. For a niche product, like CFD meshing, it's difficult to effectively advertise in a broad sense. Canada is a very large country with a very low population density. Even with the advent of the internet, digital marketing and social media, the diffusion of information here is probably a bit slower than other countries. I plan to counteract this by attending conferences, meetings and workshops in Canada.
More broadly, Canada is diversifying its economy to meet the needs of a freer flowing global market. While industries that have been the backbone of Canada, such as automotive, resource extraction, and conventional energy, are still healthy, newer sectors such as alternative energy, aerospace, and biotechnology are growing rapidly. Research and development tends to more dynamic in new markets so I plan to show how Pointwise is not just a single tool but a toolbox that can easily adapt to their changing needs.
I think the other obvious opportunity is open-source CFD. Like almost everywhere else, open-source based CFD in Canada is gaining a lot of momentum in not only academic circles but within commercial companies as well. It however requires a good meshing solution and Pointwise is well suited to meet those needs.
What distinguishes Applied CCM Canada from other CFD vendors in Canada?
First, as I mentioned, we have a local presence. We are situated in Ottawa which is a short drive from the two largest Canadian cities - Toronto and Montreal - which are the centers for many of the major industries and companies. Ottawa is centrally located in Canada so getting to the other major centers is no more than a few hours by plane.
Being smaller also means we can provide a more personal and customized experience. In addition to Pointwise, we have experience with all aspects of CFD (analysis and post-processing). This means we can provide advice about not only meshing from a Pointwise perspective but also a solver perspective. We also offer OpenFOAM®-based development, support and consulting and are the main developers of Caelus, a derivative of OpenFOAM. Therefore we provide a comprehensive, end-to-end solution with tools and processes that best suit the customer.
Any other tidbits you would like to share?
As I just mentioned, we are developing our own version of OpenFOAM called Caelus. I am particularly proud of my involvement with Caelus because it is open-source. I'm not what you might call an open-source zealot - I like and use many commercial software, such as Pointwise - but I believe it has an important place in the technology age. I have long been a user of Linux and many other open-source packages that go with it but I had never contributed back anything tangible. Having the opportunity to contribute some of my knowledge of CFD to others openly through Caelus has been fun.