HDF5 Propopsed to us for Nastran FE improvement - Is it worth it

Hi All
This question comes from a project manager without deep experience of nastran BDF’s

It is proposed that a group of 30 or so FE Nastran users in a small aerospace company adopt HDF5 in order to simplify and secure all the output files in neat order and perhaps input data and avoid the issue of multiple files creations and misplacement. Maybe even use it to improve processes applied to traditional Nastran files post process.

But like any new adaption into a new software and integration with existing tools, we fear it could have pitfalls we dont understand. We also worry that we have an existing system which works (its not beautiful) but that we could in fact hinder ourselves with a new control product. Issues like, are we now dependent on programmers to set up and maintain the system, training and over complication are in our minds.

It is a case that adding HDF 5 (already in patran) when rolled out on a wide scale (30 users) has draw backs or that we start to need to have added training sessions to get everybody operating harmoniously. The problem is that the project analysis is already in progress and will go on for 18 months and mid step , we have been recommended to take up HDF5 as the baseline way of operating - it is currently believed it can only be an imporvement.

Are there people out there who have experienced unexpected pitfalls to a significant degree. What could they be?

Many Thanks

M, this is a tough question. I’ll include a ChatGPT answer below, which is not bad, but I would perhaps try to understand better what you hope to achieve.

How much pain are you experiencing currently? Have you reached certain capability limits w/ the existing approach? How much does it cost your business? Is it threatening your future? What are your peers/competitors doing?

We, The HDF Group, would be happy to talk to you. You can email us at info@hdfgroup.org for more information on how we could work together.


Integrating HDF5 into your Nastran workflows in a small aerospace company is a significant decision, especially when considering its impact on a team of 30 users. HDF5, being a versatile data model, file format, and software library for storing and managing complex data, can offer advantages in organizing and securing output files. However, it’s crucial to weigh the potential benefits against the possible challenges and pitfalls.

Potential Benefits of Adopting HDF5:

  1. Improved Data Management: HDF5 can efficiently organize large and complex datasets, which is beneficial for Finite Element (FE) analysis.
  2. Integration with Existing Tools: As HDF5 is already in use in Patran, there might be synergies and easier integration.
  3. Enhanced Data Integrity: By consolidating data into a single file format, you reduce the risk of data loss or misplacement.

Potential Pitfalls and Challenges:

  1. Training and Adaptation: The transition will require training for the team, which can be time-consuming and may temporarily reduce productivity.
  2. Dependence on Technical Expertise: Implementing and maintaining an HDF5-based system might require more specialized programming skills, leading to dependence on a few knowledgeable individuals.
  3. Compatibility Issues: Ensure that HDF5 integrates well with all existing systems and tools used by the team. Incompatibility can lead to workflow disruptions.
  4. Risk of Overcomplication: A new system might add complexity to existing processes, potentially leading to errors or inefficiencies.
  5. Project Timeline Impact: Since your project analysis is ongoing, changing data management practices mid-way might cause delays or require adjustments in project timelines.

Gathering Experiences from Others:

To better understand the risks and rewards, it would be beneficial to reach out to communities or forums where professionals discuss FE analysis and Nastran usage. Platforms like LinkedIn groups, specialized forums in aerospace engineering, or Nastran user groups can provide insights from those who have undergone similar transitions.

Mitigation Strategies:

  • Pilot Program: Before a full-scale rollout, consider a pilot program with a subset of users to identify potential issues and make necessary adjustments.
  • Comprehensive Training: Plan for thorough training sessions and provide resources to ensure all users are comfortable with the new system.
  • Backup Plan: Maintain the existing system in parallel for a period to ensure that you can revert if necessary without major disruptions.
  • Feedback Mechanism: Establish a feedback loop with the users to continuously monitor and address any issues or concerns.


Adopting HDF5 offers potential benefits in data management and integration, but it comes with challenges in training, complexity, and potential workflow disruption. A careful, well-planned approach with input from experienced professionals and a focus on training and gradual implementation can help mitigate these risks.