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CFD Makes for Longer Drives
Posted Wed July 17, 2002 @05:55PM
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Application The engineers at Spalding know there is more to the game of golf than skill and concentration. For instance, there is a lot of science behind the design of the golf balls. Designing them to fly higher and go farther is a tricky task. Scientists at Spalding Sports Worldwide are now using CFdesign fluid flow simulation software from Blue Ridge Numerics to better determine which new designs will go the distance.

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Kevin Shannon, a research scientist at Spalding Sports Worldwide, says that while CFdesign was used initially to better visualize the ball while it was in flight, today they are using CFdesign early in the design process to determine which new designs will evolve into good balls. In the past, the company’s engineers would design each of the dimples on the ball and then send the design to the tooling room where a cavity would be created. The balls would then be molded from that cavity and flight tested to evaluate how the new design performed. “It wasn’t until that point that we’d even know whether new geometry had any merit or not,” says Shannon

While it might appear simple in shape, a golf ball is a very complex model. Each of the 300-500 dimples on the ball must be defined as an individual feature within the CAD model. Each of those dimples, or surfaces, presents themselves to the boundary condition of velocity of air coming at it. “The one wild card,” adds Shannon, “is that we have a ball that is spinning and that also changes things, however, CFdesign is able to simulate that spin.”

Spalding has used CFdesign on the design of two new balls, the Strata and the Top Flight XL3000. Shannon says that not only did CFdesign help them visualize the flow of air through the dimples, but it also helped them quantify how much better the new designs performed compared to the previous design. CFdesign also helped Spalding engineers weed out bad designs. “One of the things that really helps us is when we see something negative,” says Shannon. “A failure can actually help us move in the proper direction so that we can focus our designs based on what we know are good dimple designs.”

By putting their new dimple designs through CFdesign simulations first, before tooling, the company has been able to cut several physical prototypes out of their design process, saving substantial money and time to market. “Now with CFdesign we can screen new dimple designs and get a good feeling for whether they have merit or not while they are still on the drawing board,” says Shannon. “Now CFdesign is the step we use before we go to the tooling room, which has helped us cut several prototypes out of the design process.”

Golf ball wake
Airflow in the wake of a golf ball.

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