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PLM Enabled CFD
Posted Mon December 20, 2004 @10:35AM
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News Everywhere you look in engineering today two acronyms abound: PLM and PDM. Whereas CAD companies are screaming these acronyms (and the principles behind them) from the rooftops, CFD vendors are noticeably less vocal in their endorsement. It's not that CFD vendors think that PLM is unimportant; it's just that - with one major exception - their software solutions don't fit comfortably within the PLM framework.

PLM stands for product lifecycle management. It describes a business strategy in which an organization's products are digitally managed from conception, through maturity, to eventual retirement. PLM is a huge concept that is sometimes difficult to comprehend in its entirety. One of its critical functions is to remove the barriers between the people who design the products and those who build, sell and support their use. Implemented successfully it reduces time-to-market by streamlining design and reducing production costs. Put simply, PLM is the future of product engineering.

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One of the central tenets of the PLM philosophy is that all of the CAE data for a product should be stored in a central location: shared by all company functions, customers and suppliers. Every PLM strategy must therefore be underpinned by a Product Data Management (PDM) system. PDM is so important to the concept of PLM that the two terms are often (incorrectly) used interchangeably. PDM is the essential system for managing CAE (and especially CAD) data. Every revision to the individual components that make up a product (and revisions to the way in which they all fit together into assemblies) is tracked and recorded in a central repository of data.

How should CAE tools such as CFD be used in the brave new world of PLM? Since the viability of a specific design is often determined by the CAE tools being used, and since the CAE results often drive the changes in those designs, it is critical to PLM that the CAE set-up and results are stored within the PDM system. Herein lies the problem for the majority of commercial CFD vendors: PDM systems rely on a concept known as "associativity"; in order to be stored within a PDM system every CFD solution needs to be intrinsically linked to a specific revision of a CAD model (or assembly).

While most CFD vendors claim that their products are "CAD-integrated", all of them rely on some form of translation between the CAD model and the CFD package. Translation kills the associativity between CAD and CFD. Whether the translation is explicit, as in the case where you import your CAD through a "wizard" or implicit, where the CFD package is launched from within the CAD system, the very act of translation breaks the association, the CFD solution become disassociated with the CAD model.

CD-adapco's method of CAD-integration is different however. All of our CFD products are "CAD-embedded". CAD-embedded means more than embedding the CFD solver into the CAD package, it means that all of the settings required to set-up the CFD solution are stored within the CAD model itself. When the model is checked back into the PDM system, the model settings are stored within it along with a link to the solution data. If the CAD model is subsequently revised then the solution can be updated at the click of a button. If a downstream user retrieves the model from the PDM system, both the CFD solution and (as importantly) the way in which the CFD calculation was performed will be retrieved with it.

By developing the only CFD process that does not require translation, CD-adapco's products maintain associativity between CAD and CFD solution. Associativity is critical to PDM and to the wider concept of PLM, and to date CD-adapco is the only company to offer truly PLM-enabled CFD. CFDís destiny to become a central player within modern industryís PLM environment has arrived!

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