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Becoming a Design Partner
Posted Tue March 04, 2008 @04:18PM
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News Kamran Fouladi, Ph.D., P.E.
InfoMec Consulting

In a fiercely competitive market, organizations are continually seeking tools that provide them with strategic advantages. CFD can be such a tool for organizations that have design applications which concerns fluid dynamics problems.

Substantial efforts have been underway since 1980’s to make CFD an integral part of the design process. In fact, government research labs and commercial corporations in both aerospace and auto industries have been using CFD for decades and each one of them has probably been using number of in-house and commercially developed CFD codes simultaneously. Other industries have followed suit and CFD use is continuously on the rise.

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However, for CFD to become truly part of the design process, it needs to be utilized by small to mid-range companies much like the structural analysis tools being used. Since most of these companies can’t afford the resources to develop in-house codes, nor should they, then the success of CFD as a design tool rests squarely on commercial software.

Several factors currently impede the mass utilization of commercial CFD software by non-traditional users. Three of these factors (and there many) are: grid generation, problem setup, and cost.

In a design process, one can expect major and frequent changes to the geometry. Grid generation is generally time consuming and labor intensive for complex configurations and geometry changes can significantly delay the design process. Grid morphing and auto grid generation are examples of current efforts underway to circumvent this roadblock.

Another major issue is problem setup. Since many of CFD flow solvers are developed as general purpose codes, they include numerous options and parameters to set. A user must possess great deal of experience to be able to set up complex problems correctly. It also requires fundamental knowledge of CFD. In other words, a few days of training just won’t do.

Cost is also a major issue for most small companies to use commercial CFD software. Most commercial software are on expensive and annual license purchases which make them prohibitive to acquire. Some software makers have installed some forms of “pay as you go” option with some strings attached.

In summary, CFD cannot be considered a completely viable design tool until is used extensively by “the masses”. Although progress has been made to make CFD available to all, there are still challenges for small to mid-sized companies to use CFD as an integral tool in their design processes. Fortunately, commercial CFD software developers are finding innovative ways to respond to these issues. Hope they find them sooner.

Kamran Fouladi, Ph.D. is a senior scientist at InfoMec, a CFD consulting firm. He is also an adjunct faculty at Villanova University teaching CFD and Advanced Fluid Dynamics courses.

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