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From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 22 No 11 - NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2009
Blue Ridgeís CFdesign 2010 puts the scrutiny of complex data in the frame
The whole purpose of Computational Fluid Dynamics is to see what happens to the flow of a gas or a liquid through or around an object or a building, so that an optimum shape or configuration can be achieved that produces a certain, predefined result. It's a complicated mathematical problem, and generally requires a significant amount of computer power to solve it.
The very definition of CFD means that, in most cases, more than one analysis must be attempted, using a range of values for each input variable so that different solutions can be tested against each other. The output of each is, nowadays, conveniently and very graphically displayed, during and after each iteration of the analysis.
With all of the resources we have to hand, it is astonishing that Iíve never seen an example of a system that allowed the design engineer to display more than one result on the screen at the same time, so that they can be compared against each other! Until now that is. The software providing this blinding flash of illumination is none other than CFdesign, developed by Blue Ridge Numerics to haul a complex science out of the hands of scientists and engineers, and to make it available, understandable and usable to the average product designer.
CFdesign 2010 is now available and integrates with a number of CAD solutions, so that users can analyse the performance of their concepts early on in the design and, if necessary, make changes that would be extremely expensive to implement at a later stage in the process. It doesn't invalidate the work of CFD experts either, as the subject is a difficult one, going way beyond where the average designer could or would want to go. It can, however, provide insights into product behaviour that may need further fluid behavioural analysis before final manufacture is attempted.
The latest version of CFdesign gives design engineers the ability to display sideby- side results of selected analyses, so that they can spot even small differences between alternate tests. Itís reminiscent of the old blink technique used by aerial photography analysts during the Second World War, and used currently by astronomers to spot subtle differences in star positions when the night sky is covered with millions, to find abnormal occurences. Concurrent scrutiny of complex data may be the only way to spot the subtle differences that lie between the success and failure of a component. You would certainly be hard put to locate and identify the differences and the impact they would have on fluid flow, if you had to rely on a list of figures.
The solution came about through listening to potential users of the software - mechanical engineers and mechanical design engineers - moderate users who only get embroiled in full scale projects that employ CFD analysis about half a dozen times a year. As a consequence, and in common with many users of solutions such as SolidWorks or Inventor, they perceive the benefits of CFD but don't have time to re-learn the software every time they want to use it.
They want direct access to results that are easy to understand because they are presented in their own terminology. They also want it to provide either quick 'pass or fail' results, or to provide them with the means to explore the dynamics a bit more thoroughly. Whatís more, they need to be able to re-engineer the problem or remodel the system and, still within the same CAD application, initiate further tests.
And, when they run the tests again, they don't want to have to spend time setting the CFD analysis up again, but want to reuse the existing set-ups, with revised geometry and flow-rate parameters. It's a sine qua non that they want it all done by yesterday, as well.
If there's an interminable wait for the results to come through, the tendency will be to shirk on the number of tests that need to be run - sacrificing ultimate precision for temporal expediency.
DESIGN STUDY MANAGER
How easy is it to set up multiple designs and scenarios in a CAD environment? CFdesign provides a Design Study Manager which makes the process as simple and automatic as possible. It invokes the Design Study Bar - literally a bar displayed at the base of the screen that becomes the Design Study Command Centre. Itís a digital prototyping control panel used to create, add, change and otherwise manage multi-scenario design studies.
Each of these is the graphical result of one of the project design studies. Hardly thumbnails of the original, although they might appear so, and not full results either, as that would overload the computer somewhat. They are, in fact, lightweight cloned copies of each scenario that come with all salient features intact, and are easily editable. Adding them to the Design Study Bar requires no more than a right click on the browser.
From the Design Study Bar to the multi-display is simplicity itself, merely selecting, using the Design Study Manager, which of the scenarios in the Design Study Bar you want shown side-by-side, or even four at a time if you want to! You don't have to rely on just the graphic images either, as bar charts, graphs and other results displays can be thrown into the multi-display environment as well.
And, for more in-depth analysis, there's also a Design Review Centre that allows the design engineer to go in and modify the variables driving the design. The end result is a unified product performance picture - creating, as Blue Ridge puts it, 'a flexible decision making environment'.
THE ANSWER SYSTEM
Blue Ridge has already geared CFdesign towards occasional users by making it pretty easy to use, and seamlessly integrates with standard CAD packages. That's not the whole story though, as sometimes the essentials of CFD tend to get overlooked namely the reason you are doing the tests, and what results you need to look for.
That's why Blue Ridge set up the Answer System. This is a new online service that provides a complete help system, including a Knowledge Base and User Forums which users can dig into and
find examples of previous work done in their field, or where they can meet with users online and share problems and solutions.
There's also CFD-tv, a great new online feature that shows some of the applications in CFdesign in operation. The portal uses standard web browsing techniques, familiar to all, to bring up the world of CFdesign.
We mentioned performance upgrades as well. They come with the use of the latest Intel Quad 2 Core processors, speeding up design simulations by a factor of 2.5 times, and the ability to multi- thread the software using up to 4 cores using the CFdesign HPC module (you don't even need to add Windows HPC software). www.cfdesign.com
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