Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Analysis – Key Industry Applications

November 26, 2021

With a greater need for manufacturing companies to save time and effort comes several innovative and accurate solutions to that effect. CFD is one of those technological advancements that NOT only saves time and effort but also reduces the cost of running physical tests as well as cuts down the chances of releasing a potentially unsafe product.

This article will walk you through the ins and outs of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis. We will look at how it works, its use cases, industries where it is utilized, and how this technological development can benefit your company.

What is Computational Fluid Dynamics Software (CFD)?

what is computational fluid dynamics

CFD analysis refers to the use of numerical methods in studying fluid flows and solving complex design problems. These complex problems regarding fluid properties can be in the form of fluid-fluid, fluid-gas, or fluid-solid.

Using CFD number-based solvers, engineers can transform the complexities of experimental fluid dynamics into mathematical equations to help solve the physical laws related to partial differential equations numerically. These physical laws or PDE (partial differential equations) are broken down into or replaced with algebraic equations and solved using CFD simulation.

What is CFD Simulation?

CFD simulation is a branch of fluid mechanics that uses computerised systems for the analysis of fluid behavior and physical systems. As research, engineering, and technology grew bigger, it became more difficult and time-consuming to apply the laws of physics to real-life scenarios. It is for this purpose alone that CFD modeling and analysis became an online simulation solution for design and engineering problems, including fluid flow, heat transfer, solid mechanics, turbulence, electromagnetics, and more.

CFD simulations help engineers and designers to properly relate with and understand the dynamism of fluid flow, including thermal temperature, and airflow distribution.

How Does Computational Fluid Dynamics Software Work?

To put it in the simplest terms, what Computational Fluid Dynamics analysis offers engineers is the ability to execute numerical experiments for products in a virtual testing ground. This software allows engineers to correctly simulate product design performance, improve and optimise design performance,  and verify the fluid dynamic behavior of the product in the engineering design phase.

A regular CFD analysis usually follows three main processes. However, for the sake of depth, we will consider some activities that may happen both before and after the main processes. They are:

1. The mathematical modeling phase

Before any problem can be taken into a CFD or even considered a problem solvable with CFD at all, it has to already be existent as a partial differential problem or as ordinary differential equations. This phase precedes the CFD analysis but is just as important.

2. The pre-processing phase

This phase is when the partial differential equation is transformed into algebraic equations using CFD software. This phase in itself involves the use of three methods, including mesh generation, which has to do with fragmenting the model into structured, unstructured, triangular, or quadrilateral node elements. It also involves the refinement of the size of the mesh element in a flow field; space discretization; time discretization, using the finite element method:

computational fluid dynamics finite element method, finite difference method, and finite volume method, finite volume methods

3. The solving phase, using CFD software/CFD solver

The solving phase involves the use of CFD simulation software to solve the mathematical problems that have been created. Computation time for every CFD flow simulation can vary depending on a variety of factors including the following:

  • The computer hardware that is being used
  • Vectorization, parallelization
  • Stopping criteria
  • Data structures
  • Mesh size, mesh quality, and time
  • The programming language that has been adopted

Added to these is a host of other variables that the engineer or designer has the choice of making.

4. The post-processing phase

In the post-processing stage, the analyst gets to define and interpret the fluid flow field and the results he has arrived at and make conclusions as to whether the product or design needs further tests, optimization, and redesigning. To present the findings, the analyst can use images, graphs, and tables.

CFD Simulations of fluid volume, fluid motion, and compressible flow

Benefits of Computational Fluid Dynamics Software

What CFD offers the engineering and design world insight and understanding of fluid behaviour and flow characteristics. With its features, designers can recreate real-world experiments without performing physical tests from the point of conception up till the point of creation.

CFD modeling and CFD software such as SOLIDWORKS help product manufacturers to breach the gap between product design and testing, reducing the time requirements of the design process. This doesn’t rule out the importance of physical testing. It only reduces the large number of physical tests it would normally take to see a product from design ideation through usage if the traditional methods were used.

CFD is the numerical solution to your fluid testing needs. Below are a few of the wide range of benefits that CFD analysis and CFD software like SOLIDWORKS offer engineers and the world at large:

1. Operation uptime maximization

CFD is proactive and detects potential failures and problems. This enables engineers to search for more effective ways to improve the system, and inadvertently increase operational uptime. This system is more frequently adopted by architectural and civil engineering companies to determine if the product or project will be able to stand the test of time.

2. Better informed engineering and design decisions

With the results gotten from CFD analysis, design teams can have a better understanding of the design and make the most effective decisions regarding design.

benefits of computational fluid dynamics and computational modeling

3. Accuracy of test boundary conditions

CFD analysis is used to replicate the need for real-life tests and tools but not to replace them. With CFD design teams can test the efficiency and performance of the product on the system without having to go back and forth from the testing ground to the factory. Over the years, it has been discovered that CFD can accurately simulate the process of testing using test input parameters.

4. Reduced operation, capital, and testing costs

Since the gap between the production process and testing can be bridged using CFD, operational and testing costs can be greatly used. CFD also reduces the frequent use of physical testing tools. This increases the number of possible tests that can be carried out without additional costs.

5. Lesser time requirements

CFD analysis solves complex fluid flow equations with a superb level of accuracy and high speed. Since the system allows designers to simulate real-life experiences and conditions with the use of CFD software, the total time required to test the product in real-world conditions is greatly reduced and products can be completed earlier than expected.

Key Industries Using CFD Simulations

computational fluid dynamics for transport industry

CFD has gained a lot of traction over the years and several engineering organizations have adopted the system as it saves them time and money, while also helping them create high-performance products and designs. Here are the key industries that a CFD Simulation Process can greatly benefit:

1. Transportation & Mobility

CFD is an unavoidable tool in today’s transportation models and automobiles. The simulations and techniques enable engineers to properly study and analyze heat transfer and fluid flow of a component.  CFD simulation results have allowed designers and engineers, over the years, to:

  • Study how fluid flows inside the valves of the engine or gas turbine
  • Properly optimize the efficiency of all the moving parts of the vehicle
  • Examine the effects of real-life conditions on the vehicle
  • Design the body of a performance vehicle to enhance and optimize performance, thereby avoiding lift and drag
  • Regulation of heat transfer within the engines.

CFD models help to ensure that the project is completely fit to be used in real-life conditions without the need to physically test them out too many times.

computational fluid dynamics for aerospace industry - solve turbulent flows with governing equations

2. Aerospace & Defense

The use of CFD simulation in aerospace and defense will help engineers to solve problems such as structure-fluid interface analysis, laminar and turbulent flow, aerodynamics (Fluid Analysis), heat transfer analysis, and many more. Heat transfer in aerospace doesn’t only look at the functionality of the engines but also gives clear detail and development opportunities for other components like the de-icing unit, heat in landing gear wheels, heat in electrical and electronics systems, air-conditioning unit, heat in avionics system, fuselage and cockpit pressurization units, and so on.

computational fluid dynamics for industrial equipment industry

3. Industrial Equipment

CFD analysis is used in industrial equipment simulations to help create high-efficiency tools and equipment that can stand the test of time and work. Below are a few use cases of the CFD model in the creation of industrial equipment:

  • Fans and mixers: CFD is used for modeling real rotating fans, using real-life conditions. Other simulations and modeling, including mixers, agitators, water treatment plants, industrial equipment, and even domestic products. With the use of several integrations in CFD software like SOLIDWORKS, designers can carry out several design optimization analyses on fans and mixers.
  • Thermal analysis: CFD software enables designers to carry out thermal analysis and aerodynamics analysis for cooling and heating problems. Using the heat transfer model in SOLIDWORKS software, users can simulate the relationship between hot external flow and temperature
  • Valves and pumps: CFD is amazing for solving problems related to valve dynamics. It helps to model and simulate the level of spring force that is applied to the valve as well as pressure CFD models also simulate displacement pumps for both operational points and full cycles.

CFD can also be used in several other industrial types of equipment including nozzles and sprays, multiphase flows, compressible flow, incompressible flow, non-Newtonian flow, and more.

Other possible use cases of CFD that may not have been mentioned above will include the following:

  • CFD is used to predict pedestrian comfort, vortex formation, and wind forces in wind analysis and engineering for buildings.
  • CFD is used in Heating, Ventilation, and Air conditioning systems, to optimize thermal comfort for energy efficiency in artificial or natural ventilation outlets. It can also be used to examine the efficacy of ducts.
  • CFD can also be used to predict the performance of natural and forced cooling strategies in electronics cooling.
  • It is used for predicting velocity, pressure, blade lift, and power generation of windmills at preset wind speeds.

There are several other use cases of CFD in the industries already mentioned above. However, at this juncture, it is pertinent to show you one CFD software that surpasses all others when it comes to simulation. SOLIDWORKS.

SOLIDWORKS Simulation – The Best CFD Simulation Software

SOLIDWORKS is used by engineers who are looking for open-source CAD software that generates three kinds of interconnected files known as the assembly, the part, and the drawing. This is simply the principle of parametric design, where a modification done to one of the files affects the others in the same proportion.

The software is not free but offers you a trial version that allows you to see and try out its functions and features. With SOLIDWORKS, engineers can:

  • Create two-dimensional drawings
  • Design specific three-dimensional objects
  • Design animations and images of the 3D objects
  • Maintain a CAD library
  • Map out an estimate of the manufacturing costs of the 3D object before production kicks off
  • Double-check the design

Apart from its core features for 3D modeling, SOLIDWORKS also offers various simulation software solutions to test and analyze your design for optimal performance. Known for its powerful and intuitive CFD analysis capabilities is the SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation Software.

With SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation being fully embedded within SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD, engineers and CFD experts can predict gas and fluid flow fields and heat transfer through and around their designs, easily.

SOLIDWORKS simulation offers you features that are convenient for planning, modeling, validating, ideating, prototyping, feasibility assessment, and project management. All these are done during the beginning stages of product development.

SOLIDWORKS offers users tons of benefits, including the already obvious ones like features that let you carry out designs and error-corrections with ease.

Plus, the SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation software supports a wide range of 3D formats, including:

Adobe Illustrator Adobe Portable Document Format Adobe Photoshop
ProStep EDMED DXF/DWG files DXF 3D
TIFF U3D Autodesk Inventor
SolidWorks eDrawings IDF 2.0 IDF 3.0
IDF 4.0 IFC Unigraphics
VDAFS Viewpoint VRML
XPS IGES Mechanical Desktop
PADS Parasolid JPEG
Rhino ScanTo3D Solid Edge
Highly Compressed Graphics HOOPS STEP

The system creates an easy and innovative way to solve product development challenges. It has been adopted by millions of tech companies worldwide, with a matchless customer service that offers aftersales solutions.

Understanding Fluid Flow with CFD Simulations

Being able to simulate fluid flow problems is a physics discipline that has been made simple with CFD and software like SOLIDWORKS. The system enables designers and engineers to carry out pre-production activities such as cost evaluation, planning, and conceptualization to determine the feasibility of the product.

These computational methods allow you to carry out numerical experiments of fluid flow within a virtual environment that simulates the real world. With CFD, the process of ideation to production is not done based on predictions but fact, since the system models physical conditions.