Computational fluid dynamics is simulation and analysis performed in computer-aided design (CAD) software to calculate the flow of liquids or gases in or around a product.
It is a multiphysics solution since it involves the interaction of multiple phenomena including fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, and conservation of momentum. Like finite element analysis (FEA), the fluid volume is broken up into smaller elements that are composed into a matrix. CFD has many uses beyond product development and aerodynamics, such as weather forecasting and visual effects.
In product development, CFD enables us to design products and systems that meet requirements for fluid flow and heat transfer. Let’s take a look at how this works.
By using CFD software, you can calculate and display fluid quantities such as:
These results can be calculated and displayed (1) at specific locations in a model; (2) for the maximum or minimum value on a surface or a component; or (3) throughout the fluid volume. When displayed in the fluid, the results can be depicted as color contours, particles, a direction field, or streamlines. To further facilitate understanding of the behavior and to accelerate calculations, the results can be displayed at a specific cut plane.
CFD can be executed by performing the following steps:
CFD used to be the domain of specialists with years of training and experience in the field. However, advances in recent years have enabled designers and engineers to perform their own CFD simulations without the aid of experts.
In addition, simulations that used to take hours to calculate can now be performed in minutes or seconds. Real-time simulation results act as a design assistant to help engineers make the right choices as they build their products, rather than waiting for a dedicated specialist to become available.
If you design vehicles or products with enclosures where air or fluid flow is important, you should consider adding CFD to the suite of tools that help your designers and engineers perform their best.
Dave Martin is a Creo, Windchill, and PTC Mathcad instructor and consultant. He is the author of the books “Top Down Design in Creo Parametric,” “Design Intent in Creo Parametric,” and “Configuring Creo Parametric,” all available at amazon.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dave currently works as the configuration manager for Elroy Air, which develops autonomous aerial vehicles for middle-mile delivery. Previous employers include Blue Origin, Amazon Prime Air, Amazon Lab126, and PTC. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and is a former armor officer in the United States Army Reserves.