In the same vein as last month’s topic (hint: ray tracing) we are going to discuss a type of software that helps engineers save time and money developing hardware. Computational fluid dynamics or CFD software is similar to ray tracing software in that it allows a computer to simulate the laws of nature, but in this case – it’s simulating a fluid. Specifically, how a fluid reacts in the presence of an outside force. Example – think of a fan in a room. When the fan is off you can’t feel the air. It’s present, but you don’t notice its force. However, when the fan is turned on, suddenly you can direct the air flow and feel its force. This is an example of fluid dynamics. Air acts like fluid in that it moves and flows. CFD software is able to show where areas of high and low fluid pressure exist and since air is a fluid, it can also measure the route air takes through an enclosed area.
CFD software can be expensive, but using it can substantially reduce prototyping costs. For example, CFD software can be used to help computer designers keep their towers from overheating by illustrating the way air can move inside the framework. It can also help aeronautical engineers develop more efficient wing designs. When designing an airplane wing, engineers will use CFD software to show the high pressure effecting the bottom of the wing, and the low pressure effecting the top of the wing. Automotive companies use CFD software to develop sweet-looking streamlined auto bodies while reducing fluid friction and drag on the frame. It also lets you burn rubber all while getting better gas mileage
Back in the day, companies had their CFD software handled by an engineer anointed to manage all things CFD. The programs were complicated and also involved quite a bit of coding knowledge for someone to operate. Many computers would also struggle to handle the complex CFD software, which is very dependent on the speed of your computer’s “brain”.
Today, almost anyone can take an afternoon and a cup of coffee and decipher CFD software. If you don’t want to invest the time, most companies that create CFD software have quick tutorials you can check out on YouTube. Much of the CFD software out there is now browser based so that they can be run remotely on supercomputers. Here at PWI we use CFD software to help us improve the design of our products while we explore the future of using UV light to clean the air in enclosed areas. Purchasing CFD software may be the best way to perfect your designs without the cost of producing multiple prototypes. CFD software may well be your solid answer to a fluid problem.