CFD analysis enables engineers to visualize, test, and analyze their product designs for problems concerning fluid flow, heat transfer, turbulence, non-Newtonian materials, and so on.
The technology has made it easy for organizations and engineers to calculate their design efficiency at any time in any condition virtually. As a result, it saves time, effort, and money.
But the process wasn’t that simple before. Expensive physical testing was the only means to solve practical problems before simulation or CFD analysis came into the picture. It involved rigorous testing using prototypes with lots of recalls and failures.
Apart from testing, you need to fix problems quickly to move the design into production. CFD analysis software helps you with this, and this is what I’m going to talk about in this article.
So, let’s start.
What is CFD?
Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is a part of fluid mechanics that utilizes data structures and numerical calculations to analyze and solve fluid (gases and liquids) flow problems like chemical compositions, density, and velocity.
And the tool to perform CFD analysis and solve fluid flow problems is CFD software. It ensures that the best flow concepts are used from the early stages of product design to enable components to work efficiently under various conditions.
CFD makes it easy to analyze complex fluid flow problems involving liquid-gas, fluid-solid, or fluid-fluid interactions. It uses advanced solvers to transform physical laws from partial differential equations into algebraic equations plus solve them efficiently.
Engineers and analysts use computers to perform these calculations to simulate the freely flowing fluid and its interaction with surfaces. Using sophisticated computers or supercomputers, you can obtain accurate solutions with high speed, even for the most complex issues.
CFD is used in various areas, such as:
- Aerospace engineering to simulate the aerodynamics of aircraft, turbulent/laminar flow, compressible/incompressible flow, airfoil design, rotating machines, etc.
- Electronic manufacturing like battery simulation, cooling, and more
- Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC)
- Automobiles to simulate the aerodynamics of automobile parts, pipe, and valve
- Prevention cavitation
- Sports equipment, and much more
How Does CFD Analysis Work?
In general, CFD analysis involves three main phases:
Pre-processing: This is when the fluid flow problem transforms into a discrete and ideal computer model. Engineers and analysts make a few assumptions based on the flow type, such as compressible, incompressible, steady, transient, viscous, non-viscous, etc. They also create a mesh and apply boundary conditions on the interacting surfaces.
Solving: CFD analysis uses powerful solvers that perform actual computations on the fluid flow problems or equations and brings accurate and fast solutions.
Post-processing: Analysts visualize and analyze the results in the final phase to conclude in the form of tables, graphs, moving pictures, etc.
What Are the Benefits of CFD Analysis?
CFD analysis is beneficial in product development in many ways:
Analyzing and solving complex equations would take a huge time if done manually through conventional testing and computation. But CFD analysis software can solve complex fluid flow equations with high speed and accuracy, saving you efforts and time.
#2. More Flexibility
You can measure limited quantities at a time through manual means. However, CFD analysis lets you measure all the physical quantities you want simultaneously with high resolutions due to exceptional computation power. It helps move your design quickly to physical testing and manufacturing.
#3. Practical Feedback
Engineers can create designs and test efficiency before construction with the help of CFD analysis. It allows you to change your model’s shape, structure, size, scale, etc., easily in the software and finalize the most efficient one.
#4. Real-world Experience
The simulation includes various real-world phenomena and conditions like wind motion, gravity, speed of light, etc. Hence, you can generate environmental conditions and test your designs against those conditions to understand their performance and behavior.
Now, let’s look at some of the best CFD analysis tools in the market.
Autodesk CFD is a very good CFD simulation software for analysts and engineers to predict the flow and behavior of gases and liquids intelligently. It helps minimize the requirements for different physical prototypes to get in-depth insights into a fluid flow for design performance.
You get lots of features in this CFD software and thermal simulation tools that work with top performance. Using the tool lets you compare designs to understand fluid behavior inside them before you move to production. Plus, you can improve pressure distribution for flow control applications and solve equations for all heat transfer models, from solid-solid or solid-fluid.
Autodesk CFD allows you to connect it to Fusion 360 to enable CAD modification and simplification. You can also use mesh automation and geometry for mesh sizing, run multiple analyses on HPC servers, remote, or locally to solve large models with flexibility.
The software lets you optimize the design for improved building efficiency for MEP and architectural applications. You can also simulate an interface between gases and liquids, model various flow phenomena such as spilling, sloshing, and waves, and develop customized equations to get visual results.
More features you can find on Autodesk CFD are CAD connections, simulating heat sink component performance, and particle tracing to understand flow directions and circulations better. It also enables scalar mixing, radiation modeling, analyzing rotating devices, and modeling condensation and humidity.
Apart from this, analyzing solar heating loads and smoke visibility, customizable and clean user interface, data-driven results, and automation scripting via an API are also valuable features in this CFD software.
SimScale’s CFD software is cloud-based that allows you to test, validate, optimize, and iterate your designs via online simulation. It enables all the processes in a web browser, so you don’t need to struggle with limited computational power, high costs, and accessibility.
As transient simulations need more money and time to produce accurate results, SimScale’s CFD software solves this problem. This GPU-based solver utilizes the Lattice-Boltzmann Method (LBM) to offer high accuracy and unmatched speed.
They also had collaborated with Numeric Systems GmbH to create this out-of-the-box feature using Pacefish. As a result, the transient simulation times have reduced from days and weeks to minutes and hours. In addition, the software runs on several GPUs in parallel and offers 20 to 30 times shorter turnaround times than standard processes.
SimScale supports multiple turbulence modeling types like Smagorinsky, k-omega SST, Hybrid SST-IDDES, and SST-DDES. As fluid compressibility is a vital consideration, the tool supports simulations for compressible and incompressible fluids with accuracy to help you with safer and quality product design and development.
SimScale’s CFD software can solve complex fluid flow equations with precise numerical methods. Hence, it’s applicable for designing components of airplanes, airfoils, ducts, valves, and more. It also works for both turbulent and laminar flows in addition to transient and steady simulations. Therefore, it’s useful for designing pipes, smoke propagation, cleanroom, and cyclone separators.
The software offers thermal simulation capabilities, modeling multispecies or multiphase flow with the help Volume of Fluid (VoF) method. It also utilizes the OpenFOAM solver to analyze two non-mixing fluids like water and oil, useful for process engineering and marine applications.
Run steady-state simulations using multiple reference frame (MRF) or rotating boundary conditions along with transient simulations with Arbitrary Mesh Interface (AMI). You can also simulate and evaluate solid body motion involving 6 degrees of freedom (DoF), suitable for shipbuilding and pipe designs.
Every design engineer must have used or at least heard about Ansys that offers excellent CFD simulation tools to help you make faster and better decisions. Their CFD simulations provide accurate results and high computing power and have been validated for their quality.
The CFD tools are intuitive and powerful to help you improve your product’s safety and performance while reducing the development efforts and time. Besides, they ensure little to no errors and offer the great possibility to innovate and produce optimized products using industry-grade, efficient solvers.
Whether you are looking for ways to perform effective in-flight icing simulations or maximize the internal combustion (IC) engine’s efficiency, Ansys has tools to help you. They are user-friendly and advanced to save you time and help increase your productivity.
Some of the CFD products they offer are:
- Ansys Fluent for advanced modeling with high accuracy
- Ansys CFX for outstanding speed, robustness, and accuracy in turbomachinery applications
- Ansys Chemkin-Pro is a premium CFD tool for modeling complex chemically reacting systems
Moreover, they provide other related tools, such as Ansys BladeModeler, Ansys Rocky, Ansys Vista TF, Ansys TurboGrid, Ansys Polyflow, Ansys Model Fuel Library, Ansys FENSAP-ICE, Ansys EnSight, and Ansys Forte.
Released in 2004, OpenFOAM is an open-source and free CFD software developed by OpenCFD. It has a significant user base worldwide in most science and engineering regions, including academic and commercial organizations.
OpenFOAM offers plenty of features applicable to solve simple to complex fluid flows such as chemical reactions, heat transfer, turbulence, solid mechanics, electromagnetics, and acoustics. Furthermore, OpenFOAM’s developer community keeps on contributing to its development, and they also include customer-sponsored developments to release new versions every 6 months.
It is tested independently by ESI-OpenCFD’s app specialists, selected customers, and development partners. They perform rigorous testing on the software for quality assurance. The code evaluation process, validation, and verification include hundreds of unit tests daily.
Consol’s CFD modeling software – CFD Module allows you to define models and solve them to study systems with fluid flow. It also works for systems containing a combination of fluid flow and physical phenomena, meaning it works for both single and multiphase flows.
CFD Module offers tools to model the cornerstones of different fluid flow analyses, such as:
- Compressible and incompressible flows
- Turbulent and laminar flows
- Flow in free or porous media and open areas
- Thin-film flow
The software implements these capabilities via structure flow interfaces to define, analyze, and solve steady-state and transient flow problems in 3D, 2D, and 2D axisymmetric. In addition, it offers tailored functionality to solve issues concerning flow with a high Mach number, non-Newtonian flows, and rotating machinery.
CFD Module can model reacting flows and conjugate heat transfers in the same environment to let you analyze flow problems simultaneously. Apart from this, it offers more multiphysics capabilities like fluid-structure interaction, which you can enable by combining the software with other Comsol modules.
Analyze and predict real-world product performance with the help of Simcenter CFD simulation software by Siemens. This industry-leading CFD analysis tool offers a fast and precise simulation of various engineering problems involving fluids, structures, and related physics.
Whether you are a designer, CFD engineer, or researcher, the software can help you analyze complex fluid flow problems and transform the insights gained into developing innovative products. It can also simulate problems involving several moving and interacting parts easily using mesh morphing, overset meshing, or a combination of the two.
In addition, you can use moving mesh features for steady or transient simulations and parametric studies. This provides an effortless way to replace or reposition an object and study different design configurations. Simcenter CFD software provides Lagrangian and Eulerian modeling capabilities to suit varying simulation needs accurately.
Not to mention, this is the first commercial engineering simulator that includes a DEM feature with numerical flow simulation. It helps you analyze how turbulent flows interact with reacting flows to ensure the product works fine under various operating conditions.
Moreover, you get an extensive library containing accurate models to predict aeroacoustics sources like steady-state models, DES/LES, and propagation models. You can also use battery simulations using geometrical specs and performance to validate your digital Li-ion battery design.
Another free CFD software in this list is Flowsquare – a two-dimensional CFD software to analyze unsteady and non-reactive/reactive fluid flows along with subsonic or supersonic flows. It offers a handy environment for CFD analysis and aims to bring more people closer to this technology and simulate flows to feed their academic or educational interests.
Most commercial CFD tools come at high costs and need expertise and heavy computational resources, not everyone can use them, but Flowsquare is free and designed for ease of use. It doesn’t require proficiency in skills like meshing, programming CAD, and pre/post-processing. You can start by sketching a simple simulation field using any paint tool like Microsoft Paint.
Set the computation domain using 1-2 Bitmap images and a single text file. Here, you can perform visualization in real-time and save it as Bitmap files. It has built-in visualization tools for colors, vector contours, Lagrangian particles, and graphs.
Flowsquare uses highly flexible numerical conditions and schemes, and simulation data is available in binary format for post-processing. It is used across the globe by individuals, companies, and education institutes for multiple purposes.
ParaView is a multi-platform and open-source data visualization and analysis software. It allows you to create visualizations quickly and analyze their data with the help of qualitative and quantitative methods.
ParaView’s CFD simulations enable you to study lift, drag, airflow, etc., to help enhance design efficiency. It’s also capable of analyzing massive datasets with distributed computing memory resources. Besides, you can perform data exploration interactively programmatically or in 3D using the software’s batch processing features.
You can run ParaView on supercomputers and analyze petascale datasets or on your laptop to analyze minor data. This versatility makes it applicable to different industries, universities, and national laboratories. What’s more, it has won multiple awards due to its high computation and performance.
Leverage ParaView for your next project and benefit from their advanced services and R&D solutions. You can also join the ParaView Forum and stay updated on the latest developments. The tool is excellent for many use cases, such as:
- The Climate Data Analysis Tools (CDAT) help analysts monitor, predict and track climate changes.
- CFD simulations help aviation teams to analyze and study lift and drag
- Exploring immersive data intuitively.
- ParaView Catalyst and PHASTA help in a flow control CFD simulation with high-fidelity for wing profiles.
- ALEGRA simulation in a ceramic plate used in shaped charge jet penetration
- NVIDIA Omniverse ParaView Connector enables scientists to analyze climate and weather data interactively along with its effects on the Earth.
Whether you want to perform advanced CFD modeling or study thermal or fluid effects concerning your design, Altair can help you with its extensive tools. It provides several scalable solvers and powerful pre and post-processing CFD software to test complete system performance and analyze components in detail.
Altair CFD uses a Navier-Stokes solver with wide-ranging analysis capabilities for heat transfer, flow, non-Newtonian materials, and turbulence. It can offer you a robust, accurate, and scalable solution irrespective of the topology and quality of mesh elements.
Its advanced technology offers optimized energy and cost efficiency with GPU-based computing for high performance. As a result, you can simulate complex models over a single server and calculate aeroacoustics from rotatory machines like e-motors, renewables, and cooling fans.
You can utilize a streamlined and dedicated workflow in Altair HyperWorks with solver execution, pre-processing, and post-processing functionalities. Furthermore, Altair CFD also uses the Lattice Boltzmann method (LBM) to predict aerodynamic properties at a lightning-fast speed for passenger cars, race cars, heavy-duty vehicles, and light trucks.
Altair uses the Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) solver to predict flows around complicated geometries in a complex motion. In addition, its Discrete Element Method (DEM) tool simulates and studies granular material behavior accurately for coals, grains, fibers, powders, etc.
You can calculate Altair CFD and EDEM to simulate fluid and particle interaction realistically and investigate complex systems like fluidized beds, spray coating, drying, filtration, and solid-liquid mixing. Other tools in this suite are Altair FlowSimulator for heat transfer, flow, and combustion design, SimLab for electronics cooling, and more.
If you are a SOLIDWORKS user, you will like SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation Software. It deals with fluid flow problems using numerical analysis and offers dynamic feedback for your products’ thermal performance and fluid flow.
Using parametric optimization features, you can automate the analysis and design process to find the best design iteration within a familiar CAD environment. The tools enable you to simulate a different variety of gases and liquids under different scenarios.
Its typical applications are flow around manifolds, electronic cooling, heat exchangers, and aerodynamics. You get many CFD analysis tools for FEA integration, rotating system analysis, external and internal flow analysis, electronics cooling module, free surface dynamics, particle study, and HVAC module.
This CFD software integrates with SOLIDWORKS and uses the CAD interface for analysis. It can recognize fluid volume automatically in a design depending on the analysis type and allows you to run multiple CFD scenarios and create analysis templates with accurate inputs and parameters. You can also leverage dynamic meshing with automatic mesh refining for high-fluid activity.
CFD analysis software allows you to visualize and analyze problems concerning fluid flow, heat transfer, etc., in your product design. You can solve these issues quickly and accurately to enable safer and quality product design and development.