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Modeling and Simulation: From Field-Tests to Computer Models

| Editor: Matthias Back

Hygienic processing specialist GEA Process Engineering (Denmark) for example uses CFD to design and troubleshoot spray dryers and mixers for the food and pharmaceutical industries. The company’s Drynetics modelling technique, introduced in 2008, combines CFD with real-world measurements on actual droplets and particles. Simulation is done on a new HPC cluster with 512 cores, 90 TB of disk space and 2 TB of RAM.

Just as with molecular modelling, CFD has now expanded its reach to multiple engineering disciplines and size scales. In fact, the lines between CFD and structural mechanics — finite element analysis (FEA) — are so blurred that it makes little sense to refer to “CFD” at all, claimed Bill Clark, Executive Vice President of simulation company CD-Adapco (USA) recently.

As simulation increasingly replaces physical testing, simulation specialists face a great deal of responsibility to come up with the right answers. At the same time their jobs are becoming harder as the problems get bigger. “Customers want to see the big picture, with whole systems rather than individual components, and there are really no easy problems left to solve,” Clark explained.

Computational Fluid Dynamics

CFD codes such as Star-CD and Star-CCM+ from CD-Adapco, and Fluent and CFX from Ansys (USA), the largest commercial CFD supplier, combine good performance with an all-in-one approach that can make them a good choice for firms new to CFD, notes aerospace CFD expert Dr. Chris Nelson. On the other hand, solutions based on separate components — grid generator, flow solver and post-processor — can be more powerful.

Also to consider are the many excellent open source CFD codes, of which Open Foam (ESI Group, France) is possibly the best known. Dr. Ma Shengwei of the Institute of High Performance Computing, Singapore, says that open source CFD can be just as good as the commercial version (“there are almost no secret recipes”), but depends on skilled personnel and so is not necessarily cheaper.

Flowsheet Simulation

Flowsheet simulation lies at the heart of chemical engineering. Its foundations are mass balances, energy balances, mass transfer, heat transfer, phase equilibria, and reaction modelling. Compared to molecular modelling or CFD, steady-state simulators are relatively undemanding in terms of computing power. Combined with their smaller market, this means that vendors are more likely to differentiate themselves on the basis of industry focus, ease of use, customer service and licence costs than on pure technical performance.

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