Product complexity drives demand for niche technology solutions
BANGALORE: A government-run gas turbine research laboratory in Bangalore was facing a big challenge while analysing heat transfer in a three-dimensional state in and around the high-pressure turbine nozzle guide vane and blade. Precise measure was an urgent need since the turbine would power the engine of a combat aircraft.
Engineers at the lab turned to Belgium's Numeca, whose software AutoGrid5 created an automatic mesh - a grid of 7,067 blocks - that simulates this complex physics problem and helps find a solution. The mesh was created in less than a week's time as against a year's time it would have taken using experimental testing methods like wind tunnels or gas turbine rigs, or even other software.
Numeca creates niche computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software which simulates real industrial problems involving fluid flows by solving the underlying physical equations through numerical methods and algorithms. CFD allows design comparisons without expensive machining and instrumentation.
More and more firms, especially in markets like India, are using CFD software since they help manage the complexities of product development much faster and at lower cost. Pushing adoption is also the growing use of CFD solutions in sectors like healthcare and marine, beyond traditional use in aerospace, automotive and energy.
"The kind of software we develop is strategic to industries for developing products. It would have taken about 10 years earlier to develop a car or an aircraft. Today, it takes less than three years. This is the result of great advances in CFD and simulation techniques," says Professor Charles Hirsch, founder and president of Numeca, which set up its first India office last month.
Similarly, when energy machinery major BHEL needed to improve the performance of its utility steam turbines, engineers there used CFD tools from Ansys India to analyse similar turbine designs to acquire insight into the flow parameters for each stage and into loss coefficients for the inlet and outlet passage sections - a task that would have been impossible without simulation tools.
"CFD saves time and money by improving analysis throughput and the engineer's insight into fluid flow problems. Insight can reduce the number of design variants under consideration in the first place, by helping engineers filter out bad designs when there are few (if any) cost consequences," says Wim Slagter, lead product manager, ANSYS in a research white paper. "India is one of the biggest users of ANSYS engineering simulation software products and has been serving the market through direct sales, technical support and training," said an ANSYS India spokesperson.
Taking note of the spurt in CFD software use in marine applications, London's Royal Institute of Naval Architects and IIT Madras organised a seminar recently to discuss maritime applications.CFD, for one, was used to ascertain hydrodynamic aspects of a battery driven high-speed underwater vehicle during its development. In healthcare, CFD plays a critical role in studying the blood flow for creating artificial hearts, valves and stents. Hirsch's team has worked on solutions trying to find out which angle was the best for carrying out bypass surgery, back in Brussels.
"This was complicated because it also involved factors like the health of the patient," says Hirsch. Huntair, a company that makes heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, leveraged Autodesk's CFD simulation software for an airflow delivery device that can reduce infections at hospitals. The product had a global rollout in June.