Improving Design with CFD: Applications Beyond Conventional Industries

As a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Project Engineer in TriMech’s Project Engineering Group, I regularly work with engineers from a variety of different industries and unique applications. I regularly find myself improving design with CFD in new and exciting ways. It’s one of the aspects of my work that I enjoy the most. In my experience, many engineers and designers are surprised at the variety of problems we’re solving with CFD.

CFD: It’s Not Just for Airplanes and Valves

While almost every engineer knows that CFD simulates fluid flow and heat transfer, they seem to have relegated the tool to only solving the standard problems: aerodynamics of aircraft and automobiles, performance of valves and pumps, and the cooling of electronics. They often conclude that since they don’t work in one of those industries that CFD can’t help them in their jobs. You might be surprised at the design problems we’ve used CFD to solve.

CFD Brings You the Food You Eat

We’ve used CFD to solve engineering challenges in the food chain from the field to the grocery store. For harvesting equipment we’ve solved engine cooling problems, climate control issues, and even the air classification systems that separate the harvested vegetables from the leaves and stalks of the plants.

Not all food is grown in a field. There is a growing industry of growing food indoors in large-scale facilities. This protects the plants from bad weather and pests while making use of land in cities and suburbs that couldn’t otherwise be used for farming.

These facilities have the added benefit that they are no longer constrained to the ground level as they can grow in vertical space, making even greater use of footprint of the facility. CFD is solving problems such as temperature control, ventilation, and air quality in these facilities to ensure maximum yield.

Once the food is packaged and ready to ship it is stored in warehouses. The automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) move product in and out constantly which means that doors are opening and closing frequently. Verifying that the HVAC systems in these facilities can maintain the required temperature of the packaged food has proven a great application for CFD.

In the grocery store, refrigerated foods are often presented in open-air shelves. We’ve used CFD to help the manufacturers of these refrigerated retail systems ensure that they provide adequate cooling to keep your food fresh before you buy it.

CFD Improves the Toys You Play With

As the children in the neighborhood throw that new toy football, remember that CFD has been used to help the manufacturer ensure that it flies further than the previous model. CFD has been used to ensure the safe velocity of your niece’s toy foam dart.

We’ve helped the manufacturers of toys for grown-ups, too. Recreational equipment companies ensure that their products are as efficient as possible. This means ensuring that your camping gear is as thermally insulated as possible while minimizing the weight.

CFD Can Make Your Facility Safer

Have you ever considered that the very facility in which you design and manufacture your products can be improved with CFD? The safety of workers can be affected if their environment gets too warm due to the heat emitted from the equipment in the plant.

Likewise, facilities that require doors to open in even the coldest climates can affect the comfort and even the health of workers inside. We’ve helped facilities mitigate these issues by first showing our clients the sources of air flow issues and then exploring the temperatures and air velocities of multiple potential modifications to their plant.

Safety is also an issue if dangerous gases or fumes are generated in the facility. These can come from forming rubber products, forging molten metal, and welding, just to name a few. We have used CFD to help plan the ventilation systems for new construction and also for upgrading existing facilities that are being expanded or where the equipment location is changing.

The outside of the facility is also important. Are there places where solar radiation is causing unwanted heating inside the building? Are openings in the western side of a plant exposed to cold winds? Are exhausted gases from one part of a campus being entrained into the air handling system in another part of the campus? Once again, we design with CFD to help clients find and mitigate these problems.

Improve your Design with CFD software and services

Each of the cases described here represent problems that we have helped our clients solve. In each case, CFD was able to provide insight into the flow of air, gases, and liquids, and the associated temperatures – insights that would not be possible without CFD.

These clients were also able to make informed decisions about alternate designs, and then benefit from the exploration of these alternatives through additional CFD simulations. They then had confidence that their final design would deliver them the results they needed.

Now you can see just how far-reaching the impacts of CFD analysis can be. As you consider your company’s new initiatives to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and reduce their environmental impact, don’t forget to look into improving your designs – and even your facility – by exploring the ways CFD can provide valuable design insight. Ready to leverage CFD for your engineering challenges? Contact us today to improve your design with CFD!

Rob Taylor

Rob Taylor

Rob Taylor has been with TriMech Project Engineering Group (PEG) since 2020, and has established himself as a highly skilled simulation project engineer. His area of expertise is in Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), which is a branch of fluid mechanics that uses numerical methods and algorithms to analyze problems that involve fluid flows.
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