SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation – Should I Buy, Outsource or Both?

SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation is an extremely powerful tool. It puts the power of Computations Fluid Dynamics (CFD) in the hands of the designers and engineers who are responsible for developing products and components, allowing them to test their product’s fluid flow and thermal performance early in the design phase. Changes made here are far less costly than changes made after the prototype or final product is produced.

If you are reading this, then it is likely that you are considering adding Flow Simulation to your design tools. It is not an insignificant investment, so you want to make sure it’s the right fit for you and your organization. I want to provide some guidance to help you make that decision.

As a Simulation Project Engineer within TriMech’s Project Engineering Group, I’m responsible for leading the CFD projects for our clients. I’ve been an engineer in the field and an Application Engineer on the CAE software side of the business for my entire career and have focused on all types of simulation. However, since 2006, I have been exclusively focused on CFD and its place in the design and engineering realm. I’ve seen hundreds of applications for CFD in dozens of industries. I’ve seen companies succeed with the implementation of CFD into their workflow, and I’ve seen some struggle. I want to use this time to help you make the important decision between buying, outsourcing or both!

Should I purchase SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation?

There are three questions I suggest you answer to determine if SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation is right for you:

  • Can the software simulate the physics needed to simulate?
  • Will you use this software frequently enough to justify the purchase?
  • Does your organization have someone that can be committed to being proficient in the software?

Let’s look at these questions in-depth:

Can it Simulate the Physics Required?


First, you need to determine what types of physics you need to simulate. There are tons of physics that can be simulated in Flow Simulation and a few things that cannot. Flow Simulation can solve gas and liquid flow that is subsonic, transonic, supersonic, incompressible, compressible, multi-species and flow through rotating equipment. Thermal transfer through convection, conduction and radiation (surface-to-surface and solar) can be simulated.

There are some physics that cannot be solved in Flow Simulation, such as hypersonic flow, phase change (liquid to gas, solid to liquid, etc.) and flow-driven motion. If you aren’t sure if your physics can be solved, you can consult with a TriMech engineer, and they can guide you further. In many cases, there are alternative methods within Flow Simulation that can get you the answers that you need.

Will you use it enough?

Secondly, you need to determine if your project load will justify the financial investment. As a rule of thumb, I typically suggest that if you will need to use CFD on two or three projects a year, then you will recover your investment. However, this question doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. It really depends on the potential return on investment. For example, maybe you’re only working on a single project this year. However, the potential savings of catching problems early on using CFD could more than pay for the software.

Buying SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation will still make sense if the potential savings on prototype and testing costs will exceed the cost of the software and training.

There is another reason behind the rule of thumb of two or three projects. That reason is proficiency. Using any software for one week out of the year is not enough for anyone to feel proficient. It’s important that the users of the software are actually using the software enough that they don’t feel like they are learning it all over again the next time they need to use it.

Will there be a dedicated user?


Finally, is there a user that can commit themselves to learn and use the software? To be clear, this person doesn’t need to be an analyst whose sole job is running Flow Simulation. Rather, there needs to be at least one person that can jump in to use the software when needed. They’ll need to be able to spend time upfront learning the software and be able to spend enough time using CFD over the course of a year to feel confident in their usage whenever the need arises.

If you can answer yes to these questions, then SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation will be a great fit and you can expect to get the most out of your investment. If you answer no to one or more of these questions, then you may find yourself frustrated and struggling to get the desired return on implementing the software.

Should I outsource my flow and thermal project?

If you have a need for flow and/or thermal simulation, but you can’t answer yes to all of the questions above, then outsourcing the project to professionals is your answer. In fact, the Project Engineering Group at TriMech has the necessary talent, hardware, and software to help.

We work with you upfront to determine the scope of your project by understanding the physics you need to simulate, the goals of your project and your timeline.

Throughout the project, we offer guidance on how best to utilize CFD to solve your problem while adhering to the input you provide, because you know your product. You are the product expert, and we are the CFD experts. We work together with you and provide advice based on our years of experience.

Can I do both?

You sure can! Many of the clients we assist are actually owners and users of SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation. Even the most capable user can be faced with more projects than they can solve at once. We step in to take that overflow work. Likewise, occasionally problems arise that require an extra level of CFD expertise. The Project Engineering Group at TriMech can not only help through projects with tight deadlines and advanced complexity, but our clients in these cases then benefit from the ability to leverage the solution techniques we implement as well as the file sets that we provide at the end of the project. Owning the software and leveraging outside help is the best of both worlds.

In addition, PEG can help you be successful from the start if you purchase Flow Simulation. The training for Flow Simulation is essential and gives you the foundation you need to use the software successfully. We always recommend that new users attend this training. Some clients get a head start on using Flow Simulation by engaging us to solve a typical problem for them. We then share our expertise with them and show them how to maximize their use of the software for their specific needs. These clients are provided the files so that they can use our work as a recipe for how to set up and solve their own problems.

If you’re considering purchasing SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation, first make sure your projects are a good fit. Then determine if you’ll use the software enough to justify the cost and stay proficient. Finally, consider whether or not you have personnel that can focus on using CFD. If you can’t check all of those boxes, don’t worry; you can still outsource the work to trusted advisers like us. And if you can check all of those boxes, know that you’ll always have the Project Engineering Group of TriMech to back you up if the need arises.

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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