In today’s market, end users are always demanding more from their pumps. New technologies must meet specific system requirements, keep maintenance costs low, ensure long product life and save energy. Manufacturing companies face increasing costs for material and energy in a market that has become competitive on a global scale. As industrial, agricultural and pharmaceutical applications become more complex, manufacturers strive to keep up by designing more advanced equipment and filling the market gap as quickly as possible.
Few manufacturers know the installation or application environment before designing their pumps. Desert or ocean, high-density seawater or freshwater—the challenge for designers is to build a product that can adapt to multiple applications while still meeting requirements. This calls for proper product validation and verification.
The application scope of virtual 3-D simulation includes nearly every stage of the product development and manufacturing process.
From an early-stage evaluation of a new product design to a final manufacturing test, simulation aids manufacturers in determining the product’s effectiveness and range of applications. Simulation software allows engineers to test their products under near-real-life conditions, such as different operating points or fluid types.
The simulation results reveal the feasibility of a particular design and often influence the final technical parameters of a new pump product.
Manufacturers can identify and correct design flaws early in the development process. Modern simulation software demonstrates results in 3-D so that data sets are easier to understand and analyze.
Financial & Operational Challenges
Despite the benefits of this technology, only a fraction of companies invest time and money in 3-D simulation software. High financial and technical barriers often stand in the way of purchasing, installing and configuring the software for a particular application.
Companies are often forced to buy a long-term software license, even if the testing only involves minor design changes in the scope of a few months. Many simulation methods require so much computing power that large computers or computer clusters must be purchased. This increased capacity often requires a larger information technology (IT) staff or even training for simulation specialists.
Confronted with these costs, small and midsized companies hesitate to invest in large-scale simulation capacity.
The SaaS Advantage
Cloud-computing allows manufacturers to access modern IT infrastructure without the burden of fixed expenses. Instead, the cloud-computing service provider takes care of infrastructure setup and maintenance. The delivery of software by a service provider is called software as a service (SaaS).
The purpose of the SaaS model is to cut costs and overcome IT hurdles. In the manufacturing industry, the SaaS concept is combined with engineering simulation to run structural and fluid flow simulations. These simulations adjust test conditions according to density, fluid viscosity, inlet velocity and rotation speed.
A SaaS software product can be accessed via a Web browser. When logged into the online simulation platform, engineers can upload their 3-D design model, set simulation conditions and create as many simulation runs as possible within the total computing power. These simulations are carried out in remote computing centers. As soon as the simulation is finished, the results can be viewed in 3-D on the same webpage.
Web browser capability means the local computer is no longer blocked by running the simulation. The engineer can flexibly switch to the next task or work on the next simulation. When notifications are activated, an email will inform the engineer once the simulation is complete. Because projects differ in size and time requirements, manufacturers can also choose the amount of computing power they need, from one computing core over several workstations to complete clusters. Core computing time can be customized from several months to years, and storage space can be expanded from several gigabytes to unlimited capacity. This flexible, pay-as-you-go model can better fit the users’ needs.
In the following case study, design changes to an existing radial fan were analyzed using the flow simulation capabilities of a SaaS platform. The most important question was whether the new fan design would meet the expected performance characteristics.
Design Changes & Simulation
The main objective of the design changes was to increase the volume flux through the fan. However, this increase had to respect the fan’s power consumption limits and minimum pressure increase.
The engineer uploaded the computer-aided design (CAD) model of the new design and created a fluid flow simulation (see Figure 1). The computation was carried out on multiple 16-core machines. The rotating domain in the middle of the design and the relatively large simulation model required considerable computing power.
The availability of large computing instances allowed the results to be analyzed after only one hour per simulation. The integrated post-processing environment of the software then allowed direct 3-D access to the simulation results. Figure 2 shows a streamline visualization of the velocity field within the fan housing.
Using data on the new design’s pressure increase and power consumptions, end users were able to accurately predict the fan’s performance. Engineers could wait to manufacture a physical prototype until a later design phase, decreasing the risk of expensive and time-consuming changes later in the process.
Figure 3 shows the pressure field in the middle section of the fan housing. Red indicates high pressure, green low pressure. The pressure clearly increases across the rotating fan blades. According to the simulation, the design changes led to the desired higher volume flux while respecting power consumption and pressure requirements.
By outsourcing IT infrastructure and management, pump manufacturers can focus on actual engineering work instead of the installation and maintenance of high-performance computing systems or license servers. Smart Web technologies and modern cloud-computing approaches have become more popular among users in a variety of fields.
As SaaS becomes more prevalent in general software domains, the technology will spread further into engineering work.
Pump designers and manufacturers can benefit from lower costs, greater efficiency, faster product development and higher product performance. For this reason, more and more engineers are joining this new trend, testing the software for themselves and considering it a valid option to use in their development projects.