Should I Flow with a Recommendation for CFD?


It is interesting to note that the notion of complexity created by past CFD users is gradually getting replaced by a new era of acceptance and willingness to dabble in it. Of course, most of these early adopters are considered exceptions to the rule, and quite probably outcasts. However, they are probably not speaking out enough because they no longer have the time to speak out. Business is booming for them because they have products that are superior. They really have no more time!

Louver Model

CFD in the present age is a blessing well disguised. It hides behinds the curtains, on the monitors of a select few individuals who sit in those dimly lit cubicles in the corner of the office. For the most part, it is nothing but a blip on the screen – a process in the task manager, where no-one sees its burden rate. However, what has changed is its presence in the 3D world. With models flying around faster than the internet took over the universe, the traditional nerdy CFD specialist has been replaced with an engineer with a little extra time in his hand.

The neat thing about the product is that it speaks for itself. 3DVision recently did a consulting project for a customer on an industrial application. The model in question was moving air at a very high volume rate, and was encountering numerous obstacles on its way. Upon solving their model using Flow Simulation inside SOLIDWORKS, we presented the results live in front of their management and engineering audience. As we approached the summary of results, one of the management members commented – “What you have shown us is an MRI of our design. In the past two hours, you have provided us with answers to questions that we have been raising internally over the past 2 years about the integrity of the design and its performance.” Such is the power of the software! This customer went on to purchase the software, and get trained in it. They are currently attempting at replicating the same workflow that we had adopted, on a different but similar model.

From concept to completion - Fluid flow around a Seascooter

The beauty of concurrent CFD tools like Flow Simulation is its versatility. While being extremely powerful functionality wise, it can be easily adapted to virtually any industry – valves, Industrial regulators, electronics equipment, medical devices, HVAC applications, commercial gen-sets, automobile drag and lift, and so forth to name a few. The underlying theme is the same – define the properties of the fluid, its inlet(s) and exit(s) locations, add any heat generation sources, create a mesh, and solve. And to top it off, the software gives the user the luxury of viewing results real-time to make any changes necessary right inside the SOLIDWORKS graphical interface!

It would be noteworthy also to investigate the cost of not doing CFD, especially when the application involves moving fluids. In a recent study done by the Aberdeen Group (click here to read the post), the author identifies the top business pressures that force companies to investigate virtual simulation, and the leading impacts of not using CFD. The article underscores the need for companies to approach CFD with an open view and showcases how virtual simulation can very quickly become an integral part of product development.


An important cog in the wheel of decision making has to be implementation. Not installing the software, mind you, but on learning how to use it, and getting good at it. I always tell my training class attendees that as easy as the software is, learning it is not an overnight skill. But the moment you digest the methodology and adopt it as a necessary step in your design evaluation, the benefits are enormous. Furthermore, it is so easy to customize it. For example, a customer of ours in the valve industry was adjusting their current design to meet a certain flow coefficient (Cv), a design requirement. Their methodology was to tweak a few variables, and perform a bench test. They went through 8-10 prototypes to get to the final model. Upon investing in Flow Simulation, they were not just able to run multiple iterations simultaneously and digitally prototype in minutes and hours, but were also able to create custom goals (an equation goal that determines Cv, and graphs it out for each run). Such equations can be created to monitor any parameter, such as efficiency of designs, maximum heat on components, drag coefficient values, etc.

So the next time you find that your fluid-filled product is failing in the field, or better yet, you are developing a new concept that needs some validation, be sure to examine Flow Simulation. Its needs are few, the benefits endless!