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"Sledgehammer CFD" - The Best Approach?

Re-reading my last blog (Beginning at the Beginning …5 Parabolic or Elliptic, Or Somewhere In Between?) a slightly disturbing thought occurred to me. Does the distinction, highlighted in that blog, between parabolic, partially-parabolic, and elliptic solution methods have any real relevance to present day CFD?

On consideration, the honest answer is – only to a very limited extent.

In the 1970s when we were struggling to perform realistic 3D computations even on the most powerful computers of the day (at Imperial College we were using a CDC 6600, which was then a state-of-the-art super computer), the savings in computer time and storage from using a parabolic or partially-parabolic solution method rather than a fully-elliptic one, when it was valid to do so, could be crucial in making a computational study practicable or affordable.

Now, however, when we have virtually-free access to virtually-infinite computer resources (at least relative to the “austerity” of the 1970s), these distinctions are pretty much meaningless. One might as well use a fully-elliptic solution method for everything – the convenience in using one standard method for everything vastly outweighs any “wasted” computer resources.

To a purist it might seem unfortunate that the scientific elegance of the parabolic and partially-parabolic approaches have been lost. But it seems to me that, if the simplicity of a unified, standard approach (even when it might be “a sledgehammer to crack a nut“) has contributed to the widespread adoption of CFD that we see today, then it has been a price worth paying.

CFD Ease of Use, History of CFD, CFD

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About David Tatchell

David TatchellI qualified as a Mechanical Engineer at Imperial College, London, in 1968, and then went on to complete a PhD in Computational Fluid Dynamics (though it wasn’t called that back then). In 1972, I joined Concentration Heat and Momentum Limited (CHAM), which was then just beginning the commercial application of CFD. I was Deputy Managing Director of CHAM from 1979. In 1988 I left CHAM, with a number of others, to found Flomerics Limited. As CEO from 1988 to 2005, I saw Flomerics’ successful expansion to its worldwide market-leading position in the application of CFD techniques in the electronics industries and in the built environment. From 2005 I moved into the position of CTO. In 2008 Flomerics became the Mechanical Analysis Division of Mentor Graphics Corporation. Visit David Tatchell’s Blog

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