During my lunch break yesterday I decided to clean my filing box – you know … that dusty tray that sits on most people’s desks and seems to become the repository of papers that you intend to file away but quite don’t know where to put them. Anyway, as I was reading them (so I can figure out where they should go), I came across a news clipping that at first made me chuckle and then made me realize that sometimes things have just got to work.
The clipping was about the toilet at the International Space Station (ISS). Turns out a couple of months ago, the main toilet at the ISS broke down and one of the astronauts was asked to put his plumbing skills to work (hmmm… it burns me that it is easier to find someone with good plumbing skills in space than it is in London but let’s save that for another day). Anyway, I think the problem had to do something with a faulty pump. The clipping didn’t have much else to say about the problem or how they fixed it but the whole article made me realize that some things have just got to work – no ands, ifs or buts. And CFD is the easiest, fastest and most economical way of finding if something will / won’t work properly. Now I don’t know whether the manufacturer of the pump had considered doing CFD to make sure their products would perform without any problems. But they could learn a lot from aerospace valve manufacturer Shaw Aero Devices which used CFD to create an optimized design for one of their customers.
Shaw Aero Devices designs, develops and manufactures a wide range of products in the areas of fuel, oil and water/waste systems and components. One of Shaw’s customers was interested in purchasing a large quantity of a solenoid valve similar to one of their standard products for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The customer specified a pressure drop of 0.75 pounds per square inch (psi) at a flow rate of 4.45 gallons per minute (gpm) while Shaw’s standard valve measured out at 6.09 psi. In the past, this would have required building and testing a series of designs in an effort to eliminate constrictions with no guarantee of success. The engineering team at Shaw simulated fluid flow within their original design and modified it to create a new product. The CFD results for each iteration provided insights into how the design could be improved. Rob Preble, Project Engineer for Shaw, created a design that provided the required pressure drop without the need to build a single hardware prototype. “CFD simulation dramatically reduced the time needed to meet our customer’s demanding specifications,” Preble concluded. “We moved from the beginning of the project to the development of an acceptable software prototype in only one day.” And they saved at least $9000 and three months in prototyping costs alone. Nice one. If you’d like to read more about Mr. Preble’s challenge then please click here.
And if you’re curious to see how CFD can help you, I would strongly urge you to download and try out the free FloEFD.Pro trial version from here. The trial version let’s you play with a live version of the software so it’s a pretty cool tool and it’ll give you a really good idea of how CAD-embedded CFD can help you meet challenges such as the ones conquered by Shaw Aero and countless other companies.
Curious to know what you think.
Until next time,