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CFD Is on a Roll

Recent TechNavio report indicates robust demand

Computational fluid dynamics, which got its start in the 1930s, today is a mainstay in many manufacturing companies. This complex and specialized software is being used by organizations ranging from the major players in the aerospace and electronics industries to small shops creating aerodynamically-advanced bicycle wheels and high-end racecars.

CFD imageCFD is working its way down the supply chain as high performance computing (HPC) clusters, desktop supercomputers, and HPC in the cloud solutions make the tool more accessible and affordable. CFD is helping manufacturing companies, both large and small, work smarter, faster and more cost effectively — especially by providing the modeling and simulation capabilities needed to dramatically reduce dependence on physical prototyping.

For example, a recent research report from TechNavio indicates that the demand for CFD solutions in two of the segments mentioned above — the aerospace/defense industry, and electronics — is robust today and expected to grow at a healthy rate in the future.

TechNavio is the research platform of Infiniti Research. Its report, "Global Computational Fluid Dynamics Market in the Aerospace and Defense Industry" examines the current state of this market and its prospects for growth in the Americas, EMEA and APAC regions.

High Growth Expected

The results are encouraging. The market, which in 2010 was estimated at US$ 180 million, is expected to grow at a 12.7 percent CAGR to $US 290.9 million by 2014. Key customers are large enterprises, design houses, and research organizations and universities. (At Digital Manufacturing Report, we have interviewed a number of smaller companies using CFD, although obviously the big enterprises will continue to account for the bulk of the technology's use.)

TechNavio has identified several interesting trends. For example, they predict a growing use of density-based CFD codes, especially for solving transonic and supersonic cases.

Also, unstructured CFD technology is increasingly being employed to study aeroelastic behavior. It seems that the structured approach chews up too many cycles — complex jobs can take weeks or even months. (For example, the NASA Tetrahedral Unstructured Software System (TetrUSS) was developed to provide a rapid aerodynamic analysis and design capability to applied aerodynamicists because of the difficulty of constructing algorithmically efficient structured grids.)

Supersonic missile and advanced flight vehicles design is another growth area for CFD solutions. Finally, CFD cognoscenti should be aware that Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes models are being replaced by large eddy simulation models, a mathematical model for turbulence.

The report not only notes the increasing use of simulation techniques in aerodynamic design, but also the continuing need for wind tunnel validation of complex CFD simulations. No matter how fine-grained your virtual prototype, the time comes when you have to bend some metal.

It also mentions the growing popularity of open source CFD solutions. (This trend is reflected in the recent acquisition of OpenCFD Ltd. by SGI and the continued availability of its free OpenFOAM CFD toolbox under GNU General Public License.)

Over on the commercial side, TechNavio identifies Ansys, Inc., CD-Adapco and Mentor Graphics as key CFD vendors. However, there are many other providers of successful CFD solvers in the marketplace. Presumably their ranks will swell as the software becomes more accessible to companies further down on a food chain dominated by the Boeings, Northrop Grummans and Lockheed Martins of the world. For CFD, the future looks bright.

Posted by John Kirkley - September 07, 2011 @ 11:58 AM, Pacific Daylight Time

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John Kirkley
Editor, Digital Manufacturing Report

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