Web-Based Tool Guides Thermal CFD Design
Ralph Sprang posted on February 24, 2017 | 2155 views

Many engineers struggle with the thermal design of their product. Thermal analysis and design is a specialty among engineers, but most engineers do not dig deep enough to gain the experience necessary to become an expert. Additionally, the complexity of the fluid flows in real parts disrupts efforts to simplify this design process.

Diabatix, a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation start up is looking to address these problems with their browser-based computer-aided engineering (CAE) software on the cloud.

Heat flow in a heat sink as modeled by the Diabatix tool. (Image courtesy of Diabatix.).
Heat flow in a heat sink as modeled by the Diabatix tool. (Image courtesy of Diabatix.).

Engineers mitigate these issues in several ways. First, they can hire CFD experts as consultants to perform the thermal analysis and design. Unfortunately, this can be an expensive option and finding an expert with the needed product-specific knowledge can be quite difficult.

Next, engineers can use CFD software tools to assist with the design. Commercial and open-source CFD software tools are available to help engineers with these design and simulation problems. Unfortunately, a significant level of knowledge and expertise is still required to use these tools successfully.

In addition, the complexity of the simulations requires significant processing capacity to complete in reasonable time. Desktop workstations and PCs generally lack the needed computational capability, leading users to reduce and simplify the simulations to enable completion, with an associated loss of accuracy and quality.

High performance computing (HPC) platforms provide the needed computational capacity, but access to those systems is limited and often outside the range of affordability for small- to medium-size companies.

Engineers try to manage with simplified simulations, “rule of thumb” designs, trial and error approaches, and long waits for even simplified simulations to complete. These approaches often require multiple iterations to achieve a suitable result and are rarely optimized, increasing development time and cost.

Startup Diabatix is addressing the computational and expertise limitations of CFD with a dual approach:

  1. An accessible HPC platform: Diabatix provides a Web interface to access OpenFOAM and other CFD tools. Rather than overburdening multicore workstations, Diabatix executes these tools on a supercomputing platform at the Flemish Supercomputer Center. This computing center provides hundreds of parallel CPU cores and a typical speedup of 50 times over local workstations. This approach provides affordable access to HPC systems while providing a user-friendly Web interface accessible from essentially anywhere with a browser. The HPC computational capacity allows more detailed and complex simulations to complete in reasonable time to better represent the complex physics of heat flow.
  2. Thermal design guidance: The Diabatix solution incorporates expert CFD domain design, optimization and numerical methods knowledge to assist engineers in developing thermal solutions. Diabatix’s stated goal is to make thermal engineering more accessible to a wider range of engineers through incorporation of expert knowledge. This expert system approach can lead to unconventional designs that improve thermal performance.

The initial application target for the tool is heat sink design, perhaps the most common thermal application. Diabatix incorporates CFD knowledge to guide design of heat sinks and claims improvement in cooling performance of up to 30 percent over conventional and manual designs.

Diabatix continues to improve its knowledge base to enhance design capability for a wide range of industries and applications such as battery cooling for automotive applications and cooling for power electronics. The company is continuing to increase the capabilities of the tool and is working towards increasing the range and complexity of applications and incorporating restrictions and enhancements based on the manufacturing technology that will be used to manufacture the parts.

Visit the Diabatix website for more information.

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