Archive for May, 2012

21 May, 2012

I’m not a fan of soccer (urm I mean football). I’m more of a Rugby gal myself. But on Saturday I along with 100+ fans played sardines in a small  pub and jostled for the best viewing position in front of one of the handful of TVs to watch the European Cup game.  The pub erupted when England scored the winning penalty shot. I had not seen so many grown men scream, dance and cry with joy at the same time. The festive attitude spilled on to the streets, trains, tube and buses across London (and dare I say England?). We had just watched history being made. On that night, Chelsea achieved what many had thought was the impossible.

I like seeing the impossible made possible. I guess it’s because once you see footage of the moon landing, nothing seems out of reach. Obviously others thought the same thing. Looking back at my life I remember smiling with awe as a child when I saw a Concorde plane sitting on a runway at Heathrow as my plane inched by, as I watched footage of the first shuttle take off successfully and as I saw the news coverage of the peace accord between Egypt and Israel. Anything is possible.

And that’s something that the design engineering team at Bronswerk Heat Transfer clearly believes in.

Bronswerk Heat Transfer is very well known for their high-capacity air-cooled coolers that are widely used in the energy industry. The engineering team wanted to solve a rather hairy problem. Fans used inside a gas- or oil-field cooling system are large. They can be up to 33 ft in diameter. Depending on the application you may need a dozen or even hundreds of fans.  Aside from the energy consumption (to run these fans) you also need to worry about the noise pollution impact. Now the fans for these types of applications usually deliver a maximum efficiency of about 50%. So the million dollar question was – can efficiency be increased to 80% with less noise, less energy consumption and reduced operational cost?

The team decided to try a few new concepts and to use CFD to validate the results. The team at Bronswerk have been using the Creo Parametric (formerly Pro/ENGINEER) embedded CFD solution named FloEFD for a few years and trust the results. Mr. Guus Bertels, the Associate Director of Advanced Design and Analysis at Bronswerk had this to say about their use of CFD “over the past few years, we have used both CFD tools and physical measurements to characterize the behavior–particularly the aerodynamics–of large air-cooled cooling systems. We have learned that concurrent CFD often can produce data that would be impossible to acquire with measurements because of physical constraints, the Heisenberg principle and other factors.”

The amazing Whizz-Wheel. Image courtesy of Bronswerk Heat Transfer.

The team decided that solving the problem was really a system-level effort that involved redesigning the fan blade configuration, the inlet/outlet architecture as well as other parts. The design process was quite comprehensive and you can learn more about it by following this link.  Their new fan called the Whizz-Wheel has broken every record and the cooling system based on it is fast breaking all industry records for energy efficiency, noise reduction and weight savings. “The new Bronswerk cooling solution includes fans and housings that take their technology cues from gas turbines, aircraft wings, and a generous helping of homegrown creativity. The practicality of these creative touches was validated quickly and accurately with CFD. In addition to their purely quantitative output, the CFD simulations enabled us to explore bold ideas–without risking project budgets and schedules” said Mr. Bertels. Now that sounds like a perfect recipe for making the impossible possible and achieving a healthy Return on Investment (ROI) for simulation to boot.
Until next time,

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15 May, 2012

I admire mechanical engineers. I really mean it. If the world ever implodes, then I want to be hanging out with you guys. You know how to build and fix things. I on the other hand can probably contribute to the betterment of future society by picking berries (so long as I don’t have to deal with any creepy crawlies) or by spreading good cheer – I can’t help it I’ve got a sunny disposition (that is after 9 AM). Yup, that’s about as helpful as I’ll be in say a zombie apocalypse.

Anyway, I’ve learned a lot from you guys. So I thought it would be fun to talk about that today. The top 10 things I learned from y’all.

10.  Anything and everything mechanical is fascinating. By now you know that I drive a convertible. On the few days of the year when the weather is nice enough to drive with the car top down in England, I usually get an audience when it’s time to put the top up or down. The guys marvel at the mechanics of the roof rising at the touch of a button and talk about all the systems moving the roof. I admit in the past I never paid much attention to such things. I just took them for granted until the day they didn’t work. Now, thanks to you I am more curious. I look at all things electronic and wonder if FloTHERM was used at some point to ensure effective cooling.

9.  Choose your words carefully. You are very precise with your language. It took me a while to learn this but I finally realized that I needed to pick my words carefully in order to communicate effectively with you. Case in point. I usually ask for extra ice in my coke glass whenever I order a drink – it’s an American habit that is hard to break in the land of little or no ice cubes. I also always wrap my glass in a napkin. After the first month or so of tagging along with the guys to lunch, one of them asked me why I always wrap-up my glass. I said “the glass sweats and becomes slippery so this way I’m not likely to drop the glass”. After considering my answer for a moment, the engineer said I think the word you’re looking for is condensation. And the whole table started discussing this at length. At that moment I realized that I needed to pick my words more carefully. Months later, we were working on a presentation for a press tour. One slide just kept getting flagged by the review team as being wrong. After asking a series of questions I realized that the problem wasn’t with the whole slide but with just one word – I think the problematic word was “cause” so we changed it to “contribute” and all was fine. Someone complained that the team was being pedantic but I knew that they weren’t trying to be difficult. They were just being factually accurate. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that.

8.  When taking an engineer out on a sales call, be prepared to have them tell the truth –warts and all. In sales the golden rule is to never say no. If someone asks you about some functionality which your software doesn’t have, you just keep asking questions to find out whether that feature is important to the sale or whether it is a “nice to have”. Engineers on the other hand don’t have any problems with saying no.  I think that’s probably why engineers feel comfortable buying stuff from other engineers. It’s because they know they’re getting a straight answer.

7.  Engineers test you. When engineers meet you, they always ask you a question to gauge your technical level. They’re not being difficult … they are just trying to see where you fit on the technical spectrum so they’d know how to answer you. I learned this the hard way because I now know enough about things to be dangerous. So now whenever I meet an engineer I always start the conversation with “I am not an engineer”. In response I usually get a smile and detailed explanations that even I can understand. We both walk away happy having communicated effectively.

6.  There is always room for improvement. By nature engineers like to tinker with things because there is always room for improvement. Sometimes I feel like a 5 year-old kid who keeps repeating “are we there yet?” when working on a presentation or a brochure. So I have learned to be patient because invariably the end product is always better.

5.  My definition of a cool picture is different than yours.  Another thing that I admire about engineers is that you are practical and “smoke and mirrors” don’t really hold much value for you. When you look at simulation results, you are perfectly happy looking at the basic plot lines and charts. I on the other hand need to communicate with managers who like pretty pictures and colors. So my definition of a cool picture is probably way different than yours. That’s why some of the guys in our building run the other way when they see me trolling the hallways looking for a volunteer to do a couple of screen grabs. But the handful who still brave the elements do turn out some brilliant images (yeah, you know who you are and to you I am eternally grateful).

4.  Engineers are nice people. Just so that we are clear, when I say “nice” I am using the American definition which is “pleasant, agreeable, and delightful”. By nature most engineers are introverts so as an extrovert it would be really easy to just roll on by. But I tell you, as a group, engineers are the nicest bunch of folks I have ever met. That’s why whenever I meet one I make sure to get to know them well. And in this world, you can never have enough nice people around you.

3.  Physical testing is expensive. I’ve been in the simulation market for more years than I dare to admit out loud. However, I am still astounded at how much companies spend on physical testing. I heard that Bentley crash tests hundreds of cars every year. Gulp. That is a lot of money (not to mention lovely cars being destroyed) in the name of safety. But then again, if I ever could afford to buy one of those bad boys, I’d want to know that I’d be safe.

2.  Not doing physical tests can be even more expensive. Funny… you didn’t expect me a simulation-junkie to say this but it’s true. Sometimes you do need to do physical tests. For example, a new customer decided to invest in our T3Ster product for thermal characterization testing because their largest customer told them that their product specs were not worth the paper they were printed on. Ouch! It’s a good thing their customer told them _before_ they decided to take their business elsewhere.

1.  Simulation is meaningful. I remember the very first whitepaper I ever read on the topic of simulation. The subject was about meshing and it was during an interview. I read the opening paragraph a couple of times before admitting defeat. At that point, the CEO of the company (who also happened to be a respected engineering professor) gave me a quick lecture on what it all meant and before I knew it I was a part of this fascinating world. Since then I’ve learned a lot about engineering. I also know that some still believe that simulation is hocus pocus. But I am a believer especially when I hear from experienced engineers who say that simulation gives them new insight into the performance of their products. One of my favorite engineers, Mr. Guus Bertels with Bronswerk Heat Transfer, has an extensive background in the field of aerodynamics. Mr. Bertels was involved in the design of one of the most beautiful flying machines, the Concord, so you would be right to think that he has seen it all but even he has this to say about simulation: “The information generated by FloEFD especially for the taxing complexity of cooler aerodynamics is far beyond data obtainable through physical measurement and experimentation”.

So thank you engineers everywhere! You have made this a better world for the rest of us and thank you for letting me be a part of your world.

Until next time,

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