Posts Tagged ‘physical prototype’

5 August, 2009

Firstly I must apologize for the title… I’m afraid it sounds like one of those dodgy emails we all get from spammers but it was the best way of summarizing what I was going to write about today. Whenever I speak with mechanical engineers about why they use simulation, regardless of what they design or where they are from, they always say the same thing (and in no particular order):

  • Reduce prototyping and testing costs
  • Improve product performance and functionality
  • Reduce design time

They each jostle for the top position depending on the industry or the type of application but that’s our trifecta.  We all know about how reducing physical testing reduces costs but we rarely talk about how fluid flow and heat transfer simulation can help improve product performance/functionality. Improving product performance and functionality is cost-effective because you don’t need to invest in any tools. You don’t need to create a new design from scratch – you use what you already have as a baseline and you make it better, faster, cheaper. And simulation is the best tool at your disposal for taking your design to the next level.

Sometimes you hear of a case where you see benefits of simulation arising from a combination of the three “reasons”.   Case in point: Fico Besi develops and markets a large range of chip packaging systems for mobile phones, PDAs, modems, computers as well as other electronic appliances. Their new generation of machines uses lasers as they are the ideal method for cutting printed circuit boards (PCB) and memory cards. The laser optics are protected by a glass window. The dust chamber prevents the laser light from escaping and protects the operator from dust and smoke.

Laser Cutting System from Fico Achieves 40x Performance Enhancement. Image courtesy of Fico Besi.

Laser Cutting System from Fico Achieves 40x Performance Enhancement. Image courtesy of Fico Besi.

Shortly after designing one of their new machines for a client, the team noticed that the laser lost effectiveness within 15 minutes. The dust created as a result of the cutting process seemed to contaminate the glass and absorbed the laser light; therefore, stopping the laser from reaching the PCB material. Since cleaning the glass required machine downtime and loss of productivity, the engineering team at Fico had an interesting challenge.

“We needed to increase the cleaning interval to meet our customer requirement of at least 4 hours” recalls Peter Venema, an engineer at Fico Besi. “We had to find a solution to prevent dust contamination and do it quickly since we were at a production facility.”  Mr. Venema’s team was able to drastically reduce downtime to once every 3.5 to 4 hours by using simulation. But they wanted to do even better. So he went back to the drawing board and finally reached a solution of 11 hours of continuous runtime. I think we can safely say that Mr. Venema’s team not only met their customer’s specifications but they exceeded their expectations big time!  If you’d like additional details on how they achieved this fantastic result, please feel free to go to this page.

Oh and before I forget, if you’re going to be at the 2009 Simulia Regional Users’ Meetings, please stop by and say hello to our team!

Until next time,

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28 July, 2009

When talking about increasing energy efficiency in a data center, a lot of people stop listening because the issue of sacrificing uptime always rears up its head . Uptime should not even be a topic of discussion. It should be a given. Even in this day and age, many facilities just leave the thermostat at a low level because it’s a safe bet. But it’s not necessarily the right thing to do for the environment. What if we could help the environment AND ensure that your equipment is safe?

There are lots of things that you can do as an owner/operator to improve energy efficiency of existing data centers — without it costing you an arm and a leg. Mind you this isn’t really a big issue for when you’ve just started populating the data center… this is the kind of problem that evolves over days and months as different pieces of equipment are added or taken out of an existing room thereby shifting the thermal load within the room. Anyway, what can you do? You can create a scale virtual model of your data center (complete with servers, racks, CRAC units, cabling trays etc) and then use simulation to test various scenarios. The possible combinations are limited only to your imagination: use blanking plates or cooling curtains to divert air, move servers up/down within the rack, turn rack fans on/off, move new/old servers around the room, turn on/off various CRAC units etc. Because you are not using your physical equipment, you are not endangering your equipment nor do you have to build downtime into your schedule to test various scenarios. It’s a win-win situation no matter how you look at it.

KlingStubbins, an architectural, engineering, and planning services organization, routinely uses airflow simulation to create better and more efficient designs. Most recently, they used simulation to improve a server rack cabinet efficiency and thus improve the energy efficiency of the data centers that house them. The potential energy savings is significant for their clients because the racks in question are used in large numbers in some of their clients’ data centers.

Top Left: Actual server rack. Bottom Left: FloVENT virtual model. Right:Temperature cut plot profile in the middle of server rack. Images courtesy of KlingStubbins.

Top Left: Actual server rack. Bottom Left: FloVENT virtual model. Right:Temperature cut plot profile in the middle of server rack. Images courtesy of KlingStubbins.

Michael Schwarz, a Mechanical Engineer and an Associate at KlingStubbins evaluated 11 different scenarios to see which one offered the best solution to the challenge at hand. In the end he found that a combination of actions makes it possible to disconnect the cabinet fans while reducing all server inlet temperatures below existing values. Now I don’t know how long it would have taken him to reach the same conclusion without simulation but Mr. Schwarz said: “it would have been very expensive and time-consuming to investigate these design alternatives by building prototypes and evaluating their performance in a live data center.”

I found this case study fascinating because it contains detailed information about the various tested scenarios. If you’d like to learn more, then you can read this technical case study in  its entirety here.

I hope you find it a fascinating read. And if you’d like to find out more about how to use this type of simulation at your facilities, please watch the on-demand presentation titled:  Learn How to Reduce your Data Center Running Costs here.

Until next time,


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26 June, 2009

Cuba Gooding Jr’s conversation with Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire became the mantra of a whole generation.

Show _me_ the money.

Your manager no doubt says the same thing to you all the time but in different guises:

•    Can we improve product performance/functionality?
•    Can we reduce the cost of producing this product?
•    Can we cut the budget without sacrificing quality?

And let’s not forget the “I want to get the product out to market faster. Can you do that without costing an arm and a leg?”

So what can you say to your boss?

Yes we can … hmm, I’m a walking/talking cliche today.

Fluid flow and heat transfer simulation is the perfect tool for helping you answer those questions. Simulation will not only serve as a cost-effective alternative to physical prototype testing but it’ll also provide you with a visual way of communicating the behavior of your designs with others:

Improve Product Performance/Functionality

Schuco improves photovoltaic solar panel performance using FloVENT. Image courtesy of Schuco.

Schuco improves photovoltaic solar panel performance using FloVENT. Image courtesy of Schuco.

Schüco, one of the leading producers of photovoltaic panels, used FloVENT computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software to redesign its products to improve their thermal performance so that 15% to 20% more panels can be used in a given space. Today’s photovoltaic panels present a major thermal design challenge since every degree Centigrade of temperature rise reduces the power produced by 0.5%. “The CFD results helped us understand exactly how the panels were being heated and guided us as we made major improvements to the design,” said Hamid Batoul, Technical Director of Solar Department, Schüco International, Paris, France. “As the first in our industry to perform CFD simulation, we believe that we are now able to provide our customers with substantially higher power output than an equivalent competitive design.” To read more about how the Schüco team achieved this please click here.

Reduce Production Costs

Analysis results show amount of pressure loss on a JAZO housing.

Analysis results show amount of pressure loss on a JAZO housing.

JAZO Zevenaar B.V.  cut 20 days from their design cycle for four new weatherproof, outdoor transformer housings. JAZO is widely known for its expertise in designing, manufacturing and marketing protective housings for electricity, gas, telecommunications and boilers. The louvers which are manufactured from aluminum and steel are thin yet quite resilient. These patented structures are flexible and can be customized to fit any height – JAZO has about 50 profiles to match all customer requirements. “The combination of Pro/ENGINEER for solid modeling and FloEFD.Pro for airflow analysis allows us to test our louvers for form, fit and function effortlessly” said Henry Aaldering, technical director at JAZO. “We can show the finished design to our customer complete with how it will look and work in just one day – that’s a saving of 3 weeks and thousands of Euros for each model. In Holland, physical prototypes may be tested at special organizations but this is slow and rather expensive and a one day session at these organizations costs around €2,500.” How did JAZO’s team accomplish these savings? Please click here to read more.

Cut Budget without Sacrificing Quality

AnJen validates motor design and reduces heatsink weight. Image courtesy of AnJen Solutions.

AnJen validates motor design and reduces heatsink weight. Image courtesy of AnJen Solutions.

AnJen Solutions recently used FloTHERM CFD software to assist MagneMotion, Inc. in their design of a vertical lift elevator made of linear synchronous motors (LSM). AnJen Solutions performed a weight versus thermal performance analysis of the LSM rail heatsink. “FloTHERM provided a detailed understanding of the conductive heat transfer between the heatsink and the LSM rail support structure and convective heat transfer to the surrounding environment,” said Michael Rigby of AnJen Solutions. “The simulation demonstrated that reducing the number of fins and changing the fin spacing and thickness would reduce the weight of the heatsink by 1/3 while providing the same thermal performance as the initial design.”To read more about AnJen’s challenge, please click here.

Get to Market Faster

A FloTHERM simulation showing a front view of the chassis. Image courtesy of Elma Electronic.

A FloTHERM simulation showing a front view of the chassis. Image courtesy of Elma Electronic.

Elma Electronic used CFD to optimize the design of a new Advanced Telecommunications Computing Architecture (ATCA) platform that is designed to dissipate up to 300 Watts in each of its 14 slots. Elma thermal engineers used FloTHERM’s capability to automatically run a series of flow simulations while varying various dimensions and other parameters to achieve design goals such as maximizing airflow over the boards. “The optimization of the chassis via thermal simulation studies made it possible to beat competitors to market with a highly innovative product,” said Ram Rajan, Thermal Engineer for Elma Electronic. For additional details on this specific case, please click here.

So there we have it. The next time you’re asked that question, you know exactly how to answer it.

Until next time,


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28 May, 2009

Back in grad school one of my professors said that spending on R&D during economic downtimes is sound management advice. He cited a few reasons but two stuck with me:

  • you build excess capacity when resources are cheaper so you can handle the demand for when the market picks up
  • because you’ll have fewer resources (perhaps due to downsizing), you need increased productivity from a smaller team

This information was a long forgotten lesson until I saw a recent article titled “R&D Spending Holds Steady in Slump: Big Companies Invest to Grab Sales in Recovery; the iPod Lesson” in the Wall Street Journal by Justin Scheck and Paul Glader, published on April 6, 2009. The basic gist of the article was that some companies increase their R&D spend during a downturn because once things pick up they don’t want to get stuck with obsolete products. But what really resonated with me was this:  “Many innovative products, from the iPod to fuel-efficient aircraft engines, were hatched during downturns. If past patterns hold, today’s spending may plant the seeds of innovations that triumph in the recovery.” The writers added “Apple boosted R&D spending 42% between 1999 and 2002, even as revenue fell more than 6%. Those investments helped spawn the iPod music player, introduced during the last recession in October 2001, and the iTunes music store, which debuted in 2003.”

Wow… if Apple had done some belt-tightening during the last recession, the iPod could have remained just an idea and can you imagine a world without this beautiful gadget?

Read the rest of this entry »

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