TechTalk: TriMech’s CFD Expert Performs Accurate, Time-based Simulations with SIMULIA

By Karen Majerly on

TriMech’s advanced design engineers use a wide variety of technology solutions to provide expert on-demand services, from modelling and creating technical documentation in SOLIDWORKS, to reverse engineering using Artec 3D scanners.

We talked to Rob Taylor, a key member of TriMech’s Project Engineering Group, who told us about his team and his specialized work in CFD simulation and analysis.

Let’s start with TriMech’s Project Engineering Group. How do you help clients?

We step in when clients don’t have the capacity, expertise or technology to complete a project. They can outsource to us, on demand, to fill any gaps they have. We have a great team with a variety of skillsets – mechanical and electrical design, automation, scanning – whatever clients need to be successful.

What is your area of expertise?

My specialty is CFD (computational fluid dynamics) simulation. We use software to mimic real life environments and test product performance, early in the design process and before a client makes a prototype. With that early knowledge, they can compare and tweak design options, make better decisions, and save time and money.

What software do you use?

SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation allows us to run scenarios to study the effects of liquid or gas flow, including heat transfer, climate control, pressure loss, mixing efficiency, lift/drag and more.

For highly complex systems, such as those in automotive and aerospace, we use PowerFLOW, which is one of the CFD solutions in Dassault’s SIMULIA package of software tools. PowerFLOW performs accurate, time-based (transient) simulations of fluid flow, aeroacoustics and thermal effects around complex geometry. We can study, for example, the aerodynamics of a vehicle, road noise and the performance of engine cooling systems.

We might study the design of the interior cabin of a vehicle, for example, to learn how long it will take to defrost the rear window or to make an occupant comfortable. We can also digitally study different cooling modules for industrial equipment to determine the most efficient design, for example.

What’s “the old way,” or “the hard way,” to do these tests?

It’s trial and error using physical prototypes, which is far more time consuming and expensive.

A temperature probe can tell you it’s too hot, but not why. Does it need a bigger fan? Or a fan in a different location? Using a combination of the software and my experience, I will know where to look to find a solution. I don’t want you to just increase the size and power of a fan in your system while your project gets more and more costly.

Is there a common client type, or application, for your CFD services?

There’s a lot of variety. I’ve helped clients who manufacture everything from medical devices to industrial equipment. They are small shops right up to billion-dollar corporations.

One client might need to understand how small electronics will be cooled and another might be analyzing a ventilation system for a factory or office building.

Electronics Cooling
Electronics Cooling

What’s your background? How does your experience contribute to your ability to help clients?

My degree is in aerospace engineering. I have worked for a heavy equipment manufacturer and as an application engineer for CAD products – doing project work, tech support and training.

My background writing training materials for CFD and being an instructor helps in my current role with the Project Engineering Group because I am often explaining and helping people understand how to leverage simulation results to improve their designs.

And I have been specializing in CFD since 2006 so I bring a lot of experience to each client’s project.

Impact of climate systems on humans
Impact of climate systems on humans

Can you share a couple of examples of projects you’ve worked on?

I had one client who was building a charging station to accommodate a row of large vehicles. Our simulation and analysis gave them a chance to change the design to prevent overheating. That’s well before having to test and fix it in the field, where rework is very expensive.

In another example, the client was retrofitting a ventilation system in a manufacturing facility. Before starting to cut holes and move elements around in the building, we ran simulations to show air circulation and understood how best to remove smoke and pollutants.

When projects are building-sized, the client is investing millions of dollars and months of production time. You want to get it right before you make modifications to your facility so you can avoid errors that will increase downtime and impact your productivity. For any product being developed, CFD simulation can uncover potential design shortcomings that keep you from getting to market quickly – and possibly damage your reputation.

Our team can also step in if a client has already built a product and it’s out in the field not performing as it should. Clients will call us in instead of throwing guesses at the problem and investing more time and money.

What makes a good partnership with a client?

Communication and collaboration. I am an expert in CFD. They are the expert in their product. I understand how to get the most out of the software and analysis. They know what problems they are trying to solve.

I want the client to be involved in the project, and together we’ll team up for the best results.

What are you most proud of, when you think of the Project Engineering Group and your own achievements as a member of that team?

For me personally, it’s returning customers – people who ask for me by name because I have a track record of using software tools to develop creative solutions.

And the broader team is impressive – very inventive and results-focused. We all have different specialities and do different things, but we have lots of opportunities to collaborate. If I run into something I need help with, I can reach out to others to fill any gaps and augment the service we provide.

Overall, we are just better together. When it comes to problem-solving, we can collect the right people to work on your unique challenge and solution.