Four ways to make a finite element simulation study profitable
We have already seen on other times various application fields of finite element studies and how they can be really useful when providing new information on the behaviour of an equipment or mechanism in certain circumstances. In this post, on the other hand, we would like to focus on four of the many ways that exist to monetize these studies, cutting costs in the medium / long term much greater than the expenses derived from carrying them out.
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Reduction of trial-and-error pilot tests.
The most typical way to make a finite element study profitable is to reduce the number of experimental tests required to achieve a design to the desired specifications. Although these proofs cannot be completely suppressed on many occasions, thanks to this type of simulation, most of them can be omitted.
As an example of this, several cases can be consulted in the article named “Cutting Design Costs: How Industry leaders Benefit from Fast and Reliable CFD”.
One of them explains how the British company “Intelligent Fluid Solutions” was able to reduce the development times of the “Yoomi” bottle with warmer for babies by up to two years (which meant a saving of $ 55,000). The simulations allowed to know how the chemical compound used to exchange heat changed phase and progressed through the channels of the heater. Thanks to these studies, it was possible to double the performance of the initial design by building only four prototypes.
Increased energy efficiency of existing equipment.
A second strategy to profit from simulations in general may be to refine a design that is currently working well but has broad potential for improvement in relation to its energy efficiency.
To exemplify this, we cite the 2007 study by Jim Gleason et al. Entitled “Process Heating Using CFD Analysis to Reduce Energy Consumption”.
The objective of this study is the energy optimization of an industrial dryer motivated by the increase in the price of electricity. To achieve this, they run CFD simulations to identify the areas where flow patterns are the most uneven. In these areas there are unnecessary increases in fluid speed that results in greater generation of head loss and therefore greater energy consumption to move the same amount of fluid. By modifying the design of these elements by others that lead to better flow patterns, they manage to reduce the energy consumption of the fan from 149 hp to 112 HP, also reducing the required engine power (the original required 200 HP and the new optimized model only 125).
Taking into account the price of kWh and taking a base of 2000 hours of use, they estimate an annual saving of $ 3,650 for each optimized fan (the savings skyrocket when accounting for more than one optimized unit in this study).
Improvement of the energy efficiency of an enclosure.
Quite related to the previous point, another way to reduce costs using CFD simulations is the reduction of energy consumed in a room through air conditioning or HVAC studies.
The following “SimScale” blog article shows the possibilities of these studies by reducing the cooling costs of a data processing center or “datacenter” by 11% (which represents 50% of the electrical costs of this type of rooms).
Using as parameters the temperature of the air supplied to the room and the air total flow rate, 16 different combinations were evaluated, with the aim of cooling a room with 4 rows of 13 servers each. In one of these simulated combinations, it is possible to comply with the specific temperature ranges of this type of room while saving the aforementioned 11% in energy costs.
Reduction in the cost of repairing faults or maintenance
When equipment that is already in operation often fails or requires maintenance, a company’s costs can skyrocket. In cases where this equipment is vital to the proper functioning of the industry in question, these problems can lead to significant losses of money and reputation.
In these cases, simulations can provide information of great value, allowing to know in detail the operation of these equipment and giving an explanation to the cause of these failures. As an example of this, we can comment on the case of the Brazilian power generation company “Tractebel” collected in the article by Win Slagter already mentioned in the first point of this article.
In this case, the operators faced an erosion problem in one of the coal burners. To carry out maintenance work, the equipment had to be completely shut down, which was a huge waste of time since the cause of the erosion had to be identified, with the consequent cost of restarting it once the repairs were completed. The CFD simulations allowed the engineers to know in greater depth the cause of these erosions, planning in a much more efficient way the stops to carry out the necessary maintenance.
Investing in CFD or FEA simulations can be somewhat complex or tedious at first due to lack of knowledge, but as this article has shown, monetary savings in the medium / long term can be achieved in multiple ways and will always be greater than the cost of carrying out this type of projects.