If you read the engineering design rags from pretty much any industry, you will see the acronym “CFD” all over the place. If you read any of my blog posts, you’ll usually see me referring to “upfront” CFD.
CFD = Computational Fluid Dynamics
CFD is a computerized, virtual-reality simulation of airflow (and/or liquid-flow) and heat transfer. It can be used to predict airflow patterns and pressures around Formula 1 race cars. It is equally useful for visualizing nuclear cooling water flowing through 6 foot diameter control valves. Same thing goes for identifying overheating chips inside a laptop computer… way before a prototype of that fancy new laptop gets built in the real world!
There are 3 categories of CFD Software:
Like most things, CFD started out with hardcore specialists. CFD sprang from academia and was initially reserved for full-time PhD specialists in industry. Traditional CFD tools are highly customizable and can be manhandled to address most any far-out application.
Unfortunately, the learning curve for these tools is nearly vertical. Most companies in the SMB market will not be able to invest in the PhD’s required to drive these tools… much less the high cost of the software itself. Most very large companies that employ these tools still relegate them to small, long-term R&D teams. Even these large companies are finding that they get more productivity from upfront CFD deployed in parallel throughout their frontline engineering staff.
Several traditional CFD vendors have attempted to “dumb down” their offering in an effort to appeal to less specialized engineers. Most of these products end up being too low in functionality to be useful. They also are very clearly NOT the primary focus of the CFD vendor and enjoy very little ongoing development or support.
At worst, many of these products are a thinly veiled bait & switch. They are sold dirt cheap to get the vendor’s foot in your door. After the sale, you are likely to hear this, “Oh, you want to do that! Well, you just need to upgrade to our flagship traditional CFD tool for $30k.”
Upfront CFD tools include 80-90% of the capabilities found in traditional CFD tools.
The missing 10-20% is responsible for the vertical learning curve of traditional CFD.
Upfront CFD is created from the ground up with frontline engineers in mind.
Upfront CFD is not a marketing afterthought.