I’ve used a lot of software since entering the product research field. Some were not too difficult to figure out, while others did require a bit of study to get running. Autodesk Simulation CFD 2013 is one of the easiest I’ve encountered.

Anyone fresh into a new piece of software can feel a bit out of sorts, but CFD is laid out in my favorite manner: a progressive ribbon. By this I mean a ribbon layout that works from left to right in the general order that parallels the standard workflows expected.

Autodesk Simulation CFD 2013


Standard Workflow

Autodesk Simulation CFD 2013

The basic setup workflow is:

  • Geometry Tools
  • Materials
  • Boundary Conditions
  • Initial Conditions
  • Mesh Sizing
  • Motion
  • Solve

Autodesk Simulation CFD 2013I’ll be reviewing some of these in more detail in the near future, but here is a synopsis of my evaluation setup.

I imported my model from Inventor, and had not model my internal volume. Rather than switching to Fusion to handle that, I remembered being told about the superb fill tools in CFD.

I used the Geometry Tools panel to identify the inlets and outlets, and automatically fill the volume for me. Then I used the Materials tool to assign air to the new void model, and went ahead and applied materials to my remaining components (which was not really necessary).

I applied Boundary Conditions to the inlet and outlet surfaces, such as volume per second and pressure. My Initial Conditions were left as default, and the mesh sizing was applied sing the automatic functionality. Since learning about the adaptive meshing in CFD during the San Francisco trip, I let CFD take care of it. I have no motion, so the only thing left to do is Solve.

It really is as easy as following the ribbon from left to right. Once completed, the analysis brought back beautiful results that I further investigated using the convergence and table tab options, as well as the Plane and Trace tools.

Autodesk Simulation CFD 2013 results

Reviewing Results

I find that traces are great for understanding how the moving air eddies, but I love the Plane results. These results are so easy to reposition and  visualize using their tools. In fact, when I needed a plane to review internal cross section behavioral, I simply hit Add on the Plane panel, picked the reorient to surface glyph from the context menu, and grabbed the axis attached to the plane and dragged it until I was satisfied. The results updated as I moved the plane. The interesting thing to note here is that I never studied how to manipulate planes in CFD. I just followed my instincts, and the tools were there. Nice job usability.

Autodesk Simulation CFD 2013 results  Autodesk Simulation CFD 2013 results

More Thoughts

There was one area that I felt odd about. Importing and opening models. To the best of my knowledge (which admittedly is thin), there is no manner in which to import many popular solid models. Instead, other applications such as Fusion or Inventor (to name a few) are used to hand off the model. Fusion, which is free, has some nice CFD related features and handles the hand-off very well.

Once the initial shock of another CAE application wares off, Autodesk Simulation CFD 2013 is really slick and easy to get the results that you need. I’ll keep writing about the software, and what tips I pick up along the way, and stumbling blocks to avoid.

CFD appears to be one of those platforms that a day’s investment into professional training would pay off in instant returns. Since the software is so straightforward, someone to point out known best practices would put professionals instantly in a productive state.