Developing complex computer modelling for the aerospace industry

We are developing complex computer modelling for the aerospace industry

The Challenge

In the last two decades, computer modelling has become an integral part of industrial design. This is because it is a cheaper, quicker way to make predictions in a system (such as a prototype) and allows repeated testing. 

The use of unstructured grid technology has enabled the use of finite element and finite volume techniques (breaking up a large system into smaller simplex parts) for the flow and structural analysis of realistic complex industrial geometries. This advancement in computer modelling required the development of robust unstructured 3D mesh generation techniques capable of creating appropriate grids for an accurate simulation.

Industry sectors including aerospace require these complex simulations to advance the design and optimisation of aerodynamic parts such as airplane wings.

The Method

Researchers at Swansea University developed FLITE, an unstructured grid system which contained an automatic mesh generation capability for arbitrary geometries to model compressible aerodynamic flows. This system was then improved, adding improved functionality, robustness and efficiency for real aerodynamic geometries [R1 & R2].

These enhancements were implemented within the Airbus meshing suite that is used in the aircraft design cycle. FLITE was used in parallel with a process of mesh adaptivity for unsteady flows with moving boundary components [R3 & R4]. These techniques were also added to the Solar CFD (computational fluid dynamics) system of the Aircraft Research Association (ARA), and are used by BAE systems for modelling complex aerodynamic geometries of industrial interest.

The computational performance of FLITE was further improved by the incorporation of multigrid acceleration and by parallelisation of the solution algorithm [R1]. The simulation of general time dependent turbulent flows, involving geometries that change in time, was facilitated by the introduction of a capability that ensured geometric conservation on hybrid meshes [R5].

The FLITE system has also been used by the BLOODHOUND Supersonic Car Land Speed Record team where the computational model was validated by comparing FLITE predictions with results obtained during testing in 2019 [R6].

The Impact

At Airbus Defence and Space (AD&S), their in-house mesh generator (MESHER) is primarily based on FLITE. MESHER has been used by the company in more than 99% of CFD computations, being used for the Eurofighter, Tornado, Eurodrone, Talarion, Next Generation Weapon System, Target Drones, demonstrators and new designs, totalling several hundred million Euros/year as well as cost savings through the development of efficient and competitive products.

The Institute of High-Performance Computing (IHPC), seeks to promote and spearhead scientific advances and technological innovations through computational modelling and simulation to tackle real-world challenges, further economic growth and improve lives. IHPC are applying FLITE to urban flow simulations as an evaluation tool for the Green Mark buildings certification in Singapore. The tool is being used by industry for building design and energy sustainability performance evaluations.

WebSim Ltd, is a Swansea University spin-out company started in 2018 to develop an on-demand modelling and simulation environment where FLITE has been integrated to provide mesh generation capability for engineering modelling that requires unstructured meshes for various engineering applications.

The BLOODHOUND Project Team requested that the Swansea FLITE system be used to aid in the aerodynamic design process for the BLOODHOUND Super Sonic Car (SSC), a new world land speed record vehicle. FLITE has been the primary tool to guide the aerodynamic design of the car. Another objective of this project was to inspire a new generation of British engineers. The BLOODHOUND Education Programme has 120 ambassadors, delivered more the 600 education events and activities to over 116,000 students. In addition, 2,500 schools have used the related e-resources, reaching over 77,000 primary and secondary students. Further, media coverage of the land speed record was monitored by Meltwater who reported 2,047 unique pieces of coverage with a potential reach of 5 billion people.

UN Sustainable goal - Innovation
Text reads Swansea University Research Themes
SU research theme - Smart Manufacturing