The Evolution of Simulation and Rotating Machinery

It seems not all that long ago that I first attended the ASME International Gas Turbine Institute (IGTI) conference in Toronto. It was just a short drive from my office in Waterloo, Ontario. This year I took a much longer trip to Seoul South Korea to attend the ASME Turbo Expo. As I am already engaged in preparations for the 2017 edition that will be held in Charlotte, NC, I am reminded that much has changed in how rotating machinery is designed and operated. No doubt more evolution will be evident in the 2017 conference. One difference is that the conference will be held in conjunction with the ASME Power and Energy conference. I think that this makes a lot of sense, given the continued important role of turbomachinery in power and energy production and transmission.

While the 2016 version of Turbo Expo was great as usual, I did notice some changes. Since my first Turbo Expo meeting in 1989, I have seen many incremental changes along the way. These are mostly in terms of scope, where sessions have been added for wind turbines, fans etc.

But the biggest change I observe over that time frame is the significantly increased role of simulation. This year the conference went beyond simulation with the inclusion of keynote sessions discussing the growing role of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and associated large scale monitoring of machines and data capture. Of course simulation is a key ingredient of IIoT.

Growing Impact of Engineering Simulation – Then and Now

Besides the keynote and core technical sessions, an evolution has occurred on the exhibit floor. Now, the exhibit is dominated by software and service companies. While the manufacturers themselves are still present, little real hardware is on display. You have to attend other shows, for example Turbomachinery & Pump Symposia, held annually in Houston, to see some “heavy metal”, at least that related to the Oil & Gas industry. Gone are the days when the GE 90 engine rolled onto the floor (Cincinnati, 1993).

The changes observed at Turbo Expo are really a reflection of evolving industry practices. We’re seeing the same things when working with our customers on a daily basis. Manufacturers, and those that support them, are driven by global trends that shape and influence the industries served by turbomachinery — and that is most industries.

Mitigation of climate change drives emissions reductions which in turn drive machine and fuel efficiency initiatives. Clearly more efficient machines mean lower operating costs, which has been a strong driver over the past several years for the aircraft engine makers. But other more pedestrian machinery manufacturers feel this pressure as well: pumps for instance. The EU passed efficiency legislation a few years ago, and this year the US DOE has followed suit with their own regulations.

But energy efficiency is just part of the story. For the aircraft industry, safety is paramount. And on that topic there is much overlap with durability and reliability concerns. The cost of unplanned outages can be significant, and in particular end users would like to have longer service intervals and more precise predictions as to life and overhaul times. But running counter to this are higher operating temperatures, increased cycling (starting, stopping, speeding up, slowing down) and increased loads (aerodynamic, thermal, mechanical).

End-users face time pressures, which are passed on to the machinery manufacturers, adding yet more pressure to an already globally-competitive environment. So the job of improving already-pretty-good turbomachinery has never been more challenging. It is here that simulation proves it worth. Each type of machine has its own challenges. A good summary of those faced and overcome by hydraulic turbine manufacturer Andritz Hydro is captured in this video.

Coming back to simulation advances, there are many and if anything the pace is accelerating. These are enabled by improvements in the software, new and improved physical models, collaboration with leading (turbomachinery, computer and other) hardware companies and by taking advantage of other advancing hardware and software technologies.

As an example, thirty years ago most simulations involved a single physics and a simple substance (air or water for example, for CFD). Now we see high-fidelity simulation of aeroelasticy, complex fluids such as supercritical carbon dioxide, erosion and particle deposition, large-eddy combustion, composite materials, fracture, rotordynamics including the supporting components etc. etc. The speed his increased and scale expanded significantly, with calculation sizes often in the tens or hundreds of millions nodes, and with design of experiment/optimization simulations numbering in the thousands on a single task.

rotating machinery Transient combustion simulation of a Jet Engine Combustor- Courtesy GE Aviation

Transient combustion simulation of a Jet Engine Combustor- Courtesy GE Aviation

These advancements mentioned above are enabling companies to meet the challenges that I outlined earlier. I summarize this in a recent video (below). You can learn more on how leading companies are benefiting in our recent Best of Turbomachinery ANSYS Advantage compilation.

One thought on “The Evolution of Simulation and Rotating Machinery

  1. Nice summary Brad. Wish we had a turbo industry in Australia to sell to with the amzing advanced tools we now have in ANSYS.

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