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Industry Spotlight: Caterpillar

Caterpillar Inc. uses both proprietary CFD software and software from multiple suppliers. The content in this video reflects industry experience with CFD in general and is not an endorsement for CONVERGE or its products.

Transcript of video:

Eric Fluga (EF):

A big advantage of using CFD is it allows us to look at early concepts, areas where it just hasn’t been done before, as well as final details—refining things that actually go to production. Early on you may have an idea but you don’t know how to do it, so it may not be physically possible to go to a test cell and actually test this, but in simulation you can actually create something. You then winnow that down to something—well this could actually turn into an object—something that could be tested. So that’s the innovative, creative side of it. Once you have that concept, now you can use that to refine it. You can iterate on many, many small details. You can trade off heat transfer versus component life. You can do a lot of things that really engineer it for the final product and make it a successful product. So it really covers the gambit of the beginning to the end.

We use computational fluid dynamics for a variety of fluid flow problems. We especially use it for combustion simulation. Combustion is a very complex field. We have to have the sprays. We have to have the interaction with the piston bowl. This requires a lot of detailed sub-modeling—a lot of resolution in order to be able to do that.

Chris Gehrke (CG):

The advantage of using CFD in a combustion engineering workflow is that it allows us to evaluate technologies and evaluate design options before we have to go spend a lot of money and time running tests. We are evaluating future technologies. We are wanting to use combustion CFD to evaluate ideas that in some cases have never been tried before. The ability of simulation to predict what is going to happen with those new ideas is really of paramount importance.

EF:

A real difference in how we work, say, between now and 10 or 20 years ago, is we now model much more of the entire engine. The entire industry has gone to modeling not just the combustion chamber, but modeling the air system, what leads up to it, what leads out of the cylinder. This is really critical to have these boundary conditions set properly because that drives a lot of the combustion. So making this bigger system is really something that we almost dreamed of years ago. The tools that we now have available—the CPU power that we have available—have enabled this to happen. The gridding that we used to have—we couldn’t have imagined doing this type of problem. Now with the gridding tools that we have and the simulation capabilities, we can actually tackle these big problems that before we weren’t able to. 

CG:

If you go back over the last decade, or decade ago, combustion CFD was really done by people who were experts in using that code. They were highly trained in that particular tool. Over the last decade we have seen developments, like automated meshing in particular, that allow more people to use the tool. You do not have to be an expert in meshing to be able to utilize the tool. It has opened that toolbox up to a much broader audience. 

In the end you hope that through using CFD you have been able to make good decisions. You’re able to make the best decisions. You’re able to better optimize the solution. In the end you’re able to go to production with a product that provides the most value for our customers. 

Caterpillar Inc. uses both proprietary CFD software and software from multiple suppliers. The content in this video reflects industry experience with CFD in general and is not an endorsement for CONVERGE or its products.

Published December 12, 2016