From mouthwash to mobile devices

A UK-based product development consultancy is increasingly adopting CFD to underpin its technical creativity, from improving breath freshener sprays to optimising the design of flow meter pumps. Dean Palmer reports

"We are seeing increasing potential for the use of CFD technology as a key tool within the design and innovation process. Not only in terms of its ability to help our clients develop products and services more rapidly and cost effectively, but also in its ability to help us model a whole new range of emerging and exciting technologies that are not quickly or easily tested." So said Julian Swan, senior project manager at product design consultancy firm PDD.

Traditionally, CFD has been used in engineering by companies that model and analyse fluid flow, typically in heavy industries such as aerospace, automotive and petrochemical. In these applications, its role is predominantly performance or efficiency related.

PDD is one of the UK's leading global product innovation consultancies and is using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), Ansys' CFX fluid dynamics software, as a conceptual tool to underpin its technical creativity.

The company develops new products for consumer, medical and commercial markets. These are often based around innovative but user-focussed functionality, performance or features. This activity demands rapid and thorough exploration of competing concepts well before detailed engineering analysis and so the company has integrated CFD early into its process, just as it did years ago with Finite Element Analysis (FEA), as a predictive feasibility tool to help explore and screen adventurous concepts before they are physically available for test.

Already, PDD has used CFD in the design and optimisation of a new, combined impeller/ flow meter pump design and is currently using it to help research and accelerate the design of a wide variety of products including radiators, respiratory products, signage, liquid dispensing systems, intravenous pumps and the latest generation of high power telecoms handsets.

Graham Lacy, PDD's development director commented: "Handsets would never normally have required the application of CFD, but ever greater bandwidth, battery power and miniaturisation means it if is not used, there is every likelihood that your latest technology will be quite literally too hot to handle."

Closer to end users still, PDD will also use CFD as a tool to improve consumer experience. For example, the software can be used to improve mouthwash or breath freshener spray by understanding and optimising the distribution of particles inside the mouth and the sensations that result.

Tom Shelley

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