by Roopinder Tara, Tenlinks.com
Announced last January with little fanfare (Flow was mentioned in an Autodesk blog post in January, and then picked up the same day in TenLinks Daily), there never was an official press release back then, no phone calls or webinars for the media. Even Autodesk's own product site does not do Flow Design justice. Just another Autodesk Labs product done good.
The existence of a bona fide CFD (computer fluid dynamics) program for wind-tunnel simulation -- push-button easy and available at a rock-bottom price -- dropped like a bomb in the room of industry analysts and journalists at last week's media event. Our existence depends on knowing everything, but, well, we got caught flat-footed. A possible game changer, and we missed it!
The fact that it is available for a steal, $210 a year, was by itself a shocker.
One industry analyst remarked that a low price reflects badly on the product. After all, a competitor’s product sells for $80,000. At 0.25% of the price, no one was going to take Flow seriously.
Based on CFD technology from the Blue Ridge Numerics acquisition, Autodesk’s easy flow simulation was first shown at Autodesk Labs under the name of Project Falcon, back in September, 2012. Today, Autodesk demonstrates the technology in its Gallery on San Francisco's Market Street. There you stand in front of a Xbox Kinect scanner, push a button, and in a few seconds, it shows you your 2D profile with colored streamlines moving over it -- for what that's worth.
A little more useful demo was when they had a bicycle where you could hone your aero tuck. (See this YouTube video.) Most of a bike rider’s energy on level ground is spent overcoming air resistance.
One Trick Pony
But I digress. Did I remember to say it takes only seconds to solve problems? More importantly, it takes no time to set up.
Flow takes shapes from a variety of objects, photographs, drawings, scans. If you are used to constructing painstakingly a mesh of volume elements, you now have a lot more time on your hands; with the speed and simplicity of Flow, you might consider a hobby -- or retirement, because you might be out of a job.
Oops: I got a bit carried away. Flow is not full-fledged CFD code. It handles only wind tunnels. And it makes a lot of assumptions. While air speed can be adjusted, an arbitrary speed is assigned initially.
But supersonic flow? Careful boundary layer planning? I don't think so. Coupled heat transfer? Combustion? Nope. I guess some of you CFD eggheads can keep your jobs.
Get Ready to Justify Your CFD Program
But if you just got your boss to sign a purchase order for a new multiuser license for Fluent, Exa, COMSOL, and the like for who knows how many tens of thousands of dollars or Euros, you better have some pretty good answers as to just how is your favorite software so much better as he shows you what he can do on with Flow on his laptop.
The simulation group at Autodesk is keen on making Flow Design available not just to traditional users (mainly in aerospace and automotive) but also to other industries that Autodesk serves. Architects, not typically CFD users, and certainly not mandated to use high-end simulation software in school or in practice, would now be able to easily run air flow studies, such as the effect of wind around a new high rise.
[Reprinted with permission of CAD Insider.]