2010

3D Direct Modeling Streamlines Micro-Cogeneration System Design and Analysis Processes

Multiphysics software is used to analyze and optimize heat conduction and thermal structure interaction.

SYNGAS specializes in thermal and micro-thermal technology, and designs and analyzes pre-production heating, cooling, and thermal insulation systems for a variety of applications. They provide engineering support to research centers and fuel cell manufacturers working with complex catalyst and hydrogen fuel cells for micro-generation systems.

COMSOL Results of Heat Exchange and chemical reactions that occur while reforming hydrocarbons. This cross-section shows the temperature field and heat flux between two reactors." class="caption" align="left">Micro-cogeneration systems are refined to be as effective as possible at utilizing fuel cell power. These microcogeneration systems are built to provide efficient heating and cooling systems for home and commercial use by converting materials like kerosene or natural gas into hydrogen, which then powers the fuel cell and manages the energy flow for either heating or cooling. In homes, these systems are used for both heating and air conditioning applications. In commercial applications such as airplanes, there is never any shortage of heat due to the engines, and the systems are used to provide much needed air conditioning to keep passengers comfortable.

The company uses SpaceClaim and COMSOL software to analyze and optimize heat conduction and thermal structure interaction. In order to design systems that get the most out of fuel cells, the company needs to constantly iterate the 3D geometry and test it in COMSOL to figure out what works and what does not. Previously, the company had to request edits from trained CAD experts or struggle with CAD on their own, which slowed implementation of ideas, consumed valuable time, and reduced the ability to serve new customers.

In search of a better solution, the company found SpaceClaim and saw that it was being utilized by numerous COMSOL users as a tool for analysis preparation and for 3D geometry editing and creation. SYNGAS uses SpaceClaim to analyze and edit more designs, enabling them to improve and increase the quality and the rate of output.

SpaceClaim Model of the Reactors and Heat Exchangers for a compact reforming system that produces hydrogen for a 100kW fuel cell stack." class="caption" align="left">SpaceClaim imports geometry directly from SolidWorks and other CAD systems, significantly easing the process of making edits and updates to existing data. The company can easily de-feature CAD geometries — removing any parts, faces, or holes that are irrelevant to analysis — and then move to COMSOL to test the quality and efficiency of the model, and, if required, return the model to the native CAD system.

For concept modeling, SYNGAS is also developing new ideas in SpaceClaim. SYNGAS’s complex models, many of which were originally created in SolidWorks, can be directly opened in SpaceClaim, which enables all the disparate parts to be merged into one solid to drive the analysis. In these assemblies, there are often numerous instances of small features such as screws in holes, which are problematic for COMSOL. SpaceClaim is used to first delete the screw design and then fill in the hole by extending surrounding material. Additionally, many SYNGAS models are drawn with fillets or round edges, which are often necessary to avoid stress concentrations at the straight intersections but are unnecessary for simulation. SpaceClaim allows modification of the drawing and the ability to change the angles to make sure everything is properly arranged for analysis.

SYNGAS focuses on conceptualization, not production, and a fully featured parametric CAD system was not the right tool to create and simulate concepts. Without intensive and time-consuming training, users became proficient with SpaceClaim’s 3D Direct Modeling tools and were able to immediately concentrate their energy on their areas of expertise. The company’s work is not to draw plans for machining, but to imagine and conceive new systems, which is done efficiently and effectively with SpaceClaim.

This work was done by Paul Gateau of SYNGAS using software from SpaceClaim and COMSOL. For more information, visit http://ti.com.