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The University of Southampton

Research project: Embedding intelligence & knowledge in CAD

Currently Active: 

Traditionally computer aided design (CAD) models represent only geometric information, however, by embedding intelligence and knowledge within the CAD environment the process of design can be streamlined and accelerated.

Gas turbine combust example

CAD packages are extremely effective at representing and manipulating all kinds of geometric entities. Within a design process this is an extremely useful capability to have, it allows a designer to adjust the size and shape of a component to achieve a better design. However, traditional CAD packages have no knowledge regarding aspects of the design cycle further downstream. Whilst a CAD package can accurately define the geometry of the wing there is no information embedded on how the wing should be simulated, which bits of the geometry should be included in an aerodynamic simulation, which bits of the geometry should be included in a structural simulation and how such simulations should be set up. When the design process is automated such information has to be defined in external scripts which can quickly become out of date if the designer wishes to investigate a substantial topology change.

Currently the Rolls-Royce University Technology Centre (UTC) for Computational Engineering is involved in the development of tools to embed knowledge and intelligence within CAD systems to automatically define information necessary for performing simulations of complex components even when topological changes have been made. This reduces the effort and expertise required to setup a complex design study allowing the designer to explore a variety of different concepts with ease.

An illustration of the automatic creation of inputs for a CFD simulation from a CAD model
CFD simulation from a CAD model

The UTC’s efforts in this area began with the development of a design optimisation system to illustrate the feasibility of using whole engine thermo-mechanical simulations within design. As part of this optimisation a novel parametric model of a gas turbine compressor casing was developed that was defined completely using computer code. Given suitable inputs this program was capable of generating a compressor casing from scratch whilst respecting all of the boundary conditions necessary to perform a thermo-mechanical simulation even if topological changes were made.

Building on this experience, efforts within the UTC are now focused on the development of a system to enable the efficient design of gas turbine combustors. Given the geometry of a gas turbine combustor this system aims to automatically create geometry for aerodynamic and structural simulation based on best practice along with any scripts necessary to perform such simulations. This system therefore allows the designer to perform a wide variety of topological changes confident that any simulations further downstream in the design process will remain consistent with the geometry. This considerably reduces the amount of work required to setup a combustor design study.

Related research groups

Computational Engineering and Design
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