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Product designers can analyze nozzle shapes and size to determine the best airflow patterns. (Ansys)

Design software targets germs, dry air

Concerns about airborne diseases and flu pandemics coupled with increasing passenger concerns about environmental conditions are prompting some aircraft designers to take a closer look at ventilation systems. In many instances, improvements in air quality and cleanliness are being expedited by using design tools such as computational fluid dynamics (CFD).

Ansys is responding to this increased interest by upgrading its CFD tools to let aircraft engineers look at 3-D environments as well as 2-D technologies such as electronics and ductwork simultaneously. Ansys 15, unveiled late last year, also claims to handle larger problems and complete analysis runs in short times. That could help ventilation experts improve air quality.

“With CFD software, you can look not just at airflow, but also at temperature distribution and humidity,” said Rob Harwood, Aerospace and Defense Industry Director at Ansys. “Our new tool lets users track particulates like viruses to see how they move and how they can be removed. Users can also look at deliberate threats to see what happens if someone releases contaminants on a plane.”

The need to combine 2-D and 3-D files highlights the complex nature of airflow management. Air quality is impacted by the efficiency of motors, ductwork design, and the capabilities of electronic controllers that manage air movement, as well as the number and position of passengers.

“Engineers can look at different ductwork designs to see how they can eliminate losses,” Harwood said. “Nozzles also play a major role when designers are trying to develop more efficient systems that draw less power. Designers want to reduce the amount of power drawn from engines.”

Electronic controls are central components, since they determine when fans will cycle on and off while also managing temperature and humidity levels. Ansys has expanded its software capabilities to improve efficiency of these controls.

“We’re doing more with automatic code generation,” Harwood said. “Users can describe their requirements at the functional level and the system generates code that meets FAA standards.”

Harwood noted that increased use of CFD tools highlights the trend for aircraft design to increasingly rely on modeling and simulation.

“We’re going into an era when designs can be optimized throughout the process,” he said. “Engineers can run simulations at any stage to see how minor tweaks impact complex designs.”

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