Why OpenFOAM Users Should Try SimScale

BlogAbout SimScaleWhy OpenFOAM Users Should Try SimScale

OpenFOAM® is gaining growing popularity in the engineering simulation world. As an open source solver, it can be used for the majority of classical simulation problems.

It is widely known that OpenFOAM is not the most user-friendly software, however. Acknowledging its power and aiming to make OpenFOAM’s functionality easier to use, SimScale integrated it into its cloud-based simulation platform. With an easy-friendly interface that integrates various solvers including OpenFOAM, Code_Aster, and CalculiX, SimScale developed further, becoming an open ecosystem where simulation functionality, content, as well as people, are brought together in one place. SimScale is not open source, but through the Community account, engineers and designers can join free of charge and collaborate effectively with their peers.

Challenges in Classical Simulation Methods

Current simulation challenges are related to the integration and automation of simulation tools in a very complex CAE environment, including automatic geometry retrieval, surface and volume meshing, and sensitivity and optimization studies. In terms of the solver settings and user expertise, computational fluid dynamics is considerably behind finite element analysis, making the problems of software development and usability more pressing.

Range and quality of physical models, solver settings, and solution algorithms, as well as the lack of robust automatic solution control, brings considerable complexity to the user. The current state of solver development aims to produce monolithic general purpose tools, trying to tackle all physical problems for all users. These are few consequences which can arise [1]:

What is OpenFOAM?

OpenFOAM is free, offering to users the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change, and improve the software. OpenFOAM was developed primarily by OpenCFD Ltd in 2004 and distributed by OpenCFD Ltd and the OpenFOAM Foundation. It has a large user base across most areas of engineering and science, from both commercial and academic organizations. It has an extensive range of features to solve anything from complex fluid flows involving chemical reactions, turbulence, and heat transfer, to acoustics, solid mechanics, and electromagnetics.

OpenFOAM is first and foremost a C++ library, used primarily to create executables, known as applications. The applications fall into two categories: solvers—each of them designed to solve a specific problem in continuum mechanics—and utilities—designed to perform tasks that involve data manipulation. New solvers and utilities can be created by its users with some pre-requisite knowledge of the underlying method, physics, and programming techniques involved [2].

OpenFOAM is a collection of approximately 250 applications built upon a group of over 100 software libraries (modules). Each application performs a specific task, for example, the snappyHexMesh application that can generate meshes for complex geometries, such as for a vehicle. The simpleFoam application could then be used to simulate steady-state, turbulent, incompressible flow around the vehicle.

The main resource for OpenFOAM’s community of developers is the OpenFOAM User Guide, which


In this case study, the SimScale cloud-based CAE platform was used to investigate a ducting system and optimize its performance. Download it for free to learn how.


CFD Analysis Covered by OpenFOAM

OpenFOAM is gaining considerable popularity in academic research and among industrial users, both as a research platform and a black-box CFD and structural analysis solver. The main ingredients of its design are:

OpenFOAM does not have a generic solver applicable to all cases. Instead, its users must choose a specific solver for a class of problems to solve. The solvers with the OpenFOAM distribution are in the SOLVERS directory, reached quickly by typing app at the command line. This directory is further subdivided into several directories by category of continuum mechanics, for example, incompressible flow, heat transfer, multiphase, Lagrangian, and combustion. Each solver is given a name that is descriptive.

The current list of solvers distributed with OpenFOAM is covering a wide spectrum of CFD analysis:

Why is SimScale Important for OpenFOAM Users?

CFD analysis of a gate valve carried out with SimScale
CFD analysis of a gate valve carried out with SimScale

SimScale is based on cutting-edge open source solver technology, including OpenFOAM, which is currently used by leading companies in a large number of industries such as automotive (BMW, Ford, Volkswagen), aerospace, (Airbus), process technology (Siemens), and power generation (General Electric).

The key benefits offered by SimScale to OpenFOAM users or other open source solvers are deeply related to the open source principles:

These were eight reasons why OpenFOAM users should give SimScale a try. With more than 100,000 engineers and designers relying on SimScale for their simulation projects, the platform is so much more than an interface for different solvers. It is a powerful online simulation software, with plenty of features to choose from and a CAE community wherein everyone can collaborate and share their work with their peers. Download this overview to learn about all its features.

You can try the platform by creating a free Community account or a 14-day trial for the Professional account. Either way, you’ll have a blast!

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