SimScale CAE Forum

A beginner's experience with SimScale


I may be the odd one out here: I don’t have background in engineering or academia. I do love aviation on the other hand and the other day I’ve managed to design a 3D model of a centrifugal compressor of a 1940’s style jet engine. I wanted to know how efficient is my imaginary compressor? Most importantly, what’s the compression ratio? So after some google-ing I ended up at the SimScale website. That was about a week ago and I have since managed to simulate and analyze a rotor in airflow and currently working on simulating a ducted fan. In only a few day, with zero experience with CFD and OpenFOAM, I have managed to learn to setup and process a mesh, setup and run a simulation and analyze the results.

When you need affordable or free CFD software, OpenFOAM seems to be the answer. Unfortunately the learning curve is steep and the documentation is fragmented. Since SimScale uses OpenFOAM, I have managed to learn the basics such as understanding the 3D coordinate system or what boundary condition is.
At this point you may wonder, why even use SimScale then? Isn’t it just a fancy interface for OpenFOAM? Definitely not. SimScale is so much more. I was looking for a free (currently unemployed) CFD software. As I used Fusion 360 for design, Autodesk’s own CFD software seemed an obvious choice. Until I saw the price tag… Most, if not all CFD software costs thousands of dollars and even the monthly cost of the subscriptions is just completely out of my price range.
Yeah but OpenFOAM is free and SimScale does have subscription plans. Sure but to use OpenFOAM you may need beefy hardware with lots of cores and tons of RAM. I have a 12 year-old computer and have no plan (cash) to get a new one for the next 50 years (someone in this forum uses a Chromebook for CFD. A CHROMEBOOK!).
But what about CUDA? Isn’t there Cuda for OpenFOAM? There is and I’m sure it’s great but a CUDA GPU costs an arm and leg. I can’t afford even the cheapest, second-hand, CUDA-ready Nvidia card. Also, I have a laptop so upgrading the GPU is out of question (and external GPU cases/adaptors are expensive, too).
So why don’t you use OpenFOAM in the cloud? That would be nice. Especially if I could afford the ridiculous prices cloud providers charge. I’ve tried Amazon’s cloud computing service once and the base subscription fee (before you even do something) was already too much. Plus, with SimScale I don’t need to install anything (I know, you could create a Linux image with OpenFOAM installed but still). Yesterday I spent 4 hours installing and re-installing OpenFOAM before I managed to get it work with ParaView. You do not need that when you have a deadline or you just want to learn like me.

What’s next? I keep designing my vintage jet engine and hope that SimScale will introduce combustion simulation (they will!) and that they realize what an amazing presence I have and they make me SimScale’s traveling salesman and send me to exotic places and I get to eat lobster in business class. Happy meshing!