Turbomachinery Makes the World Go ‘Round

By Tim
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Ancient Water Wheel, Modern Turbine

Ok, ‘turbomachines’ don’t actually make the world ‘go round, but they have been the catalyst of human advancements for thousands of years—from the early Roman water wheels of the first century B.C. to the modern power turbines, and aircraft engines of today.

I am amazed by the massive size and complexity of steam, gas, and hydro turbines found in power plants all over the world.  Here’s an interesting link to simple explanations about different types of turbines and how they work.

Like all manufacturers, Turbomachinery companies are facing increasing environmental and economic pressures causing them to seek greater efficiency, both in their product development processes and in the performance of their products. Power plants and the steam turbines that drive them must be able to ramp up and ramp down to meet changing energy demands on a regular basis.

Engineers at Alstom

Engineers at Alstom

During peak power demand cycles, steam turbines need to be able to start-up rapidly, handle load and temperature changes predictably, and withstand the stress of dynamic operating conditions reliably.

To meet these market demands, Alstom Power in Switzerland is using Abaqus FEA from SIMULIA to cut design cycle time, reduce development costs, and improve the reliability of their turbomachines. Check out their case study “Fast-Starts Help Squeeze Watts”.

Turbomachinery designers and engineers also have to take into account a range of design variables of complex, multidisciplinary systems—from the turbine, the compressor, the combustor, the casing, the rotors and bearings—all must work in tandem in extreme conditions of temperature, pressure, and high forces on the rotating components.

Robust Design Process

Robust Design Process

How is it possible to account for all of the design variables and optimize these complex machines? Check out this view point article “Assessing Variability to Achieve Robust Design” by Alexander Karl, from Rolls-Royce (on page 4 of INSIGHTS magazine).

If you want to learn more about how Abaqus and Isight are being used to analyze and optimize Turbomachinery performance, do a quick Google search; “Turobmachinery + analysis + Abaqus” or, “Turbomachinery + optimization + Isight”. You’ll quickly find an incredible wealth of information.

Plus, you’ll discover—like I have—that Turbomachinery does make our world go ’round.

Without turbomachinery, we would be in the dark and grounded. Instead, we enjoy electricity convinently at the flip of a switch and global air travel comfortably at 30,000 feet.

Bon Voyage,


Where the Wind Comes Sweeping Down the Plain…

By Tim
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Farming The Wind in Iowa

Harvesting the Iowa Wind

If you thought I was talking about Oklahoma, think again. In my last 3D Perspectives blog post, I wrote about Keokuk, Iowa leading the world in renewable hydroelectric power, way back in 1913. Today, according to the American Wind Energy Association, Iowa ranks second in the United State in wind power installations (by megawatts). Go Cyclones! Iowa State University’s sports team’s name seems to be a good nickname for Iowa’s efforts to harness the wind for clean, renewable energy production – Cyclone Power!

While from a distance, windmills look elegantly simple, they really are complex-and extremely large-systems – consisting of the foundation, the tower, the blades, and the turbine (see animation at U.S. Department of Energy website). To meet the multidisciplinary design and engineering challenges, wind power manufacturers are leveraging Product Lifecycle Management solutions from Dassault Systèmes, including 3D design, composites modeling, manufacturing automation, finite element analysis, multiphysics simulation, design optimization, as well as process and data management. Check out the coverage on DS solutions for wind energy at Eureka Magazine.

The wind energy industry also has plans to accelerate innovation through cross-industry collaboration. Check out this announcement between Boeing and Vestas discussing the benefits their respective companies plan to achieve by sharing research on light-weight materials and aerodynamics.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both companies use PLM solutions from DS.

China research on using offshore platforms

China prototype using offshore platforms

The wind energy industry is also leveraging the experience and infrastructure developed for offshore oil exploration. Research is underway in China to evaluate the viability of using abandoned offshore oil platforms as the foundation for wind power turbines, with the help of Abaqus FEA from SIMULIA.

If you’re not already benefiting from wind power, it seems you will be in the near future. In fact, with the steady wind blowing across the lake in my backyard, I am seriously considering building a small-scale windmill of my own. I guess that idea – should it become a reality – will really take me back to my ‘renewable energy’ Iowa roots.

What do you think of Wind Energy? Will it continue to grow or do you think the industry has reached a plateau?

Go Cyclones!


Related post:

20% Wind Power by 2020

It’s More Than Just Water Over the Dam

By Tim
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Historical image of Keokuk Power Plant, and Lock and Dam 19

Historical image of Keokuk Power Plant, and Lock and Dam 19

I grew up in Keokuk, Iowa, exploring the rugged, tree-covered bluffs of the Mississippi River, overlooking the monolithic Powerhouse of Lock and Dam 19. The megastructure, completed in 1913, put Keokuk on the international map as home to the largest, single powerhouse, electricity generating plant in the world.

As a kid, I took tours of the Powerhouse and was awed by the rows of humming and hot generators. It was a little scary to be so close to so much electricity being produced. While there is often controversy over the environmental impact of dam construction, hydroelectric power is, at its best, clean, renewable energy. According to Ameren Corporation, the owner and operator of the Keokuk power plant, an average day of operation of the plant saves the equivalent of nearly 1,000 tons of coal.

Dams are also amazing feats of engineering.

The sheer size of the structures that were built prior to the use of computer aided engineering (CAE) make dams, such as the Hoover Dam, even more awe-inspiring. With the addition of CAE to the engineers toolbox, the size, complexity, and power generating capacity of hydroelectric dams have grown substantially.

With CAE, engineers are able to virtually test the structure of the dam, its components, and systems to gain greater confidence in the safety and reliability of the dam and its power generating systems. Finite Element Analysis and Computational Fluid Dynamics software are being used, not only for the design of new plants, but also for the monitoring of performance and structure integrity of existing dams and modernizing and upgrading power plants to improve power output, ensure their safe operation, and extend their operational life.

Three Gorges Dam

Three Gorges Dam

Today, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam by total capacity is the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River in China. Since its construction, there has been extra attention given to the testing and analysis of vibrations in the powerhouse structures caused by various kinds of dynamic loads. Researchers at School of Civil and Hydraulic Engineering at the Dalian University of Technology have written a paper on their use of Abaqus FEA from SIMULIA to analyze the strength of concrete substructure and superstructure in powerhouse #15 undergoing natural vibration frequencies.

Engineers at Norconsult, a global, multidisciplinary engineering and design consultancy located in Norway, use Abaqus FEA to perform static and dynamic structural analyses of arch dams, single and double-curvature shelled structures, and slab and buttress dams. According to their Dam Engineering brochure, their engineers also use Abaqus for permeability flow modeling of porous material in embankment dams and temperature gradient modeling, calculation of crack width, reinforcement and stress and strain in concrete dams.

Abaqus is not the only solution from Dassault Systemes being used in by dam and power plant engineers. Recently, we announced that the HydroChina Chengdu Engineering Corporation (CHIDI) selected our PLM solutions to facilitate investigation, design, and collaborative management of hydropower plants. CHIDI has significantly shortened project timelines, reduced total costs, and improved the collaboration between cross-functional teams of designers and engineers.

Having grown up overlooking a historic dam and power plant, I know a little about the power generating process, but I really take it for granted. I know the water falls over (or flows through) the dam, causing turbines to spin, and generators then create electricity. But, that’s about the extent of my working knowledge.

So, I found this short video on how hydroelectric power is created to be  informative.  Check it out, you’ll gain a better understanding of the complex, multiphysics that engineers have to take into consideration in the design and operation of a dam and power plant.  YouTube Preview Image

The next time you see a hydroelectric power plant in action, you will know that indeed, there is more to it than just water spilling over a dam.

Power Me Up, Scotti.

P.S. – This is the first in a series on how realistic simulation is being used in all energy sectors to improve energy exploration and production of energy to power our world. Stay tuned.

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