Choosing your Simulation - Accuracy vs Speed vs Cost

In this video, we’ll guide you on how to select the right simulation for your project. In theory, the advice is simple: go for the one with the highest resolution, as it results in the highest accuracy & the most useful data. But in practice, this is also the most expensive & time-consuming solution, so the real question is: “Within a given budget & timeframe, how can I improve the aerodynamics the most?” For example, should I run 10 simulations at low resolution or one at high resolution? The answer is to select the right resolution for the right purpose. But first, let’s explain what exactly resolution means for aerodynamic simulations: Very similar to the pixels of a digital photograph, which form a 2D grid or mesh, a flow simulation uses a 3D mesh, featuring small blocks around your 3D model to calculate the aerodynamics. For more details on this, watch our separate video on computational fluid dynamics using the link in the description below or at the end of this video. Most important aspect: the higher the resolution, the smaller these 3D blocks become and the more accurate the flow simulation will be. That brings us to the first guideline on how to select the right resolution, the 3D model you’re analyzing. 3D model Let’s compare the effect of low, medium and high resolution on the same object, in this case, a Formula E car. At low resolution, the global mesh looks quite ok but in areas, with small details like the wheels the mesh is quite rough. Depending on how accurately you want to capture the flow around these details, the mesh resolution needs to increase accordingly. So if you’re interested in the global flow around a smooth object, a low resolution might be enough for a first idea. But if you’re interested in the flow around small details on a large 3D model, you may want to go for a high resolution. Accuracy Next up is the accuracy. Your shape may be simple, like an airfoil, but to accurately analyze lift & drag forces, you still need a high resolution. So if you’re simply interested in learning about the order of magnitude of forces, like the difference between 1 or 10 Newtons of lift, a low resolution might do. But if you’re looking to make more accurate force estimations, to know whether the lift on your airfoil is 6 or 6.5 Newtons, you’ll need a high resolution. Design phase Finally, it also depends on the design phase of your project. If you’re in the very initial phase, you first want to gain basic insights and not spend all your budget on simulations just yet. So a low resolution might be enough to provide you with those first valuable learnings and relative ranking between concepts. But as you progress towards more detailed models with smaller differences, the resolution needs to evolve accordingly. This means you could for example run 10 simulations at low resolution to determine the main design direction during the concept phase, run 5 simulations at medium resolution when you’re detailing a selected number of designs and finish off with 3 simulations at high resolution to tweak the last bits of performance before releasing the design for physical wind tunnel testing or production. So in conclusion, a low resolution might be enough if you’re working on simple, early-stage 3D models and just need a ball-park estimate on the forces and the flow field. But if you’re looking to make accurate force predictions on complex 3D model towards the end of your design process, you’re better off with a high resolution. Last but not least: talk about it. If you’re not sure how to approach things, just get in touch and we’ll see how we can help! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Wouter Remmerie Wouter is the Founder of AirShaper, an online, virtual wind tunnel. With this tool and these videos, we want to make aerodynamics accessible to everyone! Interested in more content like this in the field of aerodynamics? Make sure to click that subscribe button, we post new videos every week! Looking for a way to test your Aerodynamics projects without all the hassle and the huge costs coming with it? Check out https://www.AirShaper.com and see how easy it can be!

Supported by

  • Solar Impulse
  • iMec
  • Voxdale

Code contributions by

  • KU Leuven
  • Inholland
  • Linkoping University