Simulation engineering is a tool offering great versatility and potential, which is used in the design, analysis and continuous improvement of all types of productive processes, regardless of their complexity.

This technology is based on the idea of breaking a problem up into a simplified representation of reality, by using a model formed by a set of equations, functions and/or mathematical formulas to predict the behaviour of the different physical-chemical phenomena involved. Due to its prediction capacity, this instrument offers considerable added value to the industry, and it is used to perform virtual testing at an early stage of the product design, which therefore reduces the cost and time required to make changes during the more advanced stages which involve prototypes and material tests.

Illustration 1: The impact of strategic simulation on product profitability (Source: Aberdeen Group).

Based on the understanding that simulation engineering is a scientific methodology, in order to obtain reliable results, this tool must be applied using a rigorous procedure:

  1. Definition of the system, breaking down the problem.
  2. Formulation of the model, simplified representation of reality based on mathematical models.
  3. Verification, comparison and cross-checking of the data obtained in the simulation with real data.
  4. Interpretation and application of the data obtained.
  5. Descriptive documentation of the steps taken.

Nowadays, new disruptive technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), cloud computing and big data provide companies with access to these types of tools, and by being able to work and acquire more data it is possible to develop models which better represent reality.

Simulation engineering can be applied to a wide range of sectors including: aerospace, marine, automotive, biomedical, civil engineering and the energy industry, etc.

In the advent of Industry 4.0, the implementation of digital twins is a technique which is becoming more and more commonplace. By using this tool, all of the pieces of equipment and elements of the production lines can be replicated in a virtual world in which the whole process is simulated. Once the simulation has been validated, it is then possible to use the results which have been obtained in a range of applications.

  • To plan and detect errors in production.
  • To facilitate predictive maintenance.
  • To improve manufacturing time.
  • For structural and product design optimization

As well as increasing operational efficiency, one of the main reasons why these techniques are being used, is to optimize energy given that in many cases the energy costs make up a significant percentage of the final product price. In this respect, increased industrial competitivity has led to energy simulations being performed to:

  • Minimize non-productive energy flow.
  • Highlight the importance of residual heat sources.
  • Ensure energy optimization in production.
  • Improve hygrothermal comfort in the workplace.
  • Design and implement renewable energy generation systems.

Illustration 2: Heat transfer in a fin and tube evaporator through an airflow at 280 K and 20.42m/s (Source: EnergyLab).

Illustration 3: The physical-chemical process which occurred in an anaerobic digester for biogas production (Source: EnergyLab).

Illustration 4: The distribution of temperatures within a factory’s production zone (Source: EnergyLab).

Illustration 5: CFD Simulation of a refrigerated chamber’s air curtains (Source: EnergyLab).

Energy simulation engineering in industry significantly helps to resolve problems, to optimize equipment and likewise reduce the time and cost of projecting, therefore allowing the industry to respond quickly when evaluating new projects and concepts, adapting existing plants, transforming teams and processes, projecting industrial standards, and likewise it favours compliance with environmental standards.

It is also important to mention that renewable energy is playing an increasingly important role in the industry in the generation of electrical and/or thermal energy. Energy simulation engineering is essential in order to enable the factories to develop new renewable energy production equipment and to improve the reliability and performance of the existing systems, thereby accelerating the development processes and enabling renewable technology to be implemented quickly into the industry, which therefore reduces as far as possible the time, costs and other resources which are invested in experimental prototypes.

Therefore energy simulation energy is one of the main axes (Simulation) of industry 4.0, it can increase the productivity of companies and provide them with competitive advantages by reducing the implementation costs and optimizing the energy demand, therefore enabling it to benefit from the rest of the axes which the new industry 4.0 is built around.

 

Eduardo Rodríguez Fernández-Arroyo

Manager of the Sustainable Industry and Building Department

Lucía Poceiro Soliño

Research Technician in the Sustainable Industry and Building Department

Diego Quiñoy Peña

Research Technician in the Sustainable Industry and Building Department