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3D simulation creates a smooth flow in the water industry

21 December 2016

Water industry companies specialising in engineering services, equipment design, and structural work use 3D simulation solutions to deliver innovative, cost effective designs.

3D rendered Solidworks image of a water treatment system from ClearStream Environmental

These solutions provide complete, accurate and unified digital models that can be deployed across planning, equipment design, layout, fabrication, and construction.  The software makes it easy to explore design alternatives using 3D simulation to optimise designs against customer and project objectives. Also, to quickly create photorealistic renderings and fully-detailed fabrication drawings for structural designs, mechanical equipment designs, mechanical systems, electrical cable layouts, and piping systems.

Waste not

Wessex Water, one of the UK's largest water supply companies, used Solidworks 3D CAD software to design wastewater treatment plants.

Wessex Water provides water services to 1.2 million people and sewage services to 2.5 million people over a 10,000km2 region in the Southwest of England. The company adopted Solidworks software to reduce design time and errors and thereby free engineers to explore different design avenues.

One projects used Solidworks to refit an existing sewage treatment plant that passes wastewater through a series of 20,000 membranes. The plant covers 200m2 and involves thousands of components, including an extensive pipe system. Solidworks was used to ensure designs met the utility's standards. They also used design analysis and computational fluid dynamics software applications to analyse fluid flow through the system, to ensure future 3D plant designs were accurate and ready for manufacture. The software also ensured engineers could plan for project water volume, flow, and piping configurations.

Go with the flow

Flow simulation software from Solidworks make it easier and faster to determine the impact of liquid flow during the design phase. The software also includes the ability to import model conditions defined for other projects (such as material properties, heat power, etc.). This can dramatically simplify project definition by creating a library of pre-defined models including conditions.

The software’s transient post-processing mode allows users to explore transient results without waiting for a time moment to load. A simple slider updates results immediately and, it is possible to conduct an optimisation study for more than one input variable because the software can select geometry or simulation parameters as variables. 

US treatment works

US Water Services is the largest independently owned water treatment and service company in Minnesota and the fastest growing water treatment company in the United States. The US Water Engineering and Equipment Division was formed to address increased demand for consulting services related to water treatment equipment development and installation. It works alongside water treatment engineers to design, implement, and program equipment manufactured by US Water. Prior to the establishment of this group, U.S. Water relied on equipment produced by other manufacturers for its treatment systems. According to Drafting Supervisor Travis Brown, designing and manufacturing its own equipment achieves design flexibility, greater innovation potential, and increased revenue opportunities.

Shutterstock image

With Solidworks as its development platform the group produces equipment related to the installation of the company’s four primary product lines - water softening, water filtration, reverse osmosis, and skid-based treatment systems. Using Solidworks design tools, US Water has reduced design cycles for equipment design by 75 percent.

Brown noted it would have taken them four times as long to develop this equipment without Solidworks. SolidWorks helps automate development processes, such as using Solidworks Routing to route piping and flexible tubing systems, and the Design Library of Thousands of parts that’s been created to facilitate design reuse. The software has given them the flexibility and agility to efficiently and cost-effectively operate the Equipment Division.

Taking advantage of 3D design automation tools, the US Water Engineering and Equipment Division enabled the company to capitalise on new business opportunities, growing annual revenue by 80 percent in its second year. 

An important benefit of using Solidworks at US Water is the ability to create photorealistic renderings with PhotoView 360. Brown says they use renderings whenever possible and make sure to include them in the proposals, because they communicate more about what they are capable of doing. 

They still use 2D for electrical drawings and schematics but even with 2D, the move to Solidworks created opportunities. The company downloaded the free DraftSight 2D application from Dassault Systèmes, which let them eliminate costs associated with its 2D drawing package.

Clear winner

Another company, ClearStream Environmental Inc., has grown to become a major player in the development of treatment systems and equipment for water, wastewater, and industrial applications. The company was founded with a philosophy of innovation and a commitment to using 3D design and simulation tools. ClearStream sought to leverage 3D technology to grow its business by exceeding the effectiveness of traditional equipment and by advancing the state of the art in water treatment system design.

The company chose Solidworks solutions, for modelling and simulation, and Solidworks Flow Simulation for computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis software. The firm’s selection was based on ease of use and the provision of an integrated suite of design and simulation tools. After implementing this integrated solution, ClearStream increased sales 100 percent annually for seven consecutive years, boosted water/sludge separation efficiency by 25 percent, delivered systems four to eight weeks faster than competitors, and cut proposal development time from days to hours.

The software enabled ClearStream Environmental to achieve its goals and grow its business, but also to improve on established industry standards. Using the Flow Simulation software, the company demonstrated how historical flow hole sizes and spacing for water sedimentation equipment were inefficient because the industry design standard was based on a flawed equation. The company was also able to challenge some fundamental ideas about sedimentation system design and dramatically boost performance, improving water/sludge separation efficiency by 25 percent. 

Instead of assuming that the commonly accepted practice represented the best approach, the company conducted a detailed simulation using the Flow Simulation to show how the process really worked. This ability to gain a better understanding of the physics involved led to the development of a more efficient system providing huge benefits and a real competitive advantage.

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