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Axial flow fans design for automotive cooling

johnson electric

Figure 1.Gabriele Milanese, PhD,
Fluid-dynamic and aeroacoustic eng.

Company profile Johnson Electric
Johnson Electric is a global leader in motion products, control systems and flexible interconnects. It serves a broad range of industries including automotive, building automation and security, business machines, defense and aerospace, food and beverage, home technologies, HVAC, industrial equipment, medical devices, personal care, power equipment and power tools.

Established in 1959, Johnson Electric exports its products to more than 30 countries for use in hundreds of different product applications. Innovation and product design centers are located in Hong Kong, China, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Israel, Japan, UK and USA. Globally, JE employs more than 35,000 employees and subcontract workers in over 23 countries.
Within the Innovation Centers, design teams are organized into engineering centers of competence (ECC) based on specific technology. Johnson Electric Asti focuses on electric fan modules for automotive applications.

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johnson electric

Fig. 2 - 3D CFD : fan rotor mesh

 

Interview with Gabriele Milanese, Johnson Electric Asti,
Advanced engineering team

1. How long have you been using CFD simulation technologies and mathematical modeling in your company?
CFD tools were introduced in the early 90s as a relevant part of our fans design procedure, while we recently started using mathematical models to better exploit simulation results.
In recent years, combining algorithms and methods of these two fields, we are significantly enhancing the fans design process.

2. What was the main reason for introducing these technologies?
The aerodynamic design of fans for automotive applications has to deal with several flow complexities arising both from compact installations constraints and production process characteristics (e.g. plastic molding).
The use of simplified models and of full 3D simulations supports the designer in the control of the flow characteristics of such fans type.

johnson electric

Fig. 3 - 3D CFD : postprocessing on a
fan-stator configuration

3. What kind of products are you using simulation for?
Beside fans design, within the thermofluid-dynamic field, simulations are used to study and define cooling devices for electric motors and electronics.
Simulation tools at JE Asti are widely used also within the structural field and for electric motors design.

4. Why did you decide to introduce mathematical modeling in the design process?
In our design process the use of simplified physical models is a key element for designers to define preliminary geometries: 3D simulations provide valuable information but, being a verification tool in nature, it is not straightforward to use them as a design tool.
We approached then the mathematical modeling world looking for tools allowing the designer to better use information coming from 3D simulations.

5 . How does this affect your design process?
We decided to improve the procedure by introducing different kinds of mathematical tools: Design of Experiments techniques, metamodeling and optimization algorithms support the designer knowledge in the most effective way, making possible to exploit 3D simulations’ information for the development of very effective tools, allowing to build 3D complex models.

6. Are you also thinking about applying mathematical modeling for new products and what expectations do you have?
We are developing flexible techniques thinking about their possible application to other aspects (e.g. aeroacoustics) of the same product as well as to other products.
Considering similarities existing among approaches followed within different design fields we can be confident about the possibility to enhance the design process level as we are doing for fans fluid-dynamics.

johnson electric

Fig.4 - 3D fan design graphical interface

7. What’s the value that EnginSoft can give you?
The valuable competence of the EnginSoft team and their ability to tailor their support to the customer level and needs has made possible an effective interdisciplinary collaboration allowing well-structured and fast progression of the design tools development. In particular, EnginSoft mathematical competences are employed together with best practices using open source frameworks.

8. Could you estimate the return on the investment related to these R&D activities?
I can say, without going in details, that the level of the entire design procedure is being significantly increased. As a consequence, the designer can better control every characteristic of interest with a lower design timing.

The ongoing project with EnginSoft: design process innovation
Axial flow fan design for automotive cooling is a complex task involving fluid-dynamic, aeroacoustic and structural aspects strictly interacting with aspects related to the design of the driving electric motor.
Starting from customer’s technical requests (e.g. airflow rate, pressure rise) and constraints (e.g. available space, power budget, noise level) the fluid-dynamic designer has to define a suitable fan geometry whose main element is its blade.
To obtain the desired performance the designer uses different computational tools allowing to define, analyze and refine global as well as local blade fluid-dynamics.
Relevant design parameters are the rotational speed, shape, stagger angle, length and radial stacking of aerodynamic sections used to define the blade surface.
The traditional approach to this design problem, even involving advanced simulation tools, requires a certain amount of trial and error iterations which can take from several days to weeks, depending on the case complexities. Once defined, a fan geometry is prototyped and then tested.

johnson electric

Fig. 5 - Fan design test : RBF model vs CFD vs Exp.

Design tools at Johnson Electric Asti are in continuous progress; during last years the entire tools suite has been updated integrating self-developed, open source (Scilab) and commercial software (ANSYS, Siemens NX). This work involves several people and external suppliers; to support it with specific mathematical competences and to handle at best open source mathematical code a collaboration with EnginSoft Spa has started.
The aim of the ongoing collaboration with EnginSoft, is to improve the fans design process, now structured in a new and non-standard way, namely coupling 3D CFD simulations with the study of physical phenomena, exploiting very flexible mathematical techniques.
Beside the well-known techniques and algorithms (e.g. DOE, optimization), graphics and innovative mathematical modeling tools have been developed, significantly enhancing the ‘full 3D’ design phase.

The initial results are encouraging. A design test has been carried out on a 460 mm diameter fan with a design speed of 2700 rpm and with multiple working point requirements. The design has been completed within a couple of days obtaining high efficiencies all over the specified working range.
Further steps and related tests are ongoing aimed to build a fully integrated design environment where the designer can drive at the same time all the interacting aspects.

Conclusions
A complete and flexible suite of tools for axial flow fan design is under development, integrating open source and commercial software.
Mathematical modeling is the key to allow the designer to effectively use information gained from 3D simulations.

Besides the ‘traditional’ use of optimization and metamodeling techniques, an effective approach has been developed to help the designer in the fan fluid-dynamic analysis and the subsequent design choices.

Articolo pubblicato sulla Newsletter EnginSoft Anno 12 n°3

Gabriele Milanese
Johnson Electric Asti

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