When the going gets tough, the tough use ANSYS for CFD Meshing

If you do CFD simulations then you know the struggle that is involved in meshing. It is a fine balance of accuracy, speed, and ease of set up. If you have complex geometry, large assemblies, or any difficulty meshing then this blog article is for you.

Why should I spend time making a good mesh?

The mesh is arguably one of the most important parts of any simulation set up. A good mesh can solve significantly faster and provide more accurate results. Conversely, a poor mesh can make the simulation have inaccurate results and be slow to converge or not converge at all. If you have done any simulation then you know that hitting the solve button can feel like rolling the dice if you don’t have a robust meshing tool.

When is it going to matter?

A good mesh is going to matter on a Friday afternoon when you need to get the simulation started before you leave for the weekend because it takes two days to run and you need to deliver results on Monday but you are up against the clock because you have to get to your kid’s soccer game by 5pm and the mesh keeps crashing.

A poor mesh can do more than just reorganizing you’re social agenda. A poor mesh can drastically change results like pressure drop in an internal flow passage or drag over a body. If you go into that meeting on Monday and tell your boss that the new design is going to perform 10% better than the previous design – you need to be confident that the design is 10% better not 10% worse.

What should I do when I need to create a good mesh?

If you’re the poor soul reading this on a Friday afternoon because you are trying to frantically fix you’re mesh so you can get your simulation running before the weekend – I pity you. Continue reading for my proprietary step by step approach titled “How to get you’re CFD mesh back on track!” (Patent pending).

Step 1) Know your tools

ANSYS has been developing its meshing technology since the beginning of time (not really but almost) – it’s no surprise that its meshing algorithms are the best in the business. In ANSYS you have a large number of tools at your disposal, know how to use them.

The first tool in your toolbox is the ANSYS automatic meshing technology. It is able to predictively apply settings for your part to get the most accurate automatic mesh possible. It has gotten so good that the automatic mesh is a great place to start for any preliminary simulations. If you want to get into the details, ANSYS meshing has two main groups of mesh settings – Global Meshing Parameters and Local Meshing Parameters. Global mesh parameters are great for getting a good mesh on the entire model without going into detailed mesh settings for each part.

But when you do have to add detailed meshing settings on a part by part basis then local mesh settings won’t let you down.

Step 2) Know your physics

What is your primary result of interest? Drag? Pressure drop? Max velocity? Stagnation? If you can quantify what you are most interested in then you can work to refine the mesh in that region so as to capture the physics accurately. ANSYS allows you set local sizing parameters on bodies, faces, lines, and regions which allow you to get the most accurate mesh possible but without having to use a fine mesh on the entire part.

Step 3) Know your mesh quality statistics

Mesh quality statistics can be a good way to gauge the health of your mesh. They are not a foolproof method for creating a mesh that will be accurate but you will be able to get an idea of how well it will converge. In ANSYS meshing there is a number of mesh quality statistics at your fingertips. A quick and easy way to check your mesh is to look at the Minimum Orthogonal Quality statistic and make sure it is greater than 0.1 and Maximum Skewness is less than 0.95.

Step 4) Know your uncertainty

Every test, simulation, design, process etc… has uncertainty. The goal of engineering is to reduce that uncertainty. In simulation meshing is always a source of uncertainty but it can be minimized by creating high quality meshes that accurately model the actual physical process. To reduce the uncertainty in meshing we can perform what is called a mesh refinement study. Using the concept of limits we can say that in the limit of the mesh elements getting infinitely small than the results will asymptotically approach the exact solution. In the graph below it can be seen that as the number of elements in the model are increased from 500 – 1.5million the result of interest approached the dotted line which we can assume is close to the exact solution.

By completing a mesh refinement study as shown above you can be confident that the mesh you have created is accurately capturing the physics you are modeling because you can quantify the uncertainty.

If you currently just skip over the meshing part of your CFD analysis thinking that it’s good enough or if your current meshing tool doesn’t give you any more details than just a green check mark or a red X then it’s time dig into the details of meshing and start creating high quality meshes that you can count on.

For more info about advanced meshing techniques in ANSYS – see this PDF presentation that is a compilation of ANSYS training material on the meshing subject.

Advanced Techniques in ANSYS Meshing_Blog

If you still haven’t figured out how to get your mesh to solve and its 5pm on Friday see below*

*Common pitfalls and mistakes for CFD meshing:

  • Choose your turbulence model wisely and make sure your mesh meets the quality metrics for that model.
  • Make sure you don’t have boundary conditions near an area of flow recirculation. If you are getting reverse flows at the boundary then you need to move your boundary conditions further away from the feature that’s causing the flow to swirl in and out of the boundary.