Computer Modelling - An Introduction

Topics Covered


Finite Element Analysis (FEA)

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)

Application Specific Methods

Advantages of Computer Modelling


With the development of technology for computers and the software that runs on them, programs which simulate processes have become more accessible and hence, applied to a greater number of applications.  Most of the developments in mathematical simulations are in the automotive and aerospace industries. However, the use of these techniques in other industries is becoming more widespread with the advent of commercial software which can be run on a PC. Standard generic approaches have been developed which can be applied to a wide variety of problems.

Finite Element Analysis (FEA)

The main techniques can be differentiated by what they are trying to achieve. Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is used to perform structural solid engineering type problems. Examples of the use of this technique are:

         Crumple zones in cars during collisions

         Effectiveness of rubber seals on doors

         Plastic forming of sheet metals

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)

While FEA has also been traditionally used to solve basic thermal problems, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) can be used for more complex problems. Such problems might involve very fluid or gaseous materials. Typical examples of the use of CFD include:

         Temperatures inside a boiler subject to turbulent gases

         Injection moulding of plastics

         Glass flow in melting tanks

As computing power increases still further, these techniques are moving closer together. For example forging and plastic extrusion are similar problems, but FEA deals with the stiffer material in forging, and CFD the less stiff plastic.

Application Specific Methods

Specific applications can be written for particular simulations. For example mass/heat transfer problems can be simplified without resorting to powerful FEA or CFD programs. An example of this is in the ceramics industry where it can be used to predict the temperatures and gas flows through a tunnel kiln (figure 1). These calculation would be based on variables such as flame gas, injection cooling, bypass gases, kiln lining and kiln cars. This modelling approach gives a fundamental understanding of the way in which the gas interacts with the rest of the kiln. As the application is specific the runtime is much quicker than FEA or CFD codes.


Figure 1. Schematic of a tunnel kiln (above) and temperature profile for a similar kiln (below).

Advantages of Computer Modelling

Modelling a process has the following benefits:

         Predictive rather than reactive approach to design

         More insight into a process

         Eliminate expensive and time consuming prototype development

         Confidence in radical design approaches

         Reduce manufacturing defects

         Shorten the time required to bring products to market


Primary author: Ceram Research Ltd


For more information on this source please visit Ceram Research Ltd.



  1. Habib Julio Habib Julio Colombia says:

    My name is Habib Julio. I'm a student of mechanical engineering at "Universidad del Atlántico", located in Barranquilla, Colombia.. I'm working on my final project to get graduated. I was checking a presentation of yours on interenet, named "energy saving strategy for tunnel & shuttle kilns sanitary ware" I would like to know if you can help me with my project, I mean, if there is any available information about kiln tunnels you can give me, it would be grate. I'm looking for related information. It is hard to find it, so I'm asking you some help.

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