Engineering design research putting the brakes on turbulence

University of Huddersfield

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Experimental study of the optimal flow of fluid through engineering systems by the University of Huddersfield has transformed braking technology and increased global market sales for their industrial partner. Weir Valves and Control Ltd enjoyed a 75 per cent saving in design lead time and an 1800 per cent increase in annual sales.

Ensuring optimal flow of fluid through engineering systems such as brakes is vital to quality performance, especially in minimising undesirable vibrations.

During an initial collaboration with Bentley Motors, research at the University of Huddersfield on brake discs led to a set of design equations which correlated the characteristics of fluid flow with the component’s geometry. These equations were used to establish an inverse design code which led to many different applications for engineering.

Engineering company Weir Valve and Control Ltd set up a three year Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Huddersfield’s research team, funded by the Technology Strategy Board (now InnovateUK) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, to upgrade their control valve products used within the gas and oil industry.

The Huddersfield team’s inverse design methodology was incorporated into the company’s X-Stream valve trim as the ‘first valve of its kind to provide complete 3D-flow control’.   This design approach employed both proven computational fluid dynamics and flow visualisation techniques to solve some of the technical challenges that can affect these components, including localised excessive turbulence and velocity, the main causes of noise and erosion problems.

This success has led to other benefits for both the University and their industrial partner. In the past two years, four graduates have been employed by the company as full-time engineers and every year Weir employs two placement students. They are now working on extending their collaboration via another Knowledge Transfer Partnership to focus on extending the work to design wear-resistive valves for the oil and gas industry.

The researchers’ expertise is being sought elsewhere in the industry. Two PhD studentships are sponsored by Blackhall Engineering Ltd, West Yorkshire, to embed the team’s knowledge into the company’s design and development activities and optimise their engineering products.

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