The project refers to the world of Fluid Power that concerns the generation, modulation and transmission of power using a pressurized fluid. Its market in the world has a turnover of about € 27 billion, divided almost equally among Europe, United States and China. In Europe, approximately 9 bilion in turnover comes from Germany with 32% and Italy ranks second with about 16% (data updated to 2014). This sector is rarely a leading actor of technology and industry media, which prefer to focus on topics that are considered more interesting concerning automotive technology, electronics and information technology. Fluid power (hydraulic in particular) is, instead, a discipline used in many technologies, nowadays it integrates perfectly with electronics and information technology and it is present in many applications, industrial and mobile, including the automotive sector. Many companies working in this sector, after decades of working with the traditional experimental approach, have developed high-performance components that have been successful on the market so far. However, world market is in rapid and continuous evolution and the ability to innovate, to know how to quickly adapt its own product to new applications, to respond to the strong appeal of energy saving (which requires always higher performance) has become essential.
The Trial & Error approach
The traditional design approach of the companies mentioned above is largely based on previous experience coupled with the trial & error method: this involves the realization of numerous experimental prototypes and tests at the test bed that require high times and economic resources for development. In addition, a further critical aspect is often added in this sector: the reduced dimensions and/or the considerable complexity of the components prevent the experimental visualization of the internal phenomena.
This design methodology is no longer competitive but it is difficult for companies to change strategy and integrate other tools for the virtual simulation of the product behavior: the difficulty is due to time and investments required but also to the competence necessary for the comprehension and use of these sophisticated instruments. In recent years the trend of strong growth, combined with the need of higher performances and consequently of use of components of increasing complexity, exponentially increases the need and importance of virtual simulation of systems to allow the companies to remain competitive.
In order to respond to this kind of market need, SmartFluidPower offers a simple tool for modeling and simulation in the Fluid Power world. The proposed solution is a software for the component (or system) virtual analysis that can be easily integrated into the design process and break the loop of the trial & error approach. The objective of this tool is to simplify the analysis and virtual prediction of a product behaviour in its design and optimization phases. Obviously, the experimental tests and the prototypes are not completely eliminated, but drastically reduced thanks to the ability to simulate and predict previously the functionality of the component that is being studied. Furthermore, the virtual simulation allows the access to a greater awareness of everything that happens internally to the product and can greatly reduce the response time to the needs of a constantly changing market.
The innovative character
The innovative character of the idea consists in providing the designer, who generally already has the software CAD (first virtual product prototype for sizing and assemblying of the components), with an additional tool for fluid dynamics simulation and functional verification that allows him to act quickly on the project and modify it already in the early stages. Modelling occurs through the connection of virtual elements (with an image that associates them with the real ones) and the simulation uses customized interfaces: the designer is thus able to independently generate his own virtual product, in parallel and with the same ease with which he realizes his design in the CAD environment.
The great added value of the project is in making the design and validation work faster and more efficient, through a tool that reduces the time and costs dedicated to the experimental setup and in general to the completion of the business process. The diffusion and integration of assisted design and virtual simulation in the daily business is the long-term goal of this project.