Water treatment plants are taking advantage of advanced fluid flow simulations to reveal hidden operational improvements

Written by: Eureka! | Published:

Wessex Water is one of the UK's largest water supply companies and provides water services to 1.2 million people. While it's work is often taken for granted it is also responsible for providing ongoing sewage services to 2.5 million people over a 10,000km2 region in the Southwest of England.

A recent project by the company saw engineers refit an existing sewage treatment plant that uses a series of 20,000 membranes to filter water and remove impurities. The plant has a relatively large footprint of around 200m2 and the project involves the design and procurement of thousands of components and extensive pipe systems.

Go with the Flow

Solidworks is used for design analysis and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to analyse fluid flow through the plant’s systems to ensure the design was accurate and ready for manufacture. The software also ensured engineers could plan for various water volumes, flows, and piping configurations.

Flow simulation software from Solidworks made it easier, and faster, to determine the impact of liquid flow throughout the plant, calculating a variety of parameters that could be optimised much earlier in the design phase, and before anything physical was ever conceived.

The software includes the ability to import model conditions defined for other parts of the project, such as material properties, to dramatically simplify the overall project definition by creating a library of pre-defined models and conditions. In addition, the software’s transient post-processing mode allowed users to instantly explore transient results using a simple slider. It also means that it is possible to conduct an optimisation study for more than one input variable because the software can select geometry or simulation parameters as variables.

Treatment Works

Solidworks fluid flow simulation software has not just been successfully applied to water works here in the UK, US Water Services is the largest independently owned water treatment and service company in Minnesota, and the fastest growing water treatment company in the US. Its Engineering and Equipment division was formed to address the increasing demand for consulting services related to developing water treatment equipment and its installation, and works alongside water treatment engineers to design and implement equipment to be manufactured and installed by US Water.

Prior to the establishment of the group, US Water relied on equipment produced by other manufacturers for its treatment systems. However, by designing and manufacturing its own equipment, it found improvements to part flexibility, innovation, and has even increased the utility’s revenue opportunities.

Using Solidworks as its development platform, the company has reportedly reduced design cycles by 75% across all four of its primary product lines: water softening, water filtration, reverse osmosis, and skid-based treatment systems.

"Solidworks helps us automate development processes, such as using Solidworks Routing to route piping and flexible tubing systems," says US Water drafting supervisor, Travis Brown. "The Design Library now consists of thousands of parts that we’ve created to facilitate design reuse. The software has given us the flexibility and agility to efficiently and cost-effectively operate the Equipment Division."

An important benefit of using the software is the ability to create photorealistic renderings with PhotoView 360.

"We use renderings whenever we can," adds Brown. "We also make sure we include them in our proposals because they communicate so much more about what we are capable of doing than a 2D drawing.

"We still use 2D for our electrical drawings and schematics, but even with 2D [there are] opportunities. We also downloaded the free DraftSight 2D application from Dassault Systèmes, which let us eliminate costs associated with our 2D drawing package."

Clear Winner

Another company, ClearStream Environmental, has also grown to become a major player in the development of treatment systems and equipment for water, wastewater, and industrial applications. The company was founded with a philosophy of innovation and a commitment to using 3D design and simulation tools.

ClearStream sought to leverage 3D design and simulation software to grow its business by improving traditional equipment and water treatment system design. The company is a heavy user of modelling and simulation, and uses Solidworks Flow Simulation for CFD analysis.

The firm’s selection was based on ease of use and the provision of an integrated suite of both design and simulation tools. After implementing this integrated solution, ClearStream increased sales 100% annually for seven consecutive years, and boosted water/sludge separation efficiency by 25%, while delivering systems four to eight weeks faster than competitors. It also helped the team cut proposal development time from days to hours.

Design and simulation software has no doubt enabled ClearStream Environmental to achieve its goals and grow its business, but it has also lead to it improving the industry’s established standards. Using Solidworks Flow Simulation software, the company demonstrated how historical flow hole sizes and spacing for water sedimentation equipment was inefficient. It found the industry defined standard design was based on a flawed equation. Through simulation, the company was able to challenge some fundamental ideas about sedimentation system design and dramatically boost performance.

Instead of assuming accepted practice that represented the best approach, the company conducted a detailed simulation to show how the process really worked. This ability to gain a better understanding of the physics involved led to the development of a more efficient system providing huge benefits and a real competitive advantage.

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