Computer-aided Engineering (CAE) and Pilot Installations

  • The focus of the research is to produce connecting solutions of different CAE software products. This includes both, the incooperation of in-house tools (such as own design tools in Excel (incl. VBA, VBS), MatLab, python or even older codes or similar) and commercial software solutions (CFD solvers, FEM solvers, containment analyses...) in overall plant optimizations. Thereby e.g., coupling functions to load curves or complete integration solutions into a simulation of the entire plant process are used.

    Practice shows: Especially the interface between the plant process technology and the plant component to be optimized plays an increasingly important role. The connection solutions developed by Fraunhofer UMSICHT enable industrial companies to reduce their use of resources. Based on the customer's ideas and wishes, we build a direct design or even quotation structure for new plant components or retrofits to be developed. Moreover, we do this with the objective of making this possible for unit numbers of one.

  • Despite increasing accuracy: More far-reaching and trustable technology is gained from pilot plant measurements than just based on simulations. At the same time, increasing accuracy and the use of machine learning accelerate both, the process of application-based prediction and the predictive accuracy of simulation models.

    The goal of our research is the development of valid technological solutions and their transfer to industry. To this end, we build simulation models of the test component on the one hand and the associated real test facility on the other. Companies appreciate this approach, because our many years of experience in the construction of research facilities enable us to guarantee a fast and safe commissioning of the facility and thus both fast and high quality (measurement‑) results. 

  • The manufacturing process of a plant component is now simulatively included in the design planning. This concerns manufacturing costs, possible retrofit work and downtimes during a component installation, etc. Thus, the optimization goals today are no longer solely the efficiency of the plant component in operation, but ultimately the operation-dependent and thus individual investment decision of a customer – i.e. a real cost reduction for use in payback calculations. This, of course, also includes efficiency and thus the contribution to a greener future. In order for the European Green Deal to be implemented in our economy and for the concepts developed in the process to be transferred to other markets and countries in the future, these payback periods and the quality of the work results are of course of crucial importance. 

Turbomachinery development


The development of turbomachinery has a long tradition at Fraunhofer UMSICHT. After initial projects with micro gas turbines since 1999, intensive development support for new ORC turbines began in 2005: The development and optimization period extended until 2015 - During this time, 15 ORC pilot plants were set up and successfully send into operation, during a large-scale field test. In the course of further development of these turbomachines, additional competencies in the field of flow simulation and detailed machine design were established. One of the results: The successful spin-off Turbonik with a focus on high-speed micro steam turbines. Another consequence: Flow simulation was able to establish itself at Fraunhofer UMSICHT as the main design and optimization tool for turbomachinery. For example, with an optimization workflow developed in the "CAE and Pilot Installations" group, we installed computer-optimized blades in real turbomachinery plant and validated the calculated benefit.

Today, the "CAE and Pilot Installations" group specializes in the niche area of small, high-speed turbomachinery: The scientists develop both turbine and compressor solutions for various applications. This can begin, for example, as part of a research project and culminate in construction and testing in a pilot plant. Alternatively, however, the development and/or optimization of turbomachinery is also possible in a direct commission. In addition, various test rigs are available for stage investigations: a steam boiler test rig for investigating small steam turbines, a compressor test rig for small high-speed centrifugal compressors, and a turbine test rig for small high-speed air-flow stages. 

Flow simulation and optimization 


Optimizing turbomachinery and designing it for unit numbers of one with as little additional input as possible. Furthermore ensuring a rapid retrofit of an existing stage – these are the objectives of the "CAE and Pilot Installations" group in the area of flow simulation and optimization. In this context, both the further development of the optimization workflow and the FEM play a decisive role.

The experience and knowledge gained from the simulation of complex flows in turbomachinery are also used for the development and optimization of other flow-through components. For example, nozzles in burners are simulated and we optimize the mixing effect between gas and air in the process. 

Plant design and implementation


Within the framework of pilot plant-oriented processing of the subject areas, the "CAE and Pilot Installations" group strives for valid solutions. The construction and successful trial operation of a pilot plant unmistakably confirms the feasibility of a research task and offers our project partners a direct utilization platform in many respects. After completion of development projects, the maturity of a technology is usually only at TRL4 ("Technology validated in lab"). In contrast, we also realize prototype and pilot systems up to the industrially relevant environment and can thus offer you developments from a single source up to TRL7 ("System Prototype demonstration in operational environment").