To Infinity and Beyond – A New Era of Space Exploration and the CAE Software to Get Us There

There’s nothing quite like rocket science, is there? It’s as fascinating as it is complicated. It’s not enough to just get a design right anymore – you have to get it right on the first go-around or very soon thereafter. Enter AxSTREAM.SPACE and all the functionality upgrades introduced in 2021.

AxSTREAM.SPACE was created by experienced mechanical and turbomachinery engineers to level the playing field when it comes to turbomachine-based liquid rocket engine design. By giving propulsion and system engineers a comprehensive tool that can connect with other proprietary or commercial software packages, the sky is, in fact, not the limit for innovation. It covers everything from flow path aerodynamic and hydrodynamic design to rotor dynamics, secondary flow/thermal network simulation, and system power balance calculations. This year, we are proud to unveil some new features that enhance each of these capabilities, which were developed at the request of our customers.

 

AxSTREAM SPACE - CAE
AxSTREAM.SPACE Software bundle

Power Balance

A critical part of any rocket engine development, as pointed out in a NASA blog, is engine power balance, also known as thermodynamic cycle simulation. AxCYCLE, SoftInWay’s own thermodynamic cycle solver that has been widely used in power generation and aviation is now helping companies build rocket engines from scratch, as well as expand their engine lineup based on an existing system. There are some goodies, however, which make it the perfect tool for power balance, and an asset of AxSTREAM.SPACE.

One of the first upgrades in AxCYCLE for rocket engine design was the integration with NASA’s Chemical Equilibrium with Applications, or CEA, tool. Considered the gold standard when it comes to incorporating accurate chemical properties in your working fluid, CEA was developed by NASA and is widely used throughout the industry, so it makes sense that we’d incorporate it into AxCYCLE for your convenience. Another new feature is the incorporation of burners for rocket engines specifically, and these were validated against NASA’s CEA tool as well.

Read More

Willis Carrier, Air Conditioning, and His Contribution to Mechanical Engineering and HVAC Systems

Welcome to this special edition of the SoftInWay blog! While we at SoftInWay are known for helpful articles about designing various machines, retrofitting, and rotor dynamics, we believe it is also important to examine the lives of some of the men and women behind these great machines.

Commonly listed among the greatest mechanical engineering inventions of the 20th Century, the air conditioning system has gone from basic use in refrigeration to a staple of living in many countries. Locales that were previously borderline uninhabitable for people sensitive to heat or poorer air quality, became available, thanks to this device that could be installed in homes and businesses. But who invented the air conditioning system?

A portrait photograph of Willis Carrier in 1915

Willis Haviland Carrier (1876-1950) was born on November 26th, 1876 in Angola, a small town in Upstate New York just outside of Buffalo. Carrier was the inventor of modern air conditioning as we know it. While other forms of air conditioning had been around for millennia, what Carrier invented was utterly life-changing for those who were able to use it, and work/live in air-conditioned environments.  His work has been so influential on modern HVAC engineering and the world in general, that his legacy company has a website in his honor.

Read More

Combined Cycles – A Brief History and Evolution of Cycles

Combined power cycles are a common source of energy, since they offer higher energy efficiency while also making use of common technology. The idea of combining two different heat-engine cycles, however, has been around longer than you think. Today’s blog is going to cover the basics of combined cycle power plants, and their history of how they went from experiments to one of the most common sources of energy in the United States, for example. But how did this come to be, and what really is a combined cycle?

An animated exterior of a combined cycle power plant, image courtesy of General Electric
An animated exterior of a combined cycle power plant, image courtesy of General Electric

Basics

At its most basic form, a combined cycle is the synthesis of two independent cycles into one, which allows them to transfer thermal energy into mechanical energy, or work. On land, this is typically seen in power-generation, so the heat of these two cycles makes electricity. At sea, many ships operate using combined power cycles, but instead of just electricity, the mechanical energy is put to work by propelling the ship as well as providing onboard power.

Read More

The Lovable Underdog of Turbomachinery

Everyone knows that APUs need love too…..

For Valentine’s Day, we want to look at an underdog of turbomachinery. A machine that is often overlooked, and not really in the limelight the way some of its larger cousins are, nor is it given the trendy position of being the “technology of the future” like its smaller cousins. Without this technology, airplanes would be entirely reliant on external power plants to maintain an electric power supply on the ground, and to start the main engines. So, what is this underappreciated machine?

APU plane
Okay one last hint – you can see its exhaust port.

If you haven’t been able to guess it, our Valentine this year is the aircraft auxiliary power unit, or APU for short. Although these are not present on all aircraft, they are typically used in larger airplanes such as commercial airliners. This allows aircraft to rely less on ground services when the main engines are not running. As a result, less equipment, manpower, and time are required to keep the plane in standby mode, and the aircraft can also service airports with less available resources in remote locations.

Where this Underdog Started

The aircraft auxiliary power unit can be traced back to the First World War, as they were used to provide electric power onboard airships and zeppelins. In the Second World War, American bombers and cargo aircraft had these systems as well. APUs were small piston engines, as the gas turbine had yet to be developed. These engines were typically V-twin or flat configuration engines, similar to what you might find on a motorcycle, and they were called putt-putts. These two-stroke engines usually put out less than 10-horsepower, but that was all that was required to provide DC power during low-level flight.

Read More

Hans von Ohain – The Other Father of Jet Engines and the Gas Turbine

The question of who invented the jet engine is often met with two different answers, and neither is really wrong. In fact, we posed this question on our LinkedIn page, and got the same mixed results seen elsewhere.  Both Sir Frank Whittle and Hans von Ohain were responsible for inventing the turbojet engine at the same time. While Dr. von Ohain knew of Sir Frank’s work, he did not draw information from, while Sir Frank was unaware that anyone else was designing a turbojet engine.  While we’ve covered Sir Frank Whittle before, today we’ll be looking at the life of Hans von Ohain, his invention of the turbojet, and his contributions to turbomachinery engineering.

Dr. Hans von Ohain
Dr. Hans von Ohain

Dr. Hans Joachim Pabst von Ohain was born on December 14, 1911 in Dessau, Germany. He went to school at the University of Göttingen where he received his PhD in Physics and Aerodynamics in 1935. During his studies and following his graduation, he was captivated by  aviation and airplane propulsion, with a specific interest in developing an aircraft that did not rely on a piston-driven propeller. According to the National Aviation Hall of Fame, he “conceived the idea for jet propulsion in 1933 when he realized that the great noise and vibrations of the propeller piston engines seemed to destroy the smoothness and steadiness of flying”. (1) Read More

2020 – The Most Challenging Year in Recent Memory Comes to a Close Pt. 2

Part 1

Turbomachinery, Humanized

The SoftInWay turbomachinery blog is known for its technical breakdowns and explanations of mechanical engineering theory and practices, as well as introductions to things like rotor dynamics. This year however, the marketing team also wanted to cover some of the individuals behind the advances in turbomachinery and engineering by looking at figures like Sir Frank Whittle and Sir Charles Parsons among others.

We looked at the big picture, and why the developments of the steam and gas turbines were so crucial to mankind. In addition to the revolutionary changes in global transportation brought about by jet engines and steam turbines, we also examined the turbocharger, which has become a game changer in the automotive industry as automakers are locked in a race to improve engine performance and fuel economy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. After all, why learn the theories of mechanical engineering if not to make advances in science, technology, and society overall? Read More

2020 – The Most Challenging Year in Recent Memory Comes to a Close Pt. 1

Part 2

We’ve done it! We have reached the finish-line for 2020, and by golly did it not come soon enough. Here at SoftInWay, the trials and tribulations brought on by the events of 2020 were felt, but thanks to the support of our partners, friends and customers, we were able to close out the year strong. So what did SoftInWay do this year?

Siemens Partnership

Siemens Partnership

Right at the beginning of 2020, SoftInWay, Inc. officially entered a new partnership with Siemens Digital Industries. As SoftInWay has reigned as the turbomachinery master, we realize that turbomachinery component and system design is often part of a much greater system. As deadlines on projects become tighter, and project budgets decrease in the face of rising expenses, it has become more important than ever to have a streamlined workflow and toolset. Enter the SoftInWay/Siemens partnership. Thanks to this new enterprise, SoftInWay offers joint software solutions to mechanical engineering and turbomachinery companies. Industry standard tools like STAR-CCM+, Simcenter 3D, and NX CAD are now offered alongside the AxSTREAM platform. These gold-standard tools cover everything from component preliminary design to advanced heat transfer analysis, finite-element analysis, and CFD analysis, with results generated in a matter of hours. Read More

Notable Military Jet Engines

As a special tribute this Veterans Day, we decided to have a look at some of the most notable engines that have been used to propel military vehicles throughout history.

PW F135

Kicking off our list is the Pratt & Whitney 135 turbofan engine. The pride and joy of Pratt & Whitney’s military engine lineup, the 135 powers the US Military’s F35 Lightning II. Presently, two variants of the F135 are used in several different variants of the F35, although it should be noted that the F135 was developed specifically for the F35. The 3 engine variants are known as the F135-PW-100, the F135-PW-600, and the F135-PW-400, each for a different application of the F35. The 100 variant is used in the conventional take off and landing F35A, the 600 is used in the F135B for short take off and vertical landing F35B, and the 400 uses salt corrosion-resistant materials for the Naval variant F35C.

A Lockheed Martin F35A in fight, and an F35C taking off from the USS Abraham Lincoln

The F135 is capable of 28,000 lbf of thrust with the afterburner capability pushing thrust all the way to a whopping 43,000 lbf of thrust, making the Lightning II a supersonic STOVL aircraft suited to a wide variety of applications, as seen in the above illustrations. At the heart of the Pratt F135 are 3 fan stages, 6 compressor stages, and 3 turbine stages. In the STOVL variant, the F135-600 uses the same core components, but is also coupled to a drive shaft which connects the engine to the lift fans which were originally developed by Rolls-Royce, and give the Lightning the ability to hover, perform short distance takeoffs, and vertical landings.

A Royal Air Force RAF F35B Lightning II performing a vertical landing on a Royal Navy carrier.
A Royal Air Force RAF F35B Lightning II performing a vertical landing on a Royal Navy carrier.

The F35 by Pratt & Whitney and in turn the F35 Lightning II by Lockheed Martin represent the cutting edge in military aviation, and are the centerpieces of Pratt and Lockheed respectively. The Lightning variants and this line of turbofan engines will be in service with several branches of the US military and its allies around the world for the foreseeable future, with more iterations of the F135 to come. Read More

The Top 5 Coolest Turbomachinery Inventions (According to Us!)

As the leading authority on turbomachinery design, redesign, analysis, and optimization, we work with a wide range of machines from small water pumps and blowers to massive steam turbines, jet engines, and liquid rocket engines. While all of these machines have a certain “cool factor” to them since, after all, we’ve proven they make the world go round; some machines take coolness to the next level. Today, we’re taking a look at 5 of the coolest specific turbomachinery inventions, according to us.

Number 5 – The Arabelle Turbines

Starting with number 5, we have a pair of steam turbines, each known as “Arabelle”. You may be asking yourself “So what, steam turbines are everywhere.” You would be right, but these two have a bit of a size advantage. In fact, they’re the largest steam turbines in the world.

Designed and built by General Electric in France, these turbines are, according to GE, “longer than an Airbus 380 and taller than the average man. A pair of them, each capable of producing 1770 megawatts, is now set to cross the English Channel to provide energy for generations” (1).

They’ll be installed in a new nuclear power plant known as Hinkley Point C in Somerset. Their 1.7 gigawatt output will be enough to power 6 million homes, which is 7% of the UK’s power consumption. (1) The output and sheer size of the turbines aren’t the only large number either, the project costs nearly 24 billion US dollars.

A CAD model of the Arabelle steam turbines, image courtesy of General Electric.
A CAD model of the Arabelle steam turbines, image courtesy of General Electric.

The sheer size and performance figures have earned GE a place on our list of top 5 cool turbomachines!

Number 4 – The Garrett 3571VA Variable Geometry Turbocharger

This is one only gearheads and diesel-fans may recognize, but even then, it’s an obscure one. This Garrett turbocharger was a game changer for diesel engines used in light and medium duty trucks, specifically the Navistar International VT365, also known as the Ford 6.0 Liter Powerstroke engine. Read More

Turbomachinery in Racing

While Formula racing is well known for its use of standardized turbocharged V6 engines in all races, they’re certainly not the only races where turbocharged engines are used; and in some cases, the vehicle isn’t even a car! Today’s blog is going to look at turbomachinery in racing, starting with the origin of their usage, and looking at some of the different applications where these machines are found.

As we covered in recent blog, turbocharging has been around since the turn of the 20th century, however its applications was limited for a time to heavy-duty marine applications; high-end cars and trucking; and military aviation. By the 1950’s that had changed thanks to Cummins’ entry in the Indy 500, with their advanced turbodiesel engine raising eyebrows until it catastrophically failed. The point was made though, as Indy banned turbodiesels from the races going forward.  Current IndyCar engine specs call for a 2.2 liter V6 engine that is twin-turbocharged with a fixed boost level. These engines can crank out an astonishing 700 horsepower at full chat, which is around 12,000 RPM. If you’re curious about just how Honda is getting this supercar levels of horsepower out of such an engine, I definitely recommend having a look at the magnificent explanation done by Jason Fenske from Engineering Explained.

On the left #28, the Cummins Diesel special which had the famed turbodiesel engine, and on the right, the 2.2L Honda IndyCar engine. Images courtesy of Truck Trend and Engineering Explained respectively.

We’ll circle back to turbocharged road racing in a moment, but let’s talk about jet engines and the H1, first. Started in 1946, H1 Unlimited is a racing league where teams compete using hydroplanes (not to be confused with the extremely dangerous condition that occurs on wet roads). These hydroplanes rely on lift as opposed to their buoyancy to maintain high speeds and maneuverability. After World War II, the surplus of aircraft engines like the famed Rolls-Royce Merlin V12, discussed in an earlier blog, found their way into these high speed watercraft.

The Lycoming T55 turboshaft engine, powering everything from Chinooks, to race boats. Left image courtesy of Mr. Z-man

In modern times however, H1 Unlimited has now standardized the engines used in competing hydroplanes, and all craft must now use the Lycoming T55 turboshaft engine, which was originally used in the famed Boeing CH47 Chinook helicopter.

Read More