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CFD Design Tool Improves HVAC Design and Cuts Product Development Cycle Time
Meisen Li and LinJie Huang
Delphi Thermal Systems

Reprinted From: CAD/CAM/CAE Technology, 2008 (SP-2172)

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CFD Design Tool Improves HVAC Design and Cuts Product Development Cycle Time
Meisen Li and LinJie Huang
Delphi Thermal Systems

Copyright 2008 SAE International

In an effort to shorten and improve the efficiency of the product design process (PDP), Delphi has developed an application specific CFD design tool that helps design engineers optimize designs prior to prototyping. This new tool enables design engineers to set up an HVAC module, powertrain cooling system, or heat exchanger model for CFD analysis in relatively short time. The ability to evaluate and improve the design of the product at the very early stages of the development cycle greatly reduces the need for design changes late in the process, which are expensive and time-consuming. Besides reducing the design cycle, the new CFD tool has also reduced the model shop and testing expenses for each development project with fewer prototypes. In this paper, a case study for using this tool during the HVAC module development process in early stage is demonstrated.

product design and development. According to the recent record, this CFD tool is the integral part of PDP and has been used for all the production programs at Delphi Thermal System. One of the biggest advantages for this CFD design tool is able to provide design engineers a tool to evaluate their designs in the early phase of the product development cycle. It significantly reduces the need for design changes in the late stage of the process and lead to shorten the product development cycle and make substantial cost savings. Besides reducing the design cycle, the CFD design tool has also reduced the prototype build and test expenses for each development project.


Delphi CFD design tool was built on Flowizard from Fluent, Inc. A customized interface was created using the GUI customization functionality available in Flowizard, as shown in Figure 1. The customization incorporated best practices for CFD modeling from CFD experts and standard product design processes from design engineers for each product. The design tool guides the design engineer step-by-step through the process of analyzing a product or part through an examination of airflow and thermal performance.

In the last fifteen years, Delphi has employed CFD to determine the flow and thermal characteristics of their thermal products and systems. Traditionally, CFD analyses have to be performed by CFD experts during the late stages of the product development process. Unfortunately, this practice provided little benefit and opportunity for design engineers to develop and optimize their thermal product and system design concepts in early PDP(Production Development Process). In an effort to shorten and improve our PDP, We have developed a product-specific CFD design tool aimed for design engineers to analyze their design concepts during the early phase of the product and system development process. This product-specific CFD design tool is very easy to use with minimal CFD knowledge and training. In the last five years, this product-specific CFD design tool has been gaining its popularity from the design engineers. We are able to deploy the tool to most of design engineers at Delphi Thermal Systems to support their

Figure 1 Delphi CFD Design Tool

Product-Specific Customization Since each product has its own best practices for CFD modeling and standard design procedure, the customization was created for each product or part, as shown in Figure 2. This made it possible for design engineers to input the geometry from their latest concept design directly, enter information specific to the design, and do flow and thermal simulations in a very short period of time. The interface limits the entry of design parameters to the range for which the model has been validated, for ensuring its accuracy. To date, interfaces have been created for design engineers to set up an HVAC system, Power-Train-Cooling system, or heat exchanger for analysis in a short time.

Accuracy and Speed Mesh type has a strong effect on mesh count, which can directly affect computational run-time. Two types of meshes, tetrahedral and hexahedra, are available in the CFD design tool. Tetrahedral mesh enables design engineers to mesh complex geometry automatically, but with relatively larger mesh count. Hexahedra mesh with same mesh size can significantly reduce the mesh count, but may fail to mesh most of complex geometries. In our product-specific CFD processes, hexahedra mesh is used wherever are allowed. For instance, the mesh count for a typical HVAC module is about 1.5 millions for tetrahedral only meshes but 1 million with using our HVAC CFD meshing process. In general, smaller mesh size will take longer run-time with higher accuracy. In the design concept phase (early stage) of HVAC module development process, in order to find out main design stream, the requirement for analysis speed has higher priority than prediction accuracy and is critical to the process. In the development phase (later stage of the process), prediction accuracy is getting more important for define design. To meet those needs, design engineers can select a different meshing level from the CFD design tool. For instance, with the priority on speed (larger mesh size), million meshes are typical for HVAC module and the entire solution process would only be hours. With priority on accuracy (smaller mesh size), the mesh count for above case would rise to about 1 million with run-time of about a day on typical window desktop. To ensure the accuracy of the CFD analysis, higher order of scheme is implemented in the tool. Component model and data base One of the difficulties for the design engineer to perform CFD analysis is the selection of component models and the corresponding performance data base. For instance, lets look at heat exchanger modeling. How to model evaporator airside pressure drop and thermal performance? What type of CFD model should be employed? What are the specific performance maps for that evaporator?

Figure 2 Menu for product selection

The customized interface walks the design engineers through the entire product-specific CFD process. After the CAD geometry is imported, the CFD design tool automatically performs the clean-up operation to the geometry required for efficient CFD analysis. The design engineer is then asked to graphically identify key components of the geometry along with the corresponding boundary conditions, as shown in Figure 3. Depending on the specific type of product to be analyzed, the mesh building routine includes guidelines for the type and size of the mesh in different areas of the problem. Throughout the process, a model is created that takes advantage of the best practices developed by CFD experts and design guidelines developed by Delphi product experts.

Figure 3 Best Practice for each product

Figure 4 Menus for component data base

To make those processes seamlessly for the HVAC design engineer, the component models for each product in the tool are developed by component and CFD experts, and cataloged in the tool data base for selection, as shown in Figure 4. CFD Validation Understanding the accuracy and limitation of your CFD analysis is critical to its success. To ensure the accuracy of a given product-specific CFD process, the CFD analyses have to be validated with numerous standard tests. Following is some of the validation results for HVAC module CFD analysis: 1. One of the key specifications for dual-zone HVAC system is left-to-right airflow balance. In Figure 5, the CFD prediction of left-to-right airflow balance is compared with prototype performance test. Good agreement has been found.


One of the basic functions of a HVAC module is to deliver conditioned air with desired flow rate and temperature to specific location in a vehicle compartment to meet occupant thermal comfort. One of the key specifications to meet occupant thermal comfort is HVAC temperature linearity performance during the tempering mode. In the past, the development of HVAC temperature linearity performance was conducted through tests with hardware prototypes in a HVAC test stand. In general, hundreds of test points were required for HVAC temperature linearity development. With the advancements in CFD modeling technology, automashers, and workstations speed, we are able to integrate CFD design tool into HVAC development process. During the early stage of HVAC development process, CFD design tool has been employed to evaluate design concepts. During the HVAC development stage, CFD design tool also allows design engineers to minimize airflow pressure drop, improves temperature mixing in varies modes and temperature door positions for a given HVAC design. Since the analysis can be performed before the prototype is available, it significantly shortens the HVAC development cycle and reduces the prototype cost. In this section, we will illustrate how to employ the CFD design tool for HVAC temperature linearity development. In Figure 7, the HVAC module model used for the case study is shown. Side-Vent Center-Vent







Figure 5 Validation I Airflow balance on left and right 2. In Figure 6, the airflow rate at 9V of blower electronic voltage for a given dual-zone HVAC system has been analyzed and compared with prototype performance test. In the analysis, the fan/scroll was modeled using a fan-curve and was integrated with rest of HVAC system model. Airflow rate of the HVAC system for eleven (11) temperature valve positions, from full cold to full hot, were predicted. The predicted airflow rates for all eleven temperature valve positions were compared with test result. The comparisons were acceptable.
DUAL-ZONE Module Airflow @9V Test Data vs Fan Model-CFD
250 200 150 100 50 0 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%


Figure 7 CFD model for the HVAC case study Design optimization During the HVAC module linearity development process, design engineers are often required to evaluate their design concepts, compare different design proposals, and quantify the effects on performance for the different design variables within a short period of time before having prototypes. The CFD design tool provides design engineers with a tool to virtually test those design concepts within a short time before hardware verification. To illustrate how design engineers use the CFD design tool to support their development during the product development process, lets use HVAC as an example. In

Airflow, CFM

Test Fan Curve-CFD

Temp Valve Opening

Figure 6 Air flow with different temperature valve position at 9V of blower electronic voltage

Figure 7 geometry of a typical HVAC module is shown, where the inlet geometry from the blower and outlet geometry to the ducts have been simplified to reduce the modeling complexity and computational run-time. As one of the temperature linearity specification, minimum temperature difference between center-vent and sidevent outlets (temperature spread), as well as minimum temperature differences between center-vent and rearvent outlets are required. To develop this specific temperature linearity requirement, the width of temperature valve seat plays an important role. In Figure 8, typical temperature valve seat geometry is shown. In general, larger temperature valve seat tends to reduce the temperature differences between rear-vent and center-vent outlets, but will have the negative effect on temperature spread and HVAC airflow pressure drop. To optimize the valve seat dimension for this HVAC module design concept, design engineers can employ CFD design tool to quantitatively compare the effect of valve seat width on both HVAC module linearity performance and air flow pressure drop.

W = 6 mm

Valve seat

W = 10 mm

Figure 8. Geometry of temperature door valve seat for a typical HVAC module

In Figure 9, the temperature distributions at center-vent, side-vent, and rear-vent outlet with three different valve seat widths are shown. As the valve seat width increases, the temperatures of center-vent outlet decrease while the temperature of rear-vent outlet increases which lead to the temperature difference between center-vent and rear-vent outlets decreases. On the other hand, as the valve seat width increases, the temperature difference between center-vent and sidevent increases. In Figure 10, the air flow velocity distribution around the valve seat in the HVAC module is shown. With 20 mm valve seat width, the velocity magnitude is high near the seat. In general, larger valve seat improves the air mixing in the module but also lead to increase air side pressure drop and could potentially increase air-borne noise level in the module. In Figure 11, the air temperature distribution near the valve seat is shown. Due to the valve seat blockage, the hot air zones behind the valve seat increases as the valve seat width increases. As the results, the

W = 15 mm

W = 20 mm

Figure 9 Effect of valve seat dimension on temperature distributions of HVAC modules

Valve seat

Valve seat

W= 6 mm

W= 6 mm

Valve seat

Valve seat

W = 20 mm

W = 20 mm

Figure 10 Air flow velocity distributions near the valve seat temperature difference between the center-vent and side-vent outlets increases as valve seat width increasing.

Figure 11 Temperature distributions near the valve seat hand, the valve seat width has linearly effect on the temperature difference between center-Vent and SideVent outlets. Based on the CFD analysis, 10 mm valve seat width will provide the best compromise.

Temp Difference, C

CenterVent - RearVent CenterVent-SideVent

400 300 Dp (Pa) 200 100

10 15 Valve seat width, mm



Figure 12 Effect of valve seat width on HVAC module outlet temperature difference The effects of valve seat width on the outlet temperature differences are summarized in Figure 12. In the figure, the x coordinate is the valve seat width in mm and the y coordinate is the outlet temperature differences. The results show that the temperature difference between center-Vent and Rear-Vent outlets (blue line) decreases as the valve seat width increases, but much effective with valve seat width less than 10 mm. On the other

10 15 20 Valve seat width (mm)


Figure 13 Effect of valve seat width on HVAC module air flow pressure drop The effect of the valve seat width on HVAC module air pressure drop is shown in Figure 13. The result shows that valve seat width has minimum effect on HVAC module airflow pressure drop.

In this paper, Delphi CFD design tool has been introduced. Since the tool is aimed for non-CFD specialists with product-specific customization and builtin component data base, we are able to integrate it into our product development process with great success. Using the HVAC case study, the benefit of this CFD design tool in the HVAC product development process has been presented. With the CFD design tool and standard CFD process, design engineers can master certain CFD tasks to support their product development process and significantly shorten the product development cycle with substantial cost saving benefit.

5. L. Huang, CFD Technology in Delphi: Moving into st 21 Century, Keynote Speech at Fluent Automotive CFD Summit 2004, June 2004. 6. L. Huang, Delphi Cut Cycle Time Automatically, Automotive Engineering International, July 2005. 7. Fluent Inc., Introduction to Renormalization Group Method and Turbulence Modeling, Fluent Technical Memorandum, TM-107, Jan. 1993.

Dr. Meisen Li Delphi Thermal & Interior 200 Upper Mountain Road Lockport, NY, 14094 Dr. LinJie Huang Delphi Thermal & Interior 200 Upper Mountain Road Lockport, NY, 14094

1. M. Cartwright, L. Huang, HVAC system Design and Optimization Utilizing Computational Fluid Dynamics, 97VTMS-101, VTMS III, April 1997. 2. L. Huang and T. Han, Validation of 3-D Passenger Compartment Hot Soak and Cool-Down Analysis for Virtual Thermal Comfort Engineering, SAE Paper 2002-01-1304, Mar. 2002. 3. A. Farag and L. Huang, CFD Analysis and Validation of Automotive Windshield De-Icing Simulation, SAE Paper 2003-01-1079, Mar. 2002. 4. L. Huang, Application Specific CFD Tool for Design Engineers, Keynote Speech at Fluent Automotive CFD Summit 2002, June 2002.