Cross-learning: FLUENT / CFX / STAR-CCM+
Same concept - different approaches!
This page is intended to enhance the learning one CFD software to another by providing similarities and difference in approach. The purpose it to help user's learn new software when he/she is familiar with one, the purpose is not to rate any particular software.
Some definitions specific to STAR-CCM+
Following table is an attempt to draw some similarities and analogies between various names and concepts used in CFD programs. However, there is no distinct boundaries and there are overlaps the way these designations refer to underlying objects and collectors.
|Identifier || STAR-CCM+ ||FLUENT || CFX ||OpenFOAM / ParaView |
|Solvers ||Physics Continua ||Viscous Model || - ||Application |
|Parts ||Mesh Continua || || Zones ||Boundary|
|Regions ||Continua ||Cell Zones, Face Zones || Cell Zones, Face Zones ||Blocks |
|Domains ||Continua ||Cell Zones, Face Zones || Cell Zones, Face Zones ||Blocks |
|Boundaries || ||Cell Zones, Face Zones || Face Zones, Edge Zones ||Boundary|
|Zones || Regions, boundaries || || ||Boundary, Patch|
|Case ||Model ||Case ||Definition ||Folder |
|Scenes || Separate for Geometry, Mesh, Scalar, Vector || Common for Scalar and Vectors, Planes || Common for Scalar and Vectors, Planes || Views and Filters: Render View, Slice View... |
The terms used in this table are building blocks of a simulation which consists of physical space (3D volume designated as domain or region), boundaries of a volume (known as surface regions or face zones), solver types (known as viscous model or continua) and so on. A generic term which can be used for all the objects mentioned in above table is 'collector' which is a collection or group of different physical (nodes, faces...) objects and numerical (turbulence model, material properties ...) objects. Few additional terms used to describe the computational volume are walls, interfaces and contacts.
Excerpts from STAR-CCM+ User Manual: Parts-based meshing is a method for generating surface and volume meshes on geometry parts.
It is different to region-based meshing in that it uses a series of mesh operations to define the process from the initial geometry to the final volume mesh. Having a series of operations allows you to modify the initial geometry and repeat the entire process with no additional
inputs. This makes parts-based meshing particularly suitable for parametric design studies.
Defining the Simulation Topology
Geometry is defined in terms of geometry volume, surfaces, curves and points. The discretized geometry is defined in terms of body points (volumes), faces, edges and nodes / vertices. The collection of these entities are designated as 'parts' in ICEM CFD, zones in "FLUENT", "regions and boundaries" in STAR CCM+ and "Assembly, Primitive 2D, Primitive 3D" in CFX. The computational model to which physics can be applied is defined in terms of regions (domains or zones defined in FLUENT, CFX) and boundaries. Defining the simulation topology is the process of mapping between the geometrical definition of the problem and the computational (or physical) definition.
In STAR CCM+ geometry parts refers to volume which can be assigned to regions, part surfaces can be assigned to boundaries, and part curves can be assigned to objects called feature curves. This mapping is important if all the operations, CAD import till simulation is performed inside STAR CCM+ environment. If mesh is generated out of STAR-CCM+ environment, these operations need to be performed in that application which will also write output file compatible to STAR-CCM+ requirements. For a typical CFD analysis, simple geometries are usually imported in CAD or non-CAD formats (or in more scientific terms, discrete or tessellated formats), while complex geometries usually come in mixed or hybrid formats, containing both CAD and non-CAD parts.
Difference in Descriptions
Note that there is no UNDO option in general. For example, if you delete a part from model tree, you cannot recover by UNDO operation. There are some UNDO and REDO operations though such as surface repair operations. Most of the programs has keyboard short-cuts like famous control-c and control-v in MS-Windows OS. These are sometimes also called hot-keys. A summary of such keyboard features available in STAR-CCM+ are as follows:
- To align with the X-Y plane, press the 'T' key. Remember 'T' as initial of TOP view.
- To align with the Y-Z plane, press the 'F' key. Remember 'F as initial of FRONT view.
- To align with the Z-X plane, press the 'S' key. Remember 'S' as initial of SIDE view.
- To rotate the model about x-axis, press 'x' key. It will rotate 10° for every press of the 'x' key. Same if true for 'y' and'z' keys.
- To fit the view within the Graphics window, press the 'R' key.
- To rotate about the selected point, hold down the left mouse button and drag.
- To zoom in or out, hold down the middle mouse button and drag.
- To translate or pan, hold down the right mouse button and drag.
- To rotate around an axis perpendicular to the screen, press the 'Ctrl' key and hold down the left mouse button while dragging.
- Double click on an edge and it will attempt to create a closed loop.
STAR-CCM+ Tools and Scenes
STAR-CCM+ Geometry Import
You can import a surface or volume mesh from an external file via File > Import > Import surface mesh. During geometry import, a choice of centimeters (cm), feet (ft), inches (in), kilometers (km), meters (m) (default), miles (mi), millimeters (mm), micrometers (um) and yards (yd) is allowed. The selection determines the scale factor that is applied to the import surface to make it conform to SI (meters). For example, selecting millimeters automatically scales the vertices by 0.001. If a unit other than one listed was used for the surface file, select the meters option (equivalent to no scaling). After the import process is complete, you can apply a user-defined scaling factor to scale the mesh.
If a unit other than meters (m) was selected, then the option to Set preferred units for length is available (off by default). This option can be used to set the selected unit as the default for all mesh reference and input values that involve length. Leaving the option off maintains meters as the default unit for length.
Manual Surface Preparation
An imported geometry cab be of poor quality to properly mesh and achieve a useful simulation result. The geometry may be self-intersecting, it may have gaps, there may be free edges or non-manifold vertices. The manual surface preparation tools contained within STAR-CCM+ allow you to:
Two defeature modes [accessed by right-clicking the body] are available in STAR.
- diagnose and locate each surface issue
- delete faces and edges and create new ones
- collapse and smooth vertices
- fill and patch holes
- split and swap edges
- locally zip edges
- locally remesh faces (with or without feature retention)
- isolate connected surfaces and delete them if necessary
- inflate thin shell/baffle surfaces so that they have thickness
- translate a surface
- Automatic mode is applicable to Bodies and automatically defeatures fillets, chamfers and holes based on a user-defined criterion.
- Manual defeature mode is applicable on Faces and is used to delete and heal user-selected faces. From V2020.2 onwards, the feature Delete Interior Faces deletes all faces that exist between the two faces selected by the user.
Surface Repair Tool: This is a utility that allows to directly repair the part surface. It is easy to use and will highlight each error. But in case any geometry upstream isbe changed, one need to redo the repair manually, as it is not a pipelined operation. This utility is a good place to start after importing the geometry as it will show how many errors must be fixed and where they are and what type they are.
Find Similar: This features allows user to select a single body or a topology and find similar topologies within the entire assembly. Users can select and define one topology with a single click and then use the find similar feature to select all similar topologies to work with. Prior to adding the search tool, users had to handpick all the entity and right-click select the defeature option to remove the selected entity.
Fill holes is an operation for preparing a geometry for an internal flow simulation by doing what the name suggests: capping and filling holes in the part. This is possible in 3D-CAD and the surface repair tool, but this operation lets you add it to an automated pipeline. Note there is no Apply button. First select the closed loop (manually or double click on one the edge elements) and then click the fill hole button.
Extract volume pulls an internal volume from a part, typically after Fill Holes or similar operation has been used to cap the openings to prepare the geometry for an internal flow simulation.
One of the most useful operations is that to replace a part. This operation makes swapping out a geometry part repeatable and traceable, unlike manually replacing the part by right clicking it in the tree.
Repairing Features: All feature curves that are required to represent the geometry needs to be correctly identified in the surface mesh. This process identifies feature errors - that is, edges that are features but are not represented as such, and edges that are incorrectly represented as features.
Closing Gaps: Project vertices onto a set of faces to close a gap using "project selected vertices tool".
duplicate faces -- surface repair -- Merge/Imprint: The tool also lets you merge two or more overlapping (co-planar) surfaces or sets of faces. When using Merge/Imprint on a single part, the result is either a common shared surface or no surface at all (that is, the common area is removed). If there are multiple parts, the tool creates part contacts for the shared surface. Similarly, for feature curves belonging to the same parts, the tool can imprint two or more edges onto each other, effectively zipping them together. You can also imprint edges onto faces and imprint faces onto edges, depending on the requirement. No edge options are available when imprinting across multiple parts. In all instances, the faces or edges do not need to belong to a closed surface in order to use the tool.
Automatic repair tool can fix certain global surface problems that relate to bad quality, close proximity and/or intersections (pierced faces) at the push of a button. If you want to fill a large number of holes automatically or zip a large number of edges then you should use the hole filler and edge zipper tools respectively.
To capture the complex and intricate features of the geometry the mesh generation process utilizes contact prevention conditions, volumetric controls and the wrapper scale factor. Wrapped surface is then retriangulated using the surface remesher.
Non-conformal ImprintingDuring the process of non-conformal imprinting, pairs of split surfaces are created on contacting parts without altering the individual parts or creating shared faces. To achieve a non-conformal mesh when imprinting these surfaces, before you imprint the parts, activate Show Advanced Parameters and set Resulting Mesh Type to Non-Conformal. After imprinting the parts, the resultant surfaces are non-conformal, which means that the surface discretization on the imprinted surfaces does not match. Each part remains separate and there is no shared surface between each part. However, the original discretized surfaces are cut and a pair of split part surfaces are created which represent an in-place part contact between the surfaces.
Mesh Generation in STAR-CCM+Excerpts from user manuals and tutorials for STAR-CCM+
There are two meshing approach in STAR: parts-based meshing and region-based meshing. Parts-based meshing approach is recommended, though one need not always follow this approach to generate a mesh. For simple geometry and assemblies consisting of few sub-assemblies, one can import parts, assign parts to regions, then generate mesh at the regions level. However, if while working with assemblies that contain tens or hundreds of parts, parts-based meshing approach is recommended.
There is an option to use Automatic Surface Repair during Surface Remesher operation. This can help repair small errors in the surface, although it is not recommended for multi-volume models. Automatic Surface Repair cannot repair non-manifold edges or vertices or correct free edges.
Excerpts from User Guide: Parts-based meshing detaches the meshing process from physics modeling and provides a flexible and repeatable sequence of mesh operations. The sequence of mesh operations is called the meshing pipeline.
STAR-CCM+ also includes a comprehensive set of surface-repair tools that allow users to interactively enhance the quality of imported or wrapped surfaces, offering the choice of a completely automatic repair, user control, or a combination of both. One of the most important elements of surface repair tool is its diagnostics tool. It offers functionality to identify error prone parts, surfaces and feature edges and provide real time information via the browse tool as you fix them.
Operations – utilities that perform actions on 'Parts', Certain operations such as "extract volume", "surface wrapper" ... create new parts.
Surface wrapping and partial wrapping: In addition to refining the surfaces of parts in the wrap, partial wrapping can be used to exclude selected parts or part surfaces from the wrap operation. Excluded parts from the wrap, the original tessellation of the those parts is passed through to the final wrap surface. Some geometries only require surface wrapping for a portion of their surface. The surface wrapper allows you to exclude part surfaces that you consider sufficiently well tessellated for subsequent mesh operations. In some cases wrapping the whole geometry is unnecessary and can defeature highly detailed part surfaces unless the surface wrapper is excessively refined using custom controls and contact preventions. Select the Geometry > Operations > Surface Wrapper node and activate the "Perform Partial Wrapping".
Per-part meshing feature of "surface wrapping" operation allows multiple disconnected parts to be wrapped separately. The Minimum Size value indicates the triangle size in the space between the two parts, which determines the octree refinement in the area. The value should be set smaller than the gap size (typically one half or one quarter of the distance). It is just a stopping size for the surface wrapper refinement, which results in the two surfaces being separated.
Surface wrapping process steps:
- Global surface wrap at part / component level: Right-click the Geometry > Operations node and select New >> Surface Wrapper. In the Create Surface Wrapper Auto Mesh Operation dialog, select appropriate part/assembly. Expand the Surface Wrapper > Default Controls node and set Base Size, Minimum Surface Size and Volume of Interest.
- Refining the Mesh on Part Curves: To make sure that you capture the detailed features in the surface mesh, apply mesh refinement
to all the part curves. To apply refinement to all part curves: Right-click the Surface Wrapper > Custom Controls node and select Ne>> Curve Control. STAR-CCM+ adds a curve control node within the Custom Controls node.
- Preventing Contact between Close Surfaces: To make sure that these two surfaces do not touch each other in the wrapped surface, apply a contact prevention between the nose and main body. To apply contact prevention: Right-click the Operations > Surface Wrapper > Contact Prevention node and select New > One Group Contact Prevention Set. Contact prevention for small clearances -> One Group Contact Prevention Set / Two Group Contact Prevention Set
- Local refinements neas gaps using "Surface Control"
- Perform "partial wrapping" to capture local features like baffles, channels...[Split surface by patches, Preserved Input Surfaces-> Select "Excluded Surfaces"]
- Creating the Fluid Volume: The fluid simulation requires a volume mesh between the walls of the simulation domain. To create the part that defines the outer surface of the volume mesh, subtract the output of the surface wrapper operation from the bounding box. Right-click the Geometry > Operations node and select New > Subtract. In the Create Subtract Operation dialog, select Bounding Box and Surface Wrapper, then click OK. A Subtract node appears beneath the Operations node, and a Subtract part appears beneath the Parts node.
Contact Prevention When the clearance between two surfaces is less than the target surface size, use a contact prevention to tell the wrapper not to join the two boundaries. The Minimum Size value indicates the triangle size in the space between the two parts, which determines the octree refinement in the area. The value is smaller than the gap size (typically one half or one quarter of the distance). You can still join the surfaces even though a Minimum Size value is set. The Minimum Size value is simply a stopping size for the surface wrapper refinement, which results in the two surfaces being separated. The value also has to be greater than zero.
There are two categories of interfaces in STAR-CCM+ and any interfaces that are created during the simulation setup process are accessible via the Interfaces manager node. The Interfaces node has properties and a pop-up menu.
- between boundary faces: this include contact interfaces between solid and fluid regions, internal interfaces between fluid regions and baffle interfaces representing thin-walled separators. There are two categories for interfaces between boundaries:
- Direct Interface - boundary faces are intersected or imprinted resulting in conformal mesh: Baffle, Porous-baffle, Contact, Fa, Fluid Film, Fully developed, Internal
- Indirect Interface - boundary faces are coupled using mapping or mixing: Mapped Contact, Mixing Plane Interface, Blower Interface
- between region volumes: Interfaces are created between region volumes to set up an overset mesh or to model heat transfer in a dual stream heat exchanger. To create an interface between regions ➛ Select the two regions that define the interface (press and hold the Ctrl key to select the second node) ➛ Right-click and select the Create Interface pop-up menu item, and make a selection from
one of the options in the submenu.
Interface Types determines the behavior of the interface with respect to the modeling of flow and heat transfer. Interfaces can connect individual boundaries (faces) or entire regions (volumes). Following interface types and connectivity are available in STAR-CCM+
Note that "creating an interface" is not same as "converting boundaries to an interface". While "converting boundaries to an interface" single and usually common boundary belonging to a surface mesh is duplicated and then an interface made between the original and the copy for the primary purpose of defining multiple regions for meshing.
|Type ||Connects to ||Topology ||Connectivity |
|Baffle || Boundaries || Direct Interface ||Imprinted |
|Porous Baffle || Boundaries || Direct Interface || Imprinted |
|Contact || Boundaries || Direct Interface || Imprinted |
|Fan || Boundaries || Direct Interface || Imprinted |
|Fluid Film || Boundaries || Direct Interface || Imprinted |
|Fully Developed || Boundaries || Direct Interface || Imprinted |
|Internal || Boundaries || Direct Interface || Imprinted |
|Mapped Contact || Boundaries || Indirect Interface || Mapped |
|Mixing Plane ||Boundaries || Indirect Interface ||Connect Average |
|Blower || Boundaries ||Indirect Interface ||Connect Average |
|Heat Exchanger || Regions ||Heat Exchanger Topology ||Modeled |
|Overset Mesh || Regions || Overset Mesh Topology ||Modeled |
To create an interface between boundaries, select the two boundaries that define the interface. The first boundary selected is termed the master boundary and the second is called the slave boundary.
Imprint is a process of making a common boundary between two volumes. If two square blocks are touching each other, there are two faces, one each belong to each square. When imprint is performed, the one of the common surface is deleted. The imprint operation will result into entity known as 'contacts' in STAR, and may become interfaces when parts are transferred to regions. Four types of contact definition exists: In-place, Weak in-place (meshed non-conformally), Periodic, Baffle. Part-part contacts may be created (a) automatically during geometry import, (b)by imprinting, (c)by tolerance based searching and (d)manually
STAR-CCM+ allows to imprint parts non-conformally. This process is useful when:
- a conformal interface is not necessary to achieve solution accuracy
- there are many contacting parts
- each part is within many pairs
- there are gaps between the CAD parts
STAR-CCM+ Mesh Checker
Mesh Quality Checks in STAR-CCM+
Face quality is a measure of similarity between a face and the ideal face shape which is an equilateral triangle. The surface diagnostics calculate face quality = "in-circle radius / circumcircle radius" x 2. For an equilaterl triangle, in-circle radius * 2 = circum-circle radius. Thus, face quality '0' is degenerate triangle and 1 is the ideal shape. Default value of poor element setting in STAR-CCM+ is 0.01. The other definition in STAR-CCM+ as used in Surface Remesher is that quality of a triangle = the ratio of the triangle face area to the area of an equilateral triangle that would exactly fit inside the circumcircle of the triangle. The default value for surface remesher is 0.05
Dihedral angle of an edge is the angle between its adjacent faces. Edges are considered invalid if they are free or non-manifold as a dihedral angle cannot be calculated for such edges.
Removing Invalid Cells tool allows to remove mesh cells from the volume mesh region definition based on one or more of the following 4 mesh criteria: Face Validity, Cell Quality, Volume Change and Contiguous Cells. STAR-CCM+ moves all the removed cells into a separate region that is not used in the analysis. Symmetry plane boundaries are automatically added to the neighboring cell faces of cells that have been removed, minimizing the impact of these removed areas on the solution. Cells that do not meet the provided criteria are moved into a new region called Cells deleted from [Region] where [Region] is the name of continuum which these deleted cells belong to.
- Polyhedral quality: This value refers to the cell quality of the polyhedral cells.
- Cell face validity: This value refers to the face validity of the cells.
- Cell orthogonality: This value refers to the angle between the normals of two faces in a cell that share an edge. The closer the cell edge angles are to 90 degrees, the more orthogonal the cell is.
- Cell skewness angle: This skewness measure is designed to reflect whether the cells on either side of a face are formed in such a way as to permit diffusion of quantities without these quantities becoming unbounded. The skewness angle the angle between the face area vector (face normal) and the vector
connecting the two cell centroids. Skewness angle = 0 indicates a perfectly orthogonal mesh. Variables that are stored at interior faces in STAR-CCM+ cannot be displayed and hence the worst skewness angle for all the faces of a cell are stored in that cell. Thus, two cells often have the same skewness angle corresponding to the face that they share. To reduce the impact on robustness, avoid skewness angles greater than 85° as reported in the
mesh diagnostics full report.
- Cell Quality: It describes relative geometric distribution of the cell centroids of the face neighbor cells and of the orientation of the cell faces which is specified as 'Orthogonality' in some programs such as ANSYS FLUENT. Generally, flat cells with highly non-orthogonal faces have a low cell quality. A cell with a quality of 1.0 is considered perfect.
- Cell volume ratio: This value refers to the volume change between neighboring cells.
- Boundary Skewness Angle: it is defined as the angle between the area vector and the vector connecting the cell centroid and the boundary face centroid. This angle is important since the dot product of these two vectors appears in a denominator in a component of the equation for diffusive fluxes at a boundary face. In turbulent flows where wall functions are used, the equation for diffusive fluxes at a boundary is not used to compute diffusion fluxes at walls, so boundary face skewness become less important. However, it is important for laminar flows and for heat transfer in solids. To reduce the impact on robustness, avoid boundary skewness angles greater than 85° as reported in the mesh diagnostics full report.
- Face Validity Cell Metric: It is an area-weighted measure of the correctness of the face normals relative to their attached cell centroid. A face validity of 1.0 means that all face normals are correctly pointing away from the cell centroid. Values < 1.0 mean that some of the cell faces have normals pointing inward towards the cell centroid indicating some form of concavity. Values < 0.5 signify a negative volume cell.
- Volume change metric: It describes the ratio of the volume of a cell to that of its largest neighbor. A value of 1.0 indicates that the cell has a volume equal to or higher than its neighbors. A large jump in volume from one cell to another can cause potential inaccuracies and instability in the solvers. Consider cells with a volume change value < 10-5 to be suspect and investigate these cells further.
- pierced faces: A pierced face is one that has one or more edges of another surface cell piercing it.
- close proximity faces (surface folds and overlaps):
- free edges (holes and mismatched edges): Free edges refer to cell faces that are not connected to a neighboring face. free edges can be fixed by using the hole filler, the edge zipper, or the manual fixing tools, depending the nature of the problem. To repair click on the number on the Count list and all the problematic part would appear in pink. Then if it is for example problematic faces (that are overcreated) select them one by one or with ctrl or with the Zone selection tool and delete them. Then you will have to fill the holes you created with this action or the ones made by the software when importing the geometry.
- non-manifold edges: A non-manifold edge refers to a cell face edge that is connected to two (or more) other edges. A non-manifold edge is sometimes valid depending on whether the surface cells causing the problem are supposed to be a part of the geometry or not. For example, consider a geometry that contains a baffle surface that is joined to the exterior surface. This geometry is not a problem as long as the surface is converted to an interface before proceeding with the volume meshing. If the non-manifold edge is not expected, then you can delete the faces that are causing the problem.
- non-manifold vertices: Typically vertices connected to a surface instead of two or more edges.
- holes or leaks: Leaks are not desired because they cause an inversion in the wrapping process, which results in the incorrect volumes being wrapped. Run the leak detection tool to identify less obvious gaps and holes. The hole filler can be used to close any closed loop (both single and multiple loops) planar hole within a surface. The edge zipper can be used to join two mismatched surface edges that are within close proximity to one another, so that a closed surface is formed. Two different tools are available to help close off holes, namely the polygonal patch fill and the hole filler.
The polygonal patch filler is a quick and easy way of closing arbitrary shaped holes which do not have a closed loop definition and/or are not planar. The process literally 'patches' up the surface by creating faces that cover the hole area completely. Having an overlap in the patched surface is perfectly acceptable as the wrapper deals with this overlap automatically.
The hole filler is a more exact method of filling well-defined holes by using a closed loop feature edge definition around the hole.
- missing faces: This refers to open cells where 1 or more faces are missing and elements need to be created to make a valid 3D cell
FiltersSix basic repair filter types (or predicates) available to use are listed below. Filter predicates can be used individually to search for parts or pieces of geometry and/or can be compounded within a filter, using logical operators (AND, OR or PIPE) to provide additional control.
- Part Name: Search for parts based on the presentation name
- Part Surface Name: Search for part surfaces based on the presentation name
- Area: Search for faces/surfaces based on the area
- Volume: Search for closed surfaces based on the volume
- Area/Volume Ratio: Search for closed surfaces based on the area/volume ratio
- Face Count: Search for faces/surfaces based on the face count
Continua: Solver Setting
Excerpts from User Guide: Assigning parts to regions creates a relationship between the meshed part and the physics region where part-level objects (parts, part surfaces, and part curves) are associated to their equivalent region-level objects (regions, boundaries, and feature curves). This action allows STAR-CCM+ to convert the volume mesh to a finite volume representation that the solver can use to obtain a solution. These assignments do not need to be one-to-one. That is, you can assign multiple part-level objects to the same region-level objects.
If Steady State option is selected, Eulerian Multiphase model would not be available. Lagrangian Multiphase gets active only when Liquid or Gas and flow as Coupled or Segregated are selected.