Integrated Design

Integrated Design Analysis: Structural, Thermal, and Optical

STOP and Go

How do you keep an electro-optic (EO) sensor in focus when even slight temperature changes of the lenses, mirrors, and support structure in an optical bench can adversely affect image quality? The problem is even more severe in a space environment, where thermal environments are extreme and no final adjustments are permitted if the design is flawed.

The answer is STOP: structural-thermal-optical integrated design analysis. Actually, this is not the answer so much as the goal, since many obstacles lie in the path of truly integrated design evaluation.

Many attempts have been made to achieve this goal. One early approach was to create a single design tool that could do a little optical analysis, a little structural analysis, and a little thermal analysis. “Little” meant that the unique aspects of each engineering discipline were ignored in order to create an all-in-one tool, where as those same aspects are the bread and butter of COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) tools targeted at each discipline. So while the all-in-one approach was useful for preliminary design by systems engineers, it could not be extended into later design phases where the skills of each discipline must be exploited, not oversimplified.

In the late 1990’s, CRTech led a NASA SBIR pathfinder project (“OptiOpt™”) that sought to overcome model translation hurdles between structural, thermal, and optical disciplines while respecting the unique talents and favorite tools of each engineering specialty. In addition to C&R’s Thermal Desktop®, Sigmadyne’s Sigfit® and ORA’s Code V® were therefore included in the software design. Significant successes were achieved, including the first automated STOP optimization using COTS tools (see publications: Integrated Analysis of Thermal/Structural/Optical Systems and Automated Multidisciplinary Optimization of a Space-based Telescope). Some very popular features of today’s Thermal Desktop, including automated mapping to independently-generated structural models and externally commanded parametric manipulations, were first developed as part of that project.

However, the OptiOpt project assumed that each discipline would start from the same CAD model, and then build independent models (the data from which must later be interchanged with other models). There was no centralization of model construction, and no attempt was made to capture the knowledge of each discipline such that it can be exposed to others on the design team. This meant that anything other than minor dimensional changes to the optical bench design had to be propagated manually by the team, and that the ability to intercommunicate design data also needed to be manually re-verified with each change.

A project by the Aerospace Corporation and Comet Solutions (now part of Aras) has made a significant advance in the ideal of integrated STOP analysis. While respecting the unique skills and tools of each discipline (significantly, the same ones used for OptiOpt: Thermal Desktop, Sigfit, and Code V), the Comet software also uniquely enables the ideal of that earlier “all-in-one” modeling environment: centralized model development.

Screenshot of Integrated Thermal, Structural, Optical Analysis Using Comet
Screenshot of Integrated Thermal, Structural, Optical Analysis Using Comet

Aras Comet SPDM allows each discipline to participate in a common CAD environment, marking up a central drawing as needed to guide the generation of thermal, structural, and optical models. The experienced engineer's unique skills and tools are not lost or shoe-horned into a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, the capturing of each disciplines’ methods into the central project means that design changes are readily accommodated. Team-level multidisciplinary design activities are thereby not only enabled, they are encouraged: each discipline can easily explore the ramifications that changes to their subsystem (e.g., materials selection, heater locations, strut sizing) have on the key mission objective: image quality.

The Aerospace team reported over two-fold increase in productivity, and good agreement between test and prediction.


For More Information

Advanced Pipes in FloCAD
Thursday November 14, 9-10am MT (8-9am PT, 11am-noon ET)
This webinar introduces advanced features for FloCAD pipes in addition to working with complex geometry. Complex geometry includes interior fins and surfaces for heat transfer, flow around enclosed objects, annular flow, concentric pipes, and more. FK Locators and TEEs as modeling objects will also be introduced.
Custom Heat Transfer and Pressure Drops
Tuesday November 19, 2-3pm MT (1-2pm PT, 4-5pm ET)
Do you know what the default assumptions are in FloCAD, and whether or not they apply in your situation? Do you know how far you can go past that starting point? The answer: pretty far. There are numerous mechanisms in FloCAD for adjusting factors, scaling uncertainties, and applying different or supplemental correlations. This webinar summarizes the options available to you to customize your flow models to make sure that they apply to each new situation you encounter.
Heat Exchangers: Detailed and System-level
Thursday November 21, 2-3pm MT (1-2pm PT, 4-5pm ET)
This is two webinars in one. The first explains the use and assumptions behind the FloCAD HX system-level modeling object. The second webinar describes detailed-level modeling of complex heat exchanger passages, including application of Compact Heat Exchanger (CHX) methods.
Starting in 2020, we will begin offering Introduction to Thermal Desktop and Introduction to RadCAD as either in-person training or online training, alternating between online and in-person every three months. The training uses lectures and demonstrations to introduce you to basic Thermal Desktop and RadCAD usage. Hands-on tutorials provide practice building models and interpreting results (tutorials are completed by students outside of the online class time).
The next training class will be an online format in January 2020:
  • Introduction to Thermal Desktop (and SINDA) - A three-part series on January 14, 16, and 21 from 9am to 12pm, Mountain time
  • Introduction to RadCAD - January 23 from 9am to 12pm, Mountain time
For up-to-date schedules, fees, and policies, visit our Product Training page. To register for the class above, complete our registration form and select "Online" for the Training Format.
If you are interested in product training for your company based on your schedule, please contact us to obtain a quote for training between 8-12 attendees. We can come to your facility or the lectures can be presented online. Descriptions of the available classes can be found in our course catalog.
To keep up with our training opportunities, take a look at our new Events and Training Calendar.