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3D Heat Transfer Modelling

  1. Oct 7, 2011 #1

    I need to model heat transfer in a 3D digital environment. I have very little physics / engineering background so I have no idea what's available or what software / methods are used. I have some background in CAD and general experience in Matlab, but this is going to be a steep learning curve whichever way I look at it.

    I have a dataset of images from a thermal camera, and a set of points from a laser scanner. What I want to do is to build a 3D digital model from those points (fit a surface to them), then (somehow?) use the thermal images to model heat flow from the objects to the horizontal surface, to identify where thermal hotspots appear (radiative transfer?).

    This is a completely new subject area to me but I do have a block of time (3+ months) which I can devote purely to training before I even begin writing (or hopefully just using / adapting) a model. The trouble is that right now I can only find information on specific aspects (e.g. finite element analysis) which is at a much higher level to where I currently am, and no broad overview of general software and techniques. I'm guessing this must be a fairly standard aspect of mechanical engineering but I'm struggling to find what I'm looking for when I don't know exactly what that is.

    Can anyone take some time to explain the basics? Any suggestions or overview would be extremely useful.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 7, 2011 #2
    Are you on your own?
    Within academia?
    within private industry?

    Sounds like you are on your own. Before you go an try buying some expensive, commercial finite elements analysis (FEA) software, you should take a look at free ones...there are quite a few out there. On free FEA program that fairly friendly and versatile is Salome, you may want to look into that one for building your 3D models, meshing, etc. I am not 100% if it comes with solvers or you need to install them separately...maybe if you have a Linux machine at home, you can install http://www.caelinux.com/CMS/", I think that one comes complete with solvers and all.

    That should get you started.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  4. Oct 10, 2011 #3

    I am in academia but not in a physics / engineering department. I don't have a Linux computer but it might be a possibility. Salome looks pretty useful, but it also only seems to work on different Linux distributions.

    I've been looking into FEA and I'm wondering if it's really the right approach? It seems to be best for looking at internal sources of stress on a known structure.

    My problem is that I have a structure and I need to see how its surface heats up under external energy (sunlight) - eg where the hotspots appear and how these radiate to the surrounding area. I guess it's combining ray-tracing with heat transfer. Do you know of anything that might work?

    Also, is there any software that can create 3D models from thermal camera outputs? It seems unlikely but I'm still looking.

    There is a possibility of spending some time (up to three or four months) writing my own model from existing open source software, but my programming / engineering skills are fairly basic, so I seriously doubt my ability to do more than just tweak something. I have two years to complete the project, but I need even a basic output within 4-6 months.

    I'll keep looking!
  5. Oct 10, 2011 #4
    Academia? On which side? Student? Professor?

    I am sure there are plenty of Linux machines somewhere on campus; you should be able to get an account, user id and be able to login, etc.

    Universities often get free licenses to commercial software, ask around, you may already have access to 3D modeling programs like Pro-E or NX and FEA programs like ANSYS or something.

    What's the purpose of your project? To learn 3D modeling? To learn FEA? Because if the purpose is to get those results that you are looking for, maybe it does not have to be you who does the 3D/FEA part.

    Can you recruit a student from the mechanical engineering department who already knows 3D modeling (Pro-E or NX) and FEA (ANSYS ).
  6. Oct 10, 2011 #5
    I'm a PhD student so it's unlikely that I'll be able to persuade anyone to do my modelling for me. The main objective is just to see if 3D heat transfer modelling is viable for my field (forestry). The main thing for me is trying to understand the different types of models available before I start asking around different departments to see if they have specific software. At the moment, it seems that what I'm looking for is somewhere in the middle of FEA and ray-tracing. I need to model incoming radiation sources on a surface AND find out how that surface changes and re-emits that heat -- where the heat goes, basically. I'm trying to get access to Linux but it could take a while. The modelling itself will be pretty simple, so I have time now to try and make sure I really am following the best approach. All these FEA packages look like very steep learning curves for a non-engineer, so I don't want to learn to use a particular software only to find it can't do exactly what I need it to.
  7. Oct 10, 2011 #6
    Well, that is tough and I don't quite what to tell you...

    Sure, FEA may be over your head, but you will need to learn enough of its capabilities and how it works to be able to tell whether it would benefit your project/field/application or not.

    The thing is that many great innovations come from people who have had inter-disciplinary training and/or from teams where people from different disciplines get together and help each other, etc.

    So, you are correct, you may need to start presenting your problem to different kinds of people and see which ones think their technique could do something for you..and, then, go learn that technique yourself...because you know your stuff better than anyone and what exactly it is that you would like to do with it.
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