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eResearch Intern Showcase 2011

Generation of Nonwoven Filter

Geometry for CFD Simulation of
Oil Mist Filters
Robert Howie, Curtin University
Dr Andrew King, Fluid Dynamics Research Group, Curtin University
Dr Ben Mullins, Fluid Dynamics Research Group, Curtin University;
Atmospheric Environment Research Centre, Griffith University
eResearch Intern Showcase 2011

The Need for CFD Simulation of Oil Mist Filters

Oil mist filters are used to remove aerosolized oil droplets from gas

(Edwards High Vacuum International 2004) (LEADWELL 2009)

Currently new designs are developed by trial and error.

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulation would allow faster

development bringing improved performance and lower design costs.
eResearch Intern Showcase 2011

The Need for CFD Simulation of Oil Mist Filters

Diagram of an Oil Mist Filter Oil Mist Filter Media Cartridge

(Donaldson Torit 2010) (Donaldson Torit 2010)
eResearch Intern Showcase 2011

The Problem

Simulating oil mists using the standard CFD solvers is infeasible due to
the micrometer cell size required.

This was the impetus for the development of a hybrid particle and volume
of fluid solver [1]

Up to this point the hybrid solver had only been tested on simple

More realistic filter geometry was required to analyse the behaviour and
compare it to theoretical and experimental results.
eResearch Intern Showcase 2011

Project Goals

The objective of the project was to develop a method of creating more

realistic nonwoven filter geometries that could be used for developing and
testing the hybrid solver.

The filter geometries had to be more realistic but not perfect. The long
term goal for the hybrid solver is testing on 3D scans from real filter

(Mullins, B 2004)
eResearch Intern Showcase 2011

Solution Features

Required features:
• Output in a format that snappyHexMesh can read (.stl)
• Provide a way of controlling the solidity (alpha)
• Provide control of the fibre diameter

Beneficial features:
• Fibre diameter distributions
• Control over the fibre orientations

Extra features:
• Curved fibres
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Approach – Platform Selection

We chose to extend Blender 2.5 to take advantage its:

• Interface, 3D view, rendering capabilities
• Import and export capabilities (including .stl)
• Mesh manipulation tools
• Python scripting API [2]
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Trial of the Soft Body Approach

We decided to build up a web of fibres using the physics engine built into
Blender in an attempt to replicate the manufacturing process of
nonwoven media.

This method was too computationally expensive

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First Approach – Rigid Body Simulation

We moved to a rigid body approach because the fibres are quite straight
at the micrometer scale, and the curvature would not have had a
significant impact on the behaviour of the oil mist.

3D models of fibres were created in a box and then let drop to the floor
using the Blender Game Engine (BGE).

The script had to be modified to make the face lengths acceptable for
CFD meshing and then, later, to increase performance.
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First Approach – Rigid Body Simulation

Drop Initialised Drop in Progress Final Product

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Shortcomings of the Rigid Body Approach

The final script could produce geometries of a few thousand fibres, but
wasn't very reliable.

The fibres didn't seem to be behaving realistically during the physics


These problems are likely caused by the large load on the BGE which is
designed to run in real time.

The script didn't provide enough control over the solidity. We could
change it but not specify it.

We decided we needed a more reliable solution that also gave us more

control over the final product.
eResearch Intern Showcase 2011

Second Approach - Cyclic In Place

We decided that the next iteration needed to produce a filter geometry

with a specific alpha value.

We decided to create the fibres in their final positions with controls over
their orientation.

The user inputs the fibre parameters and the dimensions of the region.
And the script calculates the number of fibres to create.

Each fibre is created 8 times (one per octant in the 3D Cartesian grid),
and the region in the centre is exported to ensure that the total volume of
fibres expected is present within the region.
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Second Approach - Cyclic In Place

Creation of Fibres Final Product Orthographic Top View

(Octant One Highlighted) (Highlighting Wrap Around)
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The Need for a More Flexible Approach

The user has to ensure that the longest diagonal of the fibres is less than
the smallest dimension of the region or else fibres may not "wrap around"
correctly. This would create a model with lower solidity than expected.

Creating large regions with many fibres requires more resources than it
should because each fibre has to be created eight times.

We needed the ability to create these larger regions without this overhead
when a cyclic simulation is not required.
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Final Approach – In Place Non-Cyclic

The final approach was to generate a large region and export a smaller
section of it.

This is required because the solidity would not be accurate around the
edges where parts of the fibres centred there lie outside the region.

The inner solidity should be accurate but it may vary because the fibre
placement is random. This small scale variation is realistic.
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Final Approach - In Place Non-Cyclic

Creation of Fibres Final Product

(Export Region in Orange)
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Final Approach - In Place Non-Cyclic

Screenshot of the Add-On Running in Blender

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This script provided the most flexible way of producing the fibres and was
the only solution capable of producing large geometries with minimal

To minimise the overhead created by the unusable region the fibre length
should not be much larger than the export region.
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Using the filter models generated in the course of this project we were
able to move up from simulations using 4 fibres to realistic sections of
filter media.

Currently there is a simulation of a tangible size with around 6 million

cells running.
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Initial Geometry New Geometry

(King, A 2010) (King, A 2011)
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The Blender add-on created is useful for testing CFD solvers for oil mist
filters and dust filters.

The software can produce simulated filter geometries at a tangible scale.

The software is going to allow further development of the solver.

Future work in this area (geometry generation) with a longer term

commitment should probably focus around an new open source geometry
generation project where the developers and users have more control. It
would be possible to use Blender to examine the models produced by a
non GUI tool.

The next immediate step is to further develop and test the solver.
eResearch Intern Showcase 2011


iVEC []
Curtin University []
Centre for Comparative Genomics, Murdoch University []

Dr Andrew King, Curtin University

Dr Ben Mullins, Curtin University
Ms Valerie Maxville, iVEC
Mr Paul Newman, iVEC
Mr David Schibeci, Murdoch University
eResearch Intern Showcase 2011


[1] A. J. C. King et al., "Hybrid volume-of-fluid and discrete particle solver

for oil-mist filter simulations", presented at the 17th Australasian Fluid
Mechanics Conference, Auckland, 2010.

[2] The Blender Foundation. (2011, February 22). Blender v2.56.1 -

UNSTABLE API documentation [Online]. Available:
eResearch Intern Showcase 2011

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License: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 -

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