You are on page 1of 7


ME 7751
Spring 2010

Neil Panchal


Using ANSYS ICEM CFX Meshing package and FLUENT 6.3 Simulation software.

The study of the flow over an airfoil is fundamental to aircraft design. The performance
of the airplane largely depends on the correct shape of the airfoils. In this study, we will
exemplify the flow over a standard NACA 4415 airfoil in moderately low Reynolds number.
Airfoils have a envelope of operating range and they perform best in certain conditions. Key
parameters that determine the performance of an airfoil are lift and drag forces, which will be
calculated in this project. Using computer simulations, we can eliminate the cost of prototype
and experimentation, in turn saving time and costs for a fairly accurate deliverables such as lift
and drag.


Software used: ANSYS v12.1 CFD package which includes ANSYS ICEM CFD
meshing tool as well as the FLUENT 6.3 CFD simulation software. Parallel processing was used
to accelerate convergence and computational time. In addition, the airfoil geometry is given as a
sweep of x-y coordinates outlining the NACA 4415 airfoil curves.


The NACA 4415 airfoil is subjected under free stream velocity in a wind tunnel. The
dimensions of the far field are normalized with respect to the length of the airfoil, L. Moreover,
the Reynolds number is based upon the airfoil length is chosen to be 25,000. The experimental
set up is shown in Figure 1.

In order to obtain the free stream velocity imposed upon the airfoil, we need to assume a
length for the airfoil. For simplicity, we assume L = 1m. All the dimensions are normalized
accordingly. Since the Reynolds number is based upon the scaling of the airfoil, we can compute
the free stream velocity as follows:

where, R is the Reynolds number (25,000), ρ is the density of the fluid (ρair = 1.225
kg/m3), L is the length of the airfoil (L = 1 m), µ is the dynamic viscosity of the fluid (µair =
1.983 kg/ms at 300 K) . With the aforementioned information, the free stream velocity U is
computed to be 0.405 m/s.

Figure 1. Planview of the Simulation Domain


Although it is compelling to use a simple structured rectangular grid, it is often not

sufficiently accurate. Block structured grid or curvilinear orthogonal grid is the preferred option.
2-D meshing was carried out in ANSYS v12 ICEM CFD meshing tool. The software features
traditional blocking capabilities as well as several mesh optimization tools. Figure 2. shows the
blocking strategy for this project.

To sufficiently capture the proximity of the airfoil, a “C-Grid” block is used. The initial
course mesh using the C-Grid blocking strategy is shown in Figure 3. Since the immediate
airfoil vicinity is of the most interest to us, it is necessary to refine the mesh around the airfoil.
There are several methods to generate a gradient in special discretization. Bi-geometric method
was used to refine the mesh around the airfoil. The mesh was then converted to unstructured
grid and ironed out to eliminate sudden changes in special steps. Moreover, during the
smoothing process, care was taken to ensure orthagonality in the final mesh. Orthagonality plays
a vital role for convergence. The results are illustrated in Figure 4.
Figure 2. Blocking Strategy for the Airfoil Mesh

Figure 3. Coarse Pre-mesh Generated Using a C-Grid Around the Airfoil

Figure 4. Refined Final Mesh


FLUENT 2-D is a comprehensive feature rich simulation package. In our case, we will
be using a pressure-based 2-D planar solver under steady flow. A k-ε turbulence model is
selected for the viscous model. Energy model is turned off as we are assuming incompressible

As we calculated earlier, the free stream velocity is 0.405 m/s. The left side is set to
velocity-inlet boundary condition in FLUENT. The right edge is set to pressure-outlet boundary
condition with 0 gauge pressure. The surface of the airfoil is modeled as wall which is a no-slip
boundary condition.

For pressure-velocity coupling, SIMPLE numerical scheme is used. For special

discretization, the following schemes are used:

• Gradient – Least Squares Cell Based

• Pressure – PRESTO
• Momentum – 2nd Order Upwind
• Turbulent Kinetic Energy - 2nd Order Upwind
• Turbulent Dissipation Rate - 2nd Order Upwind

Convergence criteria for x-y velocity and continuity were set to 1e-06. The solution was
iterated 1000 times to ensure stability of the lift and drag coefficients. The results are discussed
in the next section.


The solution was converged relatively quickly. The pressure and velocity (streamlines)
plots are shown in Figure 5 and 6 respectively.
Figure 5. Static Pressure Plot

Figure 6. Streamlines over the Airfoil

Lift and drag forces were also calculated on the airfoil surface. The values are tabulated in
Table 1 below. As expected, with R = 25,000 the viscous forces dominate the flow regime and
the consequently the drag force is almost twice the generated lift force. The coefficient of drag
and lift are also tabulated in Table 1. Evidently, the coefficient of drag is higher than the
coefficient of lift.

Table 1. Forces and Coefficients

Forces (N) Coefficients

Drag 0.04277 0.4264
Lift 0.02405 0.2398


In conclusion, the results are in accordance with physical expectations. Further

improvement in the accuracy of results can be obtained by increasing mesh density and
experimenting with various modeling schemes.

With the invention of a modern computer system, numerical methods have become
increasingly useful in simulating various engineering problems. Undoubtedly, computational
fluid dynamics (CFD) plays a vital role in solving complex fluid problems without physical
experimentation. NACA 4415 airfoil simulation shows not only the relative simplicity and ease
of determining airfoil performance, but also the potential of CFD in the grand scheme of
engineering applications. Today, CFD is used in almost every engineering field, from electronic
hardware design to aircraft performance.