The Benefits of Fluid Flow Software: Visualizations and Calculations

Last week, we talked about how some fluid flow calculations are done through spreadsheet programs like Microsoft Excel. However, in order to sustain a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace, it is critical that you consider fluid flow software that provides a total system view of the piping system. A clear picture can be better obtained by incorporating the following features into a single fluid flow program:

  • Visualization: Using a piping schematic to show how the various items are connected.
  • Calculations: Integrating all fluid flow calculations into a single program.

This article explores many of the advantages that fluid flow software has over spreadsheets for visualization and calculation of fluid piping systems.

Visualization of the Piping System: CAD vs. Fluid Flow Software

A piping schematic drawing shows how the items in the system are connected. Piping schematic drawings, process flow diagrams, or Piping & Instrument Drawings (P&ID) are often created with CAD software and become the primary design documents of the piping system. 

When calculating the pipeline head loss with a spreadsheet program, the names of the individual pipelines and the design data are taken off the CAD drawing and manually entered into the spreadsheet’s columns and rows. However, the spreadsheet’s row and column format do little to show how the pipelines are connected into a fluid piping system.

Fluid flow software like PIPE-FLO utilizes a piping schematic drawing interface (the FLO-Sheet) as the primary user interface. The piping schematic is created using PIPE-FLO’s drawing tools, by inserting objects onto the FLO-Sheet and then entering the details for each object. For example, when entering a pump on the FLO-Sheet, the pump’s unique name is entered, along with the elevation and operating characteristics.

After the various piping system objects are placed on the FLO-Sheet, the interconnecting pipelines are drawn and the pipeline data is entered. The data for the pipe material, valves, and process fluids are looked up in engineering data tables; this not only simplifies data entry but also ensures that the data is entered correctly.

Finally, since the P&ID drawings are design documents often included in the projects document package PIPE-FLO can export the complete FLO-Sheet drawing to CAD software.

Integrated Calculations With Fluid Flow Software

A typical pipe sizing spreadsheet looks at only a single pipeline, calculating the head loss for a given flow rate. If the piping system consists of multiple pipelines in series, the total system head loss can be calculated using the spreadsheet’s sum feature. If the system consists of branching pipelines it is difficult to set up the spreadsheet to calculate the proper flow rate for each branch. Piping systems consisting of multiple parallel paths are very difficult to set up using a spreadsheet. Separate spreadsheets need to be developed to evaluate pumps and control valves.

Fluid flow software provides a complete solution for detailed network analysis calculations. The program uses the FLO-Sheet drawing to set up the equations needed to calculate the balanced flow rates. Using advanced hydraulic network analysis techniques, the program calculates the balanced flow rates and pressures for the system. Calculations can be performed for piping systems of any size, containing straight pipe segments, loops, and branches.

In addition to the head loss, a series of calculations must be performed for selecting pumps and control valves. These calculations include:

  • Total Dynamic Head (TDH) required for pump selection
  • Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH) for a pump
  • Design point values needed to select the control valves

These calculations often require the use of different spreadsheets in which design information must be re-entered for each step.

PIPE-FLO calculates the effect that pumps, components, tanks, and controls have on the operation of the piping system.

As a result, the program provides information as to how the total system operates, including the pumps’ TDH and NPSH as well as design points for control valves. All calculated results are displayed on the FLO-Sheet, providing the user with a clear picture of how the total piping system operates.

Final Thoughts on Fluid Flow Software vs. Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets provide an excellent tool for organizing data and performing a variety of engineering calculations; however, to properly simulate the operation of piping systems, you need to employ a specialized fluid flow network analysis program such as PIPE-FLO. 

PIPE-FLO: All You Need To KNO

PIPE-FLO is the engineering standard for Modeling & Simulation Calculations to manage your entire fluid system lifecycle. From design to digital twin simulations, our software is proven to save time and money.
Schedule a demo with us today.

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