Design and Engineering Software

Published on: 
Turbomachinery Magazine, March/April 2022,

Design and engineering software lies back of every aspect of turbomachinery and facility layout. These tools are used to figure out how to increase efficiency, heighten performance, lower costs, decrease emissions, and find the best way to arrange and integrate equipment and systems.

There are a great many trends and influences impacting this slice of the market. And the vendor community has risen to the challenge. Let’s hear from the experts:


Concepts NREC offers a suite of software tools starting from preliminary design through full 3D computational fluid dynamics (CFD), finite element analysis (FEA) and 5-axis machining of turbomachinery. Together, the software is called the Agile Engineering Design System. New for 2022 is CyCAL, which allows the design of turbomachinery within a larger system and includes thermodynamic cycle analysis. CyCAL will be a new platform to bring together all tools in a single user environment.

“Engineers need to look at many aspects of a design in addition to the aero/hydrodynamic performance of the primary flow path,” said Peter Weitzman, President, Software Division of Concepts NREC. “A successful designer needs to simultaneously consider off-design performance, secondary (leakage, bleed, injection) flow, rotordy-namics, and product life.”

In addition, it is not enough to look at the turbo components in isolation. Every piece of turbomachinery sits inside some larger system to accomplish a specific thermodynamic cycle. If the cycle/system layout is decided first and imposed on the turbomachinery designer, then optimal system performance may not be achieved. The turbomachinery needs to be designed concur-rently with the cycle/system to achieve competitive product performance.

Design trends are receiving a lot of impetus lately from the launch industry. The most critical part of a rocket engine is the turbopump, and designers of engines needs to design the engine cycle and turbopumps as a single system. Customers in the rocket industry want better software to accommodate engine cycle and turbopump design, and these improvements are becoming available to anyone designing turbomachinery.

“Our latest software releases have really been about moving beyond design point performance of the primary flow path,” said Weitzman. “We have added capabilities to design and analyze secondary flow in leakage paths for all classes of turbomachinery. CyCAL provides optimized cycle/system design and analysis capability.”


The SoftInWay AxSTREAM platform is a fully integrated design, analysis, and optimization soft-ware solution for turbomachinery propulsion and power generation systems. The software includes advanced meanline/streamline, CFD, and FEA solvers, as well as thermodynamic cycle and hydraulic network modeling, rotor dynamics analysis and AI capabilities. Additionally, users can do true clean-sheet design through its generative design solver which can automatically create a design space and narrow down the design intent without introducing too much designer bias into the equation. This can help engineers make decisions about how many stages a machine should have, what the optimal configuration is, and other key thermodynamic and geometric decisions before having to go through meanline analysis or later stages in the design process.

Valentine Moroz. Chief Operating Officer, SoftInWay has observed some definite trends on the simulation side. “We’re seeing a push towards integrated end-to-end solutions both by means of internal development and through partnerships/acquisitions between small software venders and large companies,” he said. “We’re also seeing the industry trend towards use of digital twins, AI, and high-performance computing (HPC).”

Within the turbomachinery industry, Moroz added, there are three main development strategies:

1. Complete clean-sheet design for novel applications (especially in areas such as hydrogen, fuel cells, electric vehicles, etc.) where there is no in-house expertise.

2. Trimming and scaling to adjust existing designs to fit into a new design application (the focus here being a reduction in development time, cost, and risk).

3. Throwing as much computing power as possible at older designs to try and maximize optimization.It is important to fully understand the objec-tives of a design project before beginning.

“When a project kicks off without a clear understanding of the engineering intent across all teams, it often will lead to conflicting ideas about the project requirements across management, the technical team, and the financial team,” said Moroz. “It is important to establish the engi-neering intent early on to understand what tools you actually need to make your project a success.”


The TURBOdesign Suite by ADT is an integrated platform for the development of turbomachinery systems, starting from meanline design and covering 3D blade design using inverse design technology with automatic optimization capabili-ties. Inverse design is a unique design method to:

• Satisfy the turbomachinery requirements from the first iterations (e.g., compressors pressure ratio, head in pumps or pressure rise in fans);

• To rapidly develop high efficiency blades, using blade loading as an aerodynamic design input parameters which correlates with performances;

• Accurate surrogate models with small design matrix, requiring up to two orders of magni-tude less computational costs compared to conventional direct optimization methods;

• Develop general design know-how by under-standing the blade loading requirements for product series and similar applications;

• A three-dimensional design approach ideally suited for additive manufacturing.

Over the past few years ADT has enhanced its software to facilitate design exploration and opti-mization at various stages of the design workflow and across all turbomachinery applications. This includes development of integrated design explo-ration, optimization and ML/AI loops starting from a handful of basic requirements such an engine log line for example, and development of automated design, analysis and optimization workflows for 3D blade design/volutes linked with 3D CFD/FEA and multiphysics. In addition, direct interfaces and couplings with major CAE systems are available for integration within existing design environments and facilitating data transfer across programs. Finally, interactive, machine learning-driven user guidance during the design process provides feedback based on live user input parameters.


Maturing turbomachinery components and systems efficiency levels combined with tougher competition and stricter regulatory requirements are driving the search for designs that offer higher efficiency, particularly across multiple areas of the operating conditions that coincide with the lifecycle operations of the system. Smaller and more compact turbomachinery packages, too, are required to reduce weight and material costs in electrification and high-volume productions.

“Some of the main market drivers are an overall lack of skilled turbomachinery design engineers in the industry compared to a growing demand,” said Professor Mehrdad Zangeneh, Managing Director of Advanced Design Technology. “In addition, development of new products required for decar-bonization which asks for novel system cycles and product configurations.”


Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) manages the Numerical Propulsion System Simulation (NPSS) Consortium. The NPSS software is an engineering simulation and design environment that enables engineers to develop customizable system models. Applications primarily include aerospace systems, engine models for aircraft propulsion applications, thermal management systems, liquid rocket propulsion systems, and energy generation systems. It comes with a library of standard models and components. SwRI manages the licensing and sales of the NPSS software. Additionally, its engineers provide engineering services for developing custom NPSS models, or designing engineering systems for a wide portfolio of propulsion and energy related systems.

Charles Krouse, NPSS Consortium Manager at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) said that customers, these days, are increasingly interested in (1) electric/hybrid-electric propulsion systems, (2) high-speed propulsions applications, and (3) interfaces between modeling tools. The trend towards electric and hybrid-electric propulsion systems, for example, is being driven primarily by environmental concerns. Although aircraft propulsion only accounts for a small percentage of total carbon emissions (2-3%), emissions reduction targets are approaching quickly, especially for the slow-changing aircraft industry. Furthermore, as the general population sees significant progress in industries such as renewable energy and electric cars, they are beginning to point fingers at the aircraft industry for not adopting environmentally friendly technologies.

The market for high-speed propulsion applications is being driven by factors such as the hyper-sonic arms race, supersonic business jet startups, and the billionaire space race. With the threat of hypersonic weapons from potential adversaries, the U.S. government is investing in hypersonic weapons. Supersonic jet companies, on the other hand, are being funded by private investors. There seems to be a convergence of technologies that has promised to make supersonic flight affordable, and startups such as Boom Supersonic, Hermeus, Spike Aerospace, and others are racing to beat the incumbents such as Lockheed Martin.

Krouse added that the trend towards robust interfaces is being driven by the growing number of specialized engineering tools, increasing computational capabilities, and requirements for a heavier focus on model-based design practices.

“As computational capabilities increase, engineers are able link multiple subsystem models together and simulate more complex models of whole aircraft systems,” said Krouse. “However, linking subsystems models together between tools requires signif icant computer science expertise to understand the underlying computer architectures.”

NPSS software was traditionally modelled turbomachinery systems. Since turbomachinery applications are now commonly coupled with electric/ hybrid-electric systems, the organization has added the capability to model electric systems in NPSS software, including components such as motors, generators, inverters, and resistors. This capability will be available in its next release.

SwRI has also developed a supersonic propul-sion model as part of an internal research and development effort. The purpose of this project was to develop improved capabilities for modeling critical components, such as the combustor, inlet, and isolator in high-speed air-breathing propul-sion applications. Additionally, the organization developed a system to demonstrate the transition from subsonic flight to supersonic flight, using a turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC).

Advances have been made, too, in the area of interfaces. Recently, SwRI developed APIs for NPSS to interface with python and java computer languages, which are in addition to the existing interfaces to standard languages such as C/C++ and Fortran. This allows NPSS users to complete their development work in their preferred programming language and communicate with the NPSS simulation environment.

In addition, SwRI has been working to resolve some of the challenges connected with additive manufacturing (AM). The AM process can some-times create anomalies such as voids that may lead to fatigue crack formation, growth, and fracture. Customary integrity analysis methods for conven-tional materials have significant limitations for AM applications.

However, a zone-based probabilistic damage tolerance (PDT) methodology is a promising framework for the assessment and certification of AM parts. This approach calculates the probability of fracture due to the formation and growth of fatigue cracks at material or manufacturing anomalies. The component is subdivided into different zones each having different properties, such as material properties, non-destructive inspection (NDI) probability of detection (POD), and anomaly distributions. The Darwin software developed by SwRI provides practical implemen-tation of zone-based PDT methods.

Originally developed to address rogue material anomalies in titanium rotors for aircraft engines, Darwin has expanded to address a range of integ-rity threats. It is used, for example, to ensure the structural integrity of conventional safety-critical components in turbomachinery. NASA and the FAA are actively funding research at SwRI to evaluate the wider use of Darwin for AM applications and to enhance its capabilities towards this goal.


When asked what trends he had observed, Jeff Erno, Expert Solution Architect, Dassault Systèmes named three: A need for integration between geometry (CAD) and analysis (CAE); home-grown design and analysis solutions (due to lack of commercial off the shelf or COTS software), that were needed in the 1980s and 1990s to be competitive, are needing an upgrade and possibly a rewrite from legacy FORTAN and C programming methods; and demand for collabo-ration and storage for analytical results.

“Innovation is driving legacy home-grown tools to adapt, which is difficult to do with legacy programming methods,” said Erno. “Older more manual methods aren’t cutting it.”

The company has adjusted to these trends via geometry and analysis methods ported into a single, unified platform, promoting fast rerunning of analysis to evaluate performance as the design changes. Such changes are incorporated into Dassalt’s SolidWorks, Catia and Simulia lines. Such tools offer geometry and analysis integrated associatively allowing replay when the design changes. In addition, platform-based collaboration allows designers to work with other designers and with analysts to evaluate performance.


Rahul Garg, Vice President, Industrial Machinery, Siemens Digital Industries Software, has observed a movement towards improved renewable energy adoption to ensure turbomachinery grows progressively more energy efficient. This includes adopting new fuel types; adjusting their operations for cleaner output; and using inte-grated cloud software to source, manage and store their turbomachinery solutions.

“Companies are leveraging technology to solve complex issues that arise across the machine lifecycle to continu-ously improve their processes,” said Garg. "For instance, some companies utilize simulation software that leverages a digital twin. This digital twin can help them foresee thermal and dynamic deformations and address the problem before it arises in late-stage development.”

A major impetus for these trends is digitalization. The benefits include augmented cross-domain collaboration; project data reuse for faster order fulfillment; enhanced machine development via the use of a digital twin; improved lifecycle service maintenance through digital twin and low-code tools; and task automation enabling greater time to devote to functional projects.

To that end, Siemens developed its cloud-based Xcelerator portfolio to help clients respond to turbomachinery trends and tackle market demands. The company is actively enhancing this cloud approach to simplify adoption through pre-configured industry processes, capturing experience inside templates. Xcelerator offers various design, analysis and engineering solu-tions. Xcelerator products can integrate with other engineering tools.