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issue: March 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

Commercial Refrigeration
Zero Design Inefficiency

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Zero Zone adopted computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis software to decrease the time and take wasted physical prototyping out of its process for designing refrigerated display cases.

Owen Warr, project engineer for Zero Zone, Inc. (North Prairie, Wisconsin, U.S.), says the use of COSMOSFloWorks CFD analysis software from SolidWorks Corporation (Concord, Massachusetts, U.S.), helps the company evaluate different refrigerated display case design scenarios and approaches before it ever starts building physical prototypes. The result: lower prototyping costs and accelerated time-to-market.

For years, company engineers with Zero Zone, a maker of commercial refrigerated display cases, performed extensive physical prototyping to gain an understanding of the effects of airflow on temperature distribution, product cooling and frost.

Zero Zone engineers needed to reduce prototyping costs, improve product performance, shorten design cycles, and accelerate time-to-market. According to Owen Warr, project engineer, "Our objective was to use computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis software to lessen our reliance on physical prototyping, increase our knowledge, and bring better products to market faster with lower development costs."

Zero Zone, based in North Prairie, Wisconsin, U.S., evaluated two software packages for CFD analysis and selected COSMOSFloWorks CFD analysis software, from SolidWorks Corporation (Concord, Massachusetts, U.S.). The OEM chose the solution in part because of its complete integration with the SolidWorks design software it was already using, but also because of the design software's ability to handle all CFD analysis needs, its ease of use and its more affordable price point.

Since implementing the CFD analysis software, Zero Zone says it substantially reduced the amount of physical testing it does while increasing the value of testing results.

"Flow analysis is not a complete replacement for physical prototyping, but it allows you to focus in faster on areas of concern or interest," Warr explains. "We build everything in a lab using our own tooling. CFD allows us to target our testing activities more efficiently, which has helped us to reduce our prototyping costs dramatically."

No Unnecessary Prototyping

Zero Zone now gets about 80 percent of its needed data from the COSMOSFloWorks analysis, 10 percent from laboratory testing and 10 percent from customer feedback on freezer merchandisers that are already in the field.

"CFD enables us to replicate what we see in the real world," Warr says. "We are much more efficient and cost-effective with our testing activities."

Zero Zone has also been able to improve the performance of its products through a greater understanding of the physical characteristics, thermal effects and behavior of compressed air flows in its merchandising cases. The software helps engineers design display cases that maintain their specified temperatures of 40 degrees fahrenheit (5 degrees celcius) for refrigerated cases and 15 degrees fahrenheit (-9 degrees celcius) for freezers. In addition, the design software helps engineers minimize frost, eliminate "hot" and "cold" spots and shorten time-to-defrost.

"COSMOSFloWorks enables us to evaluate how airflow from the evaporator moves throughout the case," Warr explains. “Maintaining consistent airflow is a key requirement for maintaining product temperature and inhibiting frost. We can also simulate the defrost process by applying heat to the coil, which allows us to make design modifications to shorten time-to-defrost."

He explains that the software enables the company to evaluate different design scenarios and approaches before ever cutting metal.

"In the past, there were things that were overlooked, which resulted in a series of 'band-aids,' which is something no-one wants," he says. "With CFD, we address issues prior to prototyping and optimize our products for performance before we build them."

Accelerating Time-To-Market

The implementation has helped Zero Zone realize productivity gains above those already realized through the transition to the previously integrated design software, resulting in even shorter design cycles and faster time-to-market.

"The beauty of COSMOSFloWorks is that I can do the design and the analysis in the same design environment," Warr says. "I can run a CFD analysis on a SolidWorks model, use those results to make design changes and then run the model again."

Zero Zone can also use SolidWorks design data for other components in its CFD studies. For example, the company uses its own custom-designed cooling fans. "Because we can customize our 'source' in COSMOSFloWorks, we can simply drop in our fan curve data for the different types of fans we use, and away we go," Warr notes.


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