10 ultimate Christmas gifts for a CFD engineer

By Simon Fischer

A tiny vortex shedding, a little bit of turbulent river flow, some cloud structures forming in the sky… making CFD engineers happy, does not take too much!

But for Christmas? No, you can’t just can those fluid mechanics phenomena and put them under the Christmas tree. You need some more tangible alternative for you beloved CFD engineer. And hence I assembled a list of Christmas gifts that will surely make a CFD engineer’s merry Christmas.

Here’s my top 10 ultimate gifts for a CFD engineer:

🎁10. RT#M: Computational Methods for Fluid Dynamics

Cross your heart. Who reads the f#*Β§$ manual? Well, in all honesty I did not. I learned fluid mechanics and CFD in a dirty hands on approach. For sure I benefited from the fundamentals of physics but when I opened a CFD software tool for the first time I had no formal education on CFD at all.

Now I don’t claim this is a noble approach and one that requires the awareness that the results you produce are subject to some critical analysis. And hence there are very good reasons to study the fundamentals of CFD to increase the quality and hence the confidence in your results. But because I like to combine theory and practice, one of my favorite text books on CFD is Ferziger, Peric’s and Streets “Computational Methods for Fluid Dynamics”. Why? Because it combines real practical examples of CFD with thorough numerical fluid mechanics theory!

And so this is my first ultimate Christmas gift recommendation for CFD engineers is “Computational Methods for Fluid Dynamics”. Even better, add the associated online learning course “Applied Computational Fluid Dynamics”. Delivered by Milovan Peric himself (and the best of it all): It’s free

🎁9. “100 years of CFD”. NAFEMS benchmark special edition

While we are at reading. Something beautiful arrived last autumn. NAFEMS’s famous benchmark magazine as a special edition to celebrate 100 years of CFD. Taking you from the beginnings of computational fluid dynamics to a forecast into its bright future this is the perfect read for the holiday season for every CFD enthusiast. Pro-tip for those who want more: Enter the NAFEMS shop through this blog and you will get a 50% discount on the benchmark magazine year’s subscription.

🎁8. Hands On! A Vertical Mouse

Enough reading. It’s time to get your hands dirty. And on to your favorite CFD software. But if you spend hours sitting on a chair staring at two screens and moving the mouse thousands of meters, you will appreciate every ergonomic comfort this world has to offer. My perdsonal game-changer and hence number eight in my list of ultimate Christams gifts for a CFD engineer: A vertical mouse.

No more hurting arms and shoulders after a hard day on your desktop!

🎁7. A 3D scanner to capture the world

Time for preprocessing. If you also do a little bit of CFD as a hobby, you sometimes stumble over things in your day o day life and go: “Now that looks interesting. I wonder about the flow phenomena in there. I should simulate this to take a closer look how this works.” But then more often than not the bottleneck is that you don’t have a geometry of that thing handy. One way out, could be a public CAD model library. The drawback: Often times the models are not of sufficient quality for CFD purposes, they might come with a price, or you just can’t find the exact thing you are looking for.

So if you want to make a CFD engineer happy you might consider a gift voucher for one these CAD data platforms. Or to take it to the next level: Consider a 3D scanner. This will not give you CAD data, but the scanned tessellated data set will do the job thanks to automatic surface wrapping technology. I am pretty sure, CFD engineers will love the concept of just scanning the real thing and do some CFD simulation of its digital twin. And so here are some nice handheld 3D scanners on #7.

And if a scanner seems a bit over the top in the first place, why not experiment with a mobile phone app. A gift voucher for an app store with the purpose of a 3D scanning app purchase is easily done.

🎁6. A 3D printer. Because print is so not dead

A few years ago the 3D printing nerd made an episode about how to 3D-print and launch a DIY rocket. When we had a brief chat about it, I said I am happy to take a chance on some simulation model and see how their rocket flies before any β€œink” is wasted. That’s the cool thing about digital twins. You can fly it before you built it.

But in all honesty the true fun comes when you are able to bring your digital twin to the real world.

But the fun with 3D printing and CFD does not just stop there. Thanks to CFD-based topology optimization CFD engineer can now come up with completely novel flow solutions, and the cool thing is: While ten yeras ago such solutions would not have been practical because they could not be manufactured, 3D prinitng technology has changed it all.

And so a toy that every CFD engineer needs and my number 6 top gift is obviously a 3D printer…

🎁5. Virtual Reality VR headset for V R family

This year we toured the world again, with our CFD virtual reality showcase. From kids to retired engineers, from non-engineers to CFD experts, from youth in their first year of technical education to CEO of large tech companies, we shared the ultimate experience to dive into CFD results and made people understand what fluid dynamics is all about. Without doubt, every time I load some CFD results into the VR client and put up those goggles myself it makes me happy. Trust me, a VR headset under the Christmas tree and your CFD engineer of choice will have a merry little Christmas. And with the possibilities of collaborative VR in Simcenter STAR-CCM+ the door is open for a whole We (V) are (R) family CFD experience.

🎁4. More sustainable and faster CFD. The latest GPU

It’s no secret anymore. Running CFD on GPUs has a huge potential to speed up simulations and – thanks to energy savings – be more sustainable when you run those CFD calculations. But not just on real industry and research style CFD engineering GPUs offer an interseting alternative to CPUs: GPUs also offer a nice way for the hobby-CFD engineer to run some decent simulations on his/her workstation. But clearly we love to have the latest hardware under the hood. So if you want to see a bright smile under the tree, the number 4 recommended CFD engineer’s Christmas present is a nice little cutting edge graphics card. Merry Calculations!

🎁3. Cloud simulation time. Because time is the most precious gift

Obviously GPUs – while amazing – are not the holy grail for everything CFD. With its continuous enhancement the CPU will continue to play a significant role in speeding up CFD simulations and through massive scalability run event the largets jobs with excellent speedups. But I understand you can’t afford a to place a huge High Performance Compute center under the Christams tree (for various reasons). – Would be nice though. But what you can do is give your beloved CFD engineer some calculation time on the cloud. Thanks to Simcenter Cloud HPC running CFD straight from your desktop is now only two click away.

And so Cloud simulation time is my number 3 on the list of ultimate CFD gifts.

🎁2. The absolute Windtunnel Experience: Skydiving

Let’s take the real experience of flow another step further. If you spend your life staring at two screens looking at virtual simulated airflows, tweaking meshes and turbulence models to engineer better flow solutions, the one thing that you need is this: Experience the real flow, right there in your face. And the ultimate flow experience is throwing yourself into a skydiving windtunnel. If you have a CFD engineer at home, this will elevate his/her relation to flow to new heights. Promised!

And if this is too much adrenaline for your beloved one, why not surprise him/her with a visit of some historic windtunnel facility.

🎁1. A legends-of-fluid-mechanics Roadtrip

History can be exciting. And if you study gift recommendation#2 – or even better: my blog on the heroes of fluid mechanics – you will realize how exciting CFD history actually is. But you don’t want to just sit there and read about it. If you are a fluid dynamics enthusiast you want to relive it. So what better gift than wandering on the paths of fluid dynamics legends and visiting some places that changed the history of fluid mechanics and laid the fundamental groundwork of modern CFD.

We start our trip in Syrakus where 250 B.C. a guy called Archimedes shouted out “Heureka” as he sat in his bath tub. Next up, Tuscany, Italy – a hotspot for legends of flow. Here, close to Florence da Vinci made early contributions to turbulent flows, in Florence Toricelli triggered a bad fight about the horror vacui stepping into the footsteps of legendary Galileo who among many other things invented “the little balance” – a highly precise balance leveraging hydrodynmic principles. On your way to France you should stop by at the University of Basel, Switzerland. The place where Daniel Bernoulli was Professor for a long time and worked on Hydrodynamica and the all-too-well known equation.

Then – a clear highlight – you will visit Dijon, France to honor the birthplace of Claude- Louis Navier. And while you are at it drive up to Paris to see the place where he once published his game-changing work on viscous flows that should later become the Navier-Stokes equation. Also active in Paris, Edme Mariotte, Blaise Pascal (refighting the vaccum fight), d’Alembert with his paradoxon on visous flows, Cauchy and Poisson. Paris. What a place of Fluid dynamics history!

But now it’s time to jump across the canal, and visit another epicenter of fluid mechanics history: Cambridge: Here worked Newton – the legend of it all. (Remember, the Navier Stokes equation is after all just Newton’s law with a bit more complex forces on the left hand side). And Cambridge is also the place where Sir George Stokes made his significant experimental contributions to the establishment of the Navier-Stokes equation. And so to close the trip you will head up to Skreen, Ireland to visit his birthplace and give the honor to Sir George Stokes. Now this is just one proposal and there will be more legendary place to visit, but it could be a start.

And so this is my personal favorite and concludes my recommendation of ultimate Christmas gifts for every CFD engineer: A legends-of-fluid-mechanics roadtrip!

Flowy Christmas

With that I wish you a Happy gifting and a flowy CFD Christmas! (And if you are a CFD engineer, just print out the hero image of this blog and let it accidentally fall into the hands of Santa Claus.)

This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at