Friday, June 15, 2012

Project Falcon: Free Interactive Wind Tunnel Simulation Software

Project Falcon is wind tunnel simulation software brought to us as a free technology preview by Autodesk Labs. The goal of Project Falcon is to help designers intelligently consider the aerodynamic properties of their designs without first having to learn computational fluid dynamics (CFD). This could be a great thing for vehicle designers.

Windows is the only supported operating system, but the minimum hardware requirements look pretty achievable.

To me, the exciting features of Project Falcon are:
  • Free to download; no Autodesk license required
  • Broadly accessible user-interface (Probably less intimidating than Elmer for your first foray into Aerodynamic design)
  • Easy installation (register with Autodesk, download the project falcon installer, run the installer, double click the icon, then open the STL file you want to check the aerodynamics for)
  • Blog/forum support via Autodesk Labs
  • Users develop an intuitive grasp of aerodynamic principals using Project Falcon's rapid visual feedback in response to design and parameter changes
  • No specialized knowledge required to study the aerodynamic properties of your 3D designs
If anything could motivate me to mess around with Microsoft Windows, it's probably Project Falcon, owing to the 2nd and last bullets on the list.

Here is a brief video introduction to Project Falcon via Autodesk Labs.

One thing the Project Falcon overview page emphasizes is the high speed with which this software calculates and displays results. A prominent complaint in the wind power optimization research papers I've run across is that CFD is computationally expensive and time consuming. So is Project Falcon sacrificing quality for speed? Probably. But this Project Falcon Validation paper shows that Project Falcon at least calculated the the correct coefficients of drag for a sphere, a cube, a cone, and an odd polyhedron that looks like a brick with 3 corners cut off and something small sticking out the bottom. I can't help wondering if Project Falcon has potential as a tool for optimizing the shapes of home-use wind turbine airfoils.

In the Aero Challenge, Local Motors has invited members of its open source vehicle design community to to use Project Falcon to help create a more aerodynamic design for the next Peterbuilt big rig.


  1. Looks like this could be just what I've been looking for, going to give it a try. :)