By providing specialist software engineering skills alongside an in-depth understanding of fluid dynamics principles, Tessella’s GUI improvements expand the commercial value of the PULSIM software for TNO.
TNO (Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research) is the largest research institute in the Netherlands, providing knowledge on applied science to companies, government bodies and public organizations. TNO conducts contract research, offers specialist consulting services, and grants licences for patents and specialist software, providing innovation across a range of industries.
The TNO Fluid Dynamics department has extensive experience over the past 40 years in the area of dynamic flow and structural phenomena in process installations. In creating the PULSIM (PULsation SIMulator) software, they have established a powerful tool for the control of vibrations in pipe systems. The PULSIM system is used both internally in TNO and by external organizations all over the world, in particular in the Oil & Gas industry.
Various projects over the years had seen different approaches to developing the Graphical User Interface (GUI) for the core system. Recognizing that internal skills focused on the back-end rather than the front-end of the software, TNO looked for a partner who could enhance the GUI whilst also understanding the flow dynamics science underlying the software. TNO were also looking to partner with a company who could provide long-term support, service and maintenance for the software.
The development of a new version of the GUI for the PULSIM software was closely linked to the technical and scientific content of the simulation and calculation software, which derives its details from principles of fluid dynamics. The previous version of the PULSIM GUI was complex and challenging for non-expert users. Inherent complexities in the underlying models meant it was a significant challenge to aim for simplification.
The PULSIM team recognized that the skills needed to develop a high-quality, user-friendly GUI were not part of their core competencies. After successfully completing a first release of the new GUI, the team wanted to find a solution for future improvements as well as long-term support and maintenance.
On meeting Tessella, Wilbert Vink, PULSIM system product manager, recognized their depth of scientific knowledge combined with their ability to improve and support the GUI in using professional software engineering processes such as version control and support.
‘From our first meeting, Tessella made a good impression. It was clear that they understood the physics as well as the need for an intuitive interface, and that they could step in and develop with the tools that TNO had already chosen.
Tessella’s availability to work directly on-site with our stakeholders and our own software developers promoted great cross-fertilization of ideas and meant that this complemented the skills that were lacking in the TNO team.
This saved a considerable amount of time and cost, and with Tessella being able to provide maintenance support services after launch, I was happy that TNO had found a cost-effective way to continue the development of the PULSIM GUI.’
The PULSIM system evaluates both new process installations in design and existing installations, carrying out pulsation and mechanical analysis according to international standards. The particular challenge for Tessella was to present what is very powerful and complex in a simple and intuitive manner.
Working in close collaboration with the TNO team, Tessella made improvements to the PULSIM GUI. The new GUI is more user-friendly, intuitive and is better suited to non-expert users. Among the improvements it offers are better designs that are more configurable and easier to use. In addition, it contains analysis and visualization functionality that was not present in the original version at all, such as the visualization of acoustic hotspots, via the ability to overlay the contoured results directly onto the 3D pipe system. This enables users to undertake more detailed analysis, and to inspect the simulation results in more powerful ways. Finally, less visible to the end-user, the new GUI has a more modular architecture, and is more flexible in terms of configuration.
Tessella has enabled the continuous improvement of the interface by introducing improvements to code management practices and procedures, by streamlining the use of software libraries and by regular releases of fixes and enhancements which are in response to diligent testing and incorporation of user feedback.
The enhanced 3D capabilities
The new version of the PULSIM GUI is now in beta version, and is being tested in-house at TNO. Wilbert Vink said ‘the first impression from our newest users is that the GUI is really great to work with, it is a big improvement which allows the user to take advantage of the full functionalities of the software. While older users may take a while to adapt to the changes, they can see that the new GUI is a positive step forward for PULSIM.’
TNO plans to formally release the new PULSIM GUI by the end of 2014, at which point the Tessellabased support team will provide a helpline ready to assist the users.
Wilbert continued ‘The release of this software is an important milestone for TNO. The new version of the software with the improved GUI makes it easier for us to show the value of the software, how we work, and the different types of project we can take on. With the release of the licensed software to an external audience, we will be able to fully exploit the commercial value via licence sales into what is essentially a very niche area of work.
‘By using this new GUI, we can present PULSIM’s capabilities more effectively, making it easier to understand for potential customers. In addition, in-house use of the GUI will help streamline our internal processes and make TNO’s work with this software more efficient.’
- A partner with the capability to both develop and provide ongoing professional support for PULSIM’s new user-friendly GUI
- A development team with expertise in professional software development and project management as well as fluid dynamics knowledge
- Improved intuitive GUI, much better design, more configurable and easier to use
- Collaborative approach between Tessella and TNO enabled faster and more cost-effective development
- GUI makes complex software easier to understand and more commercially viable