Steinmüller Africa is bringing local custom-engineered industrial shell and tube heat exchangers to sub-Saharan Africa’s process industries. The company has now introduced three-dimensional (3D) modelling to the heat exchanger and boiler design process, which increases design accuracy while simultaneously reducing both turnaround times and costs for its clients. 

The new state-of-the-art design software replaces the traditional process of designing heat exchangers in logical steps, which sometimes results in part fit-up problems, impacting the design process and project execution. All heat exchangers from Steinmüller Africa are now designed purely as 3D models to begin with, which allows the various engineers to design and fit all required parts with minimal effort and to generate drawings along with the bill of materials, facilitating accurate pricing, even at the design stage. 

Effective pricing

“Our 3D modelling makes it relatively easy for our proposals department to obtain effective pricing, and our manufacturing department to accurately manufacture the heat exchanger with the least quantity of materials possible,” explains Mohammed Khan, Director at Steinmüller Africa. “This substantially simplifies the design process, allowing us to generate several different designs, time dependant, and identify the most cost-effective version while still at tendering phase.” 

The 3D modelling is executed using parametric modelling in AutoCAD Inventor software and is uniquely linked to Steinmüller Africa’s intellectual property. ”This allows us to determine the best solution based on a client’s specific requirements. For example,” Mohammed explains, “we can optimise materials and costs, be it for a new or an existing heat exchanger, taking aspects like weight, size and cost into consideration at this early phase of development. 

Addressing flaws

“This highly-accurate modelling also puts us in a position to manufacture the solution, with cost-optimised materials of production, in a much faster turnaround time than previously possible. It also gives us the opportunity to examine the client’s existing heat exchangers, discover their flaws, and ensure that those flaws are eliminated in any of our new designs.” 

The reduced manufacturing turnaround time is made possible because all teams – design, mechanical, procurement, and manufacturing – each have their input on the various design iterations before that phase is reached. 

Digital twinning 

With this technology, Steinmuller Africa is now able to design and manufacture complex heat exchangers for process plants that require a mixed phase flow. “While the 3D technology used is not new in the industry, it has been predominantly used by overseas companies,” says Mohammed. “We have trained ourselves to do the design and manufacturing locally, positioning us ahead of competitors that commission offshore companies for heat exchanger design or manufacture – or both.”

The 3D model is, in essence, a digital twin of the exact heat exchanger, which is used to calculate precisely what will occur under various operating conditions. “Where a shortcoming is identified, we change the digital model which allows us to accurately determine what will occur when those changes are implemented on an existing or new plant,” Mohammed explains. 

Future faults

He adds that another benefit of this method is the baseline modelling, which allows Steinmüller Africa to easily ascertain the reason for a fault at any time in the future by modelling that fault, accurately identifying it, and correcting it on the digital twin.

“We are now perfectly positioned to provide comprehensive solutions for boilers and heat exchangers across most industries, be they gas, fuel oil, coal, or unfired boilers that use waste heat, or heat exchangers within concentrating solar power plants,” Mohammed concludes.

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