I’m Scott Burch and This Is How I Mesh

Scott Burch, Design Engineer, Development Series Team Manager, Garry Rogers Motorsport.

Scott Burch, Design Engineer, Development Series Team Manager, Garry Rogers Motorsport.

The first time I’d heard of CFD was when Ford Australia used it to develop their V8 Supercar in 2003 on their super computer in America.  When describing the power of the hardware, they said it was used to calculate nuclear bomb tests; which blew my mind.  I never thought that I’d be working at Garry Rogers Motorsport one day and using it to design a Volvo V8 Supercar.

In my final year of high school I was in the class of 2000 (does anyone remember that Y2K thing?). Originally wanting to be an architect, I was rejected from the degree after my final interview when they asked if I like reading. I responded with “I’d rather look at the pictures” (a CFD engineer in the making right there!).  I instead had to settle for a building design and drafting course and found that dedication was an issue because I was always going to car races and working on cars in my spare time.  Being the kind of person who just has to finish things, I completed my drafting course before taking steps to work in the automotive industry.

In 2004 I accepted a job working as a Fabricator and Painter for the design bucks and clay models of the then-upcoming Holden VE Commodore (Pontiac G6 in America).  I thoroughly enjoyed this job and remember putting in long hours (90 hour week once) to get these projects done on time.  This led to a Fitting and Turning apprenticeship with GM Holden at their engine manufacturing plant just across the road.

At the end of my apprenticeship in 2008, the GFC had hit.  While Australia was lucky to avoid much of the turmoil, times were very tough with Holden because it was part of GM and all apprentices were let go at the end of our time.  I had been studying Mechanical Engineering at night school for the entirety of my apprenticeship after initially enrolling just to show GM I was keen, but found that I really enjoyed it.  I was at a crossroad where I either continued with my trade or pushed on with my study.

I ended up selling my house and went to RMIT University to study Mechanical Engineering full-time.  At the age of 26 I was the old man of my class.  I became involved in the FSAE team (students design and build and small race car), which was great for turning our course knowledge into real useable skills and making friends who I now see regularly at the track and work for other teams—frienemies.

It was in my last year, when I finally began to study CFD and vehicle aerodynamics, that a job offer from Garry Rogers Motorsport was circulating the student email system.  They wanted to start a CFD program for full car aerodynamic analysis and it was right up my alley.  I applied, made about 4000 phone calls, had an interview, and told them how much I enjoy looking at the pictures. This time that line worked for me.

CFD seems to really play into my psyche.  You can do almost anything you can imagine and I always have an idea I would like try.  Coming in to work when a simulation is nearly complete is like Christmas morning; the surprise is there and ready to be opened.

  • Location: Dandenong, Victoria, Australia (Dandenong is based on the local Aboriginal word for ‘lofty mountain’)
  • Current position: Design Engineer, Development Series Team Manager
  • Current computer: CPU Intel Core I5-3570 CPU @ 3.40GHz, 32GB RAM, NVIDIA Quadro FX 1500, Windows 7 and 2 x CPU Intel Core E5-2670 CPU @ 3.10GHz, 190GB RAM, CentOS 6.7
  • One word that best describes how you work: Obsessed

What software or tools do you use every day?

Pointwise V18.0R1, Caelus 6.04, Solidworks2016, Outlook, Excel, TI-89 Calculator, and a Vernier caliper.

What does your workspace look like?


The engineering office runs along the wall of the workshop directly behind the work bays for the cars and is shared by seven engineers.  We all have multiple roles on the team, apart from the two race engineers who are very much focused on the setup of the cars.  We have an air conditioner and constantly let the mechanics know about it on the 40°C (104°f) plus days.

I have all my data folders, category rule book, diary and my race car ONLY Toshiba Tectra laptop on the desk ready to go.  Scrap paper is used for roughing out calculations and design ideas and the occasional cartoon characters when the computer is thinking.  I’ve heard a rumor that the team owner enjoys stopping by my desk when I’m not around to see which character I’ve drawn.

I run two monitors/computers.  On the right is my Windows machine, and on the left is the Linux number crunching beast.  The computers are linked using the Synergy keyboard and mouse sharing program so that I can quickly jump between computers.

What do you see are the biggest challenges facing CFD in the next 5 years?

I suppose we have our own ideas depending on our experience in the industry.  I’d say in motorsport it would have to be finding the balance between the speed of solving and accuracy of the model.  It is difficult for people without the experience to accept this link.  Quite often you’re asked to make the mesh huge and detailed, while it has to be solved yesterday.

However the penetration of CFD, how it works, and what can be achieved, is slowly starting to become recognized by the public.  When I give sponsors and fans garage tours, the mention of CFD gets fewer confused looks than it did when I started.

What are you currently working on?

Many of our fans will be happy to hear that I’m still working hard on the Volvo S60 V8 Supercar.  With the introduction of mixed meshes in Pointwise, I am moving toward full car simulation to capture the out-of-symmetry features of the car.

What would you say is your meshing specialty?

Meshing high down force ground vehicles (or racecars for short) would have to be my specialty.  When considering the move to OpenFOAM, I had to rethink many of the ways I mesh when compared to the finite element solver I was using before.  In particular, when producing 2D surface meshes adjacent to each other, such as the front of the car and ground, the surface mesh should be generated using elements of similar edge lengths. Otherwise, once the volume is inflated between the two surface meshes there will be excessive centroid skewness, a metric our finite element solver was not as sensitive to.

Automotive aerodynamics is generally highly turbulent. This is especially true on production based body shapes with down force producing elements added to them.  Understanding of the flow separation regions goes a long way to producing consistent, reliable results and is something that using the source feature in V18 will be fantastic for.

Any tips for our users?

Download the Pointwise Y+ app.  It’s very useful for helping setup your T-Rex parameters.  Regularly refresh yourself on the fundamentals of CFD because sometimes you have to take that step back to take a step forward.

What project are you most proud of and why?

Definitely the Volvo S60 V8 supercar.  This was the first full car design we undertook using CFD, and it was a huge success.  I enjoyed researching not only the cars in our category, but cars in all forms of motorsport.  I ran models to test concepts and I had many “aha!” moments when the CFD revealed the key behind many design features that had puzzled me.

The Volvo also showed that there is no single solution to slap on an entire category of cars because their design features change so much between body types.  Even a seemingly insignificant change in surface area or changing the radius of an external component can make a profound difference to the aerodynamic behavior of the car.

What CFD solver and postprocessor do you use most often?

We spent a number of years using AcuSolve which is a finite element solver.  We had great success with this and our Pointwise meshes.  We’ve had an association with Applied CCM since 2012 as our technical CFD partner. Pointwise enthusiastically joined when Dr. Darrin Stephens told them about our struggles with the inflation of the volume mesh due to the complexity and size of the models we were building; very much a case of “challenge accepted.”

Since the release of Caelus from Applied CCM, we’ve pushed to utilize this solver for our work which has begun to work well for us after changing a few of our meshing methods.  After initially working in ParaView for post processing, we’ve moved to FieldView because our past experience has shown it is a very powerful tool for creating visuals and data.

Are you reading any interesting technical papers we should know about?

I subscribe to Racecar Engineering magazine.  They have a contributor named Simon McBeath and I’d credit him with helping me develop my methodology for evaluating my CFD models.  Mr. McBeath has recently done some features with Miqdad Ali from Dynamic Flow Solutions on Formula 1 CFD in OpenFOAM which have been really interesting.  In the September 2016 issue they evaluate the challenges with overtaking scenarios and aerodynamic behavior in anticipation of future rule changes in F1.

Do you plan on attending any conferences or workshops next year?

It is difficult to attend workshops and conferences from Australia, which is why writing for The Connector is really great.  Following the Twitter feeds of various people also help keep me up to date.

I attended the Pointwise UGM this year which was a great experience, and not just for meeting the people behind the scenes, but to also see what other users are doing with the software and share what they’ve learned.  The UGM was my first time using Pointwise V18 and I had brought a mesh of the Supercar with me. Within one hour I’d reduced the surface mesh size by 500k elements which would in turn reduce the volume mesh by ~10M elements once T-rex was applied.  I’d almost put all of those elements back in areas of interest by using the new sources feature.

What do you do outside the world of CFD?

I’m currently finishing the restoration of my 1971 Datsun 240Z.  When I started it was going to be a fire breathing track weapon. But the older I get the more I want it to look as it did when it came out of the factory, which is much harder to do than customizing it!  There were only 1,500 delivered to Australia, but 250,000 to the U.S., which makes it a treasure trove of rare bits.  I have spent years combing through online shops and auctions, and putting up with insane postage costs to get it to this point.  My parts always have a stopover in Hawaii on their way to Australia. Half my car has been there and I haven’t, what a mockery.  I have also begun the restoration of my father’s 1974 Ford Falcon GT.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Mad Max, then you’ve seen this car before.

I’m a bit of an artist and last year purchased a Wacom Cintiq 24HD drawing screen.  I initially wanted to draw my own comic strips, but have steered toward automotive painting and have done a few commission paintings for people. I also do a painting for the team and sponsors at the end of the year.  I have a profile on DeviantArt where I post my digital paintings and also see what other artists are doing.  I’m a big fan of futuristic sci-fi cityscapes and futuristic apocalyptic ruins. It’s so creative and I love dark landscapes, though I don’t have a dark personality, I swear.

Both of these hobbies involve a lot of patience.  Sometimes I’ll be so close to a milestone and realize I just can’t spend more time on it, or I have to order a part before I can progress.  So, tools down for the night.

Cars, cars, cars it would seem.

I hope to see a bit of the world in the future. My job does have me travelling to a different part of the country or world every 2-3 weeks, but I often only get to the see the hotel and race track.  Greece and Italy are currently high on the list.

What is some of the best CFD advice you’ve ever received?

“Wind tunnels find the What; CFD finds the Why.” – Aerodynamics of Road Vehicles, Wolf-Heinrich Hucho.

If you had to pick a place to have dinner, where would you go?

Can I go back to the early 90’s for this dinner?  There was a restaurant when I was about 8 or 9 called “Robs” and it was a Chinese restaurant, so I always found the name a bit odd.  They had the best food and plenty of it.  The front window had water cascading from the roof into a pool below with a big flame erupting from the middle.  As a kid I would run an Olympic marathon chasing my twin brother around the place. I’m surprised no one ever scolded me for it.  It was the best experience.

About Travis Carrigan

A Pointwise engineer helping other engineers solve their meshing problems.
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1 Response to I’m Scott Burch and This Is How I Mesh

  1. Scott, the paintings on your DeviantArt page are amazing. They look like photographs.

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