02 December 2013

Improvements to the Automated Design Tool

AguaClara’s Automated Design Tool allows communities to not only expediently obtain a detailed plan of their plant, but also to effectively gauge how feasible or appropriate AguaClara technology is for their needs. The design tool takes input values such as flow rate and location, and produces a report of the plant, a model rendered in AutoCAD, and a list of supplies, all of which are adjusted according to those initial given parameters.


Integral to the function of AguaClara’s Automated Design Tool (ADT) is the Design team, a group of students who code all the functions and algorithms that make this automation possible. Design team members work from the results of our research teams and add or edit code that reflect design changes in our Automated Design Tool. Each part of the plant has its own code; these programs are integrated into and parsed by a file called EtFlocSedFi that runs as the engine for the ADT.


The Design team for this semester is split between several different tasks. Two of our members are creating functions that will display section cuts of the plants. This was originally a tedious process that engineers had to do manually, so we’re seeking to automate it as part of our ADT. A second group is integrating a new insight concerning the design of the sedimentation tank to the current code. Specifically, they’re writing functions that will tweak the placement of the inlet jet diffuser for better floc formation and add additional supports to either side of one of the tank’s pipes.

Derrick Yee is organizing the pieces of code that comprise the design tool. Currently, the code lacks organizational comments and so it’s not immediately clear to a new user how it works. Derrick is in the process of creating guidelines that standardize the coding procedures so that future members of the design team can start working on the code without such a steep learning curve. He’s also building a calculator to go with the current design tool so that communities will not only be able to know the specifications of their plant, but also how much the project will cost them.

Heidi is building a modular version of the design tool, which means that in the future our design tool will provide communities with plans for any single one of AguaClara’s technologies that they might need. Currently, the design tool is built so that the code for each part of the plant is dependent on the code of at least one other plant component. Heidi needs to rewrite the code so that all the parts are independent. When she’s finished, not only will users be able to obtain detailed plans for any given part of the plant, but they’ll be able to input more specifications; in addition to flow rate, the modular design tool will take inputs for energy dissipation rate, among other parameters.

Our current design tool gives designs for a plant that isn’t necessarily optimal for lower flow rates, and so Julia has been writing a design tool for low-flow plants. Her design centers around the research done by the Low Flow Stacked Rapid Sand Filtration Team, but it also improves flocculation given the lower flow rate, making the sedimentation tank both more efficient and more affordable.

Julia's plant design for low flow rates.
Lastly, Paul is in the process of designing flow control solutions for the plant’s entrance tank. The idea behind this is that the plant operator should have some control over the water coming into the plant, especially in cases where the water is flowing in excessive quantities. Our current method, a bronze gate valve, allows the operator to dump the entire plant flow, but it’s too expensive to implement in larger plants. After assessing the cost and efficacy of alternative solutions that either feature different valve types, multiple smaller-sized valves in parallel, or the use of Fernco flexible fittings on the top of the drain stopper pipes in the entrance tank, the latter of the three seems to be the most cost-effective solution.


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