Beginner's Tutorial: Model a desktop fan with Valispace

"Tell Me and I Will Forget; Show Me and I May Remember; Involve Me and I Will Understand."

In this tutorial we go through a 20-step example of how to use Valispace's main functionalities to build a simple product yourself: a deskop fan.

desktop fan

We recommend that before starting with this tutorial you have already completed the initial tour inside your Valispace account.

(1) Configure the ValiTypes

ValiTypes will ensure that every new component you create contains already Valis of a certain type with a default formula (e.g. Mass, Power Consumption, etc.)

Ensure that the correct Valitypes exist

  • In the top navigation bar, go to settings > Configure Valitypes valitypes button
  • Check that the following Valitypes exist already:
    • mass (Unit: "g", "Add by default to new components": True, "default formula": "soc()")
    • power_consumption, Unit: "W", "Add by default to new components": True, "default formula": "soc()" [=sum of children]
  • In case they do not exist, add them, so that your configuration looks at least like this:
    valitype configuration

PowerUserTip: soc() means sum of children and ensures that by default this vali adds up valis which are of the same type in components (1 level) below in the tree

(2) Add a new Project

Projects allow you to keep multiple projects in one single Valispace deployment.

Create a new project

  • In the top navigation bar, click on settings > New Project
  • Enter a not yet existing project name (e.g. cooling_fan or TomsFan) and click OK
  • Go to the Components tab in the top navigation bar and you should see your new project alongside the existing projects:
    project configuration

PowerUserTip: Although most of the time you will be working on one single project, you are also able to show multiple projects in the same time and make cross-references between them. Just click the project folder project folder in the top navigation bar (if you have more than one project).
To access a Vali from a different project in a formula or analysis, just type: $Projectname::Valiname

(3) Add Components to your Project

Let's start building your fan! Every product can be broken down into its sub-components like a tree. The hierarchical component tree is one of the core features of Valispace.

Create the fan

  • In the sidebar, right click on your new project and select create. Name the new component Fan and hit Enter.
  • Right click the new Fan component and select create. Name the new component Propeller.
  • Repeat to create the components Motor, Speed_controller and Structure as sub components of Fan
  • Your tree should now look like this:
    component tree

PowerUserTip: You can drag and drop components in the tree, also between projects.

(4) Change the values

In Valispace, Valis are parameters of components which contain your engineering values. Valis have properties such as formulas, values, history and much more. Your newly created components should already contain two Valis, mass and power_consumption. So go let's go ahead and put in some values into your Valis!

Change the mass and the powerconsumption value

  • For each component “Propeller”, “Motor”, “Speed_controller”, “Structure” you can change the value of mass and power consumption by clicking on the 0.000 value beside the name:

updated valis

  • Enter new values for the following components
    • Propeller mass = 30, power_consumption = 0
    • Motor mass = 110, power_consumption = 1
    • Speed_controller mass = 15, power_consumption = 0.1
    • Structure mass = 80, power_consumption = 0
  • See now that Valispace has automatically calculated the fan mass to be 235g and its power_consumption to be 1.1W

(5) Add a new vali

You can always add additional valis you want to track in any component with a formula/value and a unit. You can access Valis in formulas by using the $ symbol.

Add the propeller efficiency and delivered power

  • Go to the Propeller component
  • In the top field select add vali, type efficiency as name and 0.85 as value.
  • Leave the unit field empty and click save

add the propeller efficiency

  • Repeat for another Vali with name power_delivered and value/formula $Motor.power_consumption*$Propeller.efficiency (a drop down will appear where you can choose the desired Vali after you start typing the $-sign). Leave the unit field empty to be calculated automatically from the formula or specify the unit W, then click save. The Valis of Propeller should now look like this:
    propeller valis

(6) Detail your design and re-use components

After having made a rough design you can always model more in detail your product. If you have components which are (almost) equal, "connected copies" help you maintain them in sync: If you change a property of one connected component, all others will also be updated.

Create three connected rotor blades

  • Right click on the Propeller component and click Create to create a sub-component named Blade1
  • After this component has been created, right-click on it and select Copy & connect. A new connected component Blade2 appears on the same level.
  • Repeat the previous step to also generate Blade3:
    connected copy
  • In any of the three blades, change the mass to 10 and the powerconsumption to 0. You can now verify in any of the other blades, that all connected blades now have the same mass and powerconsumption.

PowerUserTip: You can disconnect Valis or entire components by clicking on the connection symbol next to its name. More details can be found in the connected copies documentation.

(7) Make use of margins

At an early development stage you are usually not sure about the exact value of any property. This is why you put a margin on top of the value. Valispace takes care of propagating this uncertainty throughout all your calculations.

Add an uncertainty margin to the propeller mass

  • In the Propeller component, in the mass row, add a positive margin to the vali, by clicking the plus symbol in the margin column. Enter a value of 10 (meaning a 10% margin).
  • You can now observe how the worst case value is changed to 33g. You can also see the the Fan component's mass now has a total margin of 1.3% and a worst case of 238g. margin

(8) Add Modes

Some values are not static, but depend on the state of the product you are building. This is what modes are for: they track different configurations and their relationships of your product.

Define the modes of your system: differnet speeds, power modes and ON/OFF-states

  • The motor can run at certain discrete speeds, so in the Motor component, select add modes (instead of add vali) in the top field, enter the name speed_settings and 3 in the # field, to add 3 modes.
  • When the mode has been added to Modes and reference frames of the component, rename the speed_settings field names to ZERO, LOW, and HIGH, by clicking and changing the default names a,b and c In the top field, select add matrix. Write rotational_speeds in the name field, Motor.speed_settings in the mode/reference frame field and rpm in the unit field. Then click save.
  • Now change the values to the following: rpm settings
  • Repeat adding a mode for Speed_controller with name power_modes and fields ON and OFF like so: power modes
  • Repeat again for Fan with name state and fields OFF, MIN, MAX: state

(9) Make Valis Modedependent

Now that you have defined the modes of your system, you can make Valis dependent on them. So a Vali might not always have the same value, but actually a value dependent on a certain mode

Make your power consumptions mode dependent

  • Go to the Vali power_consumption in component Fan. Open the Vali info (arrow to the left) and click the button Make mode dependent. Select mode Fan.state and click Yes.
  • Repeat the same procedure with the power consumption Valis in Motor and Speed_controller with the respective mode created in the previous step for each of the components and click OK.
  • Change the values of the power consumption of Motor and Speed_controller in the different modes to the following:
    • Motor:
      motor power consumption
    • Speed_controller:
      speed controller power consumption

States of a system can depend on each other. This is why in Valispace you can link modes which belong together

Create a connection between Fan-states and the modes of Motor and the Speed_controller

  • Go to the Fan component
  • Under Modes and reference frames of the component, expand the mode info of Fan.state (arrow to the left)
  • Underneath Mode links, select Speed_controller.power_modes and click Add link
  • Repeat for Motor.speed_settings
  • Now choose the links between the states as follows:
    linked modes

After Valispace has finished its calculations (all on-going calculations can be seen in the Background tasks status in the lower left corner), you can observe that the Fan power_consumption has the following values:
fan powerconsumption after mode connection

(11) Add an Analysis

As an engineer you will have to create Analysis to leverage your engineering data and to document soft properties of your design

Add a descriptive Analysis

  • Go to the Analysis tab in the top navigation bar
  • At the top of the sidebar, click on add analysis, select your project and write the name Power_analysis. Click Enter to create the analysis.
    add analysis
  • Click edit in the top right corner to open the editor
  • Write an introduction inside the analysis like this (any plain text):

The Analysis content is automatically saved while you type.

(12) Save text as a Vali for re-use

There is nothing worse than a copy-paste text which you have introduced into many Analysis. Once any information changes in that text, you usually now would have to do updates in many places. However in Valispace you can save text, so you can easily re-use it and only have to modify it once.

Save the introduction text as a text Vali

  • Mark the introduction text in the analysis and then click on the button labeled convert to text vali:
    convert to textvali
  • Enter the name intro and click convert. The text will be replaced by #Power_analysis.intro, which can now be used in other analysis also.
  • The text Vali will be converted back to its original text, when you click close.

PowerUserTip: To access a text Vali in any Analysis, just start typing # and a dropdown field will appear to auto-complete your selection. You can try that out here.

(13) Add a new Vali to the Analysis

You will encounter the fact that not all your data necessarily belongs to a component you are modelling and therefore is better suited to be created directly in an analysis.

Store the room temperature inside your analysis

  • Click edit to open again the editor.
  • Click the button Insert Vali to add a new Vali to the analysis:
    create vali in analysis
  • Enter name room_temperature with unit degC and value 25 (Reference field can be left blank)

(14) Access Valis in Analysis

One of the main promises of Valispace is that you will not have to do copy-pasting and update of documentation anymore, if the values of your design change. So, let's use some Valis from your design in the Analysis:

Write some text, using Valispace placeholders

  • Add the following sentence in the editor (if you type it instead of copy-pasting it, you will be able to see the auto-complete feature for Valis in action):
When the room temperature reaches $Power_analysis.room_temperature degrees the fan is turned on at MAX power.  
The power consumption of the fan is then $Fan.power_consumption.MAX.
  • Click close. Now you will see that the values of Power_analysis.room_temperature and Fan.power_consumption.MAXare shown. Valispace will always keep them up-to-date for you. reference vali in analysis

(15) Add a Pie Chart

Valispace does not only keep track of single data entries, but also allows for visualisations that are kept up to date.

Insert a mass break-down chart of your fan

  • In the editor, click the button Insert auto chart autochart button
  • Select Pie chart
  • Start typing $Fa and use the auto-complete to select $Fan.mass as the Vali
  • Click insert
  • Close the Analysis. You should now see the following graph: autochart

PowerUserTip: These graphs will still show the correct distributions, even if you add or delete sub-components in the tree. You can go ahead and try it by adding another subcomponent to the fan, which also has a mass.

(16) Create an engineering budget

Engineering budgets are at the heart of every hardware development: Clearly tracking apportionments of design values for key requirements, such as mass, powerconsumption, etc. is now easy and always up to date.

Insert a power budget for your fan

  • In the editor, click the button Insert budget autobudget button
  • Type $Fan.power_consumption.OFF
  • Select the mode Fan.state (to display the powerconsumption with respect to the fan states)
  • Check the show positive margin checkbox
  • Click insert
  • The following placeholder is inserted into your analysis: %%budget%$Fan.power_consumption.OFF%4%margin_plus,%%
  • When you click close, this placeholder is replaced by a dynamic, mode-dependent powerbudget: powerbudget
  • To export the analysis as PDF, click the button “print analysis” in the top right corner
  • To copy a table, click the copy button on the upper right corner of the table and paste it into e.g. Excel, Powerpoint or Word

PowerUserTip: If the values in a budget table row are in italic it means that the values is the same for all modes, so this is not a mode dependent Vali.

(17) Tags for your custom needs

Tags are a multi-purpose tool for your specific team needs. You can use it to mark Valis, Components or Analysis. Use them to indicate the reliability of a value (assumption / calculated / measured), actions for team members (review:Tom / approval:Christine) or any other marking or grouping.

Tag your room temperature as a measured value

  • Scroll down to the Valis of the analysis
  • In the row of room_temperature, click on the grey text that indicates add tag, type measurement and hit Enter:
  • You can now search and filter for this tag, using the search box in the top navigation bar

PowerUserTip: by clicking on the configuration symbol configuration button in the top navigation bar, you can reach the tags configuration. Here you can re-name tags and assign colours to them.

(18) Vali Subscriptions

One of the most difficult tasks in an engineering project is to keep track of all the technical changes in the system which affect your discipline. Valispace makes that easy, by allowing you to subscribe to Valis: Whenever a value you subscribed to or an input to this value changes, you get a short notification.

Subscribe and get notifications

  • In the row of the Vali room_temperature, click the subscribe button on the right
  • Change the value of room_temperature from 25 to 30
  • Verify that you got a notification in the top navigation bar telling you that the Vali has changed notification

PowerUserTip: Clicking on the checkmark beside the notification will mark the change as seen and will show a graph of changes made over time, so you can easily see the trend for Valis you subscribed to.

(19) Track your Valis against requirements

Most technical developments are designed against strict requirements, e.g. on mass, powerconsumption, budget, etc. Valispace maintains the complete overview of whether your design is currently fulfilling all of these requirements.

  • Open the detailed info of the room_temperature Vali
  • In the requirements row, add a max value of 25
  • A warning sign appears next to your Vali indicating the requirement violation
  • Click the Valispace logo in the top left corner to go to your dashboard
  • In the dashboard an overview of all current requirement violations is given: requirement violation

PowerUserTip: Requirement tracking takes the defined margins into account. So if your value including margins violates the requirements, the tool will let you know.

(20) Export Valis

Sometimes you might have to interface with other software to carry out more complex simulations. Valispace offers several Addons and Interfaces. However if you have a special software which needs to access data, you can always export Valis as a .csv file.

Export the motor powerconsumption for further analysis

  • Go to the export tab in the top navigation bar
  • At the top of the sidebar to the left, select your project and write the name export1. Click Enter to create the export.
  • In the field Add $Vali to export enter $Motor.power_consumption.HIGH and click the plus sign
  • Repeat for $Motor.power_consumption.LOW
  • Click the Export .csv button in the top right corner
  • A .csv file with the Vali information will be downloaded to your computer which you can then import to any other program that you are working with

PowerUserTip: If your external simulation program creates outputs, which you would like to track with to track in Valispace, you can use the same format to import values back by using the Import .csv, .xls or .xlsxbutton.

Add more detail

Congratulations, you now know your way around Valispace! Now, it's up to your imagination. Play around with the Valispace software and add more detail to the model.

Some ideas:

  • Add a solar panel component to make the fan portable. You can make the maximum rotational speed dependent on the sun angle of the solar panel.
  • Write some marketing material in Word, using the Valispace Word Plugin to include technical values which are automatically kept up to date with your design.
  • Or how about creating a simulation to calculate the resulting room temperature depending on the fan modes? You can directly access all Valis from Matlab, using the Valispace Matlab Toolbox.

Next Steps?

You want to build something big and awesome? How about giving our Saturn V Tutorial a try?