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Concept# Similitude

Summary

Similitude is a concept applicable to the testing of engineering models. A model is said to have similitude with the real application if the two share geometric similarity, kinematic similarity and dynamic similarity. Similarity and similitude are interchangeable in this context.
The term dynamic similitude is often used as a catch-all because it implies that geometric and kinematic similitude have already been met.
Similitude's main application is in hydraulic and aerospace engineering to test fluid flow conditions with scaled models. It is also the primary theory behind many textbook formulas in fluid mechanics.
The concept of similitude is strongly tied to dimensional analysis.
Engineering models are used to study complex fluid dynamics problems where calculations and computer simulations aren't reliable. Models are usually smaller than the final design, but not always. Scale models allow testing of a design prior to building, and in many cases are a critical step in the development process.
Construction of a scale model, however, must be accompanied by an analysis to determine what conditions it is tested under. While the geometry may be simply scaled, other parameters, such as pressure, temperature or the velocity and type of fluid may need to be altered. Similitude is achieved when testing conditions are created such that the test results are applicable to the real design.
The following criteria are required to achieve similitude;
Geometric similarity – the model is the same shape as the application, usually scaled.
Kinematic similarity – fluid flow of both the model and real application must undergo similar time rates of change motions. (fluid streamlines are similar)
Dynamic similarity – ratios of all forces acting on corresponding fluid particles and boundary surfaces in the two systems are constant.
To satisfy the above conditions the application is analyzed;
All parameters required to describe the system are identified using principles from continuum mechanics.

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