On 10th December 2004, the first version (1.0) of OpenFOAM was released under the GNU general public licence by OpenCFD Ltd; 10th December 2010 therefore marks OpenFOAM’s 6th anniversary. During this time, OpenCFD have produced 7 major new releases of OpenFOAM, developing approximately half a million lines of code in the process, and enabling OpenFOAM to become the popular CFD code it is today.
OpenFOAM is one of a number of successful open source software products that began in the mid-2000s, such as Ubuntu, Android, WordPress and Blender. What all these products have in common is that the main development is carefully managed and undertaken by a professional organisation that also provides a range of services to the users. The quality of the software is maintained by having a dedicated, professional team to develop the code and a group of users that subject the software to detailed testing and careful scrutiny.
Back in 2004, the founders of OpenCFD - Henry Weller (OpenFOAM’s creator), Chris Greenshields and Mattijs Janssens - had the idea that companies and organisations that used OpenFOAM would fund the development of new features, so enabling OpenFOAM to grow. By the end of 2005, the idea was clearly working, with a number of companies funding OpenFOAM as part of bespoke development projects and software support. This method of funding has continued to the present day with around 100 companies/organisations paying directly for OpenFOAM’s development.
Over the last 6 years, there have been a number of major developments to OpenFOAM. During 2005, there was a rapid expansion of the multiphase flow applications and significant advances to related algorithms, particularly in the volume of fluid (VoF) method. In 2006, there were significant improvements made to solver speed and accuracy across the whole of OpenFOAM through better parallel communication, memory storage, discretisation and matrix solvers. Further improvements to VoF and the introduction of cavitation, porous media and multiple reference frames (MRF) appeared in 2007.
Following the arrival of Andy Heather at OpenCFD, 2008 saw a rapid increase in the number of applications, in areas such as conjugate heat transfer and buoyancy-driven flows. There was the introduction of radiation modelling and notably the release of snappyHexMesh, which enabled automatic generation of hex/polyhedral meshes for complex geometries in parallel. Until this time, OpenCFD had released OpenFOAM as binary and source packs through SourceForge, but then a source code repository was set up using Git to provide users with a version (1.5.x) that was regularly updated with the latest bug fixes.
In addition, OpenCFD began offering OpenFOAM training, initially to customers on-site but, shorty afterwards, as scheduled courses at hosted venues in the UK and Germany. In 2009 those courses extended across the globe, to the USA, Australia, South Africa, etc.
To meet demands for new developments in combustion following the v1.5 release, Sergio Ferraris was recruited to the OpenFOAM team. Graham Macpherson later joined also, bringing further expertise into the company, particular in relation to particle methods. With additional personnel, the v1.6 release in 2009 contained a significant amount of new functionality, e.g. in turbulence, thermophysical and particle modelling and function objects for on-the-fly post-processing.
These developments continued in 2010 with the introduction of selectable wall-function models, 6 degree of freedom (6DoF) rigid-body motion, applications in fire simulation, wind /atmospheric flows in version 1.7.0. A lot of new functionality appeared for boundary conditions and multiphase, thermophysical and particle modelling. Version 1.7.0 was the first to be released as Debian packs for Ubuntu to make OpenFOAM installation easier to users with limited expertise in computing with Linux.
Also in 2010, with the arrival of Helene Blanchonnet, OpenCFD created the new website for OpenFOAM, moving the domain to http://www.openfoam.com. A dedicated bug reporting system was set up, allowing reported bugs to be fixed efficiently, with corrections then pushed quickly into the git repository. The website was further developed to host the OpenFOAM training programme, managed by Jenya Collings, the latest recruit to the OpenFOAM team. In 2010, OpenCFD delivered 26 public scheduled training courses, in addition to several on-site courses.
What can we expect from OpenFOAM in 2011? Firstly, it should be remembered that the development of OpenFOAM is driven by the customers that fund it, so the choice of new functionality is determined by them. At present, the amount and range of new functionality being requested in continually increasing, so OpenCFD plan to recruit 2-3 more people to the development team in 2011 to meet the demand. Certainly, we have a number of current developments that promise to deliver exciting new releases in 2011. We look forward to bringing them to you.