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A practical system for hydrodynamic optimization of ship hull forms

Hoyte C. Raven, Martin Hoekstra

MARIN, Wageningen
1. Introduction
Since their foundation, model basins play an important role in hydrodynamic ship optimization.
Their customers (ship yards, ship owners, navies, etc.) come to verify their design targets, but expect in
addition advice on possible improvements. Such advice is based on experience and know-how, on
careful analysis of model test results, observations in the testing facilities and, since 15 years, results of
CFD calculations.
The rapid development of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), i.e. the prediction of flow
phenomena by numerical solution of a mathematical model of the flow, has resulted in a strongly
increasing role of flow computations in hydrodynamic ship design. Analysis of the results by an
experienced designer provides valuable indications on hull form modifications which are likely to
improve the flow and reduce resistance. In a number of steps, significant improvements are often
Much research is now done on the possibilities to replace this process by a fully automatic
optimization: to let a computer find the best ship form within the constraints set, by using suitable
search techniques in combination with flow computations. However, such approaches so far have had
limited success, for reasons to be explained below.
In this paper, we introduce a semi-automatic optimization technique that is more suitable for
routine application in practical ship design projects. The principal innovations are:
the completely flexible parametrisation of hull form variations;
the effective and intuitive system for specifying the deformations;
and the important role left for the designer, in selecting variations and analysing results.
As it will appear, this has opened the way towards a new dimension in CFD use in practical ship hull
form design.
Below we first describe the procedure followed up to now and the principal tools used. Next, we
discuss requirements for setting up a successful semi-automatic optimization procedure. Sections 4 and
5 describe the new tools developed. Examples of applications are discussed in Section 6.
2. CFD use in ship hull form design
Todays practice is that a model test campaign is preceded by an evaluation and improvement of
the design by numerical flow simulation. While the use of viscous-flow predictions is now increasing,
the majority of the computations used in ship design addresses the prediction of ship wave patterns and
wave resistance by nonlinear free-surface potential flow models. This is a routine procedure that has led
to important innovations in hull form design. In this paper we shall only consider this aspect of the
hydrodynamic design; although the approach described is more generally applicable and its use in
viscous-flow computations has been initiated.
s practice, an initial hull form in general is provided by a customer, e.g. a yard, either
as a linesplan on paper or in a digital format. It then is read into MARIN'
s CAD system GMS. This
system is based on a mathematical representation of the hull surface as a set of B-spline surfaces. Once
this representation is available, the hull form can be displayed graphically, the fairness of the surface
checked, hydrostatics computed, sectional area curves and linesplans generated. In addition, the user
can modify the hull form by shifting or adding control points of the B-spline surface. GMS is also used
in model manufacture, in particular for the numerical control of the milling process.
For the computation of the wave making and potential flow for this hull form, MARIN'
s freesurface panel code RAPID [1] is used. This requires a subdivision of the hull surface in small
quadrilateral elements. This '
panel distribution'must be dense enough to resolve the geometry and the
flow gradients. Inside the CAD-system GMS, the panelling can be quickly generated, visualised and
interactively adjusted. Once approved, the panelling is exported directly as a RAPID input file. Some
additional preprocessing is then carried out, such as the generation of a panel distribution on a part of
the water surface around the hull; and evaluation of some hydrostatic quantities.

Then, the actual wave pattern computation can be started. In RAPID, viscous effects on the flow
are disregarded (boundary layer, wake, viscous effect on stern waves) but otherwise all wave aspects
are exactly taken into account. The solution is approached in successive steps (iterations) in which the
flow field, wave surface and trim and sinkage of the hull are repeatedly updated until no further change
occurs. Usually, the final (converged) result is obtained in 10 to 30 iterations. On a modern PC with
sufficient memory, a computation for a case with 5000 panels can be completed in just a few minutes.
The comprehensive results thus obtained (pressure distributions, streamline patterns, wave
patterns, wave resistance, dynamic trim and sinkage etc.) provide much insight in the flow
characteristics and indicate desired hull form modifications. Such a modification is applied, a new
computation for the modified hull form is made, and the new results are analysed again. In this way, a
directed hull form improvement can be achieved, and in typically 3 to 6 steps significant reductions of
the wave making have often been reached.
3. Towards CFD-based hull form optimization
The process described is very successful in practice, but has two main drawbacks:
The modification of the hull form is rather time-consuming and must be done by specialists. The
short time available in practical projects limits the number of steps in the process. A faster hull form
modification technique would permit a closer approach of the optimum shape.
The analysis of results requires much experience and a good insight in the hydrodynamics. From
some isolated hull form variations and the corresponding wave patterns, conclusions must be drawn
on trends, cause & effect relationships, and the desired direction and magnitude of a modification.
To improve this process, there is a need to reduce the manual work such that more cases can be
computed, and to provide more information to the designer.
One might consider a fully automatic optimization process (i.e. a process in which the role of
the designer is restricted to its initiation, while all further decisions are left to the system) as the
ultimate solution: design targets and constraints go in, the optimum hull form comes out. However,
such a process has some serious difficulties, which so far have restricted its use to hypothetical cases
and prevented its introduction in practical ship design:
The optimizer is a search mechanism that requires an optimization criterion, a simple number
indicating the quality of a particular design variation. Present CFD codes are much better in
predicting flow fields and qualitative characteristics, than in predicting simple numbers (such as
resistance). Only a hydrodynamicist can estimate the reliability of the numbers by assessing their
consistency with the flow field.
The optimizer needs a specification of the design space, and the constraints that need to be satisfied.
Some constraints are clear and quantitative (displacement, LCB, hard points), but some are not (e.g.
the bulb must also work well at different drafts, the pressure distribution should not lead to flow
separation, the CFD code cannot be trusted for this particular hull form). The latter can be taken
into account by a hydrodynamicist but not by an optimizer.
The optimizer needs to identify a hull form variant by a set of parameters. For a reasonable
optimization effort, there should not be too many free parameters, but still the parameterisation
must allow a sufficiently general and detailed description of the shape. There is no fully satisfactory
solution yet to these conflicting requirements. Moreover, in an optimization one wants to vary
parameters that are hydrodynamically relevant and preferably independent. Here again, a
hydrodynamicist can make that selection, but an optimizer cannot always.
To avoid these shortcomings we propose a semi-automatic optimization process which allows an
extensive exploration of the design space in a short time, but is guided by the designer'
s experience and
imagination. Specifically, the hydrodynamic designer
defines the parametric variations of the hull form that he considers worth evaluating; and does so in
a way that the parameters are few in number and largely independent;
checks the hull form variations for their acceptability and satisfaction of geometric constraints;
analyses the predicted results and trends, assesses the validity of the predicted performance data,
and decides on the best parameter values, taking into account other aspects and constraints.

This makes the procedure a rational extension of that used since several years, thus facilitating an
immediate introduction in practice and limiting the risk of disappointing results. While we recognize the
power of sophisticated optimization algorithms, particularly when several optimization criteria are
imposed, we favour an approach that supports and complements the designers experience rather than
comes instead of that experience.
4. Parametric geometry deformation
Once a role for the designer in the optimization process is admitted, the need for a complete parametric
description of the hull form disappears. Instead, much more flexible is then to accept an initial hull form
of any shape and to parameterize the hull form modification. This immediately removes the problem of
how to describe a hull form with a limited set of parameters, and still be able to describe all meaningful
details: all variants are completely defined by the initial hull form (in the usual B-spline surface
description) plus a few parameters of the deformations.
The designer then selects the deformation modes that he thinks relevant for the case considered.
This must be done for every case anew, and the challenge is to devise a system that is both flexible and
efficient. For the parametric deformations two tools have been created, described below.
volume deformation
Volume deformation (also called global or free form deformation) is invoked by defining a box
around the part of the hull form to be modified, e.g. the complete forebody or the bulb. Fig. 1 gives an
impression of the user interface. In the top right panel, a designer sets the location and size of the
deformation box. Next, he can move a face, edge or corner point of that box by pulling with the mouse.
E.g. pulling the front face forward causes a longitudinal extension of bulb; pulling the front top edge
upward causes a bulb tilting; moving a corner point can produce other deformations. The deformations
are shown instantly in the perspective window and in the waterlines, sections and buttocks plan. For
higher-order boxes, there are also intermediate faces, edges and points that can be manipulated. An
important property of the method is that a fair shape, and a fair transition from the deformed to the
undeformed part, is retained.
The designer applies the kind of deformation he wishes, and sets the maximum amount of
deformation. Via the '
parameter info'menu (the bottom left panel in Fig. 1) a parameter value of 1 is
associated with this most deformed shape, while parameter = 0 is the undeformed shape. By moving the
slider in that panel, the hull forms for all parameter values between 0 and 1 are instantly displayed in
the perspective view and linesplan. An immediate check on the acceptability of the range of shapes is
thus possible. Multiple boxes can be defined, for the same or different parts of the hull. In a session of
an hour the designer thus can define multi-parameter hull form families that are acceptable, satisfy
geometric constraints and are hydrodynamically relevant for the case at hand.
These properties are achieved by representing the box as a 3D B-spline of order 2,3 or 4, i.e. any
position inside the box is found from
x ( , , ) = bi , j , k Bip ( ) B qj ( ) Bkr ( )
i =1 j =1 k =1



points and Bi, Bj and Bk are the B-spline basis functions in the three directions. Suppose the hull form is
described by the control points dI , (i=1,,N) of the B-spline surface. Then to those control points di
ZKLFKDUHLQVLGHWKHER[WKUHHSDUDPHWHUYDOXHV i i i are assigned, according to their position in the
undeformed box. Next the box is deformed by moving the box control points bI,j,k to b'I,j,k. This
deformation is then applied to the surface control points dI as well by using (1) with the original
SDUDPHWHUV i i i. By moving control points instead of the hull shape itself, the hull remains smooth.

Figure 1 Example of specification of parameters.

Fig. 2: A variety of bulbous bow shapes, defined

deformations to an original shape.

by different single-parameter

local deformation
In practice, some desired hull form changes are hard to realize with box deformation. Therefore
we have added a second possibility to let the designer simply define a new hull form by a manual
adjustment of the initial hull without changing the number of control points. Again by introducing

d i = (1 )d i old + d i new

(i = 1,2,..., N

0 1)

changes smoothly from its original shape to the modified shape. By defining several new shapes, a
multi-parameter family is created. Again, via a user interface all members of this family can be
This option is flexible and sometimes faster than volume deformation. On the other hand it is less
practical for global changes like adjusting aftbody buttock slope or entrance angle.
In this way, the parametric geometry handling part of the process is not automatic, but can be
done quickly; and it is a perfectly open system. The designer can use his experience, skill and ingenuity
to define those hull shape variations which seem hydrodynamically relevant. He is completely free in
his choice and is not bound by a preset list of parameters. He has just got some tools to define a hull
form variation efficiently which allows him to explore more shapes than before, while keeping full
control over the shape.
5. Flow computations
To use the systematic hull form variations to minimise wave resistance, RAPID calculations
need to be carried out, but now for tens or hundreds of similar cases. Tools have therefore been created
to minimise user intervention and turnaround time in this process.

To reduce the effect of numerical errors it is important that similar (and adequate) hull and freesurface panellings are generated for all variations. A panelling on the initial hull form is first generated
interactively in GMS. The same settings are subsequently used to automatically generate panel
distributions on all variants. In the interface, upon moving the parameter slider the panelling for all
deformed shapes can be visually checked.
To start the evaluation of a multi-parameter hull form family, the designer starts a tool that asks
for the number of steps to be made between 0 (undeformed) and 1 (maximum deformation) in each
parameter. All combinations will then be evaluated, e.g. for a 3-parameter family with 5 steps in each
parameter, there will be 6 * 6 * 6 = 216 variants. Scripts are then run that generate all hull forms,
generate panellings on hull and free-surface, and check the hydrostatics for all of these. All input files
are then transferred to a parallel computer, and all RAPID computations are started simultaneously.
Turnaround depends on the number of processors available, but as much as 100 computations can be
completed in half an hour.
The process then returns some files collecting the principal results: wave resistance values, all
wave patterns and pressure distributions, wave cut comparisons. It is well known that the wave
resistance values predicted by panel codes are not always very accurate, due to neglect of viscous
effects on wave making and numerical inaccuracies. Therefore, besides inspection of the wave
resistances, a qualitative assessment and ranking is made based on comparison of longitudinal wave
cuts, as in Fig.3; and on animations showing how the hull shape, hull pressure distribution and wave
pattern are related for variation of the parameters. This provides the designer with sufficient information
to understand the effects of the design parameters varied, and to select some of the best shapes for a
more detailed analysis. This careful analysis of the whole set of results prevents that any shortcomings
in the quantitative criteria determine the final result.
In practical design projects we usually adopt a stepwise approach varying 1,2 or 3 parameters at a
time. After selection of the best settings for these parameters, a next step can be made in which either a
more refined variation of an existing parameter is evaluated, or new parameters are introduced.
6. Applications
Fig. 3 shows an example of the results obtained, a longitudinal cut through the bow and
foreshoulder wave system for a full hull form. By a single-parameter deformation the fore shoulder was
slightly shifted in order to optimize the bow-fore shoulder wave interference. While, based on simple
linear theory, a good position already had been estimated, the parametric deformations allowed a finetuning in which the transverse wave system could be reduced even further; and provide clear
information on trends.


- 0 .5

X /L

Figure 3. Longitudinal wave cut for a tanker.



o r ig in a l
s te p 2 v a r 2 4
s te p 3 v a r7
s te p 4 v a r5
s te p 5 v a r 1 0 4
s te p 6 v a r1 4

- 0 .5

0 .5

X /L
Figure 4. Longitudinal wave cuts at y/L = 0.25, for RoRo vessel.

Figure 5. Computed wave pattern of original (top) and optimized hull form of RoRo vessel.
Vertical scale 3 times magnified.
Figs 4 and 5 illustrate an optimization of a RoRo vessel, done in a comparative study in the EUfunded project Fantastic. The objective was to minimise wave resistance at Fn = 0.31, by making
changes to the forebody, constrained by limits on displacement, LCB and bulb length. This problem has
been addressed by 6 different groups using a variety of tools [2]. While most have used automatic
optimization, we have just adopted the stepwise approach based on systematic deformations, as
described above. In about 6 steps, in which 9 parameters were varied and altogether 283 variants were
evaluated, an estimated wave resistance reduction was achieved of 12 %. Taking into account the

modest wave making of the original design, this is still a significant improvement. Fig. 5 compares the
wave patterns of original and optimised hull.
Fig.4 shows wave cuts for the best variants from all steps, illustrating how successive steps
produced a further reduction of the bow wave amplitude (left half of the figure). This confirms that a
designer can work in the right direction by defining parametric deformations on the spot, seeing the
results for the vessel treated; and the computations will help him finding out how far to go. As
discussed in [5], most other groups working on this case used automatic optimization, varied 5 to 15
parameters simultaneously and evaluated large numbers of variations; all the same the result of the
stepwise approach described here was one of the best.
7. Conclusions and further work
We have described a semi-automatic process for hydrodynamic optimization of ships. Starting point is
an initial hull form of arbitrary shape. A parametric deformation of that hull is defined in the CAD
system, either by volume (global) deformation or simply by local control point manipulation. As
combined with non-linear free surface potential flow calculations, this has proved to be an easily usable
and attractive tool in quickly exploring the effects of systematic hull form variation on the
hydrodynamic performance. Similar systems can be set up for other kinds of flow analysis (viscous
flow, seakeeping, manoeuvring or even combinations of them) as well. The same deformation tools
have tentatively been applied in combination with an optimizer, using a genetic algorithm; which is a
useful next step. However, the essential role to the designer in choosing the hull form variation and in
keeping a critical eye on the course of the optimization process is to be kept.
In the same time that previously some 3 to 6 variants could be investigated, now large numbers
of shapes can be explored with of course a better chance of getting the best result. Having proved to be
successful, the process has meanwhile been introduced as a part of the customer services of MARIN
and is being applied on a large scale.
Several colleagues at MARIN played an important role in the development and introduction of
the tools described. In particular, Hans van der Kam, Peter de Hon and Jaap Wisserhof made important
This work has been partly funded by the EC through the project FANTASTIC, Functional
Design and Optimization of Ship Hull Forms, G3RD-CT-2000-00096, a joint project of FINCANTIERI,
[1]. Raven, H.C., "A solution method for the nonlinear ship wave resistance problem", Thesis,
Technical University of Delft, June, 1996.
[2]. Valdenazzi, F., Harries, S., Janson, C.E., Leer-Andersen, M., Maisonneuve, J.J., Marzi, J, and
Raven, H.C., "The FANTASTIC RoRo: CFD optimisation of the forebody and its experimental
verification", NAV'
03 Conference, Palermo, Italy, 2003.