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Open-source process simulation - DWSIM

A nineties web startup might have had to shell out $200k to license database management software from Oracle. Today, that same startup could run PostgreSQL for free, and it would be in good company. Organizations ranging from Skype, to Apple, to the US Department of Labor have adopted open-source database management systems.

Could the paradigm shift for process simulation software as well? A single-seat Aspen license reportedly runs $20-50k per year, so the financial incentive is there. And while open-source applications may have yet to reach the adoption levels typical among software development tools, projects like Blender, GIMP, and FreeCAD are steadily gaining traction.

DWSIM is the most promising open-source process simulator currently available. It was first released in 2008 by Daniel Medeiros of Brazil. According to Daniel, DWSIM is downloaded about a hundred times each week. It is available for Windows and Linux, as well as the iOS and Android mobile platforms.

Over the last few weeks I have been testing DWSIM in a variety of applications. The online video tutorials provide a good basis for getting started (1, 2, 3, 4). DWSIM has an intuitive, graphical user-interface, comparable to any of its commercial counterparts. It also comes with the full array of standard features, including numerous thermodynamic models, unit operations, and calculation utilities.

Working with a recent release of DWSIM, I managed to encounter a minor bug early on. When I asked Daniel about it, he informed me that it was already fixed in the latest update. Though there are three regular contributors to the DWSIM code, Daniel does most of the development and quality control himself. He admits that it can be difficult to keep up. Until DWSIM develops a base of regular contributors, this may continue to be a challenge.

What I find exciting is that DWSIM makes process simulation available to organizations that couldn’t otherwise justify the costs, like smaller companies, educational institutions, and occasional users. I work primarily with start-ups and small companies in the early stages of technology development. Process simulation is not always necessary, but it is often useful. It’s great to have DWSIM as an option that does not rely on licensing. Stay tuned for more posts about my experiences using it.

Visit the SourceForge page if you would like to download the simulator, contribute your expertise, or donate to the effort.

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