Versatility of PIPE-FLO® DataLink

By Jeff Sines, Senior Product Engineer | Engineered Software, Inc.

No software solution performs all the calculations that an engineer needs when it comes to modeling and analyzing a complex industrial or commercial piping system. But with PIPE-FLO® Professional’s DataLink feature, all the design data and calculated results from the piping system model can be exported to any ODBC (Open Data Base Connectivity) capable program for additional calculations, report generation, or business data tracking and management.

PIPE-FLO is primarily used to determine the steady state flow rates and pressures that satisfy the conservation of mass and energy throughout a piping system based on the boundary conditions and performance of each device in the model. These calculations are important to engineering, operations, and maintenance personnel in designing and modifying the system, sizing equipment, troubleshooting problems, or evaluating system operations.

Although PIPE-FLO doesn’t perform calculations for all aspects that may be important to other groups involved with the piping system, DataLink provides a means for these groups to retrieve relevant data they need for use in their spreadsheets, reports, or database management programs like Microsoft Excel® and Access, NCReports or Crystal Reports, or Oracle Database.

What is DataLink?

Each piece of data in a PIPE-FLO model has a unique DataLink field name and is contained in a data table for the device, fluid zone, pipe specification, and the overall document. The data tables are compiled when the user clicks on the “Send to DataLink” button . If the model is not calculated, only the design data will be available. If the model is calculated, the calculated results for each device will also be added to the appropriate data table.

The DataLink table name can be found in the Property Tips Box of the Property Grid when the device design or results header is selected, shown in Figure 1. Figure 2 shows the DataLink field name displayed in the Property Tips Box when the field is selected in the Property Grid. A complete list of DataLink Table names and Field names can be found in Help File. This list is subject to change as new devices, calculations, or features are added to the program.

Figure 1. Where to find the DataLink table name.

Figure 1. Where to find the DataLink table name.

Figure 2. How to find the DataLink field name.

Figure 2. How to find the DataLink field name.

Accessing Data Through DataLink

There are two methods that can be used to retrieve information from the DataLink table. An SQL query or the DLQ function can be used depending on how much information is needed from the DataLink table. 

DataLink SQL Query

Design data or calculated results for all devices of a particular type can be imported using an SQL query. For example, to retrieve the calculated flow rate for all the pipelines in a model for an additional calculation in Microsoft Excel, on the Data ribbon click the From Other Sources button, then select From Microsoft Query. Select PIPE-FLO DataLink* as the Data Source and open the Query Wizard. Expand the desired DataLink table and select the desired DataLink field names. The process and results are shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Using a query in Microsoft Excel to extract the flow rate of all pipelines in the PIPE-FLO model.

Figure 3. Using a query in Microsoft Excel to extract the flow rate of all pipelines in the PIPE-FLO model.

DLQ Function in Excel

An individual piece of information for a single device can be extracted using a “DLQ” function added to Microsoft Excel with an add-in definition file developed by Engineered Software. This file is automatically added to %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Excel\XLSTART when PIPE-FLO is initially run and is immediately available for use when Excel is opened.

The format of the DLQ function to use in a cell is:

=dlq("table_name","field_name","device_name")

The arguments of the function, table_name, field_name, and device_name must be separated by commas and in quotations unless it is a cell reference.

For example, to obtain the full precision value of the velocity of the fluid in pipe “Supply Header 3”, type =dlq("pipe", "velocity_raw", " Supply Header 3") in a cell, as shown in Figure 4. Figure 5 shows cell references used in the DLQ function to obtain the same information.

Figure 4. Using the DLQ function in Microsoft Excel.

Figure 4. Using the DLQ function in Microsoft Excel.

Figure 5. Using cell references in the DLQ function.

Figure 5. Using cell references in the DLQ function.

Let’s see how others who are involved in the design of a piping system can use both of these methods to retrieve information from a PIPE-FLO model to perform calculations that are not in the software.

Using DataLink to Calculate Pipe and Fluid Weight

Structural engineers are responsible for designing the piping supports for a system and need to know how much weight the supports must accommodate. The total weight includes both the weight of the pipe and the weight of the fluid. 

The pipe weight can be calculated using the following equation:

The pipe length is key design data used to calculate head loss, but the weight per foot is not used for hydraulic analysis and is therefore not contained in PIPE-FLO. However, it is readily available from pipe manufacturers, standards, and other engineering resources. The weight/foot depends on the pipe material, schedule, and size, and is given in Table 1 for steel schedule 40 piping of different sizes.

The weight of the fluid in each pipe can be calculated using the fluid density and pipe volume:

The density is available in the fluid zone DataLink Table, but the volume is not calculated in PIPE-FLO. Assuming pipe of circular cross section, volume is:

Both the inside diameter and length can be obtained from the pipe DataLink Table.

Figure 6 shows an Excel spreadsheet created to calculate the pipe weight (column H), pipe volume (column L), fluid weight (column M) and total weight (column N) of all the pipelines in a PIPE-FLO model. A query was used to extract the pipe name, size, inside diameter, length, and assigned fluid zone. The DLQ function was used to obtain the fluid density. A lookup function was used in column G to assign the weight/foot to each pipe based on its size and the weight/foot table.

Figure 6. Microsoft Excel spreadsheet created to calculate the pipe and fluid weight using PIPE-FLO’s DataLink functionality.

Figure 6. Microsoft Excel spreadsheet created to calculate the pipe and fluid weight using PIPE-FLO’s DataLink functionality.

Other Uses of DataLink

The DataLink feature is used extensively in PIPE-FLO’s Commercial Grade Dedication developed for users in the nuclear industry to meet the stringent quality assurance requirements of accepting software per 10CFR50 Appendix B and the ASME NQA-1 standard. Using dozens of sample systems, the design data and calculated results from the PIPE-FLO models are sent via DataLink to Microsoft Excel spreadsheets where they are independently verified to meet the acceptance criteria for accuracy. Figure 7 shows just one of the Verification Worksheets used in the Commercial Grade Dedication of PIPE-FLO Professional.

Figure 7. DataLink is used in the Microsoft Excel worksheet for dedicating PIPE-FLO for use in the nuclear industry.

Figure 7. DataLink is used in the Microsoft Excel worksheet for dedicating PIPE-FLO for use in the nuclear industry.

The Compressibility Check Sheet is another example of the use of DataLink to extract design data and calculated results from a model of a gas application, perform some additional calculations, and check to see if the incompressible limitations of the Darcy equation are valid. If the limitations are exceeded, the worksheet will give recommendations for making adjustments to the model to provide more accurate results. The Compressibility Check Sheet, shown in Figure 8, is installed with PIPE-FLO and is located in the Projects folder. It is recommended that this worksheet be used with all PIPE-FLO models of gas applications.

Figure 8. DataLink is used in the Compressibility Check Sheet to verify the limitations of the Darcy equation are met when modelling gas systems in PIPE-FLO.

Figure 8. DataLink is used in the Compressibility Check Sheet to verify the limitations of the Darcy equation are met when modelling gas systems in PIPE-FLO.

Conclusion

Because no software solution can perform all the calculations needed to evaluate every aspect of a complex industrial or commercial piping system, many programs are needed to design, analyze, troubleshoot, and manage a facility. Often, data is stored in multiple locations, making it a difficult task to keep the data up-to-date as systems are modified to meet new safety or environmental regulations.

PIPE-FLO Professional allows users to model a piping system, perform a steady state hydraulic and thermal analysis, and evaluate the system operating conditions. But PIPE-FLO’s DataLink feature allows personnel who may not be involved in the design and operation of the system to extract information stored in the model for use in other ODBC capable programs.