OpenFOAM “automation” with bash

As always, I am currently hunting for application data for my recent visualization. As it is not easy to get data that can be used in a publication, plus my requirements were a bit special (2D, rather small resolution, many ensemble members), I decided to generate the data on my own using OpenFOAM. I haven’t worked with simulation tools before, thus stumbling through two or more tutorials at a time, I finally got my simulation set up. The OpenFOAM tutorials are very nice by the way, I mainly followed this one.

Now I wanted the results for not less than 140 different Reynolds numbers. That means:

  • Calculate & change the kinematic viscosity in the appropriate OpenFOAM file
  • Run the simulation
  • Store the results

I started doing this by hand the first 3 runs, then started googeling about OpenFOAM automation, found job vacancies for freelancers to do this. Seems like nobody wants to do this on his own. So get your regular expressions ready – we do it via bash file.

I put my complete files here since I would have been _very_ happy to find them on the internet, so maybe I can make someones day 🙂

The described tasks add up to the following:


source ~/OpenFOAM/OpenFOAM-v1812/etc/bashrc 

for re in {10..150}
	nu=`echo "0.1/$re" | bc -l`
	sed -i -e "s/\(nu[[:space:]]*\)[[:digit:]]*.[[:digit:]]*;/\10$nu;/" "constant/transportProperties"
	mv 0.7/U 0.7/Ensemble/Re$re


This file expects to be executed in the main OpenFOAM folder of the simulation (the one containing constant and system folder). After sourcing OpenFOAM, everything is executed for Reynolds numbers from 10 to 150. The kinematic viscosity is calculated. Actually that is nu = d|U|/Re where d and U are the characteristic length and velocity respectively and Re is the Reynolds number, but in my case d and |U| was given as 0.1 and 1. So having differing values there: change the 0.1 in “0.1/$re” accordingly.

Then, sed is used to find the right place in the transportProperties file to put nu, and the file is changed. At first, none of my regular expressions would work since I used \d for digits. Be aware that these shorthand characters don’t exist using sed.

After executing the simulation with the current Reynolds number, the file I am interested in (U) is moved to an extra directory and renamed as Re10 – Re150 (Re#). My time step for storing the data was 0.7, so the path in mv might change for you. I did not test if the extra directory is necessary (especially since we take the files out of there in the next step) but it felt better do have them out of OpenFOAMs eyes while running the simulations.

Now a sanity check of the results would be nice. Using the ParaView interface of OpenFoam this should not be a problem. But after putting all Re# files one level up in the 0.7 directory, I realized the name of the contained field is stored in the file itself. Thus ParaView seems to overwrite the same field again and again when reading the files in, and just the last ensemble member is accessible. Thank god we already know what to do in such a case. We write an other bash file changing the stored name of the field from “U” to “Re#”:

for re in {10..150}
	sed -i -e "s/\(object[[:space:]]*\)U;/\1Re$re;/" 0.7/Re$re

This one is like a smaller version of the previous one, just the regular expression changed. Now when entering ParaView by paraFoam, all fields are available to have a look at them.

I was quite happy how a night of repetitive and boring work became some minutes of fiddling with regular expressions. Probably I should use more bash scripts.

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