by Jean-Baptiste Leydet
(Mjällby, Sweden)

Open source CFD solver developed by EDF (, this is in my opinion the closest free solver there is today to a commercial CFD code.

The code was close source until 2007, and commented in French, which somewhat delayed the exposure to the international CFD community.

The program is well featured, with many options for mesh import, turbulence modeling, dataset export, etc.
From my experience the code is scalable and stable (I used it on a 2x quadcore HP machine, running under Ubuntu 10; Saturne is also one of the 12 solvers selected to benchmark the next generation of European supercomputers in the PRACE project.)
The code is well structured (Cathedral development style, as opposed to Bazaar style), and well documented; it is meant to be used by "industrial" users (those of us who need a reliable tool and do not necessarily have the time or will to play around with text files and command lines when a request falls on our desk on Friday, 4pm.)

I have used this program personally for relatively simple calculations in an industrial environment: turbulent, steady-state, isothermal and incompressible internal flow modeling. This was overall a pleasant experience, and I could provide guidelines to the project team. I used Paraview to analyze the dataset.
Prior to that I had a CFD intern look into the a complete open source CFD loop centered on Code_Saturne. Without surprise, we could not find a free meshing tool out there suitable for an industrial CFD workflow, but I believe my intern had a good experience with the solver too.

The user support does exist, and comes for free (!) These are EDF employees who know all the dirty secrets of the code as they participate to the development process. Their priority is obviously to help out EDF users of Saturne. This means that you may have to wait a few days for an answer, but I would like to stress out that eventually, a person who actually developed the code will take the time to answer, which means the quality of this answer will be very much higher than anything you are likely to get from a typical commercial code helpdesk. These people are passionate CFD aficionados, yet in permanent contact with the industrial world. An efficient mix for industrial users out there, IMO. You can check out the web forum to get an idea of the kind of interaction the users have with the developers.
To close the support topic, in case you need a safety net, there is an increasing number of consulting companies offering Code_Saturne support, training, customization, benchmarking, etc.

EDF organizes free user meetings in Paris once a year. I've attended one of these in 2010. Once again, this was a professional level event. Only few fancy colorful pictures, but lots of serious talk. Many international researchers were there to present their work with Saturne, and the possible implication on next releases of the software (features addictions or improvement.)

EDF works extensively with European universities and research labs, and to some extent with other industries, to improve the code. I think the University of Manchester is their main partner.

EDF has been developing another open source code, Code_ASTER, for structural analysis. ASTER is older and has been open source for a longer period of time. I know EDF have put some effort into facilitating the coupling of ASTER and Saturne for e.g. FSI or thermal shock simulation, but I haven't had the time to look into this yet.

And the list of good points could go on... Just give it a try if you get a chance, and see if it fits your needs.

Feel free to get in touch directly if you have a question or comment:
jean-baptiste.leydet _AT_

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Your Free CFD Solver Reviews.