This work introduces the “order of magnitude scaling” (OMS) technique, which permits for the first time a simple computer implementation of the scaling (or “ordering”) procedure extensively used in engineering. The methodology presented aims at overcoming the limitations of the current scaling approach, in which dominant terms are manually selected and tested for consistency. The manual approach cannot explore all combinations of potential dominant terms in problems represented by many coupled differential equations, thus requiring much judgment and experience and occasionally being unreliable. The research presented here introduces a linear algebra approach that enables unassisted exhaustive searches for scaling laws and checks for their self-consistency. The approach introduced is valid even if the governing equations are nonlinear, and is applicable to continuum mechanics problems in areas such as transport phenomena, dynamics, and solid mechanics. The outcome of OMS is a set of power laws that estimates the characteristic values of the unknowns in a problem (e.g., maximum velocity or maximum temperature variation). The significance of this contribution is that it extends the range of applicability of scaling techniques to large systems of coupled equations and brings objectivity to the selection of small terms, leading to simplifications. The methodology proposed is demonstrated using a linear oscillator and thermocapillary flows in welding.

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