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Scott Wertel posted on September 20, 2013 |

Every company wants to reduce time to market by streamlining the design process.  Lately, many software developers have been helping companies achieve that goal by integrating FEA into CAD. 

In theory, this allows designers to run more analyses more often.  But, there are times when more is not better.  There are times when one complete model is better than multiple simplified models.  There are times when dedicated analysts provide more value than a handful of designers.  These are the times when you need professional finite element analysis tools.

FEMAP is one such FEA tool.  In the hands of a proficient user, FEMAP can reduce time to market, lower cost through reduced physical prototyping and testing, and increase product quality.  And as of now there is a free trial available

FEMAP does this by overcoming three major roadblocks to simulation:

  1. Leveraging existing CAD data.
  2. Creating truly useful finite element models.
  3. Converting the results of analysis from a bunch of numbers into a human-readable visualization of the data.

Let’s dig into each of these in a bit more detail.

Leveraging Existing CAD Data

Geometry Import/Creation

One method top companies use to reduce cost and improve time to market is by having a single source of data.  Why recreate geometry for FEA simulations when the geometry has already been created in CAD?  The CAD data should be the single source that drives all downstream processes.

Geometry Cleanup and Idealization

Sadly, optimized FE models don’t necessarily mirror the as-designed CAD models.  Geometry has to be tweaked in order to remove small surfaces and adapted for areas of stress concentration.  Superfluous features that have no effect on results but could inhibit mesh generation or add to solve times have to be removed. Analysts need a tool that is CAD agnostic and simple to use for geometry clean up and idealization tasks.

Power Under the Hood

Because it is CAD independent, FEMAP offers geometry interfaces to an extensive range of CAD systems and can open data from just about any source.  It has all the geometry creation and editing tools needed to idealize the model: points, lines, solids, surfaces, and more.

If you want to learn more about how to leverage your existing CAD data for FE modeling, watch this webinar

Create Useful FE Models

Getting the idealized geometry into the pre-processor is only the first step.  Once there, analysts have to create loads, boundary conditions, and a finite element mesh.  Then the finite element model has to be passed to the solver.

Mesh Creation and Control

FEMAP has an interactive mesh generator and inspection tools to guarantee a suitable mesh.  User defined controls override global settings to allow analysts control over mesh size in localized areas.  Critical areas can have a very small mesh while other areas can have a larger mesh in order to decrease solve time.  Combining surface meshes with solids and beams is also possible.

Loads and Boundary Conditions

In the physical world, an object resting on the ground or contacting another object is self-evident.  In the simulation world, these interactions between objects need to be defined either explicitly by the user or implicitly by the software. 

Defining complex interactions of the physical world into the virtual world often results in a non-intuitive model.  Good pre-processing tools make applying loads and boundary conditions more intuitive and with proper graphical feedback more realistic of the physical world.  Something as simple as having a function to apply bolt preload saves a significant amount of time over having to manually set up loads and boundary conditions to mimic pre-load.

Solver Integration

Bundling FEMAP with NX Nastran provides a highly integrated environment for finite element analysis.  But, FEMAP is open to all solvers.  This is a time-savings benefit because users can become proficient at FEMAP as a pre-processor and then send the model to the solver of choice. 

Although many solvers do come with their own pre-processors, having to use multiple solvers without FEMAP means requiring users to maintain proficiency in multiple pre-processors.  FEMAP can reduce costs by lowering training and also improve productivity by sustaining proficiency in a single most oft used tool.

Here is a webinar on ENGINEERING.com where you can learn more about creating an FE model that is actually useful.

Comprehensible FE Analysis Results

What good are simulations if users can’t interpret the results?  Having a first class post-processor that can manage large amounts of data, turn that data into a visual resource, and manipulate the data to offer complete understanding of the results is the final piece to a complete simulation solution.

Data Management

No doubt about it, simulation results files can be huge.  Regardless of how inexpensive data drives are, moving that data from its storage location to a local desktop for study is only as fast as the network infrastructure.  Therefore, the less data that has to move, the sooner it will available for use.  FEMAP has the ability to work with a single massive database of results or can combine results files from federated sources through external references.  The user gets to choose the best, most efficient option.

Data Visualization

Red is bad, green is good.  Is there any more to it than that?  You bet there is, and a post-processor must have the tools available for a skilled user to be able to interrogate the results of a simulation in order to verify and validate results.  Pretty pictures make great presentations, but they don’t tell the whole story.  To get the whole story, and to fully understand the interactions the loads have on the object, a post processor like FEMAP provides the versatility necessary for quick and efficient understanding of the behavior of the system being analyzed.

Data Manipulation

Pressure plots, trace curves, and other methods to extrapolate data are the means to innovate new products from existing designs.  “Where do we go from here?” is a question often phrased after a simulation is finished.  With only so much time in a day and only so many days in a schedule, sometimes even the efficiencies of finite element analysis aren’t enough to meet deadlines.  In those instances, running a subset of simulations and using tools within the post-processor to manipulate and extrapolate data for other engineering calculations is the only solution.  FEMAP offers post processing functionality beyond stress and deformation plots and can create free body diagrams, reports, data tables, and animations.

As with the other points in this article, if you want to dig into this area I encourage you to watch the Making Sense of FE analysis results webinar.

Free Trial

Siemens PLM Software is offering a 45-day free trial of FEMAP with NX Nastran.  This integrated solution overcomes the roadblocks to successful simulation through its ability to leverage existing CAD data, create useful FE models, and visualize FE analysis results.  If you are looking for more functionality than your CAD’s built-in FEA can provide, test FEMAP free for 45 days.


Siemens has paid a fee to ENGINEERING.com to promote their simulation solutions.  They have not had editorial input to this post.  – Scott Wertel

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