FEM Multiphysics Simulation for MATLAB!?
Shawn Wasserman posted on July 13, 2016 |
FEATool graphical user interface for multiphysics FEA simulations. (Image courtesy of Precise Simulation.)

FEATool graphical user interface for multiphysics FEA simulations. (Image courtesy of Precise Simulation.)

When engineers think of simulations in MATLAB, they are probably thinking about the 1D model-based systems engineering (MBSE) software Simulink.

However, Precise Simulation has just released FEATool, a MATLAB and GNU Octave toolbox for finite element modeling (FEM) and partial differential equations (PDE) simulations.

Additionally, with the release of FEATool version 1.5, MATLAB users will now be able to create multiphysics simulations on implicit 3D CAD geometry using finite element analysis (FEA).

According to the FEATool website, the toolbox “solves systems of partial differential equations (PDEs) and can model many physical phenomena found in continuum mechanics, for example fluid flow, heat transfer, structural mechanics and chemical engineering problems.”

Precise Simulation also notes that FEATool is a complete simulation software with the ability to model geometry, preprocess it, create a simulation mesh, solve the simulation and post-process the results.

Some of the physics problems that FEATool can solve include:

  • Coupled multiphysics
  • Poisson equation (electrostatics)
  • Convection and diffusion (mass transfer)
  • Conductive media DC (electric potential)
  • Heat transfer (convection and conduction)
  • Linear elasticity (3D structural)
  • Plane stress (2D structural)
  • Navier-Stokes (incompressible computation fluid dynamics [CFD])
  • Custom physics (user-defined PDE)

Finally, the site explains that the tool is designed to be an easy-to-use simulation package targeting students, academics and corporate engineers.

What’s new in FEATool v1.5?

CFD analysis using FEATool in MATLAB. (Image courtesy of Precise Simulation.)

CFD analysis using FEATool in MATLAB. (Image courtesy of Precise Simulation.)

The version 1.5 release of FEATool includes a new 3D geometry engine. With this engine, FEATool has improved the assessment of geometric features for 3D geometry, mesh generation and post-processing.

The new release also allows equations and boundary conditions to call on external functions. This allows engineers to create MATLAB m-script coefficient functions and to get them called into an FEATool equation or boundary condition.

In other words, if an engineer creates a function called eng_com_rules.m, he or she can then create a boundary condition which in FEATool’s PDE equation say: 7*eng_com_rules^3. When the FEM assembly and evaluation processes are underway FEATool will then know to look for the function in the local m-file.

For those interested in conducting CFD analysis, then the new version of FEATool will allow the use of generalized Navier-Stokes slip boundary conditions. Engineers can then set the assumption that there will be zero velocity at the normal direction for curved and non-axis boundaries.

Finally, the latest release of FEATool has seen some user interface (UI) improvements. For instance, the UI menu now allows for grid conversions and smoothing which will help with the conversion between various mesh cell types (triangular, quadrilateral, tetrahedral and hexahedral). The UI also has the ability to interrupt the creation of meshes and solutions.

If you wish to try out FEATool for yourself, it’s free for personal use. If you are looking for an academic or professional license, then you will need to contact personnel at Precise Simulation for pricing.

To find out about other simulation capabilities on MATLAB read: MATLAB, Simulink 2016a Released.

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