Overcoming FEA Roadblocks – Leverage Existing CAD Data

Engineering.com has been hosting several informative webinars about Design Software. This next series, presented and sponsored by Siemens with supporting information from the Aberdeen Group, focuses on Overcoming FEA Roadblocks.


If you are new to the website, or just haven’t been paying attention lately, Engineering.com has been hosting several informative webinars about Design Software.  The first series was a Product Design series on getting more productive with your CAD data.  This next series focuses on Overcoming FEA Roadblocks.

Presented and sponsored by Siemens, with research provided by the Aberdeen Group, the webinar uses Siemens FEMAP to provide supporting examples. But, besides highlighting the specific methods in which their software achieves the discussion points, the presentations are not a heavy sales pitch. If you can’t make the live webinar, the recordings are available on-demand shortly after. Following are some of the points from the first webinar in the FEA series “Leveraging Your Existing CAD Data.”

The Benefits of Simulation

The benefits of simulation have been repeated so often they are practically a mantra.

Reduce cost and speed time to market by eliminating physical prototyping thereby getting a fast return on investment.

The mantra is true if simulation really can reduce physical testing and not overly delay the schedule.  What the mantra does not cover, however, is the difficulty businesses have in getting over the culture of testing.  For many, prototypes or test results means progress.  Without those tangible assets, the process is “hung” in design and Program Management needs to get involved to clear the log jam.  How many times have these words been said?

“Why is 80% of our schedule being spent on design?”

“We won’t have enough time for production.”

The key is recognizing that the design cycle is going to be longer.  Measure the design stage and keep track of how much time must be trimmed from the validation stage to maintain a positive schedule shift.

Why Simulate?

1. Failure Analysis

Failure analysis is often an event that occurs long after production, maybe during a warranty claim.  Simulation can be used to recreate the failure mode thereby understanding the root cause of the problem. Discovering the root cause results in a better fix. But, failure analysis is also an up-front design tool. For many products, testing physical hardware to failure is not an option. Simulation tools allow products to be loaded to failure.

2. Optimize the Design

Design of Experiments is currently the best method available for design optimization.  A single test, or limited number of tests, provide pass/fail results against specific requirements. Without DOE, there is no means to determine the performance limits under all environments. That’s a lot of physical prototypes!  Simulation allows for a complete DOE with significantly fewer physical prototypes.

3. Trade Studies

How will the supply base get economies of scale when fabricating only a handful of prototypes? I know plenty of places that will machine prototypes that will be fabricated by other methods during full-rate production. Is that really an accurate prototype or test? Simulation allows for various parameters of a trade study to be analyzed.

These three examples are only a few pressures businesses face to accelerate schedule, improve design, allow for variation/customization of product, reduce cost, and guarantee quality.  Simulation, if properly implemented, can be a game-changing tool to transform a business into a top performer.

Roadblocks to Simulation

One of the more difficult aspects of analysis for designers to grasp is that FE models are not identical to design models.  CAD geometry has to be edited so the simulation tool can create an accurate mesh. That means getting rid of extra design data (aka geometry) that would otherwise introduce inaccuracies or increase solve times.

To save cost and expedite schedule, transitioning from design models to analysis models requires having the right pre-processor to overcome the roadblocks with ease. The design data exists in CAD. Don’t recreate it, repurpose it. Use the right tool for the job and leverage your existing CAD data to streamline the development process.

How do you repurpose the geometry?  What tools should you use? Watch the replay to find out. 

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Then, register for the next webinar to learn how to “Create an FE Model that is Actually Useful.

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(images courtesy of Siemens and the Leveraging Your Existing CAD Data webinar)