The Ten Commandments of FEA

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Analysis is a lot like training for the marathon. You can easily upgrade from being a novice to becoming a power user if you strategize your approach towards FEA. Use the guidelines below to chart out a plan to become an FEA expert:

  1. Train hard: It is impossible to overstate the importance of FEA training. While analysis has come a long way in becoming a much simpler tool to use, it is still a tool that requires good mentoring to properly interpret the output.
  2. Make sacrifices: Take time to go over the information gained through training. A lot of times, confidence in FEA is obtained by re-visiting a previously tested model and reproducing the failure using FEA. Take the time to do such small projects, and this will help fine-tune your skills in using COSMOS.
  3. Make positive choices: Analysis is a numerical approximation method. Assumptions and approximations form the basis of performing FEA. The ability to make valid assumptions is an art that you develop over time. Verify your choices of boundary conditions and pre-processing with your local support team before you go through the first few runs. This will help you understand if your notions of simplification are accurate.
  4. Carry adequate firepower: It is vital that you are equipped with the right hardware, software, and data to get the most out of analysis. Read our blog article on hardware recommendations for analysis.(http://www.3dvision.com/wordpress/2008/01/14/what-machine-should-i-buy-for-running-cosmos/). As far as data is concerned, make sure you have the right material properties/curves pertinent to the type of analysis you are required to perform. For instance, a thermal analysis requires thermal conductivity; a static analysis requires elastic modulus; and so forth.
  5. Seek your potential: Be cognitive of your abilities in FEA. A lot of times, cross-checking with peers and colleagues open up a new window of insight into a problem that you may have failed to visit. Share your interpretation with others to see if you are indeed making the right judgment.
  6. Set reasonable goals: Every FEA simulation should be preceded by a statement of intent/problem definition. Once the objective is outlined, the subsequent steps in setting up the model would become instantly clear. It is very easy to fall off the track if the goals are set too high. Consider splitting up a task into multiple steps if it helps simplify the problem.
  7. Relax under pressure: FEA is designed to fail unless you exercise good control. Do not panic under timelines and shop-floor requirements. Try to observe alternative methods of setting up a problem. Make sure you re-visit boundary conditions comprehensively if the results do not match expected numbers.
  8. Attack pain: If you fail at first, give it another try. Do not give up because FEA seems to frustrate you. You will win the battle eventually, but not if you give up midway. Keep in mind that tough times don’t last, but tough people do!!
  9. Work as a Team: Utilize all available resources. Help your superiors understand the workflow and limitations in FEA. Until you are self-sustaining, do not hesitate to rack the brains of other peers using COSMOS (great sources are the 3DVision Team, COSMOS User Groups and sites like www.eng-tips.com). Also, make note that analysis and physical testing go hand-in-hand. Make sure you test your final results with a prototype before releasing production drawings into the shop floor.
  10. Run to win: Start projects with analysis taken into consideration. Do not allow FEA to be an accessory to designs, but an important portion of your design-cycle, by exploiting the seamless integration that SOLIDWORKS and COSMOS offer. The most successful implementations of FEA have been observed if a company starts using it at the conceptual stage of a new design.

In the words of the famous Australian athletic coach Percy Cerutty, “Hard things take time to do. Impossible things take a little longer”. The benefits of FEA will be seen sooner than you would think!!