Every engineer wants to make confident designs based on Finite Element Analysis. We want to develop a product knowing that it’s strong and perfectly optimised for real world usage, without having to apply time consuming prototypes testing or using only traditional methods of hand calculation.
This is where design optimisation using FEA can deliver incredible benefits. It’s a fast, accurate and inexpensive way to create and test product designs. It provides an opportunity to look inside the design using a powerful magnifying FEA lens and also a magic wand to instantly change the design.
Why the traditional design-analyse approach add design complications
In the beginning of my stress engineering career, I found that the traditional Design-Analysis cycle was time consuming and expensive. There were two main reasons for inefficiency and high cost of the design optimisation:
CAD & CAE packages integration
A lack of a proper connection between CAD and FEM software. As a result, even minor modification of the design led to the recreation of the FEA model, including geometry preparation and manual mesh updates. This was fine for simple designs but could turn into a nightmare for assemblies.
Designer & Stress Analyst roles
The design process was divided into two different and very separate functions – the design itself (creating shapes etc.) and its stress analysis. In most cases these functions were completed by different people – designers and stress analysts. Thus, every iteration of the design and its further analysis required extra communication between designers and stress analysts. The result was often an overengineering as designers were making conservative guesses due to the lack of FEA knowledge.
Combined, these reasons added extra layers of complication while attempting to optimise design using FEA.
In today’s CAD and CAE software market the first issue has been largely resolved – FEM is either integrated in CAD packages as an add-in or it easily consumes CAD files.
Autodesk Inventor Nastran is a great example of a FEA tool seamlessly integrated into a CAD package, so that the designers can use FEA as they produce their designs and complete optimisation faster.