Posted by Prahlad Parmar on April 19th, 2014
With the advent of computers taking charge of manufacturing industry, manufacturers and engineers have been busy learning the tidbits of computer aided engineering (CAE) in an attempt to improve their product’s design accuracy with cost-effective solutions.
The use of FEA has grown by leaps and bounds, ever since its first application, and most engineers today, prefer to use this tool as a gatekeeper to allow only the best designs to pass through to manufacturing stage.
FEA on the other hand, is a practical application of FEM that can be applied to engineering problems, by dividing the physical model into number of smaller elements using meshing, and further applying differential equations using software’s internal algorithms.
The term FEA (Finite Element Analysis) or FEM (Finite Element Method) clearly dictates the use of mathematical solutions, and so it is. FEM is basically a numerical technique to find approximate solutions to boundary value problems for differential equations.
Leaving these cumbersome mathematical calculations to computers, engineers can focus on developing products with greater accuracy, efficiency and sustainability without actually relying on a physical model to perform rigorous tests. Additionally, commercial softwares available these days can certainly assist less-skilled FE analysts to carry out these analyses effectively through automatic mesh generation and other important mathematical features.
FEA to Improve Product Quality
As mentioned already, FEA helps in achieving better accuracy in representing complex geometry by dividing the domain into smaller number of finite elements. With suitable CAD modeling of a product, FEA can assist engineers in predicting the product behavior under different conditions through appropriate mesh generation and application of suitable constraints.
For example, if a design engineer is planning to develop a new piston design with better structural and thermal characteristics, finite element analysis can prove to be a reliable option to test the new piston design under different parameters such as temperature, pressure, stress, vibration frequency, etc. By applying suitable constraints and executing the iteration process, the software can demonstrate analysis reports from which the designer can forecast piston’s behavior, when put to actual use. The data provided by FEA, can then be implemented in the design stage to further optimize the piston and come out with an appropriate solution.
Comparing this method to the conventional one, the design engineer would first require to develop the piston prototype, and later on, perform time-consuming physical tests to ensure the worthiness of the design. Moreover, there is a likelihood of design errors that may have been generated during manual calculations. However, this doesn’t mean that physical tests have lost their importance. It’s crucial for designers to understand that FEA can be utilized as an assistance to physical tests, in order to ensure a flawless end product design.
It is quite known today, that FEA can significantly assist in improving the product’s quality; but at the same time, the end results of such analyses are purely dependent on skills of the analyst who feeds input to the computer. This suggests that there are possibilities of occurring marginal deviation in the results, even when there will be a minor slipup in defining proper constraints. Preferably, a design engineer should always consider both the approaches while carrying out the design project, in order to ensure that the design remains error-free and augmented to compete in the real world scenario.
About Author: Prahlad Parmar is an Engineering Specialist working at Mechanical 3D Modelling for the past 4 years. He caters critical engineering challenges with ease and performs exhaustive procedures to develop robust, well-engineered and high performance designs. He can always be found in the lab discussing, brainstorming and tweaking designs.