What are
FEA Simulations?
Why and who should use them?

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Have you ever seen multi-colored graphics or 3D animations with a legend on the side, and wondered what they are? These captivating visuals are the outcome of FEA Simulations carried out using advanced 3D CAD software like SOLIDWORKS and Ansys. The gif below is a static simulation result exported from SOLIDWORKS simulation.

So, what is a simulation, why use it, who uses it, and how to use it? If you are wondering about any of those questions, this article is for you.

Stress distribution analysis using SOLIDWORKS FEA Static Analysis Tool.

Stress distribution analysis using SOLIDWORKS FEA Static Analysis Tool.

What is a Computerized Simulation?

3D CAD design software like SOLIDWORKS and others are becoming quite common at the moment. Designers have used those software to build virtual prototypes of their ideas and innovations. In a 3D CAD design software, designers could virtually build the shape and all measurements of their designs. The next step would be to visually test the design and find out how it behaves using virtual tools (i.e., without building a physical prototype). This is where simulation tools come into play. In a nutshell, a simulation aims to predict the behavior of a certain design using computerized models. Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is the theoretical foundation behind most simulation software. This includes software like SOLIDWORKS Simulation and Ansys.

Why Should You Use Simulations?

One of the main positives of simulation is knowing how a specific design behaves while still being in the virtual environment, i.e., virtual testing. Testing a product for safety and reliability is essential to any sound product development cycle, regardless of what the product is. You do not want to be that person who would design a product that breaks from first use. Simulation tools can prevent that and add much more value to your development cycle. Here are three major benefits of using simulation:    

  1. Design Validation: Simulation tools can help you validate your designs for safety and reliability before making physical prototypes. This could save you lots of time and money as you will be less likely to prototype a design that is destined to fail.
  2. Quick Product Development: They can speed up your product development cycle. With simulation, you will be able to test many different variations of your design in no time. This will enable you to go through many different design cycles very quickly.
  3. Better and Optimized Products: They can help you design better and more optimized products. When you can simulate designs in the virtual space, you will have more freedom to make many changes to your design and test them without worrying about the cost of physical prototyping. This ends up resulting in an overall better and more optimized design.

Does Simulations Replace the Need for Physical Prototypes?

Simulations do not replace actual physical prototyping. However, they can tremendously speed up your design cycle and get you better products at a much lower cost. Compared to physical prototyping, simulation has notable advantages like lower cost, more control of the testing environment, and quick repeatability. A common practice is to start with simulations then build physical prototypes of more refined designs that virtually went through many simulation and analysis cycles.  

Who Should Use Simulation?

If you are involved in designing or manufacturing any physical product, then simulation tools will have lots of value added to you. Simulation tools are becoming increasingly more affordable, available, and easy to use. Thus, if you are not using any simulation tools now, it is highly likely that you will use them in the near future, especially since the value they provide is becoming more apparent.    

What are the Different Types of Simulation?

At the moment, there are many different types of simulations available and practiced. The most common and basic type is Static Analysis (Static Equilibrium Simulation). Static analysis relates to bodies that are in equilibrium. Other major types of simulations include thermal, fluid, and dynamic analysis as well. Let us briefly define each one.

  • Static Analysis: This type of simulation deals with structures in a state of equilibrium. It analyzes the structure's behavior when subjected to static loads - loads that don't change with time. The results yield deformations, strains, and stresses that can be used to assess the system's safety and functionality. 
  • Thermal analysis: This type simulates the transfer of heat in a structure due to conditions such as conduction, convection, and radiation. It provides valuable information on temperature distribution, heat flux, and other related parameters, assisting in the thermal design process.  
  • Fluid analysis: Also known as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), this type of simulation studies the behavior of fluid (either gas or liquid) flow. It helps to predict pressure distribution, fluid velocity, and heat transfer. This simulation type is crucial in industries such as aerodynamics, weather forecasting, and HVAC design.  
  • Dynamic analysis: This type of simulation method is used to determine the dynamic response of a system under time-varying loads. It computes time-dependent variables like displacements, velocities, accelerations, and stresses, allowing for the assessment and improvement of the object's or system's performance under such conditions.

Many of the software packages will also cater to more types of simulations like Frequency, Buckling, Fatigue, Drop test analysis, and more. As time goes by and more development occurs in the field, we can expect to see more types of analysis. For now, all the mentioned types of analysis are available in a standard and common software like SOLIDWORKS Simulation.

What Does it Take to Learn How to Use a Simulation Tool Like SOLIDWORKS Simulation?

As simulation tools get more developed over time, they also tend to become more friendly to use. Once you get yourself a strong foundation, researching and using niche/advanced tools within simulation will be quite easy. Suppose you are looking to get started and build yourself a strong foundation in SOLIDWORKS Simulation tools. In that case, you can check out our SOLIDWORKS Simulation Associate Course, which can build you a strong foundation in simulation.

Wrap Up: 

In conclusion, FEA simulations are paving the way toward more efficient, cost-effective, and robust product design. By leveraging these powerful tools, you can streamline your design cycles, validate your ideas, and achieve optimal performance without the heavy reliance on physical prototypes. With the evolution of technology, simulation tools like SOLIDWORKS and Ansys are becoming increasingly user-friendly, affordable, and versatile, making them a vital asset in the arsenal of designers and manufacturers. You can start learning how to use FEA simulation today with our SOLIDWORKS Simulation Associate Course.

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