Machine Design

Templates simplify simulations and build FEA best practices

Combining CAD with analysis theoretically lets engineers perform their own structural, thermal, and other types of virtual testing before turning computer models into physical prototypes.

Paul Dvorak
Senior Editor

Process Guides in Pro/E Wildfire 3.0 would look like this to a designer. The Process Guide window shows the steps required to complete the simulation of a connecting rod. The red X means materials are not yet assigned. Loads could be defined several ways, so the Loads Manager window includes suggestions.

Company experts would set up the process guides using the XML language.

The thinking goes that designs would progress more rapidly than in traditional organizations where simulations are done in a separate department.

"There are times, however, when a designer doesn't have sufficient analysis experience and must hand off a design to a simulation specialist," says PTC director of Product Management John Buchowski. "But designers may only need a little guidance to work through the simulation and avoid the hand-off. Analysis is the right place to add design efficiency because FEA is a fairly structured task with predictable sequences."

Buchowski says design engineers can receive that guidance through what he calls process guides that hold a company's best FEA practices. "A medium-size company, for instance, is likely to have a few engineers who specialize in analysis. These specialists could work up the process guides for use by designers in the company. Additional process guides would be added over time to the company's knowledge base. That would help standardize these analysis tasks throughout the company," he says.

"Process guides are user-customizable tasks that typically describe the steps in an analysis. The steps can apply constraints or loads, check measurement units, view results, and so on. Each step pulls up information, such as text and images, as well as links to company documents or other online resources. Tasks can have substeps as well, and these tasks may create their own workflows," says Buchowski.

Consider, for example, a connecting rod for a small engine. A first step might be to select a material and units of measure. Step two: Decide how to apply the load, with a direction, magnitude, and distribution. Then apply constraints. Lastly, define and format results to show data of interest," he says. "As products become more complex, it's important for simulations to capture the complexity".

These steps can be set down in a single wizard. "An embedded image of a previous test would provide comparisons, or link to a company intranet page to describe appropriate loading conditions," adds Buchowski. When the process guide for the connecting rod finishes, it can be used by other designers as they shape similar connecting-rod assemblies. Another process-guide benefit, says Buchowski, is the reduction of human error. "Process guides become more useful over time as users enter more detail, or link to additional information resources," he says.


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