FEA program unites design with analysis

Feb. 23, 2006
Finite-element-analysis program CosmosWorks 2006 tests digital parts and assemblies and works seamlessly with SolidWorks for mechanical design.

— David R. Dearth

Edited by Leslie Gordon

CosmosWorks 2006 displays the difference in stress distribution when a cell phone is dropped from the same height onto a rigid floor... and onto a flexible (wooden) floor.

The Analysis Library is used to create templates of commonly used analysis specifications such as loads, supports, and contact conditions. Users then simply drag and drop templates onto models.

The existing Bolt Connector feature has been improved to let users simulate components that are bolted to the ground.

This lets users check designs for functional capability using their own analysis tools, thereby eliminating the traditional separation of design and analysis. Users can perform initial design checks and "see" how designs will operate at service conditions before releasing drawings for fabrication or passing them on for more detailed investigation.

CosmosWorks 2006 has the same look and feel as SolidWorks 2006, reducing the anxiety of users having to learn both a new design and analysis tool. In fact, the program helps designers and engineers investigate difficult design applications typically reserved for seasoned analysts. A few notable features include:

The Analysis Advisor wizard. It walks users through choosing an appropriate analysis for specific tasks, selecting a correct mesh, what to do if a mesh fails, and interpreting analysis results. The wizard offers industry best practices that educate users as they work and gives tips on getting around roadblocks commonly encountered in validating designs. A security feature ensures designers follow correct procedures.

The Analysis Library eliminates the drudgery of performing the same series of tasks many times. Designers and engineers typically focus on creating variations of similar component parts for similar applications and so deal with similar design-validation specifications such as loads, supports, and contact conditions. The Analysis Library lets users generate templates for these repetitive tasks. Users simply drag and drop templates to create loads and supports on models. A validated template reduces the likelihood of repeating a mistake.

Several tools let designers model the behavior of adjacent support structures. For instance, the Virtual Wall simulates flexible connections between models and adjacent support structures. An examples is an air compressor connected to a beam or a floor. A Ground Bolt feature lets users simulate components that are bolted to the ground.

A Link Connector simulates the connection between components at two locations connected by a flexible link, and a Hinge tool simulates a hinge connection.

A Spot Weld Connector easily adds predefined spotwelds in a model. Users no longer manually input data, a time-consuming and tedious task. Instead, they merely click a button.

The Thick and Thin meshing feature lets users analyze assemblies of thick and thin components by using a combination of solid mesh for thick bodies and shells for thin bodies. This represents design regions with the most appropriate elements.

An Automatic Convergence feature fine-tunes mesh in critical areas until the solution converges. This reduces manually iterating mesh geometry. In addition, Version 2006 provides tools to quickly mathematically represent contact regions, a frustrating task for even knowledgeable analysts. For instance, the software provides contact gap, node-tonode, and surface-contact options typically found only in high-end analysis packages.

Other tools make drop tests, typically another difficult analysis task, less arduous. These tests ensure products being designed, for example cell phones or laptops, can withstand being dropped to the ground a few times. Users can create timehistory plots of stress, velocity, and acceleration for both rigid and flexible objects. The recent release supports drop tests for assemblies and lets users define contact between parts. Designers can compare stress distributions on components when assemblies are dropped on hard or soft floors.

Fatigue-analysis functions let users define multiple S-N curves to represent fatigue life for different materials in an assembly. Users can also study fatigue in components subjected to variable amplitude loads. The software uses a so-called Rainflow method, or counting algorithm, to predict cumulative damage due to fatigue. This is a handy tool for checking fatigue life from within the analysis window. Version 2006 also handles nonlinear, hyperelastic, and viscoelastic-material models, typically available only in highend software packages.

Lastly, even the best analyst gets stuck. An Analysis Research feature lets users search the Internet and download help information without exiting or minimizing the CosmosWorks window. This is a great timesaver. In addition, the software's numerous tutorials are well written and easy to follow.

David R. Dearth is president of Applied Analysis & Technology, Huntington Beach, Calif., and can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected]

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