Client: “We need FEA.”
Consultant: “What’s your goal?”
Client: “The boss wants it.”
Consultant: “Ok. What does he want to get out of it?”
Client: “I’m not sure, but he told me to get it done, no questions.”
The consultant has a right to remain confused. Performing any analysis is about asking questions and getting answers. If you don’t ask questions then you are just playing with software and making pretty pictures.
There is no such thing as, “We need FEA.” Only, “We need to know…”
- the deflection at [insert specific location here]
- the area that has the highest stress and what that stress is
- the frequency of our parts and assemblies
- how much material we can remove and still have a factor of safety greater than [specific factor of safety] for yielding
These are specific questions and many other items could work here as well. Questions are what you need before you start performing any analysis. It sets the tone. It tells you how to set up the analysis. It allows the analyst to know where his critical areas are. Without this, you can’t possibly create a model that is both mathematically accurate and be efficient with time.
The image below has a part that an analyst could perform FEA on. Next to it are questions that could be posed about the part.
The questions above are not good. Why? They aren’t specific enough. Which direction are we talking about for displacements and where on the part are we looking at it? Which stress are we looking at and where? What is the criteria we are using to determine when failure occurs so that we can determine the maximum load?
These questions have too many unknowns. At the same time, they don’t include any information about the setup of the problem. Below is a question that at least specifies we are looking for displacement at the tip under a specific loading condition.
We can still do better. The last image below is great. It tells us exactly what we’re hoping to discover and all the necessary items to set this problem up in the software have been included in the question itself. Excellent!
If somebody were to ask me this question, rather than saying, “We need FEA,” I would have the problem done in a heartbeat. I know exactly what’s important and what I’m doing.
Try to be clear in the questions you pose. It’s the questions themselves that give your insight into your products, the software is just a tool for interpreting the answers.
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