In a fiercely competitive market where new products are being introduced at breakneck speed, reducing time to market can give you a real edge. To make that happen, your prototypes have to meet customer needs and satisfy industry and regulatory standards from the get-go. Digital simulation tools like finite element analysis (FEA) software are often used to do just that.
Garbage in, garbage out!
The goal of FEA is to digitally recreate the conditions of use for a given product. These digital models use boundary conditions and the external forces that act on the product to calculate constraints. Setting up the model is a critical step in the simulation process. As the old saying goes: “garbage in, garbage out.” No matter what software you use, you’ll get flawed results if your model isn’t designed properly.
Validate your results with analytical calculations
Using flawed results can be dangerous for users and can cost the company extra time and money in product development. Although good FEA can help you meet these challenges, you have to validate your results. Analytical calculations are normally used for this purpose, but it’s also common to perform lab tests or use data previously collected by the company. In recent years, our consultants have observed that the vast majority of smaller companies don’t realize the value of their data. For FEA, this key information often makes it possible to validate numerical models at a fraction of the cost.
Optimizing parts and production
After validation, the next step is to examine how to optimize the product. FEA makes it possible to reduce a product’s mass and improve performance by eliminating superfluous material. As a result, manufacturing requires less material, costs less, and is often more environmentally friendly. Plus, tooling and manufacturing processes are simplified, shipping costs are reduced, and handling becomes easier. In short, digital optimization reduces the part’s unit price and lowers the cost of all subsequent stages in the product life cycle.
Targeting and optimizing sensitive parameters
FEA also puts the parameters influencing stress distribution under the microscope, so you can identify which ones are sensitive and optimize them before prototyping. That means the first iteration could meet all relevant constraints, objectives, standards, and certification requirements.
Cheaper and faster: Prototype vs. simulation
Typically, manufacturing companies build one or more prototypes that require the production of numerous parts. It goes without saying that it’s a long and expensive process!
Luckily, there’s an alternative: digital simulation. All the time you used to spend building and testing prototypes can now be replaced by a few hours of model preparation and validation. All you need is an FEA expert, a few hours, and a computer to generate countless iterations of your product. Plus, you can use your accumulated test data to create a digital model that’s an exact replica of the real thing. That’s the first step in predictive simulation.
FEA is an affordable solution for any company that wants to launch a competitive, optimized high-performance product in a shorter timeframe. It gives Quebec companies an indisputable advantage against foreign competitors.