If you read a few of my SOLIDWORKS Simulation tutorials and finite element analysis blogs you will notice the recurring “tool” theme. As an engineer and gearhead, I love anything that will help me do my job better, whether it’s extracting a broken bolt from a cylinder head or determining the optimal amount of material to meet performance specifications. Show me a tool that can help me do it better and I’m listening.
One of my fondest memories as an engineering intern was the day my manager approached me with a tool catalog. This was before online ordering when PO’s were still done by hand.
He said, “Pick out what you think we need for the mechanical lab, and order two of everything.” As a student with an internship being able to fill up the gas tank felt like a luxury. Now I get to order any tool we might need? I was in heaven.
Down the path of Computer Aided Engineering
This was one of my first exposures to actual engineering costs and project budgets in addition to the value of time. The final PO for the initial mechanical lab was more than I spent on my first three or four cars. However, the value of having those tools when needed far outweighed that cost. Later on, as we went from 2D to 3D design we saw SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD and COSMOS Works (the predecessor to SOLIDWORKS Simulation ) and immediately implemented CAD integrated analysis. That sent me down the path of Computer Aided Engineering and Simulation. Predictive engineering tools just seemed to make business sense.
In Your Shoes
As a customer advocate, I often put myself in your engineering shoes. My job at Fisher Unitech is to not only show the bright and shiny bits but to help our customers make informed, smart purchases and sometimes we don’t have a good fit. SOLIDWORKS has an extensive selection of tools in its Simulation, Plastics and Flow product lines but it does not cover everything. Yet it’s almost expected that if you have an analysis challenge, odds are you can handle it with a SOLIDWORKS native or gold partner product.
Therefore, quite often I get a request for casting or extrusion analysis. To that end, I have experimented with tweaking materials in SOLIDWORKS Plastics to emulate casting. I have also played around with creating “pseudo liquid gasses” in SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation to accomplish the same thing. Each time I came to the conclusion that neither Plastics or Flow will give you good results for those processes. Not too mention, to make these tweaks you need to be a relatively skilled user of either tool.
Filling the Analysis Voids
At Fisher Unitech we wanted to fill those voids in capabilities for our customers, so we looked for technology providers that offer complementary products to SOLIDWORKS. We took into account that SOLIDWORKS users have come to expect ease of use and affordability. Right away that excludes a lot of software on the market today. After evaluating options, we determined the products that would make sense for our users are from solidThinking.
solidThinking is a wholly owned subsidiary of Altair Engineering based out of Troy Michigan. Altair is a privately held company with over 2600 employees that specializes in helping companies better use simulation technologies to optimize designs and process. The solidThinking products are an extension of this focus. Building process around CAE tools that are ready to go out of the box. This new partnerships greatly enhances the engineering solutions we can offer.
solidThinking Product List
- - Click2Cast for Casting Analysis
- - Inspire for Structural Optimization
- - Click2Extrude for Extrusion Analysis
- - Compose for Technical Computing
- - Activate for Controls and System Analysis
- - Embed for Model based Development of Embedded Systems
Two specific solidThinking’s products that get me excited are Click2Cast and Inspire. Many SOLIDWORKS customers are involved in the mold tool and die industry or design parts using the casting processes. Simulating the casting process helps everyone in the supply chain. The designer has realistic expectations of what it takes to make a part and can see on the screen the ramifications of poor design for manufacturing. The tooling designer and manufacturer benefits via process optimization and less tool tuning time. The solidThinking Click2Cast tool is a templated process that does not require you to be a CAE guru or a casting expert to get started and benefit from process simulation.
The Click2Cast uses a 5 step process from start to finish.
The learning curve for Click2Cast is very fast. Speaking of going fast. That requires being lightweight and solidThinking Inspire is another good example of the CAE process simplified.
Material reduction and optimization are one of the reasons CAE has such high value. The Altair Optistruct solver is used by many CAE experts to develop the right mix of strength and stiffness to weight in a part. That same solver is the heart of solidThinking Inspire. If you have used SOLIDWORKS Simulation you are already familiar with the concepts of applying forces and fixtures on your designs to determine strength and stiffness. If you have used optimization in SOLIDWORKS Professional you have performed parametric optimization. Now we take that one step further …. Or really one step earlier in the design phase. With Inspire you specify design spaces with maximum and minimum thickness and specify parameters such as percentage of mass reduction desired or minimum factor of safety to come up with efficient design concepts.
Like any good partner or neighbor if you need to borrow a tool we are here to help out. If you are interested in trying out any of the solidThinking products just let us know. We can arrange a 30-day evaluation and help you get started.
Register here to attend solidThinking's webcast "Are You Sure You Can Manufacture That? (Pushing the Boundaries of Design and Manufacturing)" on February 28th at 11:00 am EST to learn more about the casting and extrusion process simulation.
About the Author
David Roccaforte earned a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He has been working with Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) tools since the mid-1990s when he was an engineering coop and later a product engineer with Automotive System Laboratory. Seeing the value that CAE brings to the engineering process inspired him to concentrate on CAE during his graduate studies. While finishing his graduate studies, he worked for Mechanical Dynamics as an engineering intern running vehicle dynamics analysis.
After finishing his graduate studies, David worked in the automotive Industry as an Engineering Analyst with Karmann Technical Development supporting the design of convertible roof systems for North American OEM’s. From there Roccaforte joined MSC Software, one of the top companies in engineering simulation, where he worked as a Senior Application Engineer until he joined Fisher Unitech in 2010.