When it comes to FEA analysis there are 6 steps that will be followed regardless of the package you use. These are: 1. Geometry creation - Many of us will be using SolidWorks for this but can be imported geometry. 2. Materials - Specify this in SolidWorks or within COSMOSWorks. Another great resource is matweb.com. 3. Boundary Conditions - Applies the restraints and forces that are being applied to the part. This tells the solver what exactly the geometry is experiencing. 4. Mesh - Breaks the geometry into small pieces (best analogy is LEGOS) 5. Run - Run the solver. This takes the above 4 steps into consideration in order to calculate stress, strain and displacement, etc. 6. Results - The entire goal of the analysis. Quantative part of the procedure which begins the design verification process.
Over the past 10 years of doing analysis I have begun to explain to many engineers that analysis is not always about the numbers. Many times the use of tools like COMOSWorks are to evaluate design changes because analysis tools operate under the "garbage in garbage out" rule. If a design itteration undergoes an ananlysis then a design change is made and that itteration is also run under the same analysis, the only variable that is changing is your design. This allows comparson of the results between the two itterations which can help determine if the design is improving or not from one itteration to the next. This is far more valuable than the numbers that are revealed from the studies themselves. That is not to say that the numbers out of COSMOS or any other analysis tools are not accurate. Unless the setup of the analysis is "grounded" by a physical prototype or a real-world test with raw measured results, the numbers out of the analysis tools are just numbers. Every boundary condition or assumption that is made when setting up a virtual test leads to diviation from the true result. FEA doesn't eliminate physical testing but can help navigate the design a prototype-worthy first step.