SolidWorks Simulation, More Than A Name Change

SolidWorks 2009 brought many name changes to the forefront along with the 20+ year name COSMOS to SolidWorks Simulation. Being a long time user of the COSMOS products over the years it was hard to see the COSMOS name go. My original thought was why change the name of of a product that is known in industry by so many but after experiencing the enhancements in the 2009 version of COSMOS, sorry SolidWorks Simulation, I am impressed.

There are all kinds of goodies in this release but I wanted to highlight a few that really make this release stand out more than any other release to date. For a few years now many software companies are increasing performance more on how well they use the system’s resources rather than just recoding the entire application or relying on GHz. Multi-threading is probably hands down the best way to increase performance and now SolidWorks has done that with Simulation 2009.

One of the biggest performance gains is being able to continue using SolidWorks while Simulation is calculating a study. In the past, once you hit “Run” your use of SolidWorks was taken over by Run operation, leaving you to “wait it out” till the study was complete. Now you have the option of running the active study or all studies, which will first mesh (not threaded yet), and now will display a green animated rotating arrow icon (looks like the old ActiveSync icon) in the study’s tab in bar along the bottom. As the system runs the study you can use SolidWorks as normal. Most importantly, SolidWorks can be completely closed and the study will complete in the background! This, for me, was one of the biggest enhancements I have seen in the 9 years of using the product.

Something else that really caught my eye was the new “Split” tab when applying loads/restraints in the PropertyManager. Split line was a user necessity in order to split a face to place a boundary condition that may mimic an interface or interaction without having to have that model in the study of question or to simply select a portion of a face. This was much more a CAD tool than an analysis tool but a very important tool that everyone needed. Now when applying loads or restraints you can apply a split to a face on the fly while in the definition step in a Simulation study. This cuts out some of the sideline training that was needed and places these tools right in reach of the user.

The last little nugget was for applying thermal loads. 2009 added a nice new button called “Select all exposed faces”. Now for those of you that have setup natural convection problems and were tasked to to this selection marathon, here is your “Do My Job Button”….That was easy! This tool doesn’t understand partially touching faces so you will need to use the split line function to explicitly break up those types of conditions but overall it is a great addition and time saver.

Obviously this was a very big release for Simulation and many more great features were included I did not mention. This was, by far, the most comprehensive update to SolidWorks’ Simulation line in ever and I can imagine the innovation will not stop at the 2009 release! So far the name change has been nothing more than a verbal hiccup for me but the enhancements to the product are much more than a name change. ~Lou

Does COSMOS/FEA Need To Be A Numbers Game?

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.