With its framework product 3G.author, Plassotech is among the newest players in the finite element analysis world. Based on my test drive with the package, I think easy-to-learn-and-use tree-structured interface will be very familiar to users of CATIA, Pro/Engineer, Solid Edge, SolidWorks, and Autodesk Inventor. Engineers can access the native file formats in those packages, as well as Parasolid, ACIS, and STEP, thus preserving the geometry and parametric features of parts or even complicated assemblies. During the data exchange, 3G.author will not tie up the license of the CAD package it is interfacing to. This tight integration allows the design engineer to take advantage of 3G.author's core competencies:
Define and explore design alternatives with its fast
h/p adaptive FEA solver.
Create any number of design alternative solutions
based on user-specified criteria.
Perform sensitivity studies and optimize for structural and design-based criteria.
Using the model study feature, engineers can study the effect of different geometries with parametric dimensions on the mass or volume of the parts. Custom study allows the use of model parameters or user-variables created in Excel and imported in 3G.author. The main analysis capabilities of 3G.author are in Function Study.
The latest release includes automatic detection of contact pairs. Contact types include Bonded, Separation with or without sliding. Additionally, the latest release includes Shrink-fit (interference fit) mixed with sliding and no-separation scenarios. The contact definition is robust and transparent to the user and works behind the scenes. As an analyst who uses contact on a daily basis, I was pleasantly surprised at the contact experience in 3G.author. One downside of this "luxury" of not having to deal with the contact idiosyncrasies, however, is the lack of results, such as contact pressure. They're not available to the engineer—especially with the new contact capabilities for shrink-fit designs.
3G.author comes with a short list of materials, but up to 43,000 additional materials are just a click away from www.matweb.com. Choose the material you want from that site and the properties are transferred automatically into 3G.author. These are linear material properties, so the user should be cautioned to limit the simulations in the linear regime of the material at hand. Though present in the menu structure, the nonlinear thermal conductivity properties were not available in the reviewed version. They are available in the newly released 2004 plus update.
The optimization part in 3G.author is the tool for every practicing engineer. Choices in selecting the design objectives can be made from a parametric dimension or load, multiple materials, or a single set of all the above. Once the engineer decides on the design objective, he can analyze the model structurally, dynamically or thermally. Design parameters can be dimensions from the CAD model, or mass, or any calculated results like stresses or displacements. By setting as constraints the upper, lower, acceptable/undesirable range of values, 3G.author will create on-the-fly all the scenarios and the simulation will go through each one. 3G.author's fast auto-mesher and solver are the workhorses that can churn out results within seconds.
The results are limited to stress and displacement type. Again, the contact pressure is a must for contact problems. It would be easier if the undeformed outline is included when the results are plotted. This option is only available in the animation mode. Users can export both static and animated plots as graphic images or avi files. Both of these types are included in the nicely done HTML report. The report includes all the scenarios and the associated results examined by the various sensitivity and optimization studies accompanied by color plots and animation clips.
The online documentation does a decent job of covering most of the functionality of 3G.author without getting into much detail. The parametric capabilities with all the built-in functions have been totally left out and the user cannot take advantage of this powerful feature.
But, all in all, 3G.author is a very powerful program not only for design but for manufacturing engineers as well. It's a "must have" for my CAE toolbox.