You may never see analyst Terry Bender on CSI, but some of the forensic work you do see is part of his daily routine.
Bender works as an analyst with Applied Concepts (www.applycon.com), a Medina, MN-based engineering consulting firm. About a third of the consulting business's projects involve analysis of forensics. "We find out what is the smoking gun that caused the problem," he says.
His experience using software in analysis made him a natural to investigate and test the latest version of ALGOR FEA software, Version 14. So what was his verdict? "The incremental speed enhancements are constantly improving performance of the software," says Bender.
Among the most significant improvements he has noticed is the FLEXlm license manager technology, which enables local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) support and simultaneous use, upgrade, and purchasing capability. "It opens up a lot of doors for customers to have more flexibility to set up software licenses," says Bob Williams, product manager for ALGOR (www.algor.com). "We can set up companies with exactly what they need, and not more than they need." The remote-use factor adds another element of flexibility. "You can disconnect the computer and work offsite, which I sure took advantage of," Bender adds.
No longer functioning with a constant meshing thickness, the enhanced midplane meshing element of the software is another convenience and time-saving feature that Bender mentions. The latest version of FEA software allows users to reduce thin, solid elements in CAD and generate a plate/shell for analysis in multiple-part assemblies with parts that have variable thickness and better part-to-part mesh matching, as opposed to parts with a single thickness as in previous versions.
With the growing importance of analysis and simulation as a cost- and time-saver in engineering, there have been several enhancements in FEA packages lately, including MSC.
Nastran 2004 and ANSYS 7.1. In Algor's case, says Bender, it's not so much the actual enhancements that he notices, but rather what those enhancements do for his business. "Many enhancements don't show up as absolutely new, never-before-seen products, but they improve speed and versatility," he explains. "For example, the interface has more options and is simplified, so you have less to do up front on the one hand and get more out on the solver performance on the other hand." Such improvements add up over time. "In the past," he says, "you may have had the computer crunching for five days on sophisticated Multiphysics Event Simulations, and now it may take only two days."
Among the incremental improvements ALGOR has made with v14 are the contact elements, including both the combined motion/stress analysis and the thermal heat analysis. The enhancements in Mechanical Event Simulation (MES) involve surface-to-surface contact for parts that initially touch. MES users can then get plastic strain result plots when a part has been formed. Thin-layer resistance may be modeled from the thermal contact element with steady-state and transient heat transfer analyses.
For a realistic look, the Superview IV Results environment of v14 features a spring factor that accounts for static stress with linear material models and linear dynamic analyses. "When you draw on screen, you are drawing one line between two elements," explains Williams. "When you look at the results, you see a true spring. Any graphics generated in v14 will look like springs, not just lines."
While Applied Concepts' Bender admits that he does not necessarily use all the functions of ALGOR's latest enhancements in v14, he does admit that he needed, in his own words, "a package that had all the bells and whistles." "We've done a little of everything, and we haven't come across a problem that is similar to anything else we've done before," he adds, which is understandable considering the "one-third" of problems his business sees in forensics.
But what about the remaining two-thirds of work that Applied Concepts has to solve with FEA software? Generally, the company is involved with fatigue problems and vibration-related problems in industrial machines and the biomedical industry. "People come to us to change a part to make it work or to pass inspection," says Bender. As a beta tester, he has provided ALGOR with direct requests on enhancements, including a heat transfer request he made—and got—in v14. ALGOR made part temperatures, the film coefficient, and ambient temperature interdependent, which resulted in a change that removed some of the analyst guesswork from temperature changes within enclosures in previous versions of the analysis software.
While Bender currently works with SolidWorks for CAD software, he mentions that he is learning to use Alibre, the CAD software that comes packaged with ALGOR v14. The FEA software also reads files from Autodesk Inventor, CADKEY, Mechanical Desktop, ProENGINEER, Solid Edge, and SolidWorks.