5 FEA packages for less than $6,000

February 21, 2000

CAE vendors want--YOU: The every-day design engineer.

No longer are CAE software developers focusing strictly on the high-end expert or analyst. Features such as windows-based interfaces, PC hardware requirements, shorter learning curves, behind the scenes number crunching--and of course, less expensive software--all indicate these vendors are targeting the design engineer rather than the specialist.

Here's a look at five different companies who are doing just that:


Product: InCAD DesignPak

Company: ALGOR Inc.

Price: $975/license

"There is a perceived need for engineers to perform quick analysis checks on their models early on in the design cycle," says Michael Bussler, president of CAE developer ALGOR Inc. To address this need, the makers of Accupak Mechanical Event Simulation recently released InCAD DesignPak.

An engineer with zero analysis experience could easily run an analysis on his or her design without leaving a native CAD package, says Bussler. InCAD DesignPak allows users of mid-range CAD programs such as Solid Edge, SolidWorks, Pro/ENGINEER, and Mechanical Desktop to work with FEA meshes without file translations.

If ALGOR and the CAD system reside on separate computers, Direct Memory Image Transfer (DMIT) is used for seamless interoperability without file translation. "Competitors give different model translators for different CAD systems," says Bussler. "We cloned the program for all the CAD packages so a user isn't married to any one product."

Engineers developed InCAD DesignPak based on ALGOR's higher-end products. Because of this, InCAD DesignPak is completely compatible and scalable with the company's other software packages. Once modeled, the design can be pulled into any other ALGOR product without the need for translation or additional work by the end user. Also, a user familiar InCAD DesignPak could easily migrate to other company products with no learning curve because the interfaces are identical.

The software focuses on mesh quality rather than mesh size, says Bussler. "We begin with a solid surface mesh and build inward." The package also supports multiple element types.

For a bit more, $3,700, ALGOR offers InCADPlus. This package offers engineers, among many other features, the ability to perform surface and solid finite element analysis (FEA) modeling using ALGOR's Superdraw.

Coastal Systems Station, Naval Surface Warfare Systems Center in Panama City, Florida, supports the U.S. Navy in the area of Littoral warfare, which includes mine, amphibious and special warfare, underwater systems, and diving and salvage equipment. Recently, engineers at Coastal Systems Station designed a valve body in Solid Edge and then captured the geometry with ALGOR's InCADPlus and performed finite element analysis with ALGOR software to ensure that it could withstand high pressures. Engineers designed the valve to control the flow of gases such as helium, nitrogen, and oxygen into the breathing loop of a deep sea diving rig that goes beyond the limit of conventional scuba gear.

For diving beyond traditional depths of self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, a mixture of inert gases including helium and oxygen is used to prevent potentially deadly conditions such as oxygen poisoning, high-pressure nervous syndrome, and nitrogen narcosis. The 7,500-psi valve connects two spherical 5,000-psi Inconel flasks to a manifold

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