February 27, 2006
COSMOSFloWorks Helps Anticipate And Correct Design Flaws Early
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Lasers, undersea vehicles, networking gear, and medical devices are just a few of the products manufactured for less money and with fewer quality errors thanks to COSMOSFloWorks fluid dynamics analysis software.

COSMOSFloWorks analysis enables engineers to simulate and study the flows of liquids, gasses, and heat through their designs before they commit to building expensive physical prototypes. By simulating the fluid flows, designers can determine whether gasses circulate through a machine as planned, whether heat flows through a product quickly enough to prevent overheating, or whether a product exhibits the expected aerodynamic qualities. If COSMOSFloWorks analysis reveals a problem, designers can modify their design and run more COSMOSFloWorks analysis to determine if it works, rather than manufacturing a new prototype to test each iteration.

Nanometrics, the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Sonus Networks are among the engineering organizations that use COSMOSFloWorks to cut costs and accelerate design cycles. Calgary-based Toppings Engineering designs products for a wide range of industries, most notably Canada's oil industry. Owner Barry Toppings' recent project was developing drilling equipment and coring tools. He used COSMOSFloWorks to determine how the equipment would endure the pressure, temperature, and erosion of the drilling fluids.

"I used AutoCAD LT before, and I didn't realize going from 2D to 3D would be such an advantage," Toppings said. "I was pretty good at visualizing things in 3D, but building them in 3D is a huge leap in getting it right the first time."

Toppings recently used COSMOSFloWorks to design a measurement while drilling (MWD) device for a Canadian oil field service company. The device is mounted near the drill bit. It sends coded sequences of pressure pulses through the drilling mud to the surface so operators know where the drill bit is in relation to the rig floor. Toppings used COSMOSFloWorks to simulate the torque and forces the MWD device would face, and used the findings to modify his design. COSMOSFloWorks saved him from traveling to other cities for expensive physical tests that would have required him to build a prototype and mount sensors in a flow loop. Toppings estimates that COSMOSFloWorks saved him at least $50,000
in the development of this MWD tool.

Another COSMOS customer, a medical device manufacturer, Drager Medical, avoided a potentially costly design flaw by using COSMOSFloWorks to analyze the gas flow through a ventilation unit that it was re-designing from aluminum into plastic. The COSMOSFloWorks analysis revealed that gasses were not mixing in a chamber as expected, but flowing side by side. Drager engineers added deflector ribs that mixed the gasses, and then tested the new design with COSMOSFloWorks before producing a final prototype.

"COSMOSFloWorks takes an inherently complicated task and makes it easy enough for anyone in the design process to perform," said Suchit Jain, SolidWorks vice president of analysis products. "Ease of use combined with the accurate results COSMOSFloWorks delivers gives product designers a trustworthy alternative to extensive prototyping. Every time we help a customer eliminate a prototype it significantly cuts costs and time to market while raising quality. More and more companies are turning to analysis software as they realize how much it adds to their design processes."

This announcement by COSMOS is further proof and testimony that CAE analysis and simulation continues to move forward in the product development process. It's an interesting evolution because it wasn't all that long ago CAE was often relegated to the backend of the product development cycle as kind of an afterthought.

This attitude, however, has changed on two fronts. First, realizing the potential payback in terms of reduced production time and getting it right the first time, many design and manufacturing organizations have moved CAE tools further forward in the development process. Some are even using them in the earliest stages of design, the conceptual phase. Second, software vendors are getting better at integrating CAE with their CAD and CAM tools.

A major roadblock to CAE's wider acceptance has been the perception that only high-priced analysis specialists could understand and work with CAE tools. While specialists are required for some of the high-end tools that perform complex analyses, there are many CAE tools now on the market that require just some basic training and practice to become proficient in a relatively short span of time. Admittedly, all CAE tools require a technical mind, but you don't have to have a PhD in mathematics anymore to run many types of analysis and simulation. It really just requires familiarity with the interface of a CAE tool for creating and loading digital models, and then reviewing and interpreting
the results. Finally, computer prices that continue to drop have helped popularize CAE tools, because some of them require a lot computing horsepower when working with large assemblies or very precise engineering constraints.

There are several types of CAE-related manufacturing applications for optimizing the use of materials, tools, shape and time by simulating and analyzing specific manufacturing processes. Probably the most common method for getting CAE into a manufacturing environment, is finite element analysis (FEA), although computational fluid dynamics (CFD) seems to be gaining wider acceptance, as well.

The goal of all CAE tools is for innovating or optimizing mechanical designs. Optimization is a process for improving a design that results in the best physical properties for minimum cost. However, optimization using CAE tools can prove challenging, because each design variation takes time to evaluate, making iterative optimization time consuming. On the other hand, CAE tools can really shine when seeking new and unique ways of designing things - one of the most important aspects of innovation.

Keep in mind that there is no one tool that will serve everyone's needs in an organization. Some will be interested in fluid flow, others in structural mechanical properties, and still others in thermal issues. The bottom line is - choose CAE tools carefully.

Finally, be realistic. Don't expect CAE tools to solve all your problems with all of your parts. Like CAD and CAM, CAE tools should be used in conjunction with experience and common sense to arrive at optimized and innovative designs. CAE tools cannot perform miracles by themselves because they still require a tremendous human element, but used correctly, will likely improve your workflow and provide tangible benefits quickly.

The Week's Top 5

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

UGS Corp. announced strong support from the global manufacturing community and several PLM suppliers and industry analysts for its recent announcement to publish the JT data format, a 3D standard used throughout the global manufacturing industry that enables product visualization, collaboration and data sharing. UGS made the announcement at the Daratech Summit 2006 event. UGS announced on January 23 that the governing body of the JT Open Program -- a global community of manufacturers, PLM suppliers, and academic institutions around the world -- unanimously agreed to recommend UGS take immediate action to publish JT to more quickly promote its ongoing development, proliferation, and support.
Since then, industry reaction to the announcement has been very positive.

SAMTECH launched the commercial release 11.1 of its general purpose FEA software suite SAMCEF for linear and non-linear thermo-mechanical analyses. SAMCEF is an FEA suite that provides all the classical capabilities for linear stress analysis (SAMCEF Asef), buckling analysis (SAMCEF Stabi), modal analysis (SAMCEF Dynam), transient and harmonic response with deterministic (SAMCEF Repdyn) or random loading (SAMCEF Spectral). SAMCEF offers unique capabilities in rotor dynamics (SAMCEF Rotor/RotorT); it also offers its integrated non-linear module SAMCEF Mecano/Thermal embedding in a single solver rigid and flexible multi-body simulation, non linear metallic/composite structures and thermal
analysis. Linear modules of SAMCEF can also be used after a non-linear analysis. This allows a modal analysis of a pre-stressed structure or to predict the resonances of a flexible mechanism in various configurations. SAMCEF V11.1 runs on Linux, Unix and Windows platforms. The Linux versions are now available for x86, Itanium2, AMD64 and EM64T processors.

UGS Corp. announced Teamcenter for Simulation software, to extend the value of analysis data management throughout the product lifecycle for the analysis community. This announcement is a key element of UGS' Lifecycle Simulation strategy that UGS Chairman, CEO and President Tony Affuso, announced during the Daratech Summit 2006 event. Teamcenter for Simulation is designed to meet the needs of automotive, aerospace, and defense companies, as well as manufacturers with smaller analysis work teams. It leverages the entire Teamcenter portfolio and addresses end-to-end analysis data management needs, including CAE process management
and improvement.

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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.

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