April 26, 2010
Abaqus 6.9 Student Edition: Full Features, Budget Price
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| by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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One of the biggest trends that has emerged in the CAD industry in the past several years is the push for simulation and analysis earlier in the design process. The simulation and analysis method that has seen the greatest adoption is finite element analysis (FEA). What was once the domain of PhD-level specialists became available to mere mortals when integrated into a number of mainstream CAD applications. Still, not everyone needs CAD for learning FEA or in their work. There has been and still is a need for a standalone FEA product, especially for educational applications. One of the obvious FEA solutions today is Abaqus 6.9 Student Edition (SE) from SIMULIA, a Dassault Systemes
Abaqus is not just a single application, but rather a suite of simulation programs that can solve a broad range of linear and non-linear problems and includes Abaqus/CAE, Abaqus/Standard, and Abaqus/Explicit. The Student Edition contains an extensive library of solid, shell, beam and connector elements that let you model just about any geometry. It also has a lot of material models that let you simulate the behavior of engineering materials ranging from metals to composites. Also worth mentioning is the extensive documentation available for Abaqus 6.9 SE. There are many volumes available remotely, as well as verification files, both good features for learning Abaqus. Because it is a
general purpose simulation tool, Abaqus can be used to simulate and analyze problems beyond structural (stress/ displacement), but we'll stick with the basics for the purposes of this review.
Basic layout of Abaqus 6.9 SE user interface shows that it is well-suited for simulation/analysis workflow.
Designed for personal educational use, and with a maximum model size of 1,000 nodes, Abaqus 6.9 Student Edition includes the core Abaqus products: Abaqus/Standard, Abaqus/Explicit, and Abaqus/CAE. As in the professional release of Abaqus, the Abaqus 6.9 Student Edition features capabilities for modeling, meshing, contact, materials, and multiphysics. Abaqus/CAE has basic geometry building capabilities that are very similar to standalone CAD systems, so it is an efficient way for users who know feature-based modeling to become productive with Abaqus/CAE.
I'll be honest that even though I'm an engineer and have used (with some degree of success) the rudimentary FEA capabilities integrated into many of the mainstream CAD packages, I haven't had nearly the level of comfort or success with standalone FEA applications. This was one of my primary motivations for reviewing Abaqus 6.9 SE - to see if I could actually learn and use a relatively sophisticated FEA application.
I reviewed Abaqus 6.9 Student Edition on an HP 8730w mobile workstation that was well-suited because of its optimized visual computing performance and its excellent image quality (resolution and brightness).
According to SIMULIA, some of the highlights of Abaqus 6.9 SE include:
The Extended Finite Element Method (XFEM) that has been implemented in Abaqus, providing a tool for students simulating crack growth along arbitrary paths that do not correspond to element boundaries. In the aerospace industry, XFEM can be used in combination with other Abaqus capabilities to predict durability and damage tolerance of composite aircraft structures.
The general contact implementation offers a simplified and highly automated method for students to define contact interactions in a model. This capability provides substantial efficiency improvements in modeling complex assemblies such as gear systems, hydraulic cylinders, or other products that have parts that come into contact.
A new co-simulation method lets students combine the Abaqus implicit and explicit solvers into a single simulation for substantially reducing computation time. For example, automotive engineering students can now combine a substructure representation of a vehicle body with a model of the tires and suspension systems to evaluate the durability of a vehicle running over a pothole.
A new viscous shear model allows simulation of non-Newtonian fluids such as blood, paste, molten polymers, and other fluids often used in consumer product and industrial applications.
Getting Started With Abaqus 6.9 Student Edition
Before we get started, let's briefly discuss exactly what FEA is. The finite element method (FEM) is probably most recognized for its widest application known as finite element analysis (FEA). FEA is a numerical technique for finding approximate solutions of partial differential equations (PDE) as well as of integral equations. For example, FEM can solve partial differential equations for complicated mechanical designs, such as cars and oil pipelines, as the design changes due to external forces, such as a simulating car crash or an earthquake affecting a pipeline.
Generally, an Abaqus analysis is comprised of the following three basic steps:
Pre-processing using Abaqus/CAE where you define the model of the physical problem of the physical problem and create an Abaqus input file (.inp). You can also directly create an Abaqus input file for a simple analysis using a text editor.
Simulation using Abaqus/Standard or Abaqus/Explicit that actually solves the numerical problem previously defined in the model.
Post-processing using Abaqus/CAE lets you evaluate the results of the completed simulation and the displacements, stresses or other variables have been calculated. This interactive evaluation is usually performed using Abaqus/CAE's Visualization module.
When an Abaqus 6.9/CAE session is started, a window opens prompting you what you want to do, such as create or open an existing model database, or run a script. For our purposes here, I'll be creating a new model database and running the simulation based on it.
An Abaqus model is comprised of the following elements that describe the physical problem that you define before running a simulation and solving the problem and is usually performed with the Abaqus/CAE preprocessor:
Discrete geometry with finite elements and nodes that define the basic geometry of the physical structure being modeled in Abaqus. Each element in the model represents a discrete part of the physical structure. Elements are connected with shared nodes, and all of the elements and nodes comprise what is known as a mesh. It is important to keep in mind that the mesh is only an approximation of the physical structure's actual geometry.
Element section properties that are used when geometry is not completely defined by the coordinates of its nodes.
Material data that defines material properties for all elements.
Loads that will distort the physical structure and create stress in it.
Boundary conditions that constrain parts of the model to remain fixed with no displacement or to move with displacement.
Analysis type that is either static (long-term response of a structure to applied loads) or the dynamic response of a structure to a load that changes over time.
Output type of results that lets you limit the output data from being too excessive for interpreting simulation results.
Setting Up and Running a Simulation
I worked through several different problems with (what I thought was) increasing complexity, starting with an overhead hoist, moving on to a cargo crane under dynamic loading, then the behavior of dropping a circuit board in protective crushable foam packaging, among others. Although, obviously, these are all different types of simulations and analysis, the basic steps performed are roughly the same using modules for performing specific tasks.
First, the pre-processing phase. Unless you have previously created geometry, you start off by sketching 2D geometry and creating a part that represents the physical structure that you will be performing the simulation/analysis.
You define the material and section properties of the physical structure. If you have more than one part, each part is independent of each other, and constitute the assembly that will be simulated. Geometry of the assembly is defined by creating instances of a part and positioning the instances relative to each other in a global coordinate system. With the assembly created, it's time to configure the analysis by applying boundary conditions and loads to the model. I found this to be the most demanding part so far, because boundary conditions and loads are step-dependent, meaning that you have to specify the step or steps during the simulation when they are active.
You now have to generate the finite element mesh by actually creating the mesh and assigning the element type, such as a truss. Meshing involves choosing the edges of a part instance, then meshing the part instance. If the model can not be meshed without further intervention by you, it displays in orange, signaling a problem that must be addressed. Because an analysis can be a lengthy process, it's always a good idea to run a data check analysis before running the simulation. This check minimizes the probability of errors in the model due to incorrect or missing data.
After checking the data and making any necessary corrections, next is the processing or simulation/analysis phase. This process actually runs in the background after you select Submit.
When the simulation has completed running, the post-processing phase begins where you can view and study the results several different ways using the Visulization module in Abaqus/CAE. For example, you can view the results graphically in several ways, including deformed shape plots, contour plots, vector plots, and X-Y plots. You can also tabular reports of the output data, although I really preferred the graphical representations because they seemed more easily comprehended.
Admittedly, it's a bit more involved than that, but not too much. As a matter of fact, once you get the basic steps down, the workflow is actually quite intuitive, regardless of the type of simulation/analysis you are running.
As I said earlier, I felt as though I was FEA-challenged; that is, until now. With assistance from Abaqus 6.9 SE's documentation and tutorials (with scripts, model data, and good examples), I was able to get up to speed relatively quickly and felt comfortable in actually understanding what I was trying to accomplish. An excellent “Getting Started Guide” is also supplied with Abaqus 6.9 SE that really helps, as well.
Some things worth noting include the fact that Abaqus 6.9 SE is the same software as SIMULIA's commercial product except it is limited to 1,000 nodes and lacks user subroutines, but this should not be a concern to a student-level user. Abaqus 6.9 SE is offered as a perpetual license, meaning that there is no time limit applied to it because you own the software. At $99.00 (US) the price is also right.
There's a lot to like and learn from Abaqus 6.9 Student Edition. So, whether you are a student or a practicing engineer interested in increasing your FEA knowledge, the Abaqus 6.9 Student Edition provides an entrée to much of the same advanced technology used by FEA specialists.
For More Information:
There is also a free Abaqus 6.9 SE download available for North America University Students/Professors/Researchers at
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.
Gibbs and Associates announced that its latest release, GibbsCAM 2010, in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions, has been certified for Autodesk Inventor 2011 under the Autodesk Inventor Certified Application Program. GibbsCAM 2010, which has also gained the “Compatible with Windows 7” status from Microsoft, for both the 32-bit and 64-bit editions, includes additions to the 5-axis module, such as adaptive cuts, impeller roughing and tool retraction options; additions to Advanced 3D (Solids) Machining, including a new plunge roughing function for very fast material removal with inserted tools, and integration of the ultra high performance toolpath of VoluMill, for fast and efficient
material removal with traditional end mills, plus machining strategy and tool entry-exit additions; additions to Multi-Task Machining's Sync Manager and the Wire EDM modules; and many ease-of-use and interface enhancements across the product suite.
MSC.Software announced that MSC Enterprise Mvision 2010 is available. According to the company, this latest release delivers usability, productivity and security improvements that enable engineering enterprises to better access materials data via the Web for computational modeling and analysis. Enterprise Mvision provides designers and analysts with web-based access to their company's "gold source" engineering materials data in addition to a host of commercially available databases. Enterprise Mvision facilitates fast and efficient search and comparison of materials design options, push-button professional-quality reporting, and traceable export of materials data directly into CAE
solvers. Enterprise Mvision 2010 delivers customer-driven customizations and enhancements that improve the user experience. It has enhanced "look-and-feel" of the user interfaces, improved handling of large strings and units conversion in complex queries and enhancements to the PDF Report Generator that enable auto-formatting of custom headers and footers for reports with multiple materials. Key to Enterprise Mvision has been its robust integration framework for the provision of materials data to CAD and CAE. Enterprise Mvision serves materials data via CAE-integrated clients to more than 6000 end-users at some of its larger installations, while enforcing traceability back to approved data
sets. Enhancements to the 2010 release enable the use of the Integrated Clients in high-security programs that exist behind firewalls.
Ramac's new small-scale blister packaging machine is an innovative design on its own, but the company took innovation one step further when it made an environmentally friendly version of the machine using SolidWorks software. Ramac founders Søren Andersen and Jimmy Rose analyzed their packaging machine design part-by-part with SolidWorks SustainabilityXpress to find material choices and manufacturing methods that decreased the machine's environmental impact throughout its life cycle. The software helped Andersen and Rose weigh every environmental factor in producing the RAMAC 525 Workstation, which is a semi-automatic machine that forms and seals blister packs for consumer and
medical products in low to medium quantities. The SolidWorks SustainabilityXpress dashboard details a design's expected carbon footprint, air and water impact, and energy consumption. It rolls up the probable environmental impact of an entire designed product across its life cycle. In addition to the material and manufacturing changes, SolidWorks SustainabilityXpress prompted Ramac to exchange a pneumatic cylinder for an electrical one that consumed less energy. The software documented every environmental gain Ramac made by choosing alternative materials and production methods.
Blue Ridge Numerics, Inc. announced that CFdesign 2010 fully supports the latest release of PTC Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 5. The Wildfire 5 enhancements, coupled with the design study environment in CFdesign 2010, help engineers in making design decisions based on fluid flow and heat transfer simulations. The simulations begin from within Wildfire 5 using CFdesign's design study manager, and the native model along with its associative information is opened within the CFdesign design study environment. “Wildfire 5 users are able to work within their familiar CAD environment and run fluid flow and heat transfer simulations from CFdesign 2010. This enhancement in CFdesign 2010
demonstrates our commitment to the CAD user and the importance being able to run simulations early in the design process,” says Derrek Cooper, CFdesign Product Manager, “CFdesign enables engineers to create and compare multiple designs and scenarios to make important 'what if' design decisions early in the development process where the value of upfront computational fluid dynamic (CFD) software is greatest.”
Kubotek USA announced that Luxion's rendering application, KeyShot can now be used directly from its KeyCreator 3D direct modeling software. The agreement will further enhance the speed and flexibility for designers and engineers to not only create 3D models with KeyCreator, but to then use those models to create photographic images. With KeyShot, design data can be transferred quickly with the push of a button, and within minutes photographic images are ready for use in design, engineering, design review and marketing. KeyShot is an interactive ray-tracing and global illumination program developed by Luxion. KeyShot is the new name for HyperShot software, the first interactive
ray-tracing and global illumination program. KeyShot gives anyone involved with 3D data the ability to create photographic images in minutes. Kubotek USA has developed a plug-in for KeyShot that allows for seamless integration of the two technologies.
Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of
and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at email@example.com or 408.850.9230.
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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.