When developing a product, sophisticated manufacturers often use a form of virtual analysis known as Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to predict the performance of the finished product. The FEA uses a predictive process known as the Finite Element Method (FEM) to create a computer simulation of the product in use in various situations. This process allows businesses to develop products more efficiently by reducing the number of trial and error prototypes required to create a final product.
Conducting a virtual analysis, like an FEA, can do more than reduce the costs associated with producing numerous prototypes of a product. An FEA can speed up the manufacturing process. This tool can help small and midsize companies to compete against larger manufacturers with much larger research and development budgets.
Although the buyer will test the final product under a variety of conditions, companies expect the suppliers to provide a product that meets their expectations and deadlines. Moreover, the buyer expects the suppliers to bear the costs of guaranteeing product safety and functionality. An FEA can provide the OEM with a sense of confidence in their investment.
Key Considerations | Finite Element Analysis
For a small or medium size company looking to perform FEA simulations, there are four key factors to consider. Because resources are scarce, making the right decisions regarding efficiency is paramount to success:
- Finite Element Analysis Software: Many people feel that buying a CAD software package will enable them to run a FEA simulation. However, the software is not all that is required. FEA simulations can vary in complexity and it is important to understand the conditions best suited for a specific simulation. All software packages are not equal. Investing in the wrong software can be costly and time consuming.
- CAD Modeler: Although certain companies have talented CAD modelers in house, running a FEA simulation requires a specific skill set. Experience is important because conducting the simulation can be expensive. Finding someone with expertise in conducting these simulations and interpreting the results is crucial to the bottom line.
- Apps and Online Tools: You may have heard the saying “there’s an app for that.” It’s true, there are a variety of apps and online tools but there is no magic potion for FEA simulations. The best results, in our opinion, are the ones that are obtained from using the appropriate software—a high quality 3D model—and expert hands.
- Freelancers: There are expert hands out there but hiring a freelancer requires careful vetting. You need to be certain the freelancer has the required skill and the necessary software to conduct your specific analysis. Scheduling is also a factor because manufacturing often has tight deadlines and freelancers may not be available when you need them most.
Finite Element Analysis is a critical step in the manufacturing and construction industries. Knowing how your product will behave under different circumstances brings a sense of comfort to you and to your client. With the right combination of skills in place, the ability to conduct a FEA can be an asset for your company that sets you apart from your competition.