Desktop Engineering Magazine :: Assess Your FEA Skills

Assess Your FEA Skills
Written by Vince Adams March 2005

As more companies embrace product simulation, it’s critical to determine your proficiency and your team’s proficiency using analysis tools. Most engineering organizations have embraced FEA at one level or another. But a great disparity exists between the qualifications, skills, and knowledge required to actually use it successfully. The disconnect lies in the knowledge or misconceptions many users have on the complexity of the technology. During the course of classes my company offers its clients, we break down the analysis process into three steps: Ask the Question Answer the Question Interpret the Answer The advances in software speed and ease-of-use have made asking a question and getting an answer to that question extremely easy. However, asking the right question through the careful construction of boundary conditions and material properties is not addressed or facilitated by any interface improvements made over the years. Asking the right question the right way is still a very engineering-specific task. And interpreting the answer requires even more engineering insight. Good engineers often perform bad FEA and, unfortunately, poorly constructed models—i.e., questions—and misinterpretation of results often leads to erroneous design decisions. Engineers looking Above: Solve for the reaction at A and D. Consider supports to expand the use of FEA in the design process, especially as a at A, C, and D as rigid. predictive tool, need to take a lesson from the MCAD community and get a Below: Solve for deflection where load is applied and stress handle on their skill levels. This sort at transition between diameters; list assumptions. of initiative is consistent with other certification and licensing steps that many engineers undertake and should be considered an important part of personal and professional growth. Preparing a Skill-Level Assessment Skill-level assessment can be a difficult and controversial topic, so it’s imperative that skills assessment be conducted in a nonthreatening manner. Most designers and engineers who are successful using more traditional design techniques can be successful using FEA to augment their other tools. However, engineers and managers need an honest understanding of where skill levels reside with respect to the needs of the company and its products. The assessment method

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What do the The difficulty lies in the potential for perceived threat. Users must understand that the program is not a test but merely a tool to help them better understand their skills and needs. and dashed polygon represent? Why is this important? Skill level assessment isn’t technically difficult. Therefore. For the shown system. and C? Explain your responses. 2 of 5 10/3/2006 11:17 AM . is comprised of three tasks.. as there are several areas of expertise that are fundamental to the successful use of analysis in the design process. a skills assessment program should evaluate all aspects of the analysis process—the software skills as well as the engineering knowledge to effectively use the information. If a user is concerned that his job or reputation is on the line by cooperating with a skill assessment. he may put up serious resistance. Each task is critical to the validity of the problem. any analysis. should provide enough feedback on all three of the analysis tasks mentioned earlier so that you have the data needed to structure a growth plan to fill in your skill gaps.or large-scale. small..deskeng. Elements ofSkill Assessment As stated previously. what is the maximum tensile stress at the hole? What stress quantities are represented by plots A. square. B.php?option=com_content&task=v.Desktop Engineering Magazine :: Assess Your FEA Skills http://www.

What concerns do you have with the mesh as shown? How might you correct this is in the software you use? The program that we have developed has four sections: 1. an engineering mechanics review should investigate: Material Properties Failure Theory Free-Body Diagrams Basic Hand Is this force-balanced system properly and sufficiently constrained? If not. At a minimum. how would you correct the model? 3 of 5 10/3/2006 11:17 AM .php?option=com_content&task=v.deskeng. Basic Engineering Mechanics Finite Element (FE) Knowledge Hands-on Sample Problems Portfolio Review Basic Engineering Mechanics—Engineering mechanics is the cornerstone of all predictive analysis and it is the first class we recommend when developing a multicourse training program for clients. 3. 4.Desktop Engineering Magazine :: Assess Your FEA Skills 2.

This system provides two benefits to an organization. This can include reports. concepts. Portfolio Review—The last section of the skills assessment should include a review of past work performed. it should minimize erroneous analyses that can and will lead to misinformed design decisions. Finally. The construction of assumptions. The evaluator will be noting both what was included and what wasn’t included in the portfolio. we recommend areas of study. Analyzing Assessment Data Simply providing a Go/No Go recommendation at the conclusion of the assessment minimizes its value. they may still do so under the supervision of someone who has that qualification. screen shots. it promotes ongoing communication between those with more skills and those with fewer skills. so a portion of the skills assessment should evaluate how a user handles himself/herself on the “tube. A natural mentoring and dissemination of knowledge will follow the 4 of 5 10/3/2006 11:17 AM .Desktop Engineering Magazine :: Assess Your FEA Skills http://www. Second.php?option=com_content&task=v. Thus.deskeng. and limitations is mandatory.. and other support options to allow the participant to move to the next skill level. boundary conditions. and a discussion of methodologies. courses. Of importance is user familiarity with FE terminology and process. We prefer that the participant complete these problems in front of our evaluator.. First. and the interpretation of results will provide indicators of a user’s level of understanding. Why is the stress changing in these images? What is this process called? Finite Element Knowledge—A basic knowledge of FE terms. on-screen model reviews. easy-to-model challenges designed to explore a user’s problem-solving abilities as well as problems that might be specific to the type of analyses the user commonly performs.” The review should include simple. The evaluator will be looking for clearly defined markers indicating that the participant investigates uncertainties and ambiguities built into the problem. we have developed the following responsibility levels based on the outcome: Qualified Qualified Qualified Qualified to to to to Mesh Models (subcategories may exist for types of models) Set Up Boundary Conditions Interpret Results Mentor Others The understanding with these classifications is that if a user is not deemed qualified to perform a task. including a detailed review of their understanding of: Mesh Quality and Validity Boundary Conditions Units Model Validation Hands-On Sample Problems—Use and application of the tools of the trade are extremely important to the success of an analyst.

. Making sure all the users at your company know the difference will help provide the competitive edge so universally sought after when you implement an advanced simulation tool. The point is that we must begin to assess and view our analysis skills in the same manner that we do our other professional skills. all users will possess all the skills required to perform competent. irritate. getting an analysis right is not much more difficult than getting it wrong. diligent.deskeng. or using incorrect material properties still fall within the design engineer’s realm of responsibility. (impactengsol. But like the middle-aged guy who can’t hit his teenage kid’s fastball. Close Window 5 of 5 10/3/2006 11:17 AM .. Vince Adams is the Director of Analysis Services for IMPACT Engineering Solutions in Gurnee.php?option=com_content&task=v. the likelihood of that ideal situation becomes more remote. Test Your FEA Skills Now It’s a pretty safe bet that many of us think that we have all the basics down pat. Remember. So. so we do not need the level of accuracy that a full-time analyst develops.htm You’re on the honor system when it comes to interpreting your performance. enforced supervision and interaction that will raise the quality level of all involved. However. is that “. It falls on the management and leadership of engineering organizations to foster a controlled environment so analysis can truly become a catalyst for innovation and achieve the goals we all know that it can. as a public service. the point is not to embarrass. Illinois. improperly constraining a part... or frighten anyone. a design engineer may not need to know some of the more detailed techniques for advanced nonlinear and dynamic analyses. A commonly stated excuse for not taking the steps outlined here and stated in nearly identically terms each time. the illustrations throughout this article represent a tricky and fun little quiz developed by Vince Adams and his colleagues at IMPACT Engineering . and efficient analysis within an organization. such an attitude sets you up for a rude Engineering Magazine :: Assess Your FEA Skills http://www.” It’s cle. —Lockwood Analysis as Innovation Catalyst Ideally.our use is a first-pass or a design-level analysis. failing to converge as it should. Send your feedback on this article via e-mail to de-feedback@helmers. You can find the answer key at impactengsol. However. In most cases. as the technology proliferates further down the design process.