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- Common Mistak

kes And Errors -

Common Mistakes
es And Errors

This chapter includes material from the book Practical Finite Element Analysis. It also has been reviewed and has
additional material included by Matthias Goelke and Gareth Lee.

Errors Within Organizations

ext, we will be sharing the mistakes made by CAE engineerss working in different organizations.

Common CAE Mistakes

CAE Marketing Managers System HR

Engineers Engineers Administrators

CAE Engineers

1) Submission Of A Job Without Proper Cross Checking (Should Be Cross Checked By Ideally 2 CAE Engineers)

Checking the work of someone else is a rather boring and not willingly accepted job. But it is very important and a job of high
responsibility. Checking and rechecking all the details ensures good quality and minimal mistakes.

For example, a CAE service-providing company submitted a meshing job to their regular client. Everything was perfect except
for the material properties. The analyst at the customer end was as used to error free models being submitted by this CAE team
over the years. He blindly started the analysis without checking the material properties. At a later stage in the design process,
a big difference was noticed in the results between the current analysis and the previous one carried out for a similar model.
After checking both the models carefully, the analyst realized the difference in the material properties. Please be careful before
submitting your work and check it several times and then ask youry colleague to check it as well. Also, always request that your
clients check the model in every aspect before starting the analysis.

2) Import / Export Errors

Some of the preprocessors do not export all the elements and boundary
bounda conditions that exist in the model, unless special options
are turned on or special translators are used. For example, one CAE group exported a large mesh model with the template set for a
specific external solver. Some of the special elements (RBE3 elements) were not exported due to a translator problem. These were
extra rigid connections and did not result in rigid body modes during the free-free check. The analysis was carried out as expected
by an analyst. Based on the CAE results, the CAD engineers released the drawings and a prototype was created. The test results
were not satisfactory and further modifications were required. Upda
pdated CAD data was provided again to the same meshing group.
The changes were local and it was to be carried out on the earlier
rlier submitted model. By this time, the CAE group had an upgraded
version of the pre-processing software and the export operation was 100% successful (i.e. all the elements including the ones
that were missed earlier were exported properly). The results for the modified model showed a drastic difference when compared
to the original. After careful checking and comparing the number of elements, the analyst realized that a few rigid elements were
missing in the first model. Hundreds of engineers had worked on the job in the mean time (CAD, prototype, testing, planning etc.).
Who is responsible for this delay and cost? Is it the analyst, the service provider, or the pre-processing software? Its strongly
recommended to import the mesh model before submission to the client (in a new file) and apply all of the quality checks as well
as compare the number of elements of each type (such as number of tria, quad, rigid, spring, mass elements etc.).

3) Experienced Engineers Are The Best Guides And Teacher

hers For Newcomers And Less Experienced Colleagues

CAE engineers are usually highly qualified (education wise) and having years of experience means that a lot of know-how and
knowledge is available within the team. The best teachers for newcome
comers in any organization are undoubtedly the senior engineers

- Common Mistak
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working in the same group. Software trainers or consultants do not

ot know exactly what is required by the customer. Every company
should encourage and pay special incentives for experienced
xperienced engineers
engineer to share their knowledge with newcomers.

4)Meshing Is Considered Low Level Work, Post Graduates And PhDs Are Reluctant To Spend Time On Meshing

Sometimes a dangerous trend is observed among post graduates es and PhDs. They feel meshing is a low level job and being highly
qualified, they should not waste time in such low level work. A building cannot be built on a weak foundation. Meshing is the
foundation of CAE. At least in the initial years, analysts should be encouraged to mesh the components.

5)CAE Engineers Are Reluctant To Visit The Shop Floor, Tes

esting Department, Or Field To Study The Manufacturing,
Functioning, And Failures Of The Components

Just sitting in front of the computer in an air-conditioned office and submitting nice analysis reports is not going to make the
analysis successful. What is absolutely necessary is to regularly
larly visit the test department, observing the components on the
structure, and comparing the real life performance with results of the computer model. These days, many times a CAE team is
located in a different country than the manufacturing and testing facility. The quality of the CAE work would be much better if there
is an opportunity to know the product, manufacturing process, testing
esting and in-field behavior.

6) Providing Basic Training Related To Data Acquisition And Testing

At least a basic training on the data acquisition and testing methods

thods is strongly recommended for CAE engineers.

7)Unnecessary Emphasis On Modeling The Minute Details

ails Without Giving Due Consideration To Available Time,
Hardware, And Software Capabilities

Finite Element Analysis is an approximate approach. Modeling the things to the minute details without giving due consideration to
the capabilities of the available software and hardware could unnecessarily complicate the problem. For example, when analyzing
a structure and the failure is expected at the body, a bolt should not be simulated by modeling the minute details like threads.
Instead a beam element and connections using rigids in the washer
asher area could adequately model the bolt ( in the linear static

8) Loyal To Specific Software And A Resistance To Learn And Use New


Engineers using a specific software for years, are not willing to switch to other ones. No commercial software is perfect and every
software has its own advantages and disadvantages. In the servicevice industry, what matters most is the time and quality of the work.
If a specific software is good but takes more time in comparison
parison to another one for some specific application, then it is better to
use the better one. Sometimes a combination of two different software
so works faster. For example, meshing in one software and
then performing quality improvement or remeshing in other. A CAE engineer should be loyal to his/her duty rather than a specific

9) Not The CAE Engineers But The Design Engineers Are The Most Important Person In The Design Chain

CAE engineers are usually highly qualified, paid higher salaries and sometimes it leads to a superiority complex (that they are
the most important people in the design cycle process). But it should always be remembered that the Design engineer is the
most important person and the role of CAE engineers is to provide
vide analysis services to him/her (other service providers are test,
purchase, manufacturing, etc.).

10) While Suggesting The Modifications, No Consideration Is Taken For The Manufacturing Constraints And The Cost

Sometimes the CAE engineer gives suggestions which are either not manufacturable or cost effective. For example, it is very easy
to increase the thickness of the parts showing a higher stress, or to suggest that high strength (costly) material should be used,
or to suggest geometry modifications without considering the manufacturing
manuf constraints. Sometimes CAE engineers are adamant
about their proposals and are not willing to carry out further itterations as per suggestions from the design or manufacturing

- Common Mistak
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CAE Marketing Engineers

1) Accepting Jobs Beyond Their Capabilities

Sometimes marketing engineers accept jobs just because it is from f a reputed company or because the volume of work is very
large, without giving due consideration to the capabilities and limitations of their technical team and available software / hardware.

2) Promising Unrealistic Time Schedule:

Sometimes marketing engineers promise to deliver results in a time span that is not possible with the current strength of the team
and the number of software seats available. Maintaining a strict time schedule with good quality work is necessary and reflects
the successful marketing of any company. Sweet talking, impressi pressive infrastructure, and other facilities can create an excellent first
impression with the client during initial visits, but it will vanish in no time if the delivery schedule isnt maintained and the quality
of the work is poor.

CAE Managers And Group Leaders

1)Committing To The Job Without Consulting The Cae Engineer

In particular, during a visit to the clients, managers whose domain expertise is not CAE are involved in the meetings and sometimes
commit to the job without consulting the responsible person.

2)CAE Manager / Group Leader Should Be Someone Who Has Spent Several Years In The Field, Not The One Who Is
An Expert In Another Area Or A Non-Technical Manager

A CAE experienced manager understands the problems faced byy CAE engineers and is capable of helping them personally when
required. A CAE job is supposed to be a white collar job, but it really requires day and night hard work and involves considerable
mental stress due to tight delivery schedules. The following replies from managers or group leaders could be very frustrating and
demoralize any CAE engineer dont ask me, thats your job or you
should know these simple things or if you cannot do it, we
will find someone else or I want results and not the problems, dont come to my office without the results, understood!. .

CAE Process Management

CAE Process Management is helping organizations to capture kno owledge and ensure best practices for CAE. It can be used for CAE
load case automation, process guidance, and process integration
egration. It lets organizations implement standardized CAE processes
that automate the load case setup, interface with CAD, PDM systems,sys databases, and other IT systems and applications by
capturing the best practices as templates. It also helps them retain
etain knowledge, even when people quit and leave organizations,
besides improving productivity and reliability of doing CAE between
een differently skilled CAE users.

CAE System Administrators

1) Laziness In Fixing Computer Hardware / Software Related

elated Problems

In a group of 15 CAE engineers, a minimum of 15 workstations

kstations are required. Computers are, after all, machines and bound to
create problems. It will not be logical to expect the best performance
ormance from the team without providing them good computers and
fixing the hardware, software problems immediately. A knowledgeable
wledgeable and prompt system administrator is a very valuable asset
for any CAE group.

2) Improper Data Backup Process

One cannot afford data loss at the midpoint or at the project commpletion phase. Imagine what the impression of the organization
would be if they say to the client that although the job was almost finished, the system crashed and we did not have proper data
backup. It is the responsibility of a system administrator and CAE manager to ensure the simple arrangement for the daily backup
and forcing all the users to backup their data before leaving the office. Another good practice is to avoid working in a single
file throughout the process. Instead, save the file with a different
erent name after every 3 or 4 hours of work or whenever deemed
appropriate, is recommended.

- Common Mistak
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Human Resources (HR)

Inconsistent Salaries For The Same Post And Same Job


In many (probably all) organizations, the most infamous deparrtment is HR. In CAE groups, it is common to find inconsistent
salaries for the same qualification and the same job profile. When there is an urgent requirement, HR people generally offer higher
salaries. When engineers come to know that the newly recruited person has been offered much more than what they are getting,
they feel frustrated. Sometimes, this results in HR recruiting one new
n engineer and as a result, two existing engineers leave.

Modeling And Visualization

While the above summary reflects errors and mistakes from an organizational point of view, the following high level summary is
about modeling and visualization errors. During the analysis, the FEM solver will report warnings and errors. While warnings can
be considered as hints e.g. element quality is bad, errors cause the analysis to stop. Errors may be related to extremely distorted
elements, missing material properties, rigid body modes due to insufficiently defined constraints,etc.

The modeling pitfalls listed below can be considered as appetize

tizers with the intention of making you think (and worry) more about
the model set-up. More in-depth details regarding the different modeling pitfalls are provided in the remaining chapters of this


In many cases, it is appropriate or even required to simplify the imported geometry in order to achieve a better mesh quality.
For instance, the required minimum element size must not be smaller than x millimeters. In order to solve this (project) related
requirement, small fillets may be replaced by sharp edges, as shown
sh in the images below. Even though this simplification was/is
requested, keep in mind that your FEM model now deviates from
om the initial geometry.

What kind of elements are you using in your model? Why are you
ou using this element type? Did you use this element type before?

You may mesh a thin walled 3D structure with 3D elements such as hexahedral or tetrahedral elements, or you may mesh the
same structure with respect to its midsurface using 2D elements (trias or quads).

Model meshed with 3D elements

Model meshed with 2D elements

- Common Mistak
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Aside from the decision of whether to use 2D or 3D elements, there are other uncertainties (or even errors) related to the
different numerical characteristics of quad versus trias and hexahedral
xahedral versus tetrahedral elements (see the chapters on 2D and
3D meshing).

Another modeling error may be related to element size. The ultimate

ultima objective or aim is that the modeling results are independent
of mesh size. Typically you need to re-run the analysis based on a finer mesh to check for convergence of the simulation results.
As a rule of thumb, areas of interest should be meshed finer (smaller element size).

Of utmost importance is the element quality. Keep in mind that the elements not only reflect the CAD model, but eventually the
analysis is based on the finite elements. Hence, any deviation frrom the ideal element shape (e.g. perfect quadrilateral shape in
case of a quad element) introduces numerical errors. The magnitude of such errors is generally difficult to assess.

In the model shown below, some elements are not coupled to each other (i.e. duplicated nodes exist), hence the mesh is locally
incompatible. The area along the edge where the elements are no
ot coupled is marked in red.

Still, the FEM program does not prompt any warning or error messages as this may be an intended model behavior. If the mesh
is not intentionally detached (and the model is not checked for free edges), then this model error may remain unknown until the
results are fully checked and understood. As shown in the contour
our plot below, the displacements are not continuous across some
parts of the mesh.

Also, keep in mind the orientation of the element normals. In the image below, a simple plate subjected to bending is shown. The
stress contour plot (at the base of the elements Z1) reveals a sudden change of its sign from bending (positive) to compression

- Common Mistak
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The following figure helps to understand this situation. In the green area, Z1 is located at the top of the plate (tension) while in the
blue area Z1 is located at the lower side of the element (compression).


Inconsistencies in your unit system represent another likely source

sou of error, i.e. mixing millimeters with meters, kilograms with
tons, etc. Be especially cautious if you need to convert properties
ties from one system to another (e.g. pound-force lbf to Newton).
There will be no warning message associated with any typos, exxcept the typo will cause the entire model to collapse during

Boundary Conditions And Loads

Applying boundary conditions and loads, as discussed in the chapter

chap on Boundary Conditions and Loads, are extremely prone to
errors. To be mentioned exemplarily, a modeling error may
be introduced into the model by applying the constraints
(or forces) to what is named temporary working nodes (in
HyperMesh displayed as yellow nodes).

As the temporary nodes (yellow nodes in the image above)

are not the same as finite element nodes, it may happen
that the structure is not constrained or loaded as intended.
Ideally, this may lead to rigid body modes (error message)
or to questionable results due to an improperly constrained
or loaded model.


When visualizing results, a false sense of achievement that the analyst might experience especially after having struggled with
the model, could lower his/her attention regarding details while looking at the
results. Quite often, especially while you are new to FEM, one becomes blinded
by contour plots. Hence, always check the magnitude of displacements and
stresses in the first step. Despite a reasonably looking displacements (or
stress) contour plot, you may see displacement values in the order of 104
mm (small displacements assumed) or stresses far beyond 1000 000 MPa (linear
elastic material).

- Consistent Units
nits -

Consistent Units

This chapter includes material from the book Practical Finite Element Analysis. It also has been reviewed and has
additional material included by Gareth Lee and Sascha Beuermann.

umerous errors in engineering calculations can be attributed

ed to the careless use of units. To avoid errors, follow these basic

Always use a consistent set of units for each problem.

Develop a sense of the physical reality of the units being used and think in terms of those units.

Always apply the test of reasonableness to input

put and output quantities. If a number appears to be out of the expected
range, it probably is.

Be particularly careful when using someone elses wor

ork. They may have used a conversion factor but failed to clearly
document it.

Avoid conversion factors and non-standard units.

Most general purpose analysis codes have no built--in knowledge of units, making unit consistency the analysts

The fundamental units of measure used in structural analysis are:






All other units are based on these fundamental units. Nowadays

ys the International System of Units (SI) is used generally to mark
the unit of dimension.

Aconsistent set of base and derived units, commonly used in engineering, is given in the table at the end of this chapter.

Equations Used To Help Determine Consistent

Consi Units
To test whether a set of units is consistent, one should check basic equations. For example, in the case of force,

F = m a = m l / t2 and therefore the definition of a Newton is 1 N = 1 kg 1 m/s2

Please see chapter IX, Material and Property Information, for exam
mples of sets of consistent units.

Be aware that most codes use angular measures in degrees in some input and output. For instance, RADIOSS uses degrees
when inputting angles in cylindrical or spherical coordinate systtems but outputs displacement angles in radians. Refer to the
appropriate users manual to determine which measure to use for angles.

Physical constants are also closely related to unit systems. Be certain

ce that the constants you look up or inherit from others are
in the same consistent unit set that you have chosen. Do not blindly accept constants passed on to you from another person. It is
best to look up constant values in a recognized source and reference
erence the source in your documentation.

Complex analytical projects involve a great number of details, each of which must be correct in order to obtain an acceptable
solution. Seek assistance if you do not feel comfortable with the magnitude of detail checking required or if you are not confident
about your intuition regarding the typical answers that your type of problem should produce. To increase your skills and confidence,
solve a scaled down version of the problem you are working on or, r, solve problems that have a handbook or closed form solution.
- Consistent Units
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Quantity Symbol Dimension SI- System

em mm-t-s
mm System mm-kg-ms
System Unit Mult. Unit Mult.
Length l L m mm 103 mm 103
Mass m M kg t (tonne)
onne) 10-3 kg 1
Time t T s s 1 ms 103
Temperature T degrees K K 1 K 1

Work, Energy W, E ML2T-2 J=Nm=W s mJ 103 J 1

Acceleration a LT-2 m s-2 mm s-2 103 mm ms-2 10-3

Area A L2 m2 mm2 106 mm2 106

Frequency f T-1 Hz=s-1 Hz=s-1 1 ms-1 10-3

Velocity v LT-1 m s-2 mm*s-1 103 mm ms-1 1

Volume V L3 m3 mm3 109 mm3 109

Angular a T-2 rad s-2=s-2 rad s-2=s-2 1 rad ms-2=ms-2 10-6

Angular w T-1 rad s-1=s-1 rad s-1=s-1 1 rad ms-1=ms-1 10-3
Density r ML-3 kg m-3 t mm
m -3 10-12 kg mm3 10-9
Pressure, p, s, t, E ML-1T-2 Pa=N m-2 MPa=N
a=N mm
m -2 10-6 GPa=kN mm2 10-9
Force F MLT-2 N=kg m s-2 N 1 kN 10-3
Moment M ML2T-2 Nm N mm 103 kN mm 1

Stiffness c MT-2 N m-1 N mmm -1 10-3 kN mm-1 10-6

The given conversion multipliers (Mult.) are valid for conversion frrom the SI-System to the given system.

Consistent Unit Summary

Use a consistent set of units which you fully understand.

Know your sources of physical constants.

Be careful with decimal points.

Study problems with known answers to gain confidence.

Solve scaled down versions of the larger problems you are wor
orking on.