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Utilizing Design Studies to Evaluate What-If Scenarios

SOLIDWORKS Motion included in SOLIDWORKS Premium allows for evaluating the mechanical
performance of a rigid body mechanism through simulating its operational movements. It allows
for simulating the effect of forces, springs, dampers, gravity, component contacts and bushings to
effectively visualize and measure the kinematic and dynamic behavior of a system. These outputs
include displacements, velocities, accelerations, forces, etc. SOLIDWORKS 2012 introduced the
capability of linking motion studies to a SOLIDWORKS Design Study. Multiple scenarios can be
setup in a single interface to analyze the behavior of a mechanism under various loading
conditions. This guide will make use of a ballistic pendulum mechanism to cover the steps of how
to create a design study linked to a motion study.


The first step is to setup a motion analysis to simulate the operational movements of a
mechanism. SOLIDWORKS Motion uses assembly mates to limit the degrees of freedom of a
mechanical system and specify its range of movement. Contact conditions, springs, and dampers
can be created to help define the mechanisms operational movements. Motion can be applied to
the mechanical system through motors, forces, gravity or preloaded springs.

A ballistic pendulum is used to measure a projectile’s momentum, from which it is possible to

calculate velocity and kinetic energy. It is based on a dissipative collision where conservation of
momentum is conserved, but conservation of energy cannot be invoked due to conversion of
kinetic energy into inaccessible forms such as internal energy. The ballistic pendulum mechanism
includes two separate mechanical systems, the firing mechanism and the pendulum system. The
measured height of the pendulum’s center of mass after projectile impact can be used to calculate
the velocity of the pendulum based on its gravitational potential energy and then its momentum.
The premise of an inelastic collision is that the objects will stick together after impact, in the case
of a ballistic pendulum mechanism where a bullet will penetrate into a pendulum’s body.
SOLIDWORKS Motion will not allow for bodies to stick together after impact, but an inelastic
collision with the absence of this behavior can be specified in a contact condition setup.

The example used consists of a simplified firing mechanism which includes a barrel, a firing disk
and a 9mm bullet. The pendulum system includes a pendulum rigidly mounted to an arm with the
other end of the arm connected to a bracket allowing for only rotational movement. Gravity is
applied in the vertical direction.

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A preloaded spring connecting the firing disk to the barrel is used to set the bullet into motion. It
is setup using a compressive preload. This is done by specifying the free length of the spring to be
larger than the specified distance between the firing disk and barrel in the model. The bullet
velocity can be adjusted by modifying the spring constant.

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There are two contact conditions defined. One contact condition groups the barrel, firing disk and
bullet into one definition using a “Steel (Dry)” material condition for each selection. The material
condition is used to automatically specify the friction and elastic properties of the collision. If the
material conditions were specified differently, the order of selection does not influence the
definition. Specifying a steel-rubber condition is the same as a rubber-steel condition.

The other contact condition is defined between the bullet and pendulum. The material selection
was not used for this condition and the elastic properties were manually defined. This can be
done by either specifying impact parameters or a restitution coefficient. The restitution
coefficient was set to zero to specify an inelastic collision. Specifying a value of one would result in
a perfectly elastic condition. This would be representative of very rigid balls coming into contact
(i.e. contact between balls in a game of pocket billiards). Friction was not enabled in either
contact condition.

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The motion study properties were modified to increase the resolution of the analysis. The
“Frames per second” setting was modified from the default value of 25 to 2000 to properly resolve
the dynamic behavior of the bullet and pendulum interaction. The “Use Precise Contact” option
was selected to provide the highest resolution for the 3D contact analysis. The “Advanced Motion
Analysis Options” were configured to ensure a successful analysis. The integrator type was set to
“WSTIFF”. This integration method was selected since it is able to adjust the step size used for the
computation during the analysis to account for sudden step size changes induced by discontinuous
forces, discontinuous motion or abrupt events due to solid body contact. The integrator step sizes
were also set to the lowest possible values. Running the calculation with larger step sizes resulted
in solution failure either at the beginning of the analysis when the bullet is set into motion or right
after the bullet impacts the pendulum. Both of these failures are caused by abrupt changes in the
step size used for the calculation.

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The main result output of interest for this study tracks the pendulum center of mass position in
the direction of gravity (Y – Axis). This value can be used to manually calculate its velocity and
momentum. The bullet’s momentum and velocity can then be calculated. These results can be
accessed from within SOLIDWORKS Motion. A hand calculation can be performed to verify the
validity of the setup. A four part tips and tricks video series going through the underlying
equations and setup of a motion analysis simulating a ballistic pendulum is available on the
GoEngineer website. A link to the first part of the video series can be accessed below.

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Design Study

A design study used to analyze what-if design scenarios requires two sets of conditions, variables
(i.e. inputs) and constraints (i.e. outputs). Variables can be tied to SOLIDWORKS Motion elements
which consist of motor settings, action only and action/reaction force and torque inputs, spring
attributes, solid body contact friction and elastic properties, etc. Constraints are tied to sensors
created from various motion result plots including displacements, velocities, accelerations, contact
forces, momentum, kinetic energy, etc. The optimization option needs to be unchecked for a
what-if design scenario. Leaving this option enabled allows for running a motion optimization

The variable definition window can be accessed by selecting the pull down menu under variables
and selecting “Add Parameter”. In the parameter definition window that pops up, the category
can be changed to motion and a motion element can be selected from the motion analysis tree to
create the link. A variable name and an initial value need to be specified. The ballistics pendulum
example uses the preloaded spring constant as the input variable.

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Once a variable is created, the bounds of its variance can be inputted in a couple different ways for
a what-if design study. Discrete values can be specified or the range with step option can be used
to set the minimum, maximum and step criteria. The range option is only used for optimization
analysis. The ballistics pendulum example specifies a range of spring constants from 550 N/m to
1000 N/m with a step of 50 N/m. The design study is setup to evaluate changes in bullet velocity,
pendulum center of mass position, pendulum momentum, contact forces developed between the
bullet and pendulum during impact, etc.

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Constraints can be added by selecting the pull down menu under constraints and selecting “Add
Sensor.” Any existing motion sensors can be accessed from within the sensor property manager.
Motion sensors are created from within the property manager of a motion result plot.

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Once a sensor is added to a design study, the condition setting needs to be set to “Monitor Only,”
for a what-if design study. The three other options are used for running an optimization analysis
(is greater than, is less than and is between).

The what-if deign study can be run using two different methods which can be accessed in the
design study properties. The high quality option will solve all defined scenarios. The fast results
option will solve only a subset of the defined scenarios. It will solve the iterations tied to the
extremes of the defined variable boundary and at the iteration tied to the variable’s median value.
Linear interpolation is then used to calculate the results for the remaining defined scenarios.

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Results are listed in a table based format in the design study interface. Full motion results are
saved for each design iteration. Activating a scenario will load up the motion results tied to that
specific scenario and in-depth post processing can be performed by accessing the motion study.
The following image depicts a high quality result.

The results for a calculation run using the fast quality results option is depicted below. The
scenarios which were calculated through linear interpolation are shown in a light grey font. The
scenario columns displayed with black font represent scenarios with calculated results. Right-
clicking at the top of a scenario column header allows for running a motion analysis for that
specific scenario.

Right-clicking on the “Results and Graphs” link in the column to the left of the result table will
provide options for deleting the results (Purge Results) or creating a Design History Graph (DHG) or
Local Trend Graph (LTG). High quality results allow for defining a DHG where as fast quality results
allow for defining a LTG. A DHG will plot out the design variable or specified constraints against
scenario instance. A LTG will plot out a specified constraint against the variable’s range of
variance. If more than one variable is used in the design study, the “Local trend at” option is
applicable and allows for specifying a specific iteration number. The selected variable will vary as
mentioned above, but the other variables will remain locked at the values specified in the scenario

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Allows for evaluating a large number of load cases without having to duplicate the motion
study multiple times and manually changing the desired motion elements
Intuitive interface with two different result quality selections allowing for trend
comparisons or obtaining full calculated results

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