There has been a lot of discussion in the CAD/CAE community about unifying designers and engineers’ job functions. Some of the discussions focus on enabling the designers to have sophisticated but simple tools to conduct a preliminary check of their design using FEA methods. Other discussions focus on keeping the disciplines distinct entities and therefore concentrate on improving the information exchange between the two disciplines by making it more seamless and without losing any of the data fidelity.
I can understand, though not necessarily agree, that designers can or should do FEA however the need to work on the same up-to-date information is unquestionably important. There are several challenges when CAD users and CAE users try to use the same information. The main challenge is that CAD & CAE users need to use an application which is purpose built to complete their tasks. CAD users have a different purpose than the CAE users which requires specific types of tools and even data. For example, the CAD application does not require information such as Young modulus, Poison ratios, Shear modulus, etc. but the CAE application does require this information.
Even though there are distinctive features required for each discipline, there is a lot in common between the two, mainly the geometric representation and many attributes tied to those objects. Exchanging of information between the two disciplines mainly revolves around the geometric representation and material properties.
In ShipConstructor we solve this in two ways. The first is to generate a version of the model to be imported into an FEA application. Since ShipConstructor is based on the AutoCAD foundation, which natively uses the DWG file format, virtually any application would be able to read drawings created by ShipConstructor. Some of the limitations of this were that not all data (i.e. objects material properties such as density) contained in ShipConstructor’s Marine Information Model (MIM) is accessible by the FEA application. This required some effort from the CAE engineer to transfer the required information into the tool they are using.
The second way is using AutoFEM (a ShipConstructor Developer Network (SCDN) partner) which has created a slick and efficient way to do FEA from within ShipConstructor without leaving the ShipConstructor/AutoCAD environment. AutoFEM is also based on the AutoCAD foundation which allowed them to easily re-use the CAD data within a ShipConstructor drawing. They also used the ShipConstructor API to extract and re-use the information associated to the parts which are needed for their calculations.
The result is a seamless way to do FEA within the ShipConstructor environment with absolutely no need to manually exchange files or part attribute data. There is also no need to create a FEA compatible mesh. A designer or an engineer can do the analysis required, alter the model and verify results in what seems to be the same application.
The result is that there is now a tighter integration between the two disciplines which can significantly improve the productivity and quality of verifying a design. Often designs are verified using FEA in the initial design phase using preliminary, basic, generic and undetailed model information. This does give a reasonable amount of information if the vessel or components in the vessel will meet requirements. However as a more detailed model is being constructed, verifying the results done in the preliminary step can significantly reduce costly errors or effort down the stream. With AutoFEM utilizing the same data model as ShipConstructor there is no additional cost of preparing and exchanging data which will allow for many types of analyses previously not done because of the extra effort required to manage the data.
You can see this in action on YouTube:
You can access the manual here
If you would like to try AutoFEM for 15 days (free) click here.