You have an idea for a piece of equipment, and you get it drawn up--but will it do the job you designed it for?

Answering that question is called design validation. There are a number of methods for doing design validation. One is load testing. The design is built and subjected to a load greater than the foreseen rated capacity by a large safety factor. If the build survives the load, the design is validated. Another is destructive testing. The design is built and subjected to ever-increasing load until it fails. If the failure occurs after the design was subjected to its maximum load + safety factor, the design is validated. A third method is rules-of-thumb. Some designs are too large or too complex to be subjected to load tests or destructive testing. The engineering establishment has developed, over the years, rules on design and materials that, if followed rigorously, will produce results whose behavior can be reliably predicted. A design can be validated in some instances by demonstrating that the rules-of-thumb have been rigorously followed.

The newest method of validation is through software simulation. Finite Element Analysis, or FEA as it is known, takes a bill of materials, a 3-D model and the rules of physics and engineering and allows simulations to be run. Loads can be simulated and the results are presented visually and graphically. Stress areas immediately become visible. Failure points and the manner of failure also become visible. A design can then be simulated to its rated capacity + safety factor and examined to see if it is strong enough. Unusual, but plausible, loading scenarios can be run to determine how a design will stand up to misuse and abuse. Simulations can be run that will determine where failure will begin. Problem areas can then be noted in inspection and maintenance instructions to ensure that preventative maintenance is as effective as it can be.

This is a very powerful and useful capability. The COSMOS FEA package comes integrated with the Solidworks drawing software we use. That allows us to take a preliminary design, attempt to validate it, and if it will not meet requirements, change the design immediately until the design requirements are met. That powerful capability ensures that we can get the desired results from a design BEFORE fabrication begins--which can result in huge cost savings.

No wasted materials, no downgraded capacities, no useless builds, just the right design to meet the desired capabilities signed, sealed and delivered the first time.


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