Computational Analysis Techniques

Finite Element Analysis

Finite element analysis, or FEA, is the use of a computer to simulate the response of a part, sub-assembly, or even complete structure to a given set of loadings and constraints. Each component in the calculation is broken down into a finite number of 1, 2, and 3-dimensional elements, for example, rigid rods and beams (1D), plates and laminates (2D), and solids (3D). Material properties are defined for each region, as well as contact surfaces and support constraints. FEA calculations are used to design a wide variety of composite structures, where laminate theory is applied to simulate the composite elements, and then integrated into comprehensive analyses of entire assemblies. Typical outputs from FEA calculations include stresses, deformations, natural frequencies, and mode shapes. In addition, FEA is often used for impulse response, heat transfer analyses, and to calculate buckling loads. At Element 6 Components, we use the NeiNastran software package from Nei Software. Nastran was originally developed by NASA, and is known as one of the premiere FEA analysis codes. Through careful analysis, many iterations of the design can be achieved before the first prototype is ever built, often greatly reducing the total cost for prototyping.

Computational Fluid Dynamics

Just like FEA, computational fluid dynamics, or CFD, utilizes the computing power of multi-processor computers to simulate the flow of air, water, or any other fluid in and around a body of interest. The fluid continuum for a particular problem is discretized into a finite number of 2 or 3-dimensional cells. For simple problems, a few thousand cells may suffice, whereas for problems with highly complex geometry, tens of millions of cells may be necessary to accurately capture the flow features. One complication in CFD is the inability to properly close the governing equations in the presence of turbulence. Many different formulations exist for turbulence closure models, and coupled with the high sensitivity of the solution to boundary conditions and grid resolution, reliable CFD results often depend heavily on the expertise of the user. At Element 6 Composites, we have experience performing CFD analyses over a wide variety of problems. A few examples include determining pressure distribution and loads in aircraft, wind turbines and free-standing structures, temperature distribution in heated systems, and turbomachine optimization.

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