You have some experience in FEA…check
You know how FEA is important in the design process for a new product and you understand the basics of the FEA System…check
Wouldn’t it be nice to implement your FEA knowledge and actually do something with it?
Engineering is not something you learn in school and then you forget. It’s a way to improve the mechanical (and non-mechanical) systems around you and create value in the world.
If you do have the power to create new innovative products which can change and improve the way people live, why wouldn’t you do exactly that?
The possibilities are (almost) endless
Some quick examples which come to mind:
– Design and develop a real product (and then create your own company to distribute it)
– Do FEA consulting to help others simulate their products
– Start improving your company’s product design process by implementing simulation from the start
– and many more…
Once you know how to do FEA simulation, the possibilities which are open to you are only limited by your own imagination…
But… There’s still one problem… The FEA software
When we realise the huge investment required to use a commercial FEA software package, it often become a major obstacle.
Especially if you start with a low budget.
Today, this article will be about overcoming the price obstacle ( Not by cracking a software (too risky if you want to do a real project), but by installing, learning and using the free open-source FEA tools at your disposal.
Your engineering creativity shouldn’t be limited by the cost of a software.
A software is just a tool to do FEA… and as a good engineer, you know that if you can’t afford the best tools, you can always build your own tool… right?
If you are truly motivated and you have enough knowledge about Finite Element Analysis, you can use Open-Source FEA to do your project.
While it is not necessarily the same that building your own tool, it shares some similarities as I will discuss right after…
But First things first… What is an Open-source FEA Software?
Software are tools developed by companies (or individuals) to realise a function, automate a task or perform any kind of action which can be done by a computer instead of you (much more efficiently also)
A Finite Element Analysis software Package is an integration of several sub-systems which help the engineers and designers to test virtually product concepts (or find problems in existing ones):
- A sub-system to create and display 3D models and set it up for engineering simulation (The Pre-processor)
- A sub-system to compute the model and solve the mechanical equations using the Finite Element Algorithms (The solver) and output results
- A sub-system to display results under a graphical format to help you to visualise, make some conclusions and take some design decisions (The Post-processor)
All FEA software package are based on the FEA system in the same way using the 3 sub-systems I just mentioned.
Now… The way the system is built depends on the company which develops it… (obviously)
Companies who develop commercial software generally work more intensely on the graphical and the post-processing aspect to make the experience better and faster for new users of their software.
But this also comes with a cost… They need to invest more people, more time, more resources and thinking and ultimately, they hope to get compensated well for that… Thus the price of such commercial solutions.
(And if you wonder why the price tag is so high, well, remember also that the price is decided by the market…)
Open-source FEA software packages also work similarly to commercial FEA software, but companies who build and develop some tools generally do it for different reasons and in a different way.
The purpose of Open-source FEA is to have all the tools at your disposition in total access and with a total control of the code. It is great because you know exactly how each function performs its tasks…nothing is hidden inside an inaccessible source code.
If you find a bug in an open-source software, theoretically, you can correct it (supposing you know how)
The disadvantage of Open-Source is that it is less “user-friendly” and thus requires much more time to get proficient at it… and it often also requires to have some knowledge about programming languages such as C++, Python or FORTRAN.
Here’s a quick intro in video:
In a previous article, I gave more details about what is open-source FEA, check it out here if you are interested:
2- Start your Open-source FEA Journey with Salome-Meca 2017
There are many open-source FEA codes out there… you are free to decide which one you want to start using.
You can even use and learn several codes, why not?
As everyone has its own preferences, I decided to start my own journey in the Open-source FEA world with Code_Aster, which is a code developed by a French company called EDF (Electricity de France) to tackle its own engineering problems (such as nuclear power plants, thermo-hydraulic electricity generation, dams,… )
I like very much the concept of developing yourself the software to be used by your own company. In my opinion, that’s a strong proof of quality and it produces a code which is robust and reliable (If it is not, the developers will quickly hear from their colleagues, right>?)
A few difficulties you should be aware though if you plan to use Code Aster is that sometimes the code is not fully translated in english and you will see some french words appearing from time to time. Nothing impossible to understand in my opinion (I am french, right…), but it may bother you sometimes (Maybe I’ll do a crash course about French engineering vocabulary for those really motivated…)
Jokes apart, A few months ago, I made a short review of what I found on the Code-aster website and at the same time, I outlined the capabilities of the software in a video.
You can watch it here if you want to get a quick idea of what you are getting into:
Link to the article:
3- Salome-Meca 2017 Step-by-step installation process
You made the decision to start using Salome-Meca 2017 which uses code_aster solver?
Now… how do you actually install it?
This may present a challenge in itself if you are totally new with open-source software and Linux… but nothing is impossible (for who knows how to learn and accept his mistakes).
Let’s dive into the video I made to explain the installation process:
Ok, now that you know what we will have to do to install it, let’s follow the steps.
If you are familiar already with Linux, then you can pass the step 1 and 2.
If you are not familiar with Linux, do not be afraid to run a new system of exploitation, there’s nothing very complex about it really, and you can make it work INSIDE your windows PC as I will explain.
Step 1- Get a working Linux Ubuntu 16.04 Distribution running to install Salome-Meca
If you are vaguely familiar with different OS systems, you know probably that it is possible to Virtualize a system to use it inside another one.
For example, as a MACOS user since childhood, one of my main problems was to play the windows games on it which weren’t available… This lead me to think deeply about how I could install or run windows on a MAC. At that time (almost 15 years ago, sic) it wasn’t easy… but ever since, many ways have been invented to run windows on a MAC (Now you can install it with bootcamp or by installing apps)
Here, I am not talking about MAC, but about Linux.
Linux is not so difficult to install on a PC in a conventional way, by making a hard drive partition and installing it on a partition, then whenever you want to boot on Linux, just reboot your PC and choose Linux as your OS system.
Now… it you want to run PC and Linux together, that’s a little bit more troublesome, but it’s also doable using a software which will emulate the system you want in a close environment inside your windows system.
Virtual Box does exactly that. It is a powerful and free software you can use right away to install Linux on your PC..inside a “virtual box”… so, why hesitating?
Give it a try, the advantage is that if you are not satisfied with t afterwards, just delete the virtual Linux Box, and that’s it :) Your PC will be as clean as before (I am NOT talking about dust)
I am detailing the process in this video Tutorial:
Link to the article:
Step 2 (optional) – Getting Familiar with some basic Linux commands
I am supposing that you are a total beginner in Linux Ubuntu… but that you are very eager to learn to become efficient at it!
Sometimes, the only thing you need to achieve just that is to know a few keyboard shortcuts.
Let’s not waste time and study some of those basics before going into the installation of Salome-Meca 2017 with the following video I recorded for you:
Link to the article:
Step 3- Installing Salome-Meca 2017 and Code Aster
Ok, if you followed all the steps, you should have now the new Salome-Meca 2017 installed on your Linux 16.04 distribution inside your VirtualBox ;-)
Now… you just need to learn how to use Salome-Meca 2017 to actually analyse some mechanical systems, right?
Link to the article:
Step 4- Your first FEA analysis with Salome Meca 2017
You followed all the steps and installed Salome-Meca 2017?
(If you still have problems for the installation, you can go on the Code_Aster Forum to ask for help)
Now, it’s time to use the software and to become familiar with the interface and start running your own simulations.
Here’s a simple tutorial which will teach you how to simulate a plate:
(Nothing fancy here I know, but everyone should start from simple things right?)
Link to the article:
Step 5- Discover and build your own models
This is the part where you get to be creative by playing on your own with the options to discover how it works.
You will probably meet some problems and search for solutions, but that’s an inherent part of the learning process as well.
I will make more tutorials in the future, so if you want to be updated with all the new things, join my newsletter and you will receive most of it by email (and much more)
PS: If you have some comments, ideas for improvement… or anything you’d like to discuss really, just leave a comment and let me know!
Oh, yes… and if this article helped you, maybe it’ll help more people as well… so help me to share it on Linkedin, Facebook or any platform you use, I will be extremely grateful for your help to spread that knowledge.