A stitch in time saves nine…
Virtual testing tools and good old-fashioned brains can deliver significantly better design
What it’s good for
Using a computer-generated virtual model, we can test where distortion or failure might occur in a design by applying virtual forces and loads. The process reduces risk by providing more complete design information.
Combining simulation with experience and practical know-how, we can identify opportunities to reduce materials content or specification, or change designs to reduce the risk of structural failure.
Simulation can also help make designs safer. For example, a virtual model of parts flexing under load helps to spot hazards like the potential for finger trapping. The simulation shown above was used to predict safe forces that could be applied by a cable onto a handset.
Intelligent setup and interpretation are needed, as product design often involves complex structures and very variable forces, so most simulation provides useful guidance, not absolute fact.
At Lucid, we prefer to use simulation during the design process – the more information we have early on, the better the design.
The tech stuff
Simulation is based around finite element analysis (FEA). Complex number crunching based on 3D design data and the characteristics of the materials and applied loads is the start point.
Normally, just feeding a design and some parameters in won’t work. We adapt the data and think carefully about forces involved. Several iterations of simulation to test can be required to verify design options.
With the right input data it’s usually possible to get a visual and numerical indication of how a part or assembly might be affected by forces.
For example, we could predict that a chair might bend, break or be unaffected by being dropped, having things dropped on it, or being subjected to load to a person sitting on it.
Structural simulation rarely saves time or money in design. Virtual prototypes won’t replace the real thing, but they can make design decisions significantly more reliable.
Simulation is a worthwhile investment in risk reduction. With it, we can be more confident of getting the right product to market, and on budget.