SolidWorks Simulation – Use of Symmetry in Shell Elements [VIDEO]

For large problems, solid elements can often take a long time to mesh and solve. For thin bodies with constant thickness, we can replace the solid elements with shell elements which will significantly speed up the process of both meshing and solution.

For bodies which are geometrically symmetric and are loaded symmetrically about a plane, the symmetry condition can also be used to speed up the analysis. The built-in symmetry condition of SolidWorks can only be applied on faces, however when shell elements are cut on a plane, the produce symmetry about edges and not faces. The symmetry condition can then be created manually using the reference geometry condition. In applying this condition, we need to restrict any displacements along the plane of symmetry and at the same time we need to restrict the out of plane rotations. (Shell elements have 6 dof compared to solids which have only 3 dof).

The table below highlights the symmetry condition in the three principle planes.

Symmetry Boundary ConditionsPlane of Symmetry
xy yz xz
x translation free constrained free
y translation free free constrained
z translation constrained free free
x rotation constrained free constrained
y rotation constrained constrained free
z rotation free constrained constrained

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  1. […] Have you ever tried imposing symmetry for shell elements in SolidWorks Simulation 2012 or older? If you have then you would probably know it is a very tedious process and requires exact knowledge of what the symmetry condition actually does to impose it for shells. The built-in symmetry condition does not work because it requires the symmetry to be applied on a face (which is also the cutting plane), whereas the shells are cut along an edge and not a face. The actual process of imposing this boundary condition was actually published in a previous blog post, “Use of Symmetry in Shell Elements“. […]

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