Estimate required Bolt Strength using SOLIDWORKS Simulation Bolt Connectors

Article by Mehdi Rezaei, CSWE updated May 17, 2018


In SOLIDWORKS Simulation  bolt connectors allows us to define bolts without the need for a physical bolt modeled and meshed in our assembly. We can define preload for these bolts, pitch value, factor of safety, etc.  For more information on bolt connectors visit the SOLIDWORKS help.

As bolts are usually much smaller than the size of the 3D model itself, we would need to define mesh control which will increase the number of elements in our simulation model and take longer to solve. However with bolt connectors, we don’t have the physical bolts in the model and no mesh is needed for bolts.

The other advantage of using bolt connectors is estimating the number of bolts or size of the bolts for our specific designs. For instance, in a design project, we can define some number of bolts and run a simulation to see if it pass or fail. We can alter bolt sizes as well.

In this article, we want to quickly see how we can check bolts strength in a static analysis so that with a safety factor we can say if bolts could bear the load or not.

The following image shows a simple beam which is bonded to a base plate with two ribs and the base plate is bolted to another plate which is fixed to the wall from its four sides. Four bolts are defined using bolt connector to connect the base plat to the large plate. Note that No Penetration contact is defined between the two plates. A downward force is applied to the free end of the beam. The resulted stress plot is shown for described boundary condition and loading.

SOLIDWORKS Simulation Bolt Connectors

Resulted Stress Plot for a Beam Bolted to the Wall

Now to see if defined bolts pass the loading, right-click on the Results from Simulation properties tree and select “Deine Pin/Bolt Check Plot…”. This will show the bolt check plot as shown in the following.

Show Bolt Check Plot

Bolt check window pops which has two subcategories. First one is called, Needs attention. All the bolt connectors which might fail or need to be strengthened are listed under this folder. Next category is called, OK. All the bolt connectors display under this folder pass the loading based on our settings. Therefore, if we have too many bolt or pin connectors our our simulated model, we can click on each bolt connector on bolt check window to see where it is located and if it needs some considerations, we can clearly see where we should look for. Modify that individual bolt connector and then re-run simulation.

Bolt Check Plot Demonstrates which Bolts Pass which ones Fail under Loading

On bolt check window, there is a “Details…” button. Clicking on that button opens connector force window. Under this window, we can filter for all pins, all bolts, all springs, etc. Also, the shown results after filtering in this window could be saved as an Excel format as shown in the following screenshot.

Clicking on Details Button on Bolt Check Window Opens Connector Force Window

Connector Force Results Could Be Saved as Excel Format to Be Used for Reporting Purposes

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Mehdi Rezaei, CSWE

Mehdi is a Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert (CSWE) and works near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada