Basic Setup Steps for an FEA Static Simulation in SOLIDWORKS

Article by Alaa Hosn updated January 24, 2024

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SOLIDWORKS Simulation is a powerful finite element analysis (FEA) tool used to validate designs before they are manufactured.

There are many types of studies within SOLIDWORKS Simulation, but the most popular may be a static analysis. Static analysis assumes that the applied loads and boundary conditions are constant over time, making it suitable for structures under steady-state conditions. Users can run a static analysis to help predict how a structure will respond to applied loads. This article will go through the basic steps to set up and run finite element analysis using SOLIDWORKS Simulation.

Enable the SOLIDWORKS Simulation FEA Add-In

Before setting up a simulation, the add-in needs to be enabled. Without this, the simulation tab and its associated tools will be missing from the Command Manager. If SOLIDWORKS Simulation is installed, this product can be enabled by going to Tools > Add-Ins, or by going to the down arrow next to the gear icon at the top of the SOLIDWORKS window and selecting Add-Ins from there.

In the Add-Ins window, enable SOLIDWORKS Simulation by clicking on the left checkbox, this will activate the product for the active SOLIDWORKS session only. The checkbox in the Start-Up column will enable the add-in when SOLIDWORKS is first started to avoid repeated steps of having to turn on add-ins each time when the user knows the add-in will be used often.

Add-in selection from the down arrow next to the Options icon

SOLIDWORKS Simulation add-in enabled for active session and at SOLIDWORKS start up

Starting the Study

With the add-in enabled and a part or assembly open, select New Study from the Simulation tab. In the PropertyManager, enable a Static study and click the green checkmark.

New Study selection from the Simulation tab in the Command Manager

Static study selected from PropertyManager

Study Setup

Once the static study has been created, users can start defining conditions for the study. Conditions are applied through the commands in the Simulation tab or by right-clicking on a condition in the design tree and selecting from the flyout menu that appears.

Work across the Simulation tab to set up study

Work down the Simulation tree to set up the study

SOLIDWORKS Simulation makes it easy and intuitive for users to apply boundary conditions. By working down the design tree or across the Simulation tab, users are essentially guided through a simulation setup.

  1. Assign Material Properties
    Assign material properties to each component in the model. Accurate material data is crucial for obtaining realistic simulation results. SOLIDWORKS has an extensive list of materials that can be used out of the box and allows users to create custom materials for anything that might be missing.

    Materials applied to bodies in a study

  2. Set Up Connections and Interactions (If Required)
    A connection identifies how components are connected to one another. Different connector types include bolts, bearings, pins, links, and springs. Interactions control how components interact with each other when coming into contact under loading.
  3. Define Fixtures
    Ensure that the constraints applied represent the physical behavior of the model accurately. Fix geometry using several different fixture methods which can be applied to faces, edges, and vertices.

    Fixed geometry fixture applied to end faces

  4. Apply Loads
    Specify any faces, edges, and vertices to apply external loading. Common loads include forces, pressure, and torques. Loads can be uniform or follow non-uniform distribution.

    500N External force applied to side face

  5. Mesh the Model
    Meshing divides the model into smaller, more manageable triangular elements to analyze, hence the term finite element analysis (FEA). The triangular meshes can be coarsely sized or set much finer, this helps find a balance between the time required to run the study and the accuracy of the results.

    Mesh triangles applied to geometry

  6. Run the Simulation
    After the setup has been completed, it’s time to run the simulation. Simply right-click on the study in the simulation design tree and select Run or select Run This Study from the Simulation tab within the Command Manager. Depending on the complexity of the model and the mesh density, this process may take some time.

    Running a study from the Simulation design tree

    Running a study from the Command Manager

  7. Review the Results
    The final step is to review the results to make sure they make sense. SOLIDWORKS Simulation provides different visualization tools like stress, strain, displacement, and factor-of-safety plots. These tools help users identify areas of concern to help make informed design decisions.

    Displacement from simulation results

     

Setting up a simulation is a crucial step to ensure the structural integrity of any design. By following these basic steps, users can take advantage of simulation to optimize their designs, reduce prototyping costs, and ultimately deliver better-engineered products to the market. As users become more familiar with SOLIDWORKS Simulation, they can explore advanced features and analyses to further refine and validate designs.

Click here for more information on SOLIDWORKS Simulation and FEA Simulations.

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Alaa Hosn

Alaa is a Solutions Consultant who has been part of the TriMech team since 2018. He started in support and built a solid foundation on how to diagnose and troubleshoot SOLIDWORKS and Electrical issues covering all ranges of topics from installations to performance issues. Alaa is based in Richmond, VA and has a mechanical engineering degree from Virginia Tech. He has earned his CSWE among other SOLIDWORKS certifications and continues to achieve more!