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The Importance of Meshing in Finite Element Analysis

Predictive computational models of real-world scenarios are commonly used during the product development process. Engineers and scientists use finite element analysis, also known as FEA to build these models. The use typically begins with a computer-aided design (CAD) model that represents the physical parts being simulated as well as knowledge of the material. This information enables the prediction of real-world behaviour, often with very high levels of accuracy. Proper meshing plays a critical role during this process.

First: a definition of meshing

To help understand the importance of proper meshing in finite element analysis, let’s start with a basic definition of what meshing is “Mesh generation is the practice of generating a mesh that approximates a geometric domain.” Common uses are for rendering to a computer screen such as finite element analysis or computational fluid dynamics. Meshing is a common term to demote the pre-processing phase of the Finite Element Analysis (FEA). It is a tool that engineers use to complete their analysis of a particular design.

Meshing in finite element analysis

A well-known fact by most engineering services firms, structures can take up a tremendous part of an engineer’s time in the meshing phase. A complex fabrication may use very little of available CAD geometry when meshing or be just a 2D drawing image. For most structures, a good understanding of meshing is important for productivity. Factors regarding this can include effective techniques in meshing tools, how analysis objectives affect the mesh, correct element types, and the level of accuracy needed.

Analysis is key to product design. It helps with understanding issues like stresses, heat transfers, fluid flows, and more. Analysis can help estimate the performance of a product before it even exists! In engineering practice, analysis is largely performed with the use of finite element computer programs, typically interfaced with computer-aided design. Proper meshing is a core part of this analysis. Meshing can be 2.5D or 3D, depending on what is needed.

Meshing: the steps illustrated

The general concepts of meshing are simple, but that the practice of creating meshes that provide solid analysis results requires significant knowledge and experience. Geometry. Typically this encompasses simplifying the model, eliminating details that are not pertinent to your analysis, or that have a marginal influence on the results. Once the model is ready, the next step is to create the mesh. The actual process to create the simulation model and the mesh will depend on which program is used. The end result of the process, will be a mesh made up of one or more forms of geometric elements. Any kind of analysis is only as good as the tools and processes used. A good mesh applies physics, with the understanding that things can change, and need to be taken into consideration during analysis.

Proper meshing allows for accurate analysis, regardless of whether the process is automated or manual. For any product development project to be successful, analysis is critical, and proper meshing is an important part of that analysis. If your project requires analysis before moving to the next stage of project design, be sure to use a product development professional to help insure the analysis is done accurately and thoroughly for best results.


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