ALGOR Software Offers a Cost-Effective, Quality and Feature-Rich Solution
By Ted Fryberger, P.E.
The combination of modern design and finite element
analysis (FEA) software is making it possible for more engineers to
speed up time to market and make better, safer products at a lower cost.
While CAD and FEA are not new to the engineering field, what sets
today’s tools apart from those of the past is the capability to directly
exchange data between 3-D solid modelers and FEA software within a
modern, intuitive user interface.
Among the FEA and CAD software available, I use ALGOR software in
conjunction with Autodesk Inventor. ALGOR is a complete FEA solution
that offers a good combination of cost-effectiveness, quality and
features. ALGOR provides all the necessary features within FEMPRO, an
easy-to-use interface, for directly capturing 3-D solid geometry from
Autodesk Inventor, generating a high-quality solid FEA mesh, easily
setting up loads and constraints, performing analyses quickly,
evaluating results and presenting a final design.
From CAD to an FEA Mesh
ALGOR's InCAD technology provided direct CAD/CAE data exchange of this
oceanographic instrumentation housing from Autodesk Inventor (top) for
an ALGOR linear static stress analysis (bottom).
Working directly and visually on surfaces and parts of a model, such as
here in ALGOR FEMPRO, enables users to take advantage of ease-of-use
features such as the capability to copy and paste loads and constraints
from one surface to another.
ALGOR FEMPRO’s Superview IV Results environment enables engineers to
view different types of results in multiple view windows. In the upper
frame, the viewport and lid are displayed transparently to reveal the
displacement results inside the housing.
ALGOR’s report wizard collects information related to any analysis and
automatically generates an organized, professional report in standard
HyperText Markup Language (HTML).
Designing Oceanographic Instrumentation
Oceanographic instrumentation measures temperature, pressure, current
and other information about the ocean. These devices may be deployed on
buoys, set adrift in the ocean to track currents or be carried by divers
The model featured in this article is for an oceanographic
instrumentation housing. It was designed to withstand the pressure of
the ocean at a maximum of 200 feet. The analysis was carried out by
applying pressure loads that represent the ocean pressure at 100, 200
and 300 feet, while boundary condition constraints were applied to
represent the screws that hold the top and bottom of the housing
together. DeepSoft will also provide the programming for the electronics
within this instrument in addition to performing the design optimization
for the housing.
Today’s 3-D solid modelers are much more powerful than the CAD tools of
the past. Although there is a learning curve involved in adopting a 3-D
solid modeler, the advantage is that it makes initial geometry creation
and modifications to that geometry much easier. Utilizing 3-D surface
and solid modelers as the primary design tool allows the user to create
3-D product geometry and use it for all subsequent downstream
activities. Typically, these activities can include all of the
following: 2-D and 3-D FEA; creation of 2-D detailed drawings and 3-D
assembly exploded drawings; 3-D CNC manufacturing; and graphics
illustrations for training materials, sales and marketing materials and
product documentation. The benefits of 3-D CAD extend to FEA model
creation because today’s FEA tools work so seamlessly with these
ALGOR’s InCAD technology provides direct CAD/CAE data exchange with
leading CAD solid modelers including Autodesk Inventor, CADKEY,
Mechanical Desktop, Pro/ENGINEER, Solid Edge and SolidWorks. I find that
InCAD technology works well to accurately capture the geometry I create
in Autodesk Inventor, whether for a single part or a complete assembly.
This technology eliminates the need to recreate geometry specifically
for FEA purposes or to translate CAD geometry to a universal file
format. Plus, full associativity is available to facilitate the typical
process of performing multiple, iterative analyses on an evolving
design. In addition, ALGOR offers CAD support for Alibre Design and
Rhinoceros and support for CAD universal files including ACIS, IGES,
STEP and STL.
The real power of InCAD technology is in the meshing tools it offers.
The capability to create surface and solid meshes with control over mesh
size parameters and do that quickly is a technology that has made the
integration of CAD and FEA practically effortless compared to manually
building the mesh. InCAD’s meshing tools automatically create
high-quality meshes, but still provide full control over the mesh size
For the oceanographic instrumentation model shown here, I simply entered
my desired mesh size. It can also be specified through a sliding control
bar. The software automatically created a surface mesh and then I
created a solid mesh using the automatic mesh engine. I prefer to
generate the surface and solid meshes separately in order to access
meshing options at each step. However, the meshing tools also offer an
automatic, one-step meshing option and include mesh refinement tools
such as automatic, intelligent, feature-based refinement as well as
point-and-click definition of areas where a finer mesh is desired.
Setting up and Performing Analyses
After creating a mesh, the next step is to set up and perform an
analysis. ALGOR FEMPRO is a modern interface that lets me work visually
in 3-D. It includes Windows-style features such as right-click
functionality for loads, constraints and FEA properties, tree views that
visually guide me to provide all of the necessary information, multiple
view windows, docking toolbars and context-sensitive menus that are
tailored to particular steps in the analysis process.
I find that working directly and visually on surfaces and parts of a
model is fast and efficient. It lets me take advantage of ease-of-use
features such as the capabilities to select multiple surfaces with the
control key or copy and paste loads and constraints from one surface to
another. Modern FEA interfaces, like modern CAD interfaces, let you do
what you need to visually rather than having to use the keyboard or by
entering command-line directives. Such an interface can be navigated by
common sense because there simply isn’t as much that you have to learn.
In the case of the model shown here, I applied a pressure load on the
outer surfaces and constraints at the screw holes. I then performed a
linear static stress analysis. Although I only needed linear static
stress analysis for this model, ALGOR offers a wide range of analysis
capabilities, including static stress and Mechanical Event Simulation (MES)
with linear and nonlinear material models, linear dynamics, steady-state
and transient heat transfer, steady and unsteady fluid flow,
electrostatics, full multiphysics and piping.
Evaluating and Presenting Results
Once the analysis is complete, the results can be viewed in ALGOR
FEMPRO’s Superview IV Results environment. This environment provides
extensive results evaluation and presentation capabilities and features
transparent display options, multiple-window displays, fast dynamic
viewing controls and customization options including user-defined color
palettes and annotations. All analysis results can be displayed
graphically as contours or plots; output in a variety of image formats;
animated with AVI creation and display tools; and presented in text or
For the model shown here, I viewed displacement and von Mises stress
results. In addition, I used the capability to make parts, such as the
housing’s viewport, transparent. Capabilities like transparency enable
me to dissect models, which helps me to view and present results on
complex assemblies. This feature is representative of the wide array of
results visualization tools available in ALGOR FEMPRO.
Extensive visualization capabilities enable me to perform the most
important step in the FEA process – verifying that the model and
analysis setup lead to proper results. At a minimum, I compare the
results to simple hand calculations to see if the magnitudes are
reasonable. In addition, it is important to look at where high stresses
are occurring on the model. An engineer should always be able to explain
why the high stresses are occurring where they do, what the weaknesses
of a design are and how critical they are.
In addition to providing results evaluation capabilities, ALGOR FEMPRO
includes a report wizard that collects information from any analysis and
automatically generates an organized, professional report in standard
HyperText Markup Language (HTML). These reports can then be shared with
my clients by publishing them to a web site or through e-mail.
A cost-effective, feature-rich FEA solution such as ALGOR software makes
it possible for design engineers to perform rigorous FEA at any point in
the design process. By integrating these tools into the design process,
engineers can improve designs early in the design cycle, reduce the
number of prototypes needed, speed up time to market and make better,
safer products at a lower cost.
DeepSoft, Inc. (www.deepsoftinc.com) specializes in providing mechanical
engineering, software engineering and ocean engineering services. Ted
Fryberger, P.E., DeepSoft’s principal, has a Master’s degree in
Mechanical and Ocean Engineering from the University of California at
Berkeley. He has used FEA for over twenty years and has been an ALGOR
customer since 1988. He has worked on projects in the nuclear waste,
aerospace and manufacturing industries as well as oceanography projects.