New in SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2017: Automatically Update Beam Joints in a Simulation Study

“Advances in computing had made it so that small car companies could sometimes punch at the same weight as the giants of the industry. Years ago, automakers would have needed to make a fleet of cars for crash testing. Tesla could not afford to do that (in its early days), and it didn’t have to. Thousands of (Roadster) tests were done by a third party that specialized in computer simulations and saved Tesla from building a fleet of crash vehicles,” noted Ashlee Vance, author of the New York Times bestseller, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.

Indeed, digital simulations have encouragingly lowered the barrier to entry for lots of small-scale manufacturers, such as the fledgling Tesla Motors back in 2008. Simulation studies have become an essential tool to identify design issues before the expensive production. One simple round of software simulation could detect an error and then provide insightful feedback to improve the design, which could save thousands, even millions, of dollars in the physical prototypes, tests or massive production processes.

Now the question becomes how to integrate the design and simulation steps so that the product design can be optimized through effective and efficient iterations. The goal is that when a design issue is identified by a simulation test, the feedback can guide designers clearly and quickly. Then after the design is revised, the simulation results can update accordingly. SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2017 added a sweet new enhancement to meet this goal. Let’s walk through a simple weldment structure example as shown in Figure 1.

image001Figure 1. A simple weldment structure for a simulation test.

As you can see, this is an angle iron structure with multiple joints welded together. As shown in Figure 2, I applied several fixtures to the joints and added a 10,000 N/m force on the top beams. It’s nice to see that the software allows for selecting weldment beams directly to apply the load, in addition to selecting vertices and joints.

image002Figure 2. Fixtures and a 10,000-N/m load are applied to the weldment structure.

Let’s say the customer requirement is to make sure the maximum displacement throughout the entire structure stays within 3 mm. We can check it out with a quick static simulation run. The results in Figure 3 show that the maximum displacement is more than 31 mm.

image003Figure 3. The maximum displacement is more than 31 mm.

Obviously, the structure must be redesigned to become stronger. The good news is that the issue was caught quickly right inside SOLIDWORKS. I didn’t have to wait for an analyst or even an external simulation vendor. I can also make the necessary design changes directly in SOLIDWORKS and revalidate the results.

Let’s go back to the model and change the structure member type from the angle iron to the stronger rectangular tube as shown in Figure 4.

image004Figure 4. Change the structure member type from the angle iron to the rectangular tube.

If you revisited the simulation study in SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2016 or prior releases, you would run into the warning message (Edit Joints) as shown in Figure 5.

image005Figure 5. A warning message about editing the weldment joints in SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2016 or prior releases.

The reason is that since the structure members were updated, the joints between them would need edits as well. So you would have to verify all of the joints manually and recalculate as shown in Figure 6.

image006Figure 6. Manually edit the joints in SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2016 or prior releases.

Now in SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2017, this manual step is taken care of by an automatic function as shown in Figure 7: “Automatically update beam joints when a study is activated.” This option is enabled by default on the simulation option dialog box under the Simulation menu.

image007Figure 7. Automatically update beam joints when a study is activated.

With the 2017 release, after revising the structure members, please notice that the warning sign on the joint group is gone, as shown in Figure 8, because they have been updated automatically when I switched to this simulation study. The new warning signs against the meshing and results indicate that the model has changed, so let’s rerun the study to reflect the design changes.

image008Figure 8. The joints are updated automatically, and simulation results are pending on a rerun.

Figure 9 shows the updated results. The maximum displacement is now only about 2.5 mm. It’s within the customer requirement after the design revisions.

image009Figure 9. The maximum displacement meets the requirement after a design revision.

It’s worth noting that the automatic joint update can take care of not only the structure member type changes as noted above, but also other modifications, such as the beam lengths, beam rotation angles, suppress status and conversions to solid body.

This new enhancement can nicely streamline the simulation studies, especially when your design contains a large number of beams. It also comes in handy when you are running multiple studies in batches. This option can automatically fix the potential beam joint failures that could happen and prevent the batch simulations that occurred in the previous releases.

The default simulation plot legend color scheme is from blue to red as shown in Figure 9. But some engineers would like to further differentiate the stress spots and quickly preview the simulation plot. With SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2017, you can now customize the colors directly from the graphics area as shown in Figure 10.

image010Figure 10. Customize the colors directly from the graphics area.

Here are three simple steps. First, click on the top of the legend as shown in the green circle in Figure 11.

image011Figure 11. Click on the top of the legend.

Second, enter a customized scale value on the pop-up dialog box as shown in Figure 12. For example, I entered 2-mm displacement. Then click the green check mark to accept it.

image012Figure 12. Set a customized value to the scale.

Lastly, you will see a new color block on top of the spectrum as shown in Figure 10. Just click on this block to pick a new color. Similarly, you can customize the color for the bottom of the legend as well.

Of course, if you don’t like the color scheme, you can reset it to the automatic options as shown in Figure 13.

image013Figure 13. Reset the maximum value and color to the automatic options.

With this new trick in the 2017 release, you now have a more direct and straightforward way to customize the legend to your liking.

In this article, we shared a neat new enhancement to update beam joints automatically in a simulation study. To communicate your simulation results more effectively, you can now customize the color scheme directly in the graphics area using SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2017. There are many other simulation enhancements such as converting a static study to a new study, detecting stress hot spots, editing multiple contact sets and self-dismissed solver messages. You may find more details at the SOLIDWORKS 2017 launch site.

About the Author


Oboe Wu is a SOLIDWORKS product manager with 20 years of experience in engineering and software. He is an advocate of model-based enterprise and smart manufacturing.

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