What’s New in SOLIDWORKS 2017: Simulation

Simulation is awesome. Not only do various simulation plots provide pretty (information-rich) graphics for your marketing department, but they are essential in reducing the time and cost of developing products before committing to costly tool manufacture and, indeed, final part manufacture. Simulation helps to optimize designs and validate calculations long before final decisions are made, all for the mere cost of the software itself and a few hours of the designer’s time. What’s not to love about simulation?

SOLIDWORKS Simulation 2017 builds on previous iterations and adds a lot more, enabling more efficient workflows that are in-line with the processing power offered by multi-GPU setups that are commonplace in today’s design and engineering environment. Because why have a superfast computer if your workflow is sluggish, right?


Instantly Switch from Static to Nonlinear Study

Static studies are easier and quicker than nonlinear studies in SOLIDWORKS Simulation. But I had often wondered why I had to create a new study and input all my parameters again from scratch if I wanted to run a nonlinear study on the same mechanical component. The parameters are all the same and the resulting plot types are basically the same. So why can’t I just press a button and get a more accurate nonlinear study from the same input? Apparently I was not the only person wondering this, because Dassault Systèmes has done just that. In Simulation 2017, it is very simple indeed.

How simple? Well, you run your static analysis, right-click the Study tab at the bottom of the main window and press “Convert Study.” A Convert Study menu box will appear and ask you to select the source study to convert (so you select your linear study—whatever you have renamed it). After selecting your destination study type (nonlinear, for example), the new study will appear onscreen, with your predetermined boundaries imported from the previous study intact. No more goofing around adding gravity or other forces, or materials!

Because there is a new automatic solver switch included in nonlinear studies, the software will select the most optimum solver method. All in all, this saves the designer a lot of time by reducing the steps required to convert studies. And that means increased productivity!


Display Simulation Results

Previously, when running finite element analysis on assemblies or multibody parts, it may have been preferable to isolate critical parts and run the solver on those isolated parts, for reasons of time and computation power. The problem is that when these parts were isolated and the simulation was conducted, the isolated part simulation result was not shown within the context of the wider assembly—it just appeared as a fragmented part of the whole.

Simulation 2017 changes this. Now it is easy to isolate those parts and then make the rest of the assembly visible with the simulation remaining in situ, located where it should be in the main assembly. This is particularly useful for monitoring displacement plots, during which a user may wish to see how a particular component will deform under load and how that interacts with the housing of a component. Of course, stress and strain plots and other traditional studies can be used in this way too. Here’s a video showing how easy and useful this new feature can be:



The deformation plot of an isolated component (left) and within the assembly (right). (Image courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)


Improvements to Blended Curvature Mesher

In previous releases prior to 2016, meshes were created with a uniform mesh pattern over the part (called the standard mesh). This had the tendency to overlook fine parts unless a finer mesh was applied. But then in the case of a finer standard mesh being used, the number of nodes increased significantly, which was considered overkill. Why use a uniformly fine mesh just to pick up on small details if the bulk of the part didn’t require such high resolution?

There were two ways of dealing with this. Either manual mesh controls could be used (which was time-consuming) or the curvature mesher could be applied, which would automatically mesh the item and vary the mesh distribution according to the features. However, this could still result in a high number of nodes, especially if a large number of smaller features such as fillets was present.

In Simulation 2016, a blended curvature mesher was introduced, which allowed a varied mesh to be applied to the part while reducing the number of nodes.


Nodes? Where we’re going, we don’t need nodes! (Image courtesy of SOLIDWORKS.)

Simulation 2017 improves this process further by adding h-adaptive and p-adaptive methods to the blended curvature mesher, where these adaptive methods were previously only available for standard and curvature mesh types. The h-adaptive control allows the solver to vary the size of the mesh for smaller parts automatically, and the p-adaptive control allows optimization and control of the mesh polynomial in order to improve accuracy (because first-power polynomials create basic [linear] tetrahedral node cells, and second-power polynomials create parabolic tetrahedral, which yield higher quality results).

In short, the addition of p- and h-adaptive control adds a lot more flexibility with regards to the blended curvature solver accuracy and computation time.


Solver Dialogs

One other welcomed update to Simulation involves the dismissal of dialog boxes. In previous iterations of the software, the simulation solver would keep running even though it had displayed a warning dialog box, often resulting in the failure of the simulation. This used to cause much frustration, especially if, like me, you were using an older PC and it was taking hours to run the simulation.

This issue regarding the redundancy of these dialog boxes has been resolved in Simulation 2017. Users can select the option to acknowledge and dismiss the dialog box after a specified period of time (five seconds, for example).


And There’s More

Those are just a few highlights of the enhancements made to Simulation 2017, but they are by no means an extensive list of the improvements. Other additions include:

  • Detecting stress hot spots
  • Editing multiple contact sets
  • Improving the arc length control method for nonlinear contact analysis
  • Macro recording in simulation
  • Automatic updating of beam joints and remote loads and mass for beams
  • Probing results at selected nodes

As you can see from this article, there is a lot of focus on increased usability as well as enhanced functionality. So please feel free to click on the videos above: You will see how easy some of these new functions are, and hopefully they will help you hit the ground running when SOLIDWORKS 2017 goes live very shortly!

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