Everyone knows that checking your FEA model is boring but oh so necessary if one wants to keep your job. But what happens if you're responsible for a whole team of engineers using the “divide-and-conquer approach” to build the next generation of spacecrafts? How does one ensure that your team or your colleagues are creating high-quality meshes, using consistent material properties or maintaining laminate orientations?
Of course, the simple answer is that you outsource this work to an off-shore company where a team of independent engineers can do this checking overnight, strip out the IP, sell it on the black market and have the checked models back to you in the morning; well, maybe not.
What is reality? Last year, the Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC) manager of the Dream Chaser Global FEM came to Predictive Engineering looking for a better way to ensure his team was maintaining quality and consistency. We suggested the development of a custom program using FEMAP’s Application Programming Interface (API). With the FEMAP API, users can automate organizational tasks, modeling checks and extraction of data, reducing time and potential for error.
We started with their internal model checkout procedure and broke the list into different groups of checks: General Analysis, FE Mesh, Thermal, Body Load, Free-Free Dynamics, Grounding, and the GFEM “Runner” Check. The automated checkout programs are embedded in an Excel Macro-Enabled Workbook to act as a GUI or “dashboard.” This provides a format in which the programs can document which FEMAP models and input files have been checked along with information from the model checking process.
The dashboard was designed with several modes of operation. The user can use a single button to execute all model checkout tasks or execute the commands individually. With this tool, the team at SNC was able to drastically reduce the time of the checkout procedure, reduce errors and most importantly, ensure that every simulation engineer was checking their model since the boring part become much, much smaller.