ATA Engineering’s NX Integration Gets Numerous “Attaboys!”
If you’ve read any of my white papers, like the popular Reference Architecture for NX or the blockbuster Implementation Case Study: NX Performance Gains on Different Hardware Configurations, you know that I kind of geek out on quantifying performance gains due to changes in hardware, software and even end-user behavior.
I try as often as I can to keep up with case studies that highlight different techniques for developing better products faster and with fewer mistakes.
A good example is an NX case study about ATA Engineering, Inc. For more than three decades, the San Diego-based firm has been providing analysis- and test-driven design solutions for structural, mechanical, electromechanical and aerospace products.
For NASA and different branches of the U.S. military, ATA has been involved in the development of several advanced technologies, such as a lightweight modular bridging system for Army tanks and an asymmetric payload fairing for satellites and spacecraft.
Gaining Efficiencies with NX
ATA recently applied the newest version of NX to real-world complex structures, using three representative use cases. Engineer Anna Hutchings, who led the study, noted significant improvements during the design, analysis and update cycles, as explained below:
Use Case 1: Changing Parameters without Recreating Geometry
The first use case involved meshing a model of an isogrid reflector. A large number of surfaces makes it hard to define this type of geometry in CAD and CAE models, and making changes to existing designs is even more difficult.
Using NX synchronous technology, however, ATA engineers found it much easier “to directly parameterize key definitions of the geometry in NX CAD, and this capability was directly leveraged for meshing and analysis,” according to the case study.
Instead of having to do a lot of manual rework, integrated tools enable 100 percent automatic geometry updates, and 96 percent automatic remeshing. Having only to clean up 4 percent of the finite element model (FEM) was a drastic improvement from having to recreate the whole thing from scratch.
Use Case 2: Speeding the Finite Element Analysis (FEA) of Brackets
To save computing time in FEA, the standard practice is to “idealize” geometry, or remove extraneous details that don’t affect the analysis. Time is lost, however, if you have to update a part, because the idealization process must be repeated every time.
In a test scenario with a complex bracket, NX automatically idealized 93 percent of the geometry’s faces after a design change—and it did it more than 100 times faster than doing it by hand. Meshing the updated model was also faster, taking about a third of the time it normally would have.
Use Case #3: Updating Geometry in Minutes
The third use case focused on changing vane angles in an existing model of an air brake, an assembly that slows down an airplane as it comes in for a landing.
By altering vane angles inside the assembly, an analyst can evaluate the brake’s performance in different scenarios. With NX, there’s no need to remodel the entire system: simply change the parameter and watch the idealized part adjust automatically in minutes.
Conclusion: Take Advantage of Your Software!
ATA has been using NX for a long time, but only recently explored the benefits of using the integrated design and analysis tools. In each use case, features in NX 8 made it possible to solve problems that had previously nagged ATA engineers.
“The degree of connection NX allows between the design and analysis supports more efficient engineering compared to using non-integrated finite element processes,” says Hutchings. The case study report concludes that “not only is the speed of updating improved, but the possibility for error between the CAD model and the finite element model is also less because of how they are linked.”
By exploiting NX integrated design and analysis modeling approaches, ATA has been able to increase productivity and efficiency, eliminate tedious rework and adapt more quickly to changes in specifications.
Hutchings says that “if you’re working with constantly changing design specifications, it’s very quick and easy to modify dimensions and change parameters with NX without having to re-create your finite element model. This saves a lot of time and drudgery and gives you confidence that your model is updated to the correct design definition.”
Have you had similar results using integrated design and analysis tools? We’d love to hear about your use cases, too! And if you’d like to do some further research on different hardware configurations for NX performance gains, consider our own case study on the subject.