As simulation consultants, we are often tasked with providing crucial design insights for very urgent timelines. Often, when we ask how soon results are needed, many clients respond with “last week would have been nice”. Of course, even experts can only deliver so much in a finite amount of time.
Prior to this year, my personal record was a weekend delivery. The job was scoped and quoted early Friday, work was approved to begin late that afternoon and results were delivered on Monday morning. But early in 2017, the record was broken when we were contacted by a client who absolutely had to have results the next day for a sensitive meeting with their end customer! To make things even more challenging, I had meetings scheduled for the next day, so it would have to be wrapped up first thing in the morning.
After quickly evaluating the project I said accepted the challenge and got to work. There were times later that night, however, when I wondered if I had made a mistake.
This particular customer owns the same FEA software that we do. However, the end user was not able to deliver results in such a tight time line for this complex application. Typically, the most formidable obstacle for CFD and FEA simulation is CAD idealization. In this case, the application was a hopper trailer; essentially a large weldment comprised of sheet metal and many different structural shapes. The CAD geometry contained interferences and clearances which are not conducive to obtaining a properly stitched finite element mesh. The abundance of thin aspect geometry called for a plate/beam element mesh, so the approach required rebuilding the geometry as surfaces instead of solids. This kind of work is tedious and time-consuming and represented roughly 80% of the overall time required to complete the project. We were able to deliver the results in record time.
This situation was a perfect fit for the simulation services that we offer. Because of our experience and extreme focus, clients trust us to deliver when business relationships are on the line or when venturing into unfamiliar areas of simulation is required.
Figure 1: Complex weldments of structural steel and sheet metal can require significant time preparing the CAD to get it ready for plate and beam element meshing.
Every simulation is different. Some have simple geometry, but can be tricky to set up or takes hours of solve time. Others will solve in a few minutes but can take hours or days to get the CAD model right. When considering a project, experience and a comprehensive understanding of the software’s limitations, along with your own, are key factors in determining whether or not it can be delivered.
In this case, I committed and it worked out. However, as expert consultants, we also do not hesitate to decline a job or suggest an alternative approach when the timeline is impossible or the application is beyond our capabilities.