1998-11-16

Product Development Cycle Time Reduction with FEA - A New Consideration 982805

It is well known that up-front FEA (finite element analysis) in product development will significantly reduce cycle time and improve product quality. The merit of using FEA in product design is evidenced by the mandate of its practice in the auto industry's QS9000 quality standard. Today, the usefulness of FEA in engineering product design is no longer an issue. Rather, the availability and cost for its extensive usage for product development is of concern. This is because until recently most FEA needed to be conducted by highly trained specialist. Recently, an alternative FEA implementation became feasible owing to the emergence of commercial software which takes advantage of several technological improvements such as P-element formulation and automatic mesh generation. As a result, some FEA jobs can now be conducted by less specialized engineers, offering the potential for fresh opportunities and challenges. However, an effective strategy to use FEA suitable for specific company needs must be formulated. The effectiveness of any strategy depends primarily on the complexity of company's analyses needs, the capability of the software chosen for FEA, and the experience and training of the FEA users. Other influencing factors include the company's internal FEA expertise and management support. The efficient use of a company's FEA resources has the immediate benefit of reducing product development cycle times. However, the final goal of this strategy is to use FEA in conjunction with prototype testing to design a product which has robust life cycle. This implies that it is not sufficient to support the FEA by acquiring user friendly software so that analysis can be run faster. Methodology must be established in providing design engineers with product oriented specific FEA guidelines. Some suggestions are given. Some FEA case studies are used for illustrations.

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