This article explores finite element analysis costs, consulting rates & engineering services pricing. The primary purpose of FEA is to understand how to build a hardware product that performs precisely as intended. When exposed to external forces and conditions, FEA uses computer-generated calculations to determine, predict, and understand materials’ behaviors. Accomplished on computers using mesh 3D models, the process reduces the need to conduct real-life tests with physical prototypes to a great extent.
Table of contents
FEA is a simulation tool usually integrated into CAD software. It allows engineering services to heat, freeze, bend, vibrates, shake, and drop things to see how much force it takes to break them without building them first because the tests are carried out on a screen. From a financial standpoint, FEA is an effective method to reduce production costs associated with prototyping. All simulations and tests are conducted on the digital version of a product in a virtual environment.
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How much to have FEA done?
The cost of FEA depends on the type of analysis and complexity of components, materials, or assembly. Linear static analysis is among the most affordable, meaning any more advanced simulations will cost more money. However, each finite element analysis project is unique and impossible to generalize. As a guideline, here is a simplistic estimate of what FEA services cost:
|Project||Price Range per Project||Rate per Hour||Services provided|
|Standard FEA Analysis||$700 to $1,500||$60 to $80||Linear static structure, linear contact, thermal stress, and thermal deflection|
|Complex FEA Analysis||$1,500 to $3,000||$80 to $100||Non-linear dynamic analysis, vibration response, optimization, and fracture analysis|
It is not exactly cheap, but FEA almost entirely replaces the necessity for multiple trial and error procedures when designing a new product. A computer simulation always has a margin of error; the same can be said of real-life tests. FEA does not eliminate the need for physical product testing. Still, at least it gives precious insight into an assembly’s performance capabilities, capacities, and structural integrity before prototyping begins.
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Like CAD, BIM, and other computer-based analysis tools, FEA is only as good as the software analyst operating. The analysis cannot be generalized, nor can the professionals doing it.
How it works
The general procedure to run an FEA requires three steps, including:
- Pre-processing: An analyst determines which elements to analyze and what kind of analysis to do. The elements’ material and geometric properties, such as dimensions and area, must be established first. The connectivity between elements, or nodes, is then defined, where the analyst builds a mesh 3D model design. Boundary conditions and external force are applied.
- Computation: The simulation generates boundary value problems and presents the results on-screen.
- Analysis: the analyst reviews and interprets the results, taking notes on various factors, for example, strain, displacement, temperature, time frame, and frequency.
A model with more nodes (higher mesh density) improves the chances of generating accurate calculations. During the simulations, all calculations are done on mesh (instead of an entire object), which means there must be interpolation between the nodes or points of connection. An analyst should be aware of the possibility of errors due to the inherent simplification of geometry.
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Types of FEA
FEA can focus on or test different variables and dynamics of materials, for example:
- Thermal engineering: a test to determine how temperature changes affect a specific material within a design and whether the resulting alteration will influence the design structure.
- Modal analysis: an evaluation to understand the effect of external vibrations on a system or design. The test is based on the understanding that every object vibrates at a specific frequency, so any additional force outside an enclosed system must yield a disruptive impact. Modal analysis generates a report for engineers or designers to improve the structure, and they can either strengthen the structure or devise a solution to dampen the disruption.
- Dynamic analysis: a test to establish the emotional response of a structure under a specific load over a given time frame. Analysis results usually provide a simulation of the impact of freight and displacement.
- Linear static analysis: a test of structural rigidity using a scaled sample of the object. All the tests are done on an identical yet scaled-down version of the existing system. External forces – such as wind, heat, surface loads, vibration, clamping force, and water exposure – are impacted (to the sample) in an accurately proportioned strength relative to the full-scale structure.
- Engineering seismic: an evaluation of ground vibrations and their frequencies. Since they will inevitably affect the performance, durability, and maintenance schedules of a structure standing on it, the analysis helps engineering services find the perfect location or compensate for the vibrations with the design.
As technology improves, FEA is expected to offer accurate analysis in “coupled” problems and applications such as thermo-mechanical, electromagnetics, thermo-chemical, and ferroelectric.
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Basic principles of FEA
Apart from boundary conditions such as pressures and forces, there are only three governing equations or principles of FEA:
- Constitutive equations: the relations between two physical quantities (two different properties or characteristics, for example, length and mass) of a given material predict its response to external forces or stimuli.
- Strain-displacement relations: when an external force impacts a system, a deformation – no matter how negligible – happens.
- Equilibrium equations: the presence of dynamic equilibrium of all external and internal forces of a system. Equilibrium is defined as a state in which opposing forces cancel each other.
Just like everything else, the principles of FEA can be summarized, although the practice itself is not always straightforward.
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Manufacturing industries take advantage of FEA to help make better product designs. The simulations of materials’ behaviors under load and the subsequent changes because of the exposure to external forces give valuable information on optimizing a structure, machines and their parts, and the durability of an assembly. FEA is most commonly employed in mechanical, automotive, civil, and aerospace engineering, although other industries can benefit from the analysis a great deal as well.
Results of the analysis, when implemented well, can help:
- Improve product safety and efficiency
- Reduce manufacturing cost
- Optimize the performance of electronic devices
- Evaluate design variants
- Research alternative materials for all products
FEA is beneficial not only when designing a new product but also for a thorough evaluation of the performance (and safety) of an existing one. The procedure can also verify whether every material, part, component, or complete product complies with legal requirements.
How can Cad Crowd assist
Do not fall victim to the dangers of launching a product without appropriate stress analysis. Customers and business owners alike benefit from products that are efficient and reliable. Cad Crowd FEA services are proud to be integral to past and future successful ventures and projects. Contact us today for your free consultation.