SOLIDWORKS Simulation Meshing Guide

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Very few things are more important to the accuracy and efficiency of a finite element analysis (FEA) than the mesh. The mesh is quite literally your geometry broken up into the individual elements, which are finite in number. While SOLIDWORKS makes life easy with an automated approach, following a few key steps can ensure you achieve a mesh that produces trustworthy results relatively quickly. In general, we would favor finer meshes with smaller elements to obtain reliable results, therefore, the time required to solve the analysis will increase. Ultimately, we try to design optimum meshes providing reasonable accuracy levels in acceptable run times.

1. Idealize

2. Create a Mesh

  • Start with a ‘default size’ (meaning leave the mesh slider centered between ‘coarse’ and ‘fine’) and even check on ‘draft quality’ if you expect very long solve times.

Note: A good rule of thumb is to have two or more solid elements through the thickness of your component without the ‘draft quality’ check box checked. If this is difficult to accomplish in a reasonable amount of time, consider switching to shell or beam elements

3. Analyze the Mesh Before Solving

  • View mesh details by right clicking on ‘mesh’ in the tree. The aspect ratio can show how deformed a mesh element is, and the maximum aspect ratio should be in the low double digits. The ‘Percentage of elements with Aspect ratio < 3’ should be in the 90’s at least, and the inverse is true for the ‘Percentage of elements with Aspect Ratio > 10’. Using a finer mesh size will create elements with smaller aspect ratios.
Mesh Detail
  • Create a mesh quality plot of Aspect ratio by right clicking on ‘mesh’ in the tree. Here we can identify our maximum aspect ratio element and decide whether to modify the geometry, or perhaps apply a mesh control to locally refine the mesh size at this location.
  • Refine the mesh overall to produce better aspect ratios by moving the mesh slider towards the ‘fine’ side. Locally refine the mesh by right clicking on ‘mesh’ in the tree and applying a mesh control to specific entities. You can think of your mesh as replacing your geometry, but it should represent your parts very well!
Mesh plot

4. Analyze the Mesh After Solving

  • Look for a Converged Solution, meaning that running the simulation a second time with a finer mesh should not significantly increase the stress results in your area of interest. Displacement results are generally reliable almost regardless of the mesh size, because displacement is the primary unknown in FEA. Stress results, however, require a refined mesh in order to be reliable.
  • Plotting Energy Norm Error (a type of stress plot) can tell you if you should further refine the mesh in your area of interest. This plot displays the percentage error between the elemental and nodal stress values and should be quite low in your areas of interest (perhaps less than 10%). These values will always be larger at the edge of fixtures or where stress singularities exist. Areas of interest with high energy norm error are good candidates for applying mesh controls.
SOLIDWORKS Simulation Mesh

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