Save Time with SOLIDWORKS Simulation Feature: Blended Curvature-Based Mesh

Finite element modeling (FEM) continues to evolve and makes solving multiphysics problems easier and easier for users. No longer, are the days of dedicated engineers or programmers sitting in cubicles writing code to solve finite element problems. SOLIDWORKS Simulation has set the bar for making FEM easier for users while still being computationally powerful. In this blog, I will cover one of the newer capabilities in SOLIDWORKS Simulation that can save you a lot of time: the “Blended curvature-based mesh” feature.

Ultimately, one of the hardest parts of modeling within the finite element realm is meshing. Often times meshing can be one of the most tedious and time-consuming aspects of setting up an FEA model prior to running. What happens if you get into the situation where there is a meshing failure as shown in Figure 1 below?

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There are some great traditional approaches that I encourage you to use, such as mesh controls and incompatible meshing during mesh failures. However, in certain circumstances, even the combination of mesh controls and incompatible meshing may not resolve your meshing error. So what do you do? You use the SOLIDWORKS Simulation “Blended curvature-based mesh” feature as shown in Figure 2.

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The blended curvature-based mesher is an improved algorithm that provides a much higher quality surface mesh. The mesher is able to zone in on certain regions of a model and deliver a more efficient mesh. Thus, edges in areas of no interest have fewer elements, while adding more elements in areas which require more detail. It is a much more sophisticated meshing algorithm and as a result, it will often be able to mesh models that would fail under the standard or traditional curvature-based mesh algorithms. As a result, it is a valuable new feature in SOLIDWORKS Simulation that can save a lot of time during finite element analysis. The process of setting up a blended curvature-based mesh is identical to the curvature-based mesh with the exception of one button: “calculate minimum element size”, outlined in red in Figure 3 below.

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The minimum element button is an automated process that the solver will automatically calculate the minimum required element sizing. It should be noted, that any sizing greater than the minimum will lend itself to a failed mesh. With that being said, the minimum sizing is a guideline for the mesh size—you may need to make the size even smaller, just do not exceed the minimum element size. Upon clicking on the minimum element size button it will bring up the interface as seen below in Figure 4. You can see that it is a fairly easy process to calculate, just check the box and then hit calculate and it will automatically update your minimum mesh sizing.

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Upon setting up the minimum element size and sizing your mesh appropriately, you can create the blended curvature mesh and then run the analysis. In most scenarios, you will see that the blended curvature mesh will resolve meshing failures, and as a result, it is a very powerful tool to utilize. With that being said, there are some caveats to using a blended curvature-based mesh. With a blended curvature-based mesh you cannot utilize adaptive meshing, so all mesh refinement will have to be done manually. It should also be noted that in a lot of cases the mesher may take longer to mesh a model than the traditional mesher because it is a more sophisticated algorithm. Despite these small caveats, the blended curvature-based mesher is a valuable new feature of SOLIDWORKS Simulation, which will save you a lot of time when you run into complicated meshing scenarios. Until next time, best modeling!

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About the Author

Drew Buchanan earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, and a MS in Mechanical Engineering from Villanova University. He has been working with Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) tools since the mid-2000s when he was an engineering coop with Siemens Power Generation. Upon graduation, Drew worked in the Energy industry for six years working as a design and analysis engineer for design and analysis applications. He joined Fisher Unitech in 2015.