Possible precautionary tale for cutting-edge manufacturers

photo credit: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr

Tesla’s been under pressure for some time now. In order to justify huge expenditures, such as their $1.3 billion Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, the company set seemingly manageable goals for production of the Model 3 sedan. The company reduced its target down to 2500 vehicles a week, but has been clocking in at 2000 vehicles. This under delivery has caused jitters for both the company and its investors.

Recently however, some financial analysts pointed at a surprising possible source of the problem: over-automation on the factory line. In particular they called out the attempt to automate final assembly.

As longtime users and promoters of FEMAP, we're pleased to say that June 2018 will see the release of FEMAP v12. New features and adjustments are still being documented, however we've heard that the major features will be in support of NX Nastran and all its new nonlinear features in SOL401. As well there will be support for NX Nastran’s new Topology Optimization module. In addition to these items, the development team constantly receives input from customers and they've added a large number of features to streamline the FEA process.

Effective March 27, 2018, the Autodesk Nastran solver is being discontinued. New sales and multi-year renewals are phasing out this year, with annual renewals being discontinued next year. Existing subscribers will have access to the technology until the end of their current contract.

We recommend all customers begin finding a replacement solver well before the end of their current contract. Siemens PLM remains committed to offering both perpetual licenses for NX Nastran as well as flexible FEMAP & NX Nastran subscription options, giving analysts a number of methods depending on their contractual needs.

For those who don't recall, NEi Nastran was an engineering analysis and simulation software product of NEi Software (formerly known as Noran Engineering, Inc.) Based on NASA's Structural Analysis program NASTRAN, NEi Nastran was used with all major industry pre and post processors including FEMAP, NEi Fusion, and NEi Works for SolidWorks. It was acquired by Autodesk in May 2014.

Getting up to speed on FEA tools is hard work, so to that end, Siemens now offers a free student edition of FEMAP.

FEMAP Student Edition comes with the pre- and postprocessor FEMAP, along with the NX Nastran solver, both a part of Siemens PLM Software’s Simcenter portfolio. Generally the simulation process starts with a geometric model, and within FEMAP you’ll be able to:

  • Access CAD data from almost any source
  • Clean up and idealize the geometry prior to meshing
  • Mesh the geometry to create the finite element model
  • Apply boundary conditions (loads and constraints) and manage analysis setup
  • Submit the model for analysis by NX Nastran
  • Review the calculated results data and evaluate the model behavior

Did we mention the hard work? Check out our introduction to modeling and analysis with FEMAP video. Also keep in mind that the FEMAP Student Edition is intended for academic work. Files created in the student edition can't be opened in commercial versions of FEMAP and structural model sizes are limited to 32,000 nodes. So don't stay up late at home cranking out your work files on your student edition!

When you’re ready to turbo-boost your skills, join Applied CAx at one of our popular hands-on FEMAP training sessions. Over the years we've seen every type of engineer benefit from our course, from first-time FEA users to people with 8+ years of experience.

Congrats is due our FEMAP support customer, the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization. GMTO is on a bit of a hiring spree as their planned 2025 activation date comes closer.

We introduced some of their team into the world of FEMAP with access to our customized resources, including our popular Starting Fresh webinar which covers model organization; our Best Practices seminar that gives an excellent overview on key touchpoints within FEMAP; and our Principals of Vibration seminar covering various vibration-based analysis techniques.

The GMTO is part of a slew of telescopes slated to come online in the 2020s. Other telescopes underway include the succinctly-named Thirty Meter Telescope, the not-so-creatively-named European Extremely Large Telescope, and the okay-this-name-thing-is-getting-out-of-hand Overwhelmingly Large Telescope, which has since been cancelled and folded into the EELT project.

GMTO recently did a lengthy interview with, where they discuss the project, the team, the mirror casting process and their testing process. The GMT will be made of seven primary mirror segments, each 8.4 m (27.6 ft.) in diameter. According to Patrick McCarthy, Operations VP, that size is the magic size gleaned from hard-won lessons a few decades ago:

“What we leaned in the 1980s and ‘90s is that there’s a maximum size you can make any individual mirror; in practice, it appears to be about 8 or 9 meters in diameter. Some of that is set by the physics of glass and how uniformly you can allow it to cool without building up internal strains, and some of it is practical issues, such as how can you pick up a piece of glass that big and take it to a mountaintop without it breaking just by the fact of you lifting it and it sagging under its own gravity.”

The mirrors are made in small batches in Japan out of borosilicate glass, with very low thermal expansion and very uniform thermal expansion from piece to piece.

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How’s your stomach? If you’re a test engineer there might be some rumble in the jungle watching SNC’s Dream Chaser being drop tested. The prototype spacecraft was airlifted to an altitude over 12,000 feet by a Chinook helicopter contracted from Columbia Helicopters.

From there you can see it drops like a rock and the craft plummets toward the ground. There must've been some serious high-fiving in the control room after the landing went perfectly. Perhaps that’s why one of the flight directors says, “Let’s go ahead and monitor your systems guys, monitor your systems.”

For us at Applied CAx this is a double customer success story. Columbia Helicopters, global provider of heavy-lift helicopters and MRO operations, has been our FEMAP support and training customer for 10 years. From bringing new engineers up to speed at our FEMAP & NX Nastran training class to assisting their analysts getting their full-aircraft dynamic analysis up-and-running, Applied and Columbia have a rich history. The company owns and maintains a fleet of Columbia Model 234 Chinook helicopters, Columbia Vertol 107-II helicopters, and Boeing CH-47D helicopters. These aircraft are operated around the world, supporting construction, logging, firefighting, petroleum exploration and military operations. And in this case, spacecraft drop testing.

More electromagnetic design capabilities will be coming to Simcenter. An acquisition and a partnership have boosted the ability to design, analyze and model nearly any electromagnetic component.

First off, the acquisition. Siemens PLM Software acquired Infolytica Corporation and their suite of products in October 2017.

Infolytica was one of the original pioneers in the field of simulating low-frequency EM. Engineers can design and simulate motors, generators, transformers, sensors, induction heating, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and shielding with these tools from Infolytica:

The Infolytica business will be incorporated into the mechanical analysis division of Mentor Graphics, another recent-ish Siemens acquisition, which is gradually being rebranded to Mentor.

And now onto the partnership. Siemens has partnered with Ingegneria Dei Sistemi (IDS), an Italian company specializing in innovation & products in air traffic management, airports, electromagnetic engineering, unmanned systems, avionics and protection fields.

The partnership adds the ability to Simcenter to engineer the electromagnetic performance of systems with regard to antenna design and installation, EM Compatibility (EMC), EM Interference (EMI), EM hazards and more.

For more please visit this article on their push into electromagnetic simulations, this press release on the acquisition or this info on the Siemens PLM-IDS partnership.