Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is one of the most commonly used processes to validate new designs without the need of constructing prototypes that would cost a lot of money.
However, some designs may involve very complex structures and/or surfaces, and the CAD models used for FEA analysis can sometimes require a lot of time and resources to be processed.
To avoid this and to help you work more efficiently, here are a few tips to optimize CAD models for FEA analysis:
Use symmetry: symmetry helps to process the information faster, especially when determining the Finite Elements on the model. In addition, if you are working on a mechanical system, the balance for inertia will be optimal when using symmetry. So, don't forget to use symmetry by mirroring the features of your model as much as possible.
Critical zones need space: many times, models accumulate shapes that will be withstanding a considerable amount of stress. To create a more appropriate mesh and apply nodal connections among these shapes, leave proper space to make sure the analysis gives you a real result about those critical areas.
Avoid sudden slope changes on surfaces: these changes usually create undesired and unnecessary stress concentrations that may result in misleading analysis results. A good practice is changing the sharp edges for round ones whenever that are of your model represents a need to study stress and strain to avoid foolish calculations. To achieve this, you first need to ensure easy modification on your model.
Consider future manufacturing processes: of course, this is more demanding as it requires you to have a good grasp on the manufacturing processes and capabilities. However, when done properly, it will allow staying within the manufacturing budget without the need of any modifications that may alter the FEA results.
There are many other things you can do to optimize your models for FEA analysis, such as detailing the joints between parts, hiding construction elements, etc. The bottom line is that all of them will allow you to have a more efficient FEA processing with more reliable results.