Original Date: 01/23/1995
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Automated Mesh Generation for Engineering Analysis
Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) successfully applies meshing algorithms for finite element analysis. These meshes are generated throughout a manufactured part's geometry and are used to analyze the effects of externally applied loading on the component.
Sandia recognized that mesh generation impeded the improvement of analytical throughput. Traditionally, only simple mapped meshing algorithms existed and those required manual geometry generation. This was time consuming and expensive as it required engineers skilled in finite element analysis to generate the mesh. Complicated real-world geometries were not amenable to mapped meshing. These geometries first had to be decomposed into simpler geometric shapes before an analyst could generate the mesh, resulting in unproductive time recreating existing geometries already available through standard CAD files.
Sandia developed a three-dimensional surface paving algorithm, providing SNL the ability to automatically mesh arbitrary geometries and control the mesh densities via an advancing front algorithm. Once the mesh was generated for a part, it can then be surface projected through the part's thickness to generate a two-and-a-half dimension volume mesh.
In addition to the paving algorithm, SNL also developed the CUBIT mesh generation toolkit. This toolkit provides an advanced code architecture for meshing algorithm research. It is solid modeler-based to accommodate advanced geometries. CUBIT also combines research and development platforms so experienced analysts can immediately use the code.
Sandia continues to advance in this area by developing additional meshing algorithms. They have recently developed the ability to perform submapping (semi-automatic decomposition) and sweeping, which generates two-and-a-half dimension volume meshes from paved or mapped surface meshes, to improve the mapping algorithm. Additionally, Sandia is researching automatic hexahedral element generation via two techniques known as plastering and whisker weaving. This will provide next generation systems with a true three-dimensional capability.
Sandia's efforts in this area have resulted in a number of benefits. Their paving software was recently benchmarked by Ford Motor Company as having reduced modeling time from 36 hours to 0.5 hour. This algorithm, together with the CUBIT toolkit, is also being used by Goodyear Tire and Rubber and the USCar initiative as the mesh generator of choice. Sandia is also leveraging this technology with their Fast Casting Process and nuclear surety programs.
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