June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
12.230.1 - 12.230.11
An Introductory Engineering Design Project Utilizing Finite Element Analysis and Rapid Prototyping
Design projects are often used to stimulate interest in engineering among high school students (and to sustain interest among engineering freshmen). A typical model for these projects is “design-build-test,” in which students evaluate their designs by making and testing a physical prototype. While these projects can be valuable in motivating many students, a danger is that they ignore any analysis steps, giving the impression that engineering design is a strictly trial- and-error process. This impression is contrary to modern engineering design practice, in which modern analysis tools are used in conjunction with rapid prototyping methods to allow for fast design iterations. In this paper, a “design-analyze-build-test” project is described. Easy-to-use solid modeling and finite element analysis software was used along with a low-cost rapid prototyping system in a project in which high school students attempted to optimize the design of a component subjected to well-defined loading and constraints.
This project was conducted as part of Summer Ventures, a program in which talented high school students from across North Carolina explore math and science-related careers at several University of North Carolina System campuses. This was the initial offering of engineering as an option for the students. Students selected three areas of participation. For three weeks, they spent two hours per day in each of the selected areas. During the fourth and final week, they chose one of their three areas for more in-depth study.
During the engineering portion of the first three weeks of the program, lessons included both mechanical and electrical concepts. In the mechanical portion, students learned how to use solid modeling software and were introduced to finite element analysis. To gain an understanding of the finite element method, the students hand-worked problems consisting of assemblies of springs. Given the element matrices of the springs, students assembled the system stiffness matrix, applied boundary conditions, and solved for the unknown displacements. Results compared very closely to those of a physical assembly of high-precision extension springs. The students then modeled a baseline design of a bracket, following step-by-step instructions, and analyzed the performance of the bracket under a weight load using finite element analysis software. Modulus of elasticity and strength values were determined from tensile and compressive tests conducted on the bracket material. The baseline bracket model was built on a rapid prototyping machine and tested by hanging weights on it until it failed. Students then were asked to improve on the baseline design, with the goal of producing the lightest-weight design that achieves a given factor of safety under the design load and meets a specified deflection limit. The students’ designs were then built and tested.
In addition to introducing students to the quantitative side of the engineering design process, this project also emphasized the role of uncertainty in the process. Students were asked what factor of safety they felt comfortable in specifying, and a discussion on the trade-offs between risk and cost and the role of design codes followed.
Howard, W., & Williams, R. (2007, June), An Introductory Engineering Design Project Utilizing Finite Element Analysis And Rapid Prototyping Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1957
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