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Using 3D Printing and Physical Testing to Make Finite-Element Analyis More Real in a Computer-Aided Simulation and Design Course

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Design Throughout the Mechanical Engineering Curriculum

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1646.1 - 26.1646.15



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Paper Authors


Robert T. Bailey P.E. Loyola University Maryland

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Dr. Robert T. Bailey is currently associate professor and chair of the Department of Engineering at Loyola University Maryland. He received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida, the latter in 1991. He worked in industry for Westinghouse and Science Applications International Corporation, served as a senior program officer at the National Research Council, and taught previously at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. His research interests include mechanistic engineering analyses to support risk and safety assessment of industrial processes, application of computational fluid dynamics to microscale flows involving mixing and chemical reaction, and improvements in engineering education. Dr. Bailey is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Society of Engineering Education and is a registered professional engineer in the state of Maryland.

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Using 3D Printing and Physical Testing to Make Finite-Element Analysis More Real in a Computer-Aided Simulation and Design CourseAbstractAt the authors’ institution, the mechanical engineering curriculum includes a junior-level coursein computer-aided simulation and design. During the first part of the course, students useSolidWorks® to create computer models of three-dimensional parts and assemblies and learnhow to generate engineering-quality design drawings. Because these students have already hadan introductory course in mechanics of materials, as well as three semesters of calculus and acourse in differential equations, this class also covers the use of finite-element analysis (FEA) toevaluate stresses and deflections of parts under load. Ultimately, the course culminates in aprofessional project where each student designs a mechanical part to meet a set of specificperformance requirements, utilizing a formal design process that includes the iterativeapplication of FEA. The course is generally very popular with students and alumni whocomment favorably on its practicality and applicability in industry. Unfortunately, until recently,the Department’s manufacturing equipment made it impractical to have the students actuallyfabricate their designs.In the Spring of 2013, a Stratasys Objet Model 30 3D printer was purchased by the Departmentto expand our rapid prototyping capabilities. This technology was a natural fit for incorporationinto the computer-aided simulation and design course, and changes were subsequently made todo so. Instead of being a purely digital and paper exercise, the students were asked to fabricatetheir final designs using the 3D printer and to subject their parts to physical testing to verify thatthe performance requirements had been met. This also allowed them to compare the deflectionpredictions (made using FEA) with the actual deflections under load. The overall learningobjective associated with these changes was for the students to come to a clearer understandingof how their execution of the design process, including the application of FEA, affected thesuccess of their designs.The effectiveness of this active, project-based learning approach was assessed throughquestionnaires and solicitation of oral comments. Written student evaluations of the experienceindicated that the students (1) enjoyed actually seeing their products come to life, (2) developed abetter understanding of what their FEA results meant, and (3) developed a better understandingof how FEA could be used to guide and enhance their designs. Suggestions for improving theincorporation of 3D printing in the course were obtained and are discussed.

Bailey, R. T. (2015, June), Using 3D Printing and Physical Testing to Make Finite-Element Analyis More Real in a Computer-Aided Simulation and Design Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24982

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