It is a little known fact that Solid Edge and Femap can be coupled together to provide a complete modelling/FEA solution where the analysis model is connected to the design model in the CAD system.
Solid Edge is a comprehensive 2D/3D CAD system for designing parts and assemblies. Its strength is shown when model changes are required and, using either the history tree or Synchronous Technology, parts and assemblies can be easily modified. While Solid Edge does have some FEA capability it is not a specialist standalone system.
Femap is well known for its Pre and Post processing capabilities which extend beyond Solid Edge Simulation to include non-linear plastic deformation, thermal stress, transient, multi-case / multi-analysis simulation, and the list goes on. Building/editing geometry in Femap is excellent for standalone FEA or if “FEA unfriendly” geometry comes from CAD, but lacks the convenience/speed of a full parametric CAD package when substantial changes need to be made..
Combining the two software packages means you get the best of both worlds, a full CAD system with serious FEA capability.
How do you link the two together ?
During your initial Femap installation, you need to have checked the “Install Solid Edge Connection” option.
With a part or assembly open in Solid Edge (but without Femap running), go to the Tools tab and press the “Femap” button. This will launch a “connected” session of Femap. Accept the defaults, and Femap will open with all the assembly geometry.
The update process requires Femap and Solid Edge to be on the same computer. At this point, Femap is operating in its normal way, as a full standalone FEA system. The geometry can be used to apply equation loads; mesh controls; contact regions; non-linear modifications to material properties, analysis setup etc. The entire analysis process can be setup and run. If you want to compare analyses, as would be normal, you would save the Femap model at this point. This model can now be used by a “connected” (launched from Solid Edge) or “unconnected” instance of Femap.
You may then go back into Solid Edge and make changes to the parts and the assembly. If you then press the Femap button again (in the SE Tools menu) and accept the defaults, all the part/assembly modifications will appear in Femap. Note however, that all the other “geometry associated” entities, such as loads, constraints, material properties, contacts etc. will be preserved. The mesh will have disappeared but mesh controls are preserved (except where the geometry changes are substantial), and then it is relatively straight forward to reapply the mesh (eg. Mesh | Geometry | Solid). At this point the model is now ready to run again.
The only minor caveat is that it is unwise to modify the assembly geometry within Femap itself (eg. using Slice, Fillet, Break Curve, Embed Face etc, etc.) as changes to geometry in Femap will not survive further modifications and a re-update from Solid Edge. That’s only a minor issue, in that if you have chosen to use Solid Edge to create the FEA geometry, you will probably be OK to ensure that the SE geometry is in the condition you need. Note, however, that “feature suppression” in Femap (Meshing Toolbox), which allows things like tiny curves/surfaces and holes to be ignored during meshing, is preserved when the Solid Edge assembly is updated.
Finally if returning to a previously saved Solid Edge Assembly – Femap model later on, then you would open the SE assembly and press the Femap button in Solid Edge. This will open a connected instance of Femap with a “new” version of the SE Assembly geometry. Close that (File | Close) and then open the previously saved Femap model (obviously choosing one that is relevant to the current SE assembly). This retrieved model is now “connected” to the SE session, and further updates to the assembly and Femap model can be made as previously described.