Recommendations to Avoid ANSYS Mechanical Database Corruption

It’s late. The report for the project that you have spent over 140 hours on in the past two weeks is due in the morning. It is crunch time. Your computer resources are maxed out while you are running a final test scenario, post-processing another Workbench Mechanical module, and grabbing screenshots while you finish up your report formatting. Then, the unutterable occurs, ok, well maybe isn’t utter-able since I’m writing it, but, in short, your run is complete, you hit save, your computer locks up, you have to force quit, but you are sure that your save was successful. And it was…mostly.

Upon re-opening your project you find that all but one of your Mechanical databases are healthy and happy. But that one, the one that you needed a final image from, is corrupted. You know this because of the error messages that pop up with the slew of text that might look something like this:

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Your frustration is building. You have already used results from that Mechanical model and reflected it in your report, so you do not want to lose it. I feel your pain.

Since this error message pin-points the SYS.mechdb file as the problem, it is unlikely that you can recover it. I know, not what you wanted to hear. But there is a chance that the database is not corrupt. To verify that, follow the steps Ted Harris outlined in a post he made earlier this year here.

If your Mechanical model is, indeed, corrupt and you were not able to recover it from steps outlined by Ted, make note of the following list of guidelines to help avoid database corruption in the future. I received this list of recommendations from ANSYS Inc. after one of our customers experienced a similar scenario as described above.

  1. Open your project from a Local mounted disk drive
  2. Do not work off of a network drive. It is OK to save to it after you are done
  3. Do not work off of a portable USB flash drive. It is OK to save to it after you are done
  4. Software backup programs can often lock a file and prevent WB from writing to the file
  5. Virus scan programs can also lock the file, and prevent WB from writing to the file
  6. Virus scan program can sometimes find a false positive in the file, and “disinfect” it, causing corruption
  7. Determine if the problem is related to the particular computer. ANSYS has seen bad memory or failing disk drives cause problems with saving files
  8. Use Windows Update regularly
  9. Update graphics drivers as needed

Bullet points 4, 5, and 6 are items that can possibly cause corruption while running, so be aware of the times they are generally run. In addition, ANSYS has recommended that disabling the Pre-Load of the Mechanical (and Meshing) editors can reduce the risk of database corruption. Here are the steps to do that:

  1. Reboot the computer (or Close/kill all AnsysFWW.exe and AnsysWBU.exe processes)
  2. Start a new instance of Workbench to change the settings:
    Tools > Options > Mechanical > Pre-Load the Mechanical Editor (disable)
    Tools > Options > Meshing > Pre-Load the Meshing Editor
    (disable)
  3. Exit Workbench
  4. Start a new instance of Workbench and work normally

As a disclaimer, even if you follow the above guidelines, there is still the chance of losing data. To avoid losing all of your data, follow the motto: save early, save often, and with backups! You can create backups by archiving your project as you make progress so that there is always a version to fall back on. Or, if you have the disk space to handle it, you can simply “Save As.” We hope following these recommendations will save you from headache down the road.

Making Charts and Tables in ANSYS Mechanical

imageOne of the nicer features in ANSYS Mechanical is the fact that when you enter in any type of tabular data, or look at any type of tabular results, you can view it as a table or as a graph.  But what if you want to make your own graph, maybe even viewing values from two different solutions?  ANSYS Mechanical has a little used feature called “New Chart and Table” that will allow you to make a table or a graph (chart) of quantities in your model tree that make sense when displayed as a graph or table: Time, loads applied over time, and results over time.

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I have found myself exporting data to excel and making graphs all the time. And this is OK if you just do it once. But if you make a change to the model, you need to export again and redo your graph.  The Chart and Table function makes this an automatic step, right there in your model tree.

For this posting, we will just use a simple plasticity bending example. We hold the bottom of a round bar with a grove cut in the bottom part and push on the top with forces.

In its simplest form the “Chart and Table” duplicates what you see in the graph and Tabular Data windows when you click on a load or a result. Here is what you get when you click on a displacement:

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And if you select the probe in the tree and click on the “New Chart and Table” icon you get:

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No woop.  But even if I want to just plot one value, I can now customize the look of the graph a bit.  Take a look at the Details for the Chart:

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With the Chart Controls you can define what is shown on the X axis; if you want lines, points or both with Plot Style, log or linear scale, and if you want horizontal, vertical, neither, or both gridlines.

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This is what it looks like if I turn on both gridlines and use a log scale for the Y Axis.

Next, we can add axis labels with “Axis Labels:”

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The “Report” Section tells the program what to do when a report is generated. By Default you get a table and a graph.  But you can do either, both, or you can suppress it in the report.  You can give the plot and/or table in the report a caption by filling in the Caption field.  It comes out nice:

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Note that it actually includes a legend in the report. If you want the legend when you are looking at a graph interacively, just Right Mouse Button on the graph and choose “Show Legend” to turn it on:

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Note that the legend shows the name of the branch in the tree. That is not very informative. So I change it to something useful and now the legend is useful:

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So even with a basic graph, we can do a lot. But the real power is when you want to look at more. Let’s say I want to plot the force and the stress over time. I create a new chart with the icon then select the force and the stress results as my “Outline Selection”

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I get a lot of stuff on my graph. That is because the program starts by plotting all the components for the load, and all max and min stress over time for the result. I simply change the ones I don’t want from “Display” to “Omit.”  Then I get:

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Much more useful.  Note that it does not create two separate Y axis. Instead it normalizes the values between the min and max for each. This is not ideal, and hopefully in the future they will support multiple axis, but it still works for most cases when you want to compare things. Note that I renamed the branches in my tree so they show up in the legend correctly.  Next I will add some labels and turn on gridlines.

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We have been neglecting the table. It also gets created:

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As with any table in ANSYS Mechanical, it can be exported to Excel. So if you find yourself grabbing data from multiple input or result tables and pasted them into Excel, make a Chart and Table item to grab all the data you want in one place, then export it once.  To be honest, the quality of the graphs that are made are good enough for engineering, but maybe not good enough for a presentation. By making a Chart & Table of what you need, then exporting to Excel or some other graphing tool, you can still save a lot of time.

Next, let us look at plotting values from multiple simulations.  If you look at the tree, you will notice that the charts are a child of the model, not the simulations.  This signals that we can show data form the same model, but different simulations:

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In our example I’ve simply made one with a tip force in the Y direction, and one with a tip force in the X direction. And I can show that by making a chart:

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And I get a table:

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HINT: If you want to make a single table or chart that shows all your input loads over time, in a single simulation or across multiple simulations, this is the way to do it.  If I add a third simulation where I vary the load in all three directions, I can capture all three cases in one table:

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These examples show loads. Here is what it looks like if we review the deflection on the tip probe over time for two simulations:

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Or mash it all up, and show stress and deflection for both cases:

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In every case so far we have used time (Load Step for static) as our X axis. But you can put any value you want on the X axis.  Here is Force applied vs Tip Deflection:

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Make sure you turn off Time and loads you don’t want to see.  This is a great way to plot hysteresis effects.

You may notice the plots in this posting are nice and big and have a good aspect ratio. And your screen looks like this:

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Every window in ANSYS Mechanical can be dragged out of the frame and positioned/sized however you want. So I pull off the Graph window by itself and resize it to the aspect ratio I want. Now when I want to save the image all I have to do is select that window and hit Alt-Print Screen. The image is now stored in the clipboard and I can past it where I want.

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To get the normal window configuration back, click View>Windows>Reset Layout.

As always, play with it to figure more out. I’ve included my simple test case in case you want to play with it first:

Making APDL Parameters Available in the ANSYS Parameter Manager or DesignXplorer: Prep, Solve, and Post

This is one of those questions that comes up every once in a while that is not so obvious at first glance, but that is simple once you understand how ANSYS Mechanical interacts with ANSYS Mechanical APDL.  After a couple of email exchanges around a tech support question, we thought it would be good to share with everyone.

Before we get started, if you need a refresher on Command Objects in ANSYS Mechanical, the way in which you send APDL commands to the ANSYS Mechanical APDL solver, here is a seminar from a couple of years ago that covers the whole deal:

The basic problem is this: you have an APDL script you execute as a command object that does some sort of model interrogation or stores the result of some calculation, and you want to use that parameter in the parameter manager or in DesignXplorer.  If you look at the details view for a command object you will notice that it only supports input parameters: ARG1-ARG9.

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If you look at the example (silly) macro you will see that it:

  1. Grabs component (named selection) END1
  2. Figures out how many nodes are attached to END1 (NMND)
  3. Takes ARG1 as the total load applied load
  4. Calculates the per node load by dividing the total load by the number of loads.
  5. Applies that per node load
  6. Reselects all the nodes

If I want to know how many nodes I put the load on and what the per node load is I’m kind of stuck here.  Any command object you add to the tree above the Solution branch only allows input parameters.

But a command snippet applied in the Solution branch is different, it allows you to pull parameters back and share them through the parameter manager.

When you first insert a command object you only get input parameters (ARG1-ARG9) as usual, and an empty section called “Results”

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The way you get result parameters, or what I think should be called “Output Parameters” is you create a parameter in the command object’s APDL script that starts with “my_”  When you click outside the text input window the program parses you script and if it finds any “my_” parameters in the text, it sticks them in the Results section:

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Note, the default is “my_” but you can change it n the “Output Search Prefix” line in the Definition block.

Initially they will show up pinkish because the model has not been run and they are not defined. Click on the box to make them parameters that get passed outside of the program and then run:

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If you pop back out to the project view you will see that we now have a Parameter Set bar with both input and output parameters:

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And if you open the parameter manager up you can see the input and output parameters:

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This works because all ANSYS mechanical is doing is making one big batch input file for ANSYS MAPDL.  That file contains any command objects you insert into the tree and extracts any parameters that you tagged in a post processing command object for return to ANSYS Mechanical.

20 APDL Commands Every ANSYS Mechanical User Should Know

One of the most powerful things about ANSYS Mechanical is the fact that it creates an input file that is sent to ANSYS Mechanical APDL (MAPDL) to solve. This is awesome because you as a user have complete and full access to the huge breadth and depth available in the MAPDL program.  MAPDL is a good old-fashioned command driven program that takes in text commands one line at a time and executes them. So to access all those features, you just need to enter in the commands you want.

For many older users this is not a problem because we grew up using the text commands. But new users did not get the chance to be exposed to the power of APDL (ANSYS Parametric Design Language) so getting access to those advanced capabilities can be tough. 

In fact, I was in a room next to one of our support engineers while they were showing a customer how to change the elements that the solver would solve (Mechanical defaults to the most common formulation, but you can change them to whatever still makes sense) and the user had to admit he had never really used or even seen APDL commands before. 

So, as a way to get ANSYS Mechanical users out there started down the road of loving APDL commands, we got together and came up with a list of 20 APDL commands that every user should know.  Well, actually, it is more than 20 because we grouped some of them together.  We are not going to give too much detail on their usage, the APDL help is fantastic and it explains everything.  In fact, if you use a copy of PeDAL you can get the help right there live as you type (yes, that was a plug for you to go out and plop down $49 and buy PeDAL).

Also note that we are not getting in to how to script with APDL. It is a truly parametric command language in that you can replace most values in commands with parameters. It also has control logic, functions and other capabilities that you find in most scripting languages.  We will focus on actual commands you use to do things in the program here. If you want to learn more about how to program with APDL, you can purchase a copy of our “Introduction to the ANSYS Parametric Design Language” book. (another plug)

Some APDL Basics

APDL was developed back in the day of punch cards.  It was much easier to use than the other programs out there because the commands you entered didn’t have to be formatted in columns.  Instead arguments for commands are separated by commas.  Therefore, instead of defining a Node in your model as:

345   12.456    17.4567   0.0034 

(note that the location of that decimal point is critical). You create a line as:

N,345,12.456,17.4567, 0.0034

Trust me, that was a big deal. But what you need to know now is that all APDL commands start with a keyword and are followed by arguments. The arguments are explained in the Command Reference in the help.  So the entry for creating a node looks like this:

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The documentation is very consistent and you will quickly get the hang of how to get what you need out of it.  The layout is explained in the help:  // Command Reference // 3. Command Dictionary

Another key thing to know about commands in MAPDL is that most entities you create (not loads and boundary conditions) have an ID number. You refer to entities by their ID number.  This is a key concept that gets lost if you grew up using GUI’s.  So if you want to make a coordinate system and use it, you define an ID for it and then refer to that ID. Same thing goes for element definitions (Element Types), material properties, etc…  Remember this, it hangs up a lot of newer users.

To use MAPDL commands you simply enter each command on a line in a command object that you place in your model tree. We did a seminar on this very subject about two years ago that you can watch here.

The idea of entity selection is fundamental to APDL.  Above we point out that all entities have an ID.  You can interact with each entity by specifying its ID.  But when you have a lot of them, like nodes and elements, it would be a pain.  So APDL deals with this by letting you select entities of a given type and making them “selected” or “unselected”  Then when you execute commands, instead of specifying an ID, you can specify “ALL” and all of the selected entities are used for that command.  Sometimes we refer to entities as being selected, and sometimes we refer to them as “active.”  The basic concept is that any entity in ANSYS Mechanical APDL can be one of two states: active/selected or inactive/unselected.  inactive/unselected entities are not used by whatever command you might be executing.

If you want to see all of the APDL command that ANSYS Mechanical writes out, simply select the setup branch of your model tree and choose Tools->Write Input File.  You can view it in a text editor, or even better, in PeDAL.

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One last important note before we go through our list of commands: the old GUI for MAPDL can be used to modify or create models as well as ANSYS Mechanical. Every action you take in the old GUI is converted into a command and stored in the jobname.log file.  Many users will carry out the actions they want in an interactive session, then save the commands they need from the log file.

Wait, one more thing:  Right now you need these commands. But at every release more and more of the solver is exposed in ANSYS Mechanical FUI and we end up using less and less APDL scripts.  So before you write a script, make sure that ANSYS Mechanical can’t already do what you want.

The Commands

1. !

An exclamation point is a comment in APDL. Any characters to the right of one are ignored by the program. Use them often and add great comments to help you and others remember what the heck you were trying to do.

2. /PREP7 – /SOLU – /POST1 – FINISH

The MAPDL program consists of a collection of 10 processors (there were more, but they have been undocumented.) Commands only work in some processors, and most only in one.  If you enter in a preprocessor command when you are in the postprocessor, you will get an error.

When you create a command object in your ANSYS Mechanical model, it will be executed in either the Pre processor, the Solution processor, or in the Post processor.  Depending on where in the model tree you insert the command object.   If you need to go into another processor you can, you simply issue the proper command to change processors.  JUST REMEMBER TO GO BACK TO THE PROCESSOR YOU STARTED IN when you are done with your commands.

/PREP7 – goes to the pre processor. Use this to change elements, create things, or modify your mesh in any way.

/SOLU – goes to the solution processor.  Most of the time you will start there so you most often will use this command if you went into /PREP7 and need to get back. Modify loads, boundary conditions, and solver settings in this processor.

/POST1 – goes to the post processor. This is where you can play with your results, make your own plots, and do some very sophisticated post-processing.

FINISH – goes to the begin level. You will need to go there if you are going to play with file names.

3. TYPE – MAT – REAL – SECNUM

You only really need to know these commands if you will be making your own elements… but one of those things everyone should know because the assignment of element attributes is fundamental to the way APDL works…. so read on even if you don’t need to make your own elements.

Every element in your model is assigned properties that define the element.  When you define an element, instead of specifying all of its properties for each element, you create definitions and give them numbers, then assign the number to each element.  The simplest example are material properties. You define a set of material properties, give it a number, then assign that number to all the elements in your model that you want to solve with those properties.

But you do not specify the ID’s when you create the elements, that would be a pain. Instead, you make the ID for each property type “active” and every element you create will be assigned the active ID’s. 

The commands are self explanatory: Type sets the Element Type, MAT sets the material ID, REAL set the real constant number, and SECNUM sets the active section number. 

So, if  you do the following:

type,4
real,2
mat,34
secnum,112
e,1,2,3,4,11,12,13,14

you get:

     ELEM MAT TYP REL ESY SEC        NODES
      1  34   4   2   0 112      1     2     3     4    11    12    13    14
      2   3   4   4   0 200    101   102   103   104   111   112   113   114

4. ET

The MAPDL solver supports hundreds of elements.   ANSYS Mechanical picks the best element for whatever simulation you want to do from a general sense.  But that may not be the best for your model. In such cases, you can redefine the element definition that ANSYS Mechanical used.

Note: The new element must have the same topology. You can’t change a 4 noded shell into an 8 noded hex.  But if the node ordering is the same (the topology) then you can make that change using the ET command. 

5. EMODIF

If you define a real constant, element type, or material ID in APDL and you want to change a bunch of elements to those new ID’s, you use EMODIF.  This is the fastest way to change an elements definition.

6. MP – MPDATA – MPTEMP –TB – TBDATA – TBTEMP

Probably the most commonly needed APDL command for ANSYS Mechanical users are the  basic material property commands. Linear properties are defined with MP command for a polynomial vs. temperature or MPDATA and MPTEMP for a piece-wise linear temperature response.  Nonlinear material properties are defined with the TB, TBDATA, and TBTEMP commands.

It is always a good idea to stick your material definitions in a text file so you 1) have a record of what you used, and 2) can reuse the material model on other simulation jobs.

7. R – RMODIF

If you define an elements formulation with options on the ET command, and the material properties on the material commands, where do you specify other stuff like shell thickness, contact parameters, or hourglass stiffness?  You put them in real constants.  If you are new to the MAPDL solver the idea of Real constants is a bit hard to get used to. 

The official explanation is:

Data required for the calculation of the element matrices and load vectors, but which cannot be determined by other means, are input as real constants. Typical real constants include hourglass stiffness, contact parameters, stranded coil parameters, and plane thicknesses.

It really is a place to put stuff that has no other place.  R creates a real constant, and RMODIF can be used to change them.

8. NSEL – ESEL

As mentioned, selection logic is a huge part of how MAPDL works.  You never want to work on each object you want to view, change, load, etc… Instead you want to place entities of a given type into an “active” group and then operate on all “active” entities. (you can group them and give them names as well, see CM-CMSEL-CMDELE below to learn about components)

When accessing MAPDL from ANSYS Mechanical you are most often working with either nodes or elements.  NSEL and ESEL are used to manage what nodes and elements are active. These commands have a lot of options, so review the help.

9. NSLE – ESLN

You often select nodes and then need the elements attached to those nodes. Or you select elements and you need the nodes on those elements.  NSLE and ESLN do that.  NSLE selects all of the nodes on the currently active elements and ESLN does the opposite.

10. ALLSEL

A very common mistake for people writing little scripts in APDL for ANSYS Mechanical is they use selection logic to select things that they want to operate on, and then they don’t remember to reselect all the nodes and elements.  If you issue an NSEL and get say the nodes on the top of your part that you want to apply a load to. If you just stop there the solver will generate errors because those will be the only active nodes in the model. 

ALLSEL fixes this. It simply makes everything active. It is a good idea to just stick it at the end of your scripts if you do any selecting.

11. CM – CMSEL

If you use ANSYS Mechanical you should be very familiar with the concept of Named Selections. These are groups of entities (nodes, elements, surfaces, edges, vertices) that you have put into a group so you can scope based on them rather than selecting each time. In ANSYS MAPDL these are called components and commands that work with them start with CM.

Any named selection you create for geometry in ANSYS Mechanical gets turned into a nodal component – all of the nodes that touch the geometry in the Named Selection get thrown into the component. You can also create your own node or element Named Selections and those also get created as components in MAPDL. 

You can use CM to create your own components in your APDL scripts.  You give it a name and operate away.  You can also select components with the CMSEL command.

12. *GET

This is the single most awesomely useful command in APDL.  It is a way to interrogate your model to find out all sorts of useful information: number of nodes, largest Z value for node position, if a node is selected, loads on a node, result information, etc… 

Check out the help on the command. If you ever find yourself writing a script and going “if I only knew blah de blah blah about my model…” then you probably need to use *get.

13. CSYS – LOCAL – RSYS

Coordinate systems are very important in ANSYS Mechanical and ANSYS MAPDL.  In most cases you should create any coordinate systems you need in ANSYS Mechanical. They will be available to you in ANSYS MAPDL, but by default ANSYS Mechanical assigns a default ID. To use a coordinate system in MAPDL you should specify the coordinate system number in the details for a given coordinate system by changing “Coordinate System” from “Program Defined” to “Manual” and then specifying a number for “Coordinate System ID”

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If you need to make a coordinate system in your APDL script, use the LOCAL command. 

When you want to use a coordinate system, use CSYS to make a given coordinate system active.

Note: Coordinate system 0 is the global Cartesian system. If you change the active coordinate system make sure you set it back to the global system with CSYS,0

RSYS is like CSYS but for results. If you want to plot or list result information in a coordinate system other than the global Cartesian, use RSYS to make the coordinate system you want active.

14: NROTATE

One thing to be very aware of is that each node in a model has a rotation associated with it. By default, the UX, UY, and UZ degrees of freedom are oriented with the global Cartesian coordinate system. In ANSYS Mechanical, when you specify a load or a boundary condition as normal or tangent to a surface, the program actually rotates all of those nodes so a degree of freedom is normal to that surface.

If you need to do that yourself because you want to apply a load or boundary condition in a certain direction besides the global Cartesian, use NROTATE.  You basically select the nodes you want to rotate, specify the active coordinate system with CSYS, then issue NROTATE,ALL to rotate them.

Be careful though. You don’t want to screw with any rotations that ANSYS Mechanical specified.

15. D

The most common boundary condition is displacement, even for temperature.  To specify those in an ANSYS MAPDL script, use the D command.  Most people use nodal selection or components to apply displacements to multiple nodes.

In its simplest form you apply a single value for displacement to one node in one degree of freedom.  But you can specify multiple nodes, multiple degrees of freedom, and more powerfully, the value for deflection can be a table. Learn about tables here.

16. F

The F command is the same as the D command, except it defines forces instead of displacement.  Know, it, use it.

17. SF – SFE

If you need to apply a pressure load, you use either SF to apply to nodes ore SFE to apply to elements. It works a lot like the D and F commands.

18. /OUTPUT

When the ANSYS MAPDL solver is solving away it writes bits and pieces of information to a file called jobename.out, where jobname is the name of your solver job.  Sometimes you may want to write out specific information, say list the stresses for all the currently selected nodes, to a file. use /OUTPUT,filename to redirect output to a file. When you are done specify /OUTPUT with no options and it will go back to the standard output.

19. /SHOW

ANSYS MAPDL has some very sophisticated plotting capabilities.  There are a ton of command and options used to setup and create a plot, but the most important is /SHOW,png.  This tells ANSYS MAPDL that all plots from now on will be written in PNG format to a file. Read all about how to use this command, and how to control your plots, here.

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20. ETABLE

The ANSYS MAPDL solver solves for a lot of values. The more complex the element you are using, the more the number of values you can store.  But how do you get access to the more obscure ones? ETABLE.  Issue 38 of The Focus from 2005 goes in to some of the things you can do with ETABLE.

Where to go From Here

This is certainly not the definitive list.  Ask 20 ANSYS MAPDL users what APDL commands all ANSYS Mechanical users should know, and you might get five or six in common. But based on the support calls we get and the scripts we write, this 20 are the most common that we use.

Command help is your friend here.  Use it a lot.

The other thing you should do is open up ANSYS MAPDL interactively and play with these commands. See what happens when you execute them.

Video Tips: Section Planes in ANSYS 14.5

A quick video showing a new way to create section planes by using coordinate systems.

Submodeling in ANSYS Mechanical: Easy, Efficient, and Accurate

Back “in the day” when we rode horses into work as Finite Element Analysis Engineers, we had somewhat limited compute capacity.  70,000 elements was a hard and fast limit.  But we still needed accurate results with local refinement in areas of concern.  The way we accomplished that was with a  process called submodeling where you make a refined local model just of the area you care about, and a coarse mesh that modeled the whole part but still fit on the computer.  The displacement field from the coarse model was then applied as a boundary condition on the refined model.

We called the refined model a zoom model or a submodel.  It worked very well for many years. Then computers got bigger and we just started meshing the heck out of those areas of interest in the full part model.  And in many cases that is still the best solution for an accurate localized stress: localized refinement.

Submodeling is one of those “tricks” in stress analysis that used to be used all the time. But until recently it was a bit of a pain to do in ANSYS Mechanical so it fell out of use.  Now, the process of doing submodeling is easy, efficient, and accurate.  The purpose of this posting is to introduce the concept to newer users who have not used it before, and show experienced (old) users how much easier it is to do in ANSYS Mechanical vs. Mechanical APDL.

What is Submodeling?

The best description of submodeling is the illustration that has been in the ANSYS help system, in one form or another, for over 25 years:

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The basic idea is that you have a coarse model of your whole part or assembly.  You ignore small features in the mesh that don’t have an impact on the overall response of the system – the local stiffness does not have influence on the strain beyond that local region. You then make a very refined model, the submodel, of the region of interest. You use the displacement field (and temperature if you have a temperature gradient) from the coarse model and apply it to the submodel as a boundary condition to get the accurate highly-refined response in the area of interest.

The process is based on St. Venant’s principle: “… the difference between the effects of two different but statically equivalent loads becomes very small at sufficiently large distances from load.”

An aside:
What a cool name this guy had:
Adhémar Jean Claude Barré de Saint-Venant.  To top it off he was not just a mathematician, but he was given the title of Count as well… a count mathematician. And, I have to say, I have serious beard envy.  He had some very nice facial hair, I can’t even grow thick stubble.

Anyhow, what he showed was that if you are looking at the stresses in a part far away from where loads are applied, how those loads are applied does not matter. So we can replace the forces/pressures/etc… from our course model as an equivalent static deflection load and the stress field will be the same.

The way this is done in a Finite Element model is you determine what faces in your submodel are “inside” your course model. These are called the cut boundary faces and the nodes on those faces are the cut boundary nodes. and you apply the displacement field from the coarse model onto the nodes

The most common use is to add mesh refinement in an area without having to solve the whole model. Another common usage is to actually mesh small features like fillets, holes, and groves that were left out of or under-meshed in the full model.  It can also be used to capture material non-linearities if that behavior is highly localized.

But probably the most beneficial use today is to study the parametric variation of small features like the size of a fillet or a hole.  If changing the size of such features does not change the overall response of the system, then you only need to do a parametric study on the submodel – as the guy with the great beard proved, if the static load does not change with your geometric variations, you don’t have to look at the whole structure.

And don’t forget the new crack growth capabilities. You will probably want to do that on a submodel around your crack and not on your whole geometry.

Here is a more modern version of the original example geometry:

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The red highlight shows the cut boundaries. this is where you need to apply the displacement field.

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This is the nasty coarse mesh. Now if you were modeling a single part, you would just mesh the fillets and be done with it.  But assume this is in a large assembly.

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The Submodel. Nice elements in the key area.

You can even set up the radius as a parameter and do a study, where only the Submodel is modified and updated.

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The Process

The process is fairly simple:

  1. Make and solve your full model
  2. Make a geometry model of the area you want a submodel in
  3. Attach the submodel to the engineering data and solution of the full model
  4. Set up and solve the submodel

Before we get started, here is a ANSYS 14.5 archived project for both models we will discuss in this posting:  PADT-Focus-Submodeling-2013_08_14.wbpz

For the sample geometry we showed above, the system looks like this:

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When you go into ANSYS Mechanical for the sample model, you have a new model branch:

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When you first get in there, the branch is empty, you have to insert Body Temperature and/or Displacement:

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The Details for the Displacement object are as follows:

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There are a lot of options here. It is basically using the external load mapper to map the displacements. Consult the help and just play around with the options to understand them better. In most cases, all you need to do is specify the faces that you want the displacement field applied to for the Scope section.

A cool feature is that once you have specified the faces, you can “Import Load” and then view them by clicking on the object. Graphics Control –>Data = All shows vectors. Total/X/Y/Z shows the applied displacement field as a contour:

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Now you just need to make sure your Submodel is set up correctly, you have the mesh you want, and any other loads that are applied directly to the Submodel are the same as the loads in the full model (see next section).  Run and you get your refined results.

Here is that same process with a more realistic model of a beam with a tube welded on it.  The welds are not modeled in the full model and the fillets in the beam are very coarse.

So here is the geometry. Imagine that these two parts are actually part of a very large assembly so we really can’t refine them the way we want.

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This is what the systems look like. Note that the geometry comes from one source. I made the submodel in the same solid model in DesignModeler and just suppress the parts I don’t want in each Mechanical model.

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The loading is simple. I fix one end and put a force on the top of the tube.

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And here is my coarse mesh. I could probably mesh the tube with a lot more elements, especially along the axis.

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The results. Not too useful from a stress standpoint. Deflections are good, but the fillet is missing and beam is too coarse.

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So here is the submodel.  All the fillets are in there and it is just the area around the connection.

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I used advanced meshing to get a really nice refined mesh. It only solves in about 20 seconds so I can really refine it.

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Here are the cut boundaries. The bottom of the beam ribs are also selected.

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And here is the result. A really accurate look at the stresses in the fillet.  I could even put a probe in there and do some nice fatigue or crack growth.

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The other thing that showed up were some stress problems on the bottom of the beam.  Those could be an issue under a high load. The fillet stress on top my yield out but these stresses under the beam could be a fatigue problem.

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Tips and Hints

In most cases, doing a sub model is pretty simple. But there is a lot more to it than what we covered here.  Because I need to get back to some very pressing HR tasks, I’ll just list them here so you know that you are aware of them:

  1. Label your systems in the project page with some sort of “full” and “sub” terminology Things get really confusing fast if you don’t.
  2. You can do submodeling with a transient or multiple substep model. In your Imported Displacement/Body Temperature, specify what load step to grab the loads from.
  3. Don’t forget temperature. One of the most common problems is when a user applies temperature and therefore gets thermal stress.  They then forget to apply that to their submodel and everything is wrong.
  4. Make sure you don’t change material properties. Remember, these models are statically identical, you are just looking at a chunk with greater refinement.
  5. Remember that loads need to be away from the area you are zooming in on.  Don’t cut where a load is applied, or even near where one is applied. The exception is temperature. (Sometimes you can get away with pressure loads too, but you have to be very careful to get the same load over the area)
  6. Your can’t have geometry in the submodel sticking too far out of the coarse mesh. The displacement is interpolated onto the fine mesh and if a node on the fine mesh is outside the coarse mesh, the program extrapolates and that can sometimes induce errors. If you see spotty or high stresses on your cut boundaries, that is why.  There are tools in the Submodeling details to help diagnose and fix that.
  7. If you are going to do a parametric study on geometry changes in the submodel, use a separate geometry file to create that model (I just duplicate the original and suppress the full geometry in DM).  Why? Because if you change a parameter in your geometry model, both models will need to resolve since they both use the same geometry file, even if the geometry change occurs on a part that is suppressed in the full model.
  8. You can do submodels of submodels as many levels down as you want.
  9. You can have multiple submodels in one system
  10. Read the help, it is fairly detailed

That is about all for now. As always: crawl, walk, run.  Start with a very simple sub model with obvious cut boundaries and get experienced.

Utilizing a Thermal Contact Conductance Table in ANSYS ANSYS Mechanical

We recently had a tech support request from a customer, asking for the ability to define a spatially varying thermal contact conductance (TCC) on a contact region in ANSYS Mechanical. We came up with a solution for ANSYS 14.5 via an example which includes a couple of verification plots.

The test model consists of two solids, connected via a contact region. The thermal contact conductance at the contact region was defined as a table, with the rows and columns of the table corresponding to local coordinates within the plane of the contact surface. The table was defined and implemented using Mechanical APDL commands in the Mechanical tree.

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Low values of TCC were used for testing purposes. This helped verify that the tabular values were actually being used as intended. A constant temperature was applied to the face at one end of the model, while a different constant temperature was applied to the face at the extreme other end of the model. This temperature differential caused heat to flow through the contact region, subject to the resistance defined via TCC values.

The coordinates in the plane of the contact surface were Y and Z. Thus, the table of TCC values varied in the Y and Z directions, as shown here:

            Z        
  Y |  0.0        1.0
0.0 | 0.0001    0.0005
1.0 | 0.0005    0.0002

Three ANSYS Mechanical APDL command objects were inserted into the tree in the Mechanical editor. The first command object simply added a scalar parameter to keep track of the contact element type/real constant set number for use later:

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The second command object was placed in the analysis type branch, meaning this set of commands would be executed just prior to the Solve command. This command object does three things:

1. Defines the TCC table vs. Y and Z coordinates.

2. Reads the table in as an MAPDL real constant for the contact elements identified in the first command object.

3. Issues the command, “rstsuppress,none”. More on this later.

This is how the second command object was defined:

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That third step mentioned above was a key to getting this technique to work in 14.5. The rstsuppress command is not documented currently, but Al Hanq of ANSYS, Inc. has told me that it will be documented in the future. The default setting turns off contact results from being written to the results file in a thermal analysis. The idea is to help keep results file sizes from getting excessively large, especially for transient thermal runs. In this case, we actually wanted the thermal contact results in the results file, so we issued “rstsuppress,none” so the thermal contact results were not suppressed.

The final command object was for verification of the applied TCC values. This set of commands generates two plots using MAPDL postprocessing commands. The first plot is of heat flux going through the contact elements. The second plot displays the TCC values for node ‘i’ of each contact element (averaged).

Here is the third command object:

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Both of these plots show up in the tree, labeled as Post Output and Post Output 2 in the image above.

This is the resulting thermal flux at the contact surface:

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Here is the applied thermal contact conductance, as mapped from the table defined in the second command object:

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In summary, we took advantage of Mechanical APDL command objects to apply thermal contact conductance values that vary along the contact region. We also used MAPDL commands to create two plots that help verify that the TCC values were applied as intended. Hopefully this is a helpful example.

Corrupt ANSYS Mechanical Database? You Might Be Able to Recover

Most of the time ANSYS Mechanical does a great job of keeping track of all our input and output files needed for a particular simulation. Every once in a while though, a glitch can happen which could lead to a corrupt database that gives you errors, say, if you try to reopen the ANSYS Mechanical editor. If you suspect that somehow your project database for a Mechanical model (or any other model that uses the same interface as ANSYS Mechanical) has been corrupted, you just might be able to recover it using these steps:

1. Copy any .mechdb files from the project directory to a different location. Rename them to a .mechdat extension. These will be named SYS.mechdb, SYS-1.mechdb, etc. The easiest way to find these files is to click on View > Files from the Workbench window, then scroll through the list until you find the .mechdb file or files. Then right click on each one and select “Open Containing Folder.” This will open Windows Explorer in the directory in which the file resides. You can then copy the files to a new location and rename them to .mechdat extensions.

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2. Copy any .agdb (DesignModeler) files or other geometry files from the project directory to a different location. These will be named SYS.agdb , SYS-1.agdb, etc. (for DesignModeler) and can be found using View > Files as I described above. No need to rename these.

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3. Start a new Workbench session.

4. Click File > Import. Set the type of file to import to “Importable Mechanical File”. Browse to the two .mechdat files created in step 1 (by renaming the copied .mechdb files) and import each.

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5. If needed for geometry files, in the resulting Project Schematic in the Workbench window, right click on the first block’s geometry cell and select Replace Geometry > Browse. Browse to the copied SYS.agdb file or other geometry file from step 2. Repeat any additional analysis block in similar fashion.

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6. Then save the project with a new name and directory. 

This should allow you to recreate a Workbench project that allows you to continue working. We hope this suggestion is helpful if the need ever arises to use it.

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(Artwork by Eric… Ted does much nicer smiley faces)

Linearized Stress – Using Nodal Locations for Path Results in Workbench Mechanical 14.5

Postprocessing results along a path has been part of the Workbench Mechanical capability for several rev’s now. We need to define a path as construction geometry on which to map the results unless we happen to have an edge in the model exactly where we want the path to be or can use an X axis intersection with our model. You have the option to ‘snap’ the path results to nodal locations, but what if you want to use nodal locations to define the path in the first place? We’ll see how to do this below.

For more information on “picking your nodes”, see the Focus blog entry written by Jeff Strain last year: http://www.padtinc.com/blog/the-focus/node-interaction-in-mechanical-part-1-picking-your-nodes

The top level process for postprocessing result along a path is:

  • Define a Path as construction geometry
  • Insert a Linearized Stress result
  • Calculate the desired results along the path using the Linearized Stress item

The key here is to define the path using existing nodes. Why do that? Sometimes it’s easier to figure out where the path should start and stop using nodal locations rather than figure out the coordinates some other way. So, let’s see how we might do that.

  • First, turn on the mesh via the “Show Mesh” button so that it’s visible for the path creation

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  • From the Model branch in Mechanical, insert Construction Geometry
  • From the new Construction Geometry branch, insert a Path

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  • Note that the Path must be totally contained by the finite element model, unlike in MAPDL.
  • If you know the starting and ending points of the path, enter them in the Start and End fields in the Details view for the Path.
  • Otherwise, click on the “Hit Point Coordinate” button:

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  • Pick the node location for the start point, click apply

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  • Pick the node location for the end point, click apply

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  • In the Solution branch, insert Linearized Stress (Normal Stress in this case); set the details:
  • Scoping method=Path
  • Select the Path just created
  • Set the Orientation and Coordinate System values as needed
  • Define Time value for results if needed

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Results are displayed graphically along the path…

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…as well is in an X-Y plot and a table

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Besides normal stresses, membrane and bending, etc. results can be accessed using these techniques. So, the next time you need to list or plot results along a path, remember that it can be done in Mechanical, and you can use nodal locations to define the starting and ending points of the path.

Duh! Three ANSYS Mechanical Features I Should Know But Didn’t

Selection Information, Manage Views, and Changing Settings on Multiple Load Steps

There is no way to hide the embarrassing reality. I am supposed to be an expert. I am introduced to people as such. People all over the world read stuff I write about how to use ANSYS products more effectively.  But last week and this week, humility has struck a devastating blow on my ego.  I found three very useful things in ANSYS Mechanical that I either didn’t know, or forgot about. I even mentioned one of them (Manage Views) in an update presentation as “cool and very important feature” then promptly forgot it was there.

As payment for my sins, I will share a brief description of each with all of you, in the hopes that I will: 1) make you feel better about yourself because you already knew this stuff, or 2) give you the knowledge you need to avoid the embarrassment, and lost productivity, that my ignorance has brought me. 

Selection Information

I mention this one first because it was pointed out to me by no less than the ANSYS Mechanical product manager at ANSYS, Inc. Yikes.  I believe he actually did a face palm when I asked him “What is Selection Information? There is an Icon with an i on the toolbar? Really?”

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There it is, right next to the Worksheet icon, an icon I use all the time.  What it does is give you information about geometry, CAD and nodes, in your model.  There are three ways to get it, not just the icon on the toolbar:

  1. Click the Icon
  2. In the menu go to View>Windows>Selection Information
  3. Double-click on the Selection details at the bottom of the ANSYS Mechanical Window

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However you use it, you will get a new window, embedded with the existing windows, that shows you information about the geometry entity of entities that you select. Normal selection options apply. You can pick vertices, edges, surfaces, or bodies. I like to drag it out as it’s own window so I can see it all.  (Notice how I talk like I do this all the time… yea, whatever.  I just figured out that it is a lot better if I drag it out and look at it by itself.) 

My sample model is just a cylinder, so If I pick the end and the cylinder I get:

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See how it lists the two faces, and a summary. There is some internal info in there as well like ID’s that ANSYS mechanical uses to do stuff. The toolbar across the top lets you select a coordinate system to do the calculations in, set options (the green checkbox) or  control if you want individual info, summary info, or both. 

The options are useful because by default, everything is on. Turning some stuff off can reduce the clutter.

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For nodes, I can get location, node number, and body information:

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When you are in the window there are some useful things you can do with the list. The first is sort by clicking on the column headers.  What node is at your max X position in your cylindrical coordinate system?  Just set the Coordinate System and click on X(in) twice to sort from max o min:

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If you select any of the cells, you can right mouse click and get a context menu that lets you reselect the entities being listed, export to a text or Excel file, Refresh, or copy to the clipboard:

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Give it a shot next time your in a model and want to know some stuff.

Manage Views

One of the more useful capabilities in ANSYS Mechanical APDL is the ability to define views in a macro and call them back up again, getting the same standard views every time. Well you have been able to do that in Workbench when the introduced the “Scary Eye” icon at I think 14.5 (maybe 14):

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Although it looks like a secret Masonic symbol, the icon actually represents a handy tool for saving views not only in your model but to files.  It is also available in View->Windows->Manage Views.

Not only that, it lets you save the view commands to an external file that you can use with other models or even go in and edit to create a very specific view.

When you start it up, it brings up its own little window as well, that has eye themed icons to control your view saving/recall experience.

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  • “Spooky Eye Box with a Plus Sign” creates a view from the current view you are seeing
  • “X” deletes the currently selected view or views
  • “Guy with 80’s hair looking at a box” applies the currently selected view. Double-clicking on the view does the same thing.
  • “A-bar-B” is used to rename the selected view
  • “Spooky Eye Box with Green Blob” redefines the currently selected view with whatever the current view settings are in the graphics window. Think of it as an overwrite.
  • “Disk with arrow out” reads in a saved view file from disk.
  • “Disk with arrow in” saves the currently selected view to disk.

So, get your model positioned the way you want it using the mouse to control the view, then click the first icon to save it.  The program puts the window into “rename” mode so you can give it a descriptive name here. Just keep doing that till you have all your views defined.

If at some point you want to change view, no need to delete and recreate it. Simply Click on the view you want to redefine and then click on “Spooky Eye Box with Green Blob.”

Note: You can only select more than one view and delete it.  None of the other commands work for more than one view. But the save views command saves all the views, regardless of how many you have selected.

Here are some views I created:

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Now it gets cool.  Click on a view and then click on the “Save” (last) icon.  It will save the views as an XML file.  Pop that into your handy-dandy XML editor and you can check out the view definitions:

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This is where I get excited. Now you can go into this file and create your own view, or modify a view to be very specific.  I didn’t have enough time to figure out what all the options did, but if you get a view that is close to what you want, you should be able to modify it from there.

The last thing to talk about is what happens if you right mouse click on a view?  You get:

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Yes, copy as MAPDL!  Not only is this useful for us old guys that just like to look at MAPDL, it lets you use the same view for any plots you may make with a code snippet as you used for the plots in ANSYS Mechanical.  So your views are consistent for all your plots!

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Modifying Multiple Load Steps

This was one of those “there has to be a way to do this” moments. We were talking about different ways to speed up the solution of a transient thermal model and I suggested that instead of using automatic time step controls they put in some values. But for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to change a bunch of load step settings at the same time, so I was changing them one at a time. For every step, change the step number, then change the value:

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Yawn!  This started off a “well in ANSYS classic, I could write a script that would… blah… blah… blah…”

There has got to be a better way.  There is.  In the Graph window the load steps are shown on the X-axis. Simply multi-select the steps you want to change there:

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In the example above I CTRL-Clicked steps 3, 5, and 7. Now my Analysis Settings details view looks like:

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See how Current Step Number and Step End Time are “Multi Step”.  Any change I make to settings will now be applied to the selected steps.  A huge time savings.  And a big “Duh, I should have known that!”

Video Tips: Automatic Contact Generation in ANSYS Mechanical

A quick video showcasing the automatic contact generation feature in ANSYS Mechanical.  This feature automatically selects the faces that are in contact or are close to contact and assigns a contact definition.

Video Tips: Importing SolidWorks Geometry into ANSYS Mechanical

TheFocus-Video-Tips-2We are pleased to introduce a new feature in The Focus blog, video posts.  With this entry we are putting up our first “The Focus Video Tips, Examples, and Demonstrations”  Sometimes a video just works better, especially when showing how to do something in a Graphical User Interface.

So we have put some basic infrastructure in place and that lets us quickly record something on one of our computers, stick a title and end slide on it, and then upload to YouTube.

In this first entry, we show how easy it is to read in geometry from SolidWorks to ANSYS Mechanical.

ANSYS Acquires EVEN, the Makers of the ANSYS Composite PrepPost Tool (ACP)

Good news out there in ANSYS land.  ANSYS, Inc.  just made the relationship with EVEN as close as possible – by acquiring them.  Here at PADT it was love at first sight when we first were introduced to the ANSYS Composite PrepPost (ACP) add-on.  The solver capabilities in ANSYS Mechanical APDL have been very strong for composite modeling for some time.  But the pain and suffering required to set up a complex composite geometry kept many users from accessing those fantastic elements.  ACP solved that problem by providing a tool that takes care of the bookeeping and geometry issues involved in building an accurate model of composite layups.

Here is the official press release.

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With this acquisition ANSYS, Inc. has secured the future development of this tool and given all of us in the ANSYS world even better access to the consulting team at EVEN.  You can learn more about the ACP tool on our ACP page.  We also have an older blog posting on ACP when it came out.  We also did a seminar on the last release, here is the recording to that. [probably time to write an updated posting on newer capabilities…].

Learn more about EVEN on their web site.

This is great news, and we can not wait to see further improvements in the composite modeling capabilities for the ANSYS Product family.

Introduction to the ANSYS Parametric Design Language (APDL) Book Now Available on Amazon!

PADT-Intro-APDL-Amazon-PagePADT’s popular “ANSYS Customization with the ANSYS Parametric Design Language Guide” Has been updated and reformatted as a book and published as “Introduction to the ANSYS Parametric Design Language”  in both softcover and Kindle formats.

This book started life as a class that PADT taught for many years. Then over time people asked if they could buy the notes.  And then they asked for a real book.  The bulk of the content came from Jeff Strain with input from most of our technical staff.  Much of the editing and new content was done by Susanna Young and Eric Miller.

Here is the Description from Amazon.com:

The definitive guide to the ANSYS Parametric Design Language (APDL), the command language for the ANSYS Mechanical APDL product from ANSYS, Inc. PADT has converted their popular “Introduction to APDL” class into a guide so that users can teach themselves the APDL language at their own pace. Its 12 chapters include reference information, examples, tips and hints, and eight workshops. Topics covered include:
– Parameters
– User Interfacing
– Program Flow
– Retrieving Database Information
– Arrays, Tables, and Strings
– Importing Data
– Writing Output to Files
– Menu Customization

At only $75.00 it is an investment that will pay for itself quickly.  Even if you are an ANSYS Mechanical user, you can still benefit from knowing APDL, allowing you to add code snippets to your models. We have put some images below and you can also learn more and purchase your copy on Amazon.com.  They can ship anywhere in the world.

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  PADT-Intro-APDL-pg100-101

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There’s an Extension for That!

My mother in law is still getting used to the concept of a smart phone.

MIL: “Do you have a GPS so you know how to get there?”

Me: “There’s an App for that.”

MIL: “Do you have a flashlight?”

Me: “There’s an App for that.”

MIL: “Do you have a chromatic tuner?”

Me: “There’s an app for that.”

OK, maybe my mother-in-law didn’t ask about the tuner, but there is in fact an app for that.

In similar fashion, now that ACT (ANSYS Customization Toolkit) is a reality, we can start answering questions with, “There’s an Extension for that.” What is an extension? It’s a bit of customized software that you can integrate with ANSYS Workbench to have it do things that aren’t built in to the current menus.

We’ll leave the nuts and bolts of how Extensions work for another article, but please be aware that current ANSYS customers can now download several Extensions from the ANSYS Customer Portal. We’ll take a look at one of these in this blog entry.

To access the currently available extensions, you must have a login to the ANSYS Customer Portal and be current on maintenance (TECS). Within the customer portal, the Extensions are available by clicking on Downloads > Extension Library; then click on ACT Library.

As of this writing there are 12 extensions available for download. These vary from the sophisticated Acoustics Extension for 14.5 to simpler extensions such as the one we’ll look at here which allows you to change the material property numbers of entities in Workbench Mechanical.

Once you have downloaded the desired extension, you’ll need to install it. For use in the current project, you click on Extensions at the menu near the top of the Workbench Window and click on Install Extension.

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After clicking on Install Extension, you browse to the folder in which you have saved the downloaded extension. The Extension file extension (I’m not making this up) is .wbex. Here is what it looks like when loading the material change extension:

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Click Open.

Next you must click on Extensions again the Workbench window, and click on Manage Extensions. That will bring up this window.

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Check the box next to any extensions you want to load, then click Close. If you have already launched the Mechanical editor, you will probably need to exit Workbench and get back in or at least click on File > New and reload for the new extension to show up.

When you open the Mechanical editor, the new extension should show up in the menus. Here is what the material change button looks like after the extension has been loaded:

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Each time you open a new Workbench session, you’ll need to click on Extensions > Manage Extensions if you want an extension to be loaded into the Mechanical editor.

Alternatively, you can have an extension load every time by clicking on Tools > Options from the Workbench window, followed by a click on Extensions. Enter the name of the desired extension in the box, as shown here.

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After clicking OK, any new Mechanical editor session will have the material change extension loaded.

So, what good is it? I will now show a simple example of implementation of the material change extension. The idea here is that we have a bolted connection and we want to look at two different conditions by changing the material properties of the washers to see what effect that has on the results. Using the material change extension, I can force the washers (and nuts and bolts too) to have a specific material number rather than the default value assigned by Workbench. The material number is used in the Mechanical APDL batch input file created by Workbench to identify which elements have which material properties.

Now before you APDL gurus get all riled up, yes, I know this can be done with the magic ‘matid’ parameter. That’s how we’ve been doing things like this for years. The material number extension is nicer since it’s an actual button built into the GUI. We’re really trying to show how extensions work here, not necessarily the best way to simulate a model with changing material properties.

That all being said, here is what it looks like. Clicking on the ‘matchange’ button in the menus inserts a new matchange object in the tree under the analysis type branch. In this example, the matchange button has been clicked three times, resulting in three matchange objects.

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The matchange functionality requires that we create Named Selections for any entities for which we want to change material property numbers. How do I know that? When I downloaded the extension from the ANSYS Customer Portal, a nice read me .pdf file came along with it.

Here I have clicked on matchange 2 in the tree and identified the Named Selection for the entities I want to change, in this case the named selection Washers. I then entered my desired integer material number for these entities, 102.

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Finally, in order to demonstrate that it works, I added on command snippet under the Static Structural branch, containing these APDL commands:

esel,s,mat,,102 ! select material 102 – washers.
mp,ex,102,15e6
mp,prxy,102,.29
mplist
allsel

Those commands select the washers by my user-defined material number (I could have also selected by named selection). The commands then define new material properties for material 102. Again, there are other ways to do this, but this shows the effect of the extension. Note that this command snippet is set in the details view to only be active for load step number 3. Load step one applies bolt pretension. Load step 2 solves for the operating load with the original material properties and load step 3 solves for the same loads but with the modified material properties for the washers.

This plot shows von Mises stress in the washers vs. loadstep/substep. As you can see in the graph below the stress plot, indeed the von Mises stress is changing due to the material change from step 2 to step 3. This was a nonlinear analysis with large deflection turned on.

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So, this should give you a taste of what extensions are and what can be done with them. The next time you are asked to do something in Workbench for which there isn’t a built-in menu, you may be able to say, “There’s an extension for that!”