Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Virtual Testing

Diane back today, and I wanted to share with you a cool story I ran into in the February issue of NASA Tech Briefs. I posted recently about virtual machine construction, and this article took the matter a step further: the virtual testing of those virtual prototypes.

The example discussed was "virtual shaker testing," using software from a company called LMS. Using this process, a part or device in digital form is tested in virtual reality. LMS's Virtual.Lab offers a complete, integrated software suite for testing for structural integrity, noise and vibration, system dynamics and durability.

The benefits to this approach are pretty obvious, but I think it's so cool I'll just run through them here. You don't need a prototype to be physically constructed in order to test it. Nor is your prototype damaged or destroyed by testing. You can quickly and easily tweak the prototype and retest it as you go, until the best possible configuration is achieved. All this saves time and money, as well as making testing safer in the case of machinery that is potentially dangerous to test; for example, aerospace, automotive products, and medical products.

In this illustration, taken from a brochure about the LMS's software, a fixation bracket is tested on a virtual shaker table. Stress patterns show up on the digital bracket. In fact, the software can be used to simulate more appropriate and accurate stress than a real life shaker table would do. Different types of combined stress can be executed simultaneously, such as the start-up phase of the device combined with random stresses inherent in usage.

For all the specifics on virtual shaker testing, that brochure (in pdf) can be downloaded free from this link.

Addendum to post, 3/6/09: Our Chief Technology Officer, Robert Winkler, adds, "I use virtual testing...actually SolidWorks has an add-in called SolidWorks SimulationXpress (formerly Cosmos Express). Whenever I design something new or I draw up something a customer has spec’ed out, and if the need is there, I push it through SimulationXpress. It is a force and load stress assessment tool to analyse the structural fail (or potential) failure points. It also does a simulated flex stress, and as it does this animation it shows your potential fractural issue points. SimulationXpress is included with SolidWorks Standard, Pro and Premium."

So we are already using this technology here at J.W. Winco in our R&D and our design service to customers!

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