How to Do an FEA Thermal Analysis


FEA Thermal Analysis          An FEA thermal analysis is a finite element analysis that looks at how heat affects certain materials and engineering designs. This heat can come in the form of an environmental load such as an ambient temperature of a certain degree affecting a model. It can also come from conduction through two solids, convection between a liquid and a solid, or radiation such as in space. A thermal analysis is a great way to test a model before the model is built and real world tested in a thermal chamber. It can reduce the time to test a design by weeks allowing for several redesigns and improvements to be made in the meantime. Follow the steps below to perform a thermal analysis successfully.

Step 1

Create your 3D or 2D thermal model either with the geometry engine found in your FEA software or through some 3D modeling software. You can then import your 3D model into the thermal analysis software. Double check the geometry before you export it to the FEA software for errors. These errors include but are not limited to edges that do not meet at a point or line or overlapping solids.

Step 2

Once your thermal model is imported into the FEA thermal analysis software, choose the type of analysis you want to run. This should be a thermal analysis. Some FEA programs allow you to simultaneously run a thermal along with a structural analysis or use the results from a structural analysis as the foundation for a subsequent thermal analysis. This advanced technique will not be discussed here and should be left to the more advanced FEA users.

Step 3

Add material properties to your model. Using your thermal analysis software’s material properties selector either select the type of material you are modeling whether it be a type of stainless steel, aluminum, or copper for example. Once you select the type of material its properties will be preloaded into your model. If the material is not found in the software’s database then you must input the material and thermal properties such as the objects heat transfer coefficient on your own.

Step 4

Thermal loads and constraintsApply your thermal constraints to your geometry model. Thermal constraints are pre-existing thermal conditions that your model is experiencing before the application of any thermal loads. Thermal analysis constraints can consist of environmental temperatures, temperature loads, heat flux generation, or point source temperatures.

Step 5

Apply your thermal load conditions. Thermal load conditions are heat loads that simulate what you are trying to test against. For example your model may experience a constant heating of 140 degrees on a certain side of the model. You can apply this load as a constant temperature source of 140 degrees. Make sure the thermal loads you apply to your thermal analysis accurately represent the conditions that it will see in the real world or the conditions that you want to design to which may be higher.

Step 6

Mesh your FEA ModelMesh your thermal analysis model. Check with your FEA program manual to determine what are the best shaped elements to use for thermal analyses. For example tetrahedral elements may be more suited for a thermal analysis than quadrilateral elements. Make sure you use the proper elements for the job as you do not want to introduce any additional error into your analysis.

Step 7

Run your thermal analysis solver. The solver will calculate the thermal conditions at each node of the elements in your model. Once the analysis is complete run your postprocessor to load your results and study them.

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