Although the Finite Element Method is widely used across many engineering disciplines for numerically solving complex engineering problems, it was initially developed throughout the 20th century to study aerospace engineering problems.
Applying FEM to the dynamic fields of Aerospace and Defense engineering within the robust framework of COMSOL Multiphysics reaps considerable advantages.
The software can seamlessly integrate multiple physical phenomena, enabling engineers to model, couple, and ultimately resolve complex challenges using FEM. By integrating various fields, such as structural mechanics, fluid dynamics, and electromagnetics, COMSOL Multiphysics can effectively address complex problems encountered in aerospace and defense engineering.
In addition to exploring FEM in COMSOL Multiphysics, at the end of this blog post, we provide you with a broad spectrum of Aerospace and Defense models readily accessible in COMSOL Multiphysics’ expansive library. These pre-built models serve as invaluable resources that can help engineers expedite their design and analysis processes.
What is FEM, and why is it important?
The Finite Element Method is a software-based technique that breaks down an object into thousands of independent elements represented by mathematical equations. Each of these mathematical equations is individually solved and then synthesized, resulting in an accurate virtual prediction of how the object in question would behave under real-world conditions.
A Finite Element Analysis can be done in 1D, 2D, or 3D models. Additionally, they may be modeled in three different states:
- Static: The object is under constant stress with no motion.
- Dynamic: The object is under active conditions and forces such as heat or liquid flow.
- Modal: The object is subject to vibration.
Before FEM’s widespread use, aerospace engineers had to build costly prototypes in a months-long cycle, testing, and repeating the process, requiring significant, costly resources.
The introduction of FEM enabled engineers to perform several virtual tests on their prototype, such as:
- Stress analysis
- Heat transfer
- Fluid dynamics
- Acoustic problems
Today, FEM is considered one of the most potent tools in aerospace engineering. Some of its benefits include:
- Ability to predict structural behavior
- Optimization of designs
- Minimization of costly physical prototyping
- Shorter development time
- Simpler modeling of complicated geometries and asymmetrical forms.
FEM in COMSOL Multiphysics
By using FEM within COMSOL Multiphysics in particular, engineers can accurately model, solve, and couple multiphysics problems such as:
Coupling turbulent flow with reaction engineering
Using the Fluid Flow Physics Module, Chemical Reaction Engineering Module, CFD, and Heat Transfer Module, engineers can define the geometry and mesh, select appropriate turbulence models (such as k-epsilon or k-omega), and set boundary conditions such as inlet velocity and turbulence parameters. The final result gives us a precise representation of turbulent flow behavior within the system.
Coupling structural deformations to acoustics simulations
Engineers can use structural analysis and acoustic modeling to understand aircraft systems’ interaction between vibrations and sound propagation. FEM can accurately predict the acoustic performance of aircraft components in the presence of structural deformations, allowing engineers to diagnose possible noise sources and improve structural designs for noise reduction.
Engineers can study the effects of the optimized solution on the physics behavior using the Optimization Module to optimize a single physics model, or a fully coupled Multiphysics model.
Coupling multibody dynamics with other physics models offers a comprehensive understanding of system behavior. For example, using the Multibody Dynamics Module in COMSOL Multiphysics, aerospace engineers can couple multibody dynamics with fluid dynamics and electrical simulations to investigate the interaction between mechanical components and electrical systems and the aerodynamic forces acting on aircraft components.
Random vibration modeling
Engineers can use the Fatigue Module in COMSOL Multiphysics to measure fatigue resulting from random vibrations. Electronic aircraft components such as accelerometers, shock and vibration data loggers, and isolation mounts need to follow specific guidelines. Therefore, random vibration modeling is deemed essential as a precedent to shaker table testing.
Reduced order modeling
Aerospace and defense engineers can effectively assess and optimize their designs using ROM in COMSOL Multiphysics. This method enables parametric analyses, investigation of various design alternatives, and the quantification of uncertainty. Additionally, using the Component Mode Synthesis technique, engineers can apply ROM to analyze noise and vibration in models such as a gearbox.
Aerospace and defense engineers can use the Composite Materials Module in COMSOL Multiphysics to study layered composite structures. The module has built-in features and functionality specifically designed for analyzing layered composite structures such as fiber-reinforced plastics, laminated plates, and sandwich panels. The Layered Shell interface and Shell interface provide physics interfaces for simulating composite laminates, including incorporating nonlinear materials and performing failure analyses such as first-ply failure and buckling.
Additionally, COMSOL Multiphysics offers preset physics interfaces which are particularly relevant to Aerospace and Defense engineering, such as:
- Fluid-structure interaction
- Heat transfer
Models available in COMSOL Multiphysics
COMSOL Multiphysics offers more than 1000 default models in its model library. These pre-built models expedite the design and analysis process, enabling professionals to simulate and optimize Aerospace and Defense systems efficiently.
Here are some examples of models you can use in your projects:
Fuel Tank: You can test the frequency response of a fuel tank partially filled with fluid.
Ply Drop-off in a Composite Panel: Perform a stationary analysis to calculate stresses in different plies in various sections of the composite panel under the applied external load.
Bracket: Perform a fatigue analysis of a structure subjected to random vibrations.
Wind Turbine Composite Blade: Run a stress and modal analysis.
Airplane: Here, you can digitize the induced voltage of a wire loop inside an airplane under different electromagnetic shielding conditions.
Inclined NACA 0012 Airfoil: Using the SST turbulence model, you can test the flow around an inclined NACA 0012 airfoil at different angles of attack.
Ahmed Body: Test the airflow around a simplified ground vehicle geometry of a bluff body type.
Microchannel Heat Sink: To investigate thermal distribution.
The utilization of FEM in COMSOL Multiphysics allows engineers to model and solve Multiphysics problems with ease. By seamlessly integrating various physical phenomena, such as structural mechanics, fluid dynamics, and electromagnetics, engineers can analyze complex systems encountered in Aerospace and Defense engineering in a comprehensive manner. This empowers them to make informed decisions, optimize designs, and enhance overall system performance.
All products mentioned are developed by COMSOL.
If you would like to take your education to the next level, check out our Training Services. But if you don’t have time to learn all the ins and outs of COMSOL Multiphysics, you can still get the scoop on world-changing trends.
Reach out to our Consulting team and see what advantages FEM can bring to your specific project.