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Using Sheet Metal Bodies in SOLIDWORKS Simulation

The use of sheet metal bodies in SOLIDWORKS Simulation provides a streamlined study setup
workflow. The nature of sheet metal geometry lends to the utilization of shell elements to
represent their shape in a simulation study. The use of solid elements is prohibitive due to the
large aspect ratio difference between the span and thickness of sheet metal bodies. Their usage
would lead to a very large mesh size and corresponding computational effort. Shell elements
allow for the creation of a mesh with high surface fidelity while limiting the required system
resources needed for the calculation. This document will cover how sheet metal bodies can be
used to simplify the creation of a linear static analysis.

Model Creation
The streamlined study setup in SOLIDWORKS Simulation requires the geometry to be created using
SOLIDWORKS sheet metal entities. This can be accomplished by creating a new model constructed
with sheet metal features (base flange, edge flange, miter flange, etc.) or an existing solid body
can be converted into a sheet metal body by using the convert to sheet metal and insert bends
features. This allows for working with imported solid body geometry.
A planar surface is selected in the convert to sheet feature to represent the fixed surface for the
flat pattern. Model edges can be selected to specify where the bends will take place. The
software will automatically rip appropriate edges so that the body can be flattened properly. A
sketch can also be used to create a rip across a solid surface so that it can be unfolded.

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Linear Static Analysis


Shell Definition
During the creation of a linear static analysis, sheet metal bodies are automatically converted into
shell entities. A surface body is created at the mid-plane of each sheet metal body for utilization in
the shell definition and the offset condition is set to middle surface. The shell thickness is tied to
the thickness defined for the sheet metal body and cannot be manually changed. Changing the
thickness of the sheet metal body at the part modeling level will update the shell definition. This
process ensures that the resulting shell mesh will always match the underlying solid geometry
during the calculation.

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Contact Conditions
Sheet metal bodies simplify the setup of contact conditions by utilizing the automatic bonding
created by the global contact condition. The following scenarios make use of automatic bonding:
A face to face coincident contact between sheet metal bodies
Edges of a shell body which are in direct contact with a sheet metal surface
A face to face coincident contact between a solid surface and a sheet metal surface
The bonding is applied to the mid-surface of the shell mesh created for the sheet metal body. This
results in an incompatible mesh being created due to the physical gap between the shell element
mid-surface and the interfacing entities. This can lead to an inconsistent bonded region. Refining
the mesh in the contact region will result in a more complete description of the bonded contact.
The finer mesh allows for more elements and nodes to participate in the incompatible bonding
algorithm. When bonding a shell edge to a sheet metal surface, the software rigidly connects each
node point along the shells edge to the nearest elements face on the sheet metal body. To
improve accuracy, the element size on the sheet metal surface should be equal to the shell
thickness.

The global no-penetration contact condition does not apply to contact regions involving sheet
metal bodies meshed with shell elements. Local no penetration contact sets need to be created
and will work for the following scenarios:
Contact between the exterior surfaces of sheet metal bodies
Contact between edges of a shell body and a sheet metal surface
Contact between a solid surface and a sheet metal surface
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Fixtures and Loads


Using sheet metal bodies simplifies the workflow of setting up boundary conditions since fixtures
and loads can be applied to any edge or surface on a sheet metal body. A fixture or load that is
applied to the exterior surface of a sheet metal body is projected onto the mid-surface of the shell
mesh created for the sheet metal body. A boundary condition applied to the thickness surface of a
sheet metal body is projected onto the edge of the mid-surface shell mesh.

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Meshing
Meshing sheet metal bodies with shell elements greatly reduces the overall size of the mesh. Shell
elements only mesh the exterior surfaces of sheet metal geometry and take into account the
thickness during the calculation. The number of elements and nodes in the mathematical model is
dramatically reduced by not having to mesh the volume of a sheet metal body. This limits the
number of degrees of freedom in the calculation resulting in greater computational efficiency.

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Benefits
Simplifies the analysis setup when shell elements are needed due to system and time
constraints
Large reduction in the overall mesh size while maintaining a good surface mesh fidelity,
which lowers the system memory requirements and results in a faster solution
Multiple what-if scenarios can be run to explore the design space in a shorter amount of
time due to the reduced computational effort

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