PlySim Ltd. (Plysim) is a composite structural engineering consultancy with heavy focus on finite element analysis (FEA). Its main markets are in the renewable sectors (wind, wave and tidal) as well as marine and civil engineering. Malcolm Wadia, Director of PlySim explains, ‘we work with clients worldwide on the analysis of large complex structures in composite materials.’
PlySim was established to meet the growing demand for specialist composite knowledge and FEA skills sought by device developers who are new to the market, or who need specific skills. Engineers at PlySim create computer aided design (CAD) geometry or receive a CAD model from their client. They need to apply loads and boundary conditions and set up models in the way that is most representative of the actual operation. The company evaluated a number of possible software solutions that they could use at PlySim and found Femap particularly impressive.
‘TEAM has a great reputation; they are very responsive, with the technical knowledge to be able to sell Femap – and they answered all our questions, too.’
Using the Femap application programming interface (API) proved to be particularly valuable to PlySim when dealing with their wind turbine blades. These are generally made from glass-fiber reinforced shells, with glass or carbon fiber spar caps. A blade is, to an extent, loaded by its own inertia and passes rapidly through low- and high-wind speed areas with a ‘kick’ every time the blade passes the tower and interrupts the streamline airflow around the tower.
PlySim needed to produce structural models of the blade to a very tight deadline. It took less than a day with Femap; a more than 80-percent reduction in modeling time. Wadia explains, ‘we had four blades to create, which would otherwise have taken 20 days. It only took us 9 days this way.
‘A wind energy material supplier wanted to know the effect of different materials on the static and dynamic performance of blades, such as, how much more glass would you need to build a 75-meter blade compared with using carbon?
Because of our work, our client could show their large customers the benefits of using carbon spar caps: the material is more expensive but much less is used, costs lower and blade performance improved. You get a better blade at the end of it.’
Following the withdrawal of another similar product, PlySim saw a clear need for a ply-based modeling add-on for Femap. Wadia continues, ‘using the excellent Femap API, we realized that we could actually create a highly functional ply-based modeler add- on for Femap.
‘We are now selling FEMPLY directly and through distributors and have become a Siemens PLM Software partner.’
Next, PlySim plans to launch FEMPLY Pro, which will feature curved-surface ply draping and post processing, and advanced failure theorems such as Puck and LaRC02. Wadia concludes, ‘things have changed dramatically over the past few years. I have witnessed a dramatic growth in the use of FE modeling within the design process, rather than as a separate analysis stage and the development of design procedures to accommodate.
‘Products like Femap give us a tool that will do everything you want at a much lower price compared to its nearest functional competitors. That is why we chose Femap and we’d make the same decision again.’