P D E Geesink
‘Technology Transfer’ with FEA software
PDE Geesink is using Finite Element Analysis within FEA for extra strength and safety in the design of its skip and hook loader products.
Desktop Engineering not only supplied the software itself but also a fixed-price consultancy service to allow the company to get the best out of the system.
Now, with FEA, PDE Geesink achieve a much higher level of detail and they can try various ‘what-if’ scenarios – with a typical change to an analysis taking around 20 minutes. Plus, they have used the software to work out how to build in an extra 10 per cent load strength, effectively enabling them to offer their customers one free load in 10.How can we help you?
P D E Geesink
Use of Finite Element Analysis to help minimize the chances of catastrophic in service failure is understandable in Aerospace, Automotive and other industries producing highly complex products. To use it in the design of the humble skip and hook loader might be less obvious. And yet contemplating the consequences of a 20 ton fully laden skip suddenly parting company with a truck in the middle of a busy street during loading soon makes one realize that any such failure in a loader’s lifetime is simply unacceptable.
PDE Geesink, the UK’s foremost manufacturer of skip and hook loaders, are, of course well aware of this. They are equally aware of the consequences of an ensuing product recall: The cost of the fix, the cost of an urgent unexpected and unplanned project, the cost of having to stop existing work, and ultimately the cost ensuing from damage to product and company reputation. Utmost importance is therefore placed on ensuring no failure occurs.
Neale Chaplin, PDE Geesink’s chief designer takes up the story.
Hand Calculations of stresses and extensive testing are professionally accepted methods of confirming product safety. However it was when a prototype started failing we came to realize the limitations of these methods. Our calculations suggested that we were operating well within acceptable stress limits and our testing had not highlighted anything different. And yet the failures were occurring and we were struggling to understand why. We were finding it difficult, therefore, to come up with a solution that worked.
PDE Geesink decided to see if Finite Element analysis could help them, and started to talk to several suppliers. With only a small design team this represented a big step: FEA was known to require a fair degree of expertise, not only in the process and buttons to press, but also in it’s application if sensible results were to be obtained. As they talked to suppliers, it rapidly became clear that they were not going to be able to develop this expertise internally within the required timescales and that the use of consultancy was going to be the most practical approach. This approach also had the added benefit of enabling PDE Geesink to understand more fully what FEA might offer them, without having to make a significant commitment.
Desktop Engineering who were not only the supplier of the FEA software but also used this to provide highly cost-effective fixed price analysis consultancy, were chosen to do this. Laurence Marks, who was responsible for undertaking the project comments,
PDE Geesink were not unusual in having a problem which they thought might benefit from the use of FEA, but were not sure exactly how. A consultancy project is the perfect way of providing the answers. It often forms the start point for customers who ultimately buy the software.
From the loading and geometry information supplied by PDE Geesink, Laurence was able to produce a fully analysed model in a couple of days. The images of stresses clearly showed what was happening – namely a stress concentration occurring in an unexpected area due to the particular geometry/loading configuration. Once this was understood it was easy to come up with solutions that not only addressed this but also some other less serious problems the analysis had highlighted. The solutions were of course re-analysed to confirm their effectiveness, and then introduced into the product with immediate success.
As Neale explains,
We had been working on this for a long time, and had spent a lot of money on prototypes without success. FEA gave us the solution to the problem in a fraction of this time and at a fraction of the cost. At the same time it made us realize that to maintain technology improvements in our products we were going to need a far greater level of engineering understanding than our current methods were supplying.
Following from this initial project PDE Geesink decided to undertake further consultancy projects with Desktop Engineering and successfully analysed a number of designs instigating improvements arising from the analysis results. However as Neale Chaplin comments,
We reached the stage where we knew what analysis could do for us, and how it would be applied to our products. We also knew it had to be a fundamental part of our design process if we were to achieve the product advances our customers required. The next step, for us to start pushing the buttons, became obvious. Desktop Engineering claimed the system was easy to use and the time came to put this to the test.
It has not taken Neale long to get up to speed with their own copy of FEA. Nowadays they can take their design information from Autocad into FEA and, using their considerable experience of loading conditions, undertake an analysis in a matter of minutes. Indeed the speed of the technology enables them to try ‘what if’ scenarios, a typical change to analysis result cycle taking around 20 minutes.
With a tool as powerful as this we are able to get a level of detail at a speed that would never have been possible before, enabling us to meet the challenges our customers set us for stronger lighter structures.
Recently, for example, we worked out how we could achieve a 10% load increase in one of our products without impacting the manufacturing and therefore equipment cost. FEA showed us the effect of the load increase, which gave us ideas for modifications that, as Cosmos confirmed, would redistribute the highest stresses. In essence we are now offering our customers a new system that will give them one free load in 10, safely…. And that has to be attractive!
A final benefit has been derived from the introduction of FEA. PDE Geesink's engineers have found it much easier to explain to customers and others within their company the reasons for engineering decisions. The use of the technology provided by Cosmos has given both PDE Geesink and their customers' even greater confidence in their products.
In solving a critical problem for PDE Geesink, FEA and Desktop Engineering opened the door to improving PDE Geesink’s engineering practices and therefore their products, as well as giving them increased confidence in the safety of their products. As Laurence Marks notes,
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this step by step move into FEA is a very natural one – and one we have actually encapsulated in a special ‘Technology Transfer’ program.” Neale Chaplin adds, “Yes, we got hooked!
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