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My Experience Learning Numerical Simulation Online: Guest Blog

A few years ago, I was fortunate to work on a team that designed a road bike power meter that made it into the bike kit for a professional cycling team. That’s a rewarding accomplishment for a “roadie” like me. Finite element analysis (FEA) was an integral part of the success of that product and insights from the analyses led to a decisive mechanical change during development. It’s safe to say I’m passionate about numerical simulation.

Now I’m taking on a new challenge and am employing FEA to develop hi-tech structural composites. Here, industry is moving toward the numerical simulation realm of virtual rapid prototyping, early in the design cycle, and away from the expensive and time consuming loop to physically build, test, iterate, repeat. Physical validation of simulation is still critical but the goal is to reserve it for mature designs that are already well understood through FEA.

I love the technical and creative components of design, and FEA gives insights and predictive capabilities not otherwise possible. To me, FEA enables innovation.

I realized the power of innovation when I entered the master’s degree in Engineering in Numerical Simulation with ANSYS, offered by Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM). UPM is a leading technical university in Spain, with a brick and mortar campus. They’re running a 2-year master’s degree in structural mechanics or fluid mechanics disciplines, obtained by earning 70 ECTS credits, offered online and in English.

I spent a good year evaluating the UPM program alongside other programs with a focus on simulation. I weighed a variety of factors then took the plunge with UPM, and have never regretted it.

My main goal was to build a strong foundation in FEA fundamentals so I could competently practice it within the industry. The theory component is compiled entirely by the UPM faculty and is software agnostic. Now in my third semester, I’ve found the content has proven itself to be of very high quality.

At a low level, I’ve enjoyed writing simple code for multi-element problems. I find the implementation of shape functions, isoparametric element formulation, and numerical integration via Gaussian-quadrature really cool!  And at a high-level, I’ve enjoyed analyzing a bicycle frame.

Aside from the enjoyment though, knowing what happens “under the hood” of FEA software is crucial to avoid “garbage in, garbage out” type scenarios, so the technical training is a major benefit. In addition, the program does a great job relating the theory to application, and it’s getting put to use for my current employer. I was able to calibrate a creep model for polyethylene after taking the Advanced Nonlinearities class.  Creep rupture testing for stresses & temperatures.
ANSYS Combined Time Hardening material model, accounting for primary and secondary creep and containing the Arrhenius temperature relation

ANSYS Combined Time Hardening material model, accounting for primary and secondary creep and containing the Arrhenius temperature relation  Simulated material response against the experimental data.

I’m debugging why one prediction is off. But pretty good otherwise for a single material model that captures a very nonlinear physical response: time, temperature, and stress dependence, with large strain!

In the current semester of the UPM program I’m taking the Dynamic Analysis class and have just studied the harmonic response of viscously damped systems. Again, it ties in nicely with my work.

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my experience with an online master's program. Feel free to contact me personally on LinkedIn if you’d like additional perspective to help make a decision.