Internally, it can help staff predict where high stresses will be during the molding process. When used properly, it can help Quadra reduce tooling costs, so the firm doesn't have to design tooling more than once.
He told of how a customer who bought a plunger tip was seeing tears in the product. But after Quadra performed an FEA test on the tip, it showed where the stresses were and where the product was being torn. That led to a design change that reduced the stresses considerably and eliminated the tearing.
Another customer was having problems with an auto connector seal, where there had to be uniform contact at each point, and the holes needed to be in perfect alignment.
Johnson said the first step was to look at the product as it was formerly designed. "What I found was a problem that showed why they got high forces," he said. "We went 14 iterations on this until the final version that we supplied to them. We increased the sealing pressures, reduced the internal stresses and reduced the insertion forces."
It's normal to do about 10-15 simulations per project, according to John Miller, Qure Medical technical support manager. "You usually improve after two, but you really don't know unless you do a pretty wide range to find out how far you can go," he said.
One key is to make sure that any materials data being input for the testing gives the proper information.
"Junk in equals junk out," Johnson said. "If you have bad material data, it means you're going to get bad results. If we don't have the material data, I'll use something I know works. Once the customer decides they want to go further, then we will test the exact material."
There has been an increase in the use of FEA tooling, and that in turn helps make the development process more efficient, said Randy Ross, Q Holding president and CEO.
"Everybody focuses on the production process, but the development process has a lot of low hanging fruit, with multiple iterations and trial and error," he said. "It's something we've seen in automotive become almost second nature.
"In medical devices, it seems to be having increased utilization. It goes back to the idea that cost matters, and time to market matters. It puts a little more pressure on making development as efficient as the production process."