How to Mesh in FEMAP with HEX and TET elements

I have answered a question in the FEMAP FORUM about how to mesh with 3-D solid elements a complex assembly, here the requirement was to have at least 3 elements in the AIR VOLUME GAP between solid capacitors to capture with accuracy the fluid flow between components. The following picture shows the simplified geometry proposed by the end user and uploaded to the FEMAP Community to be used to show how to mesh with 3-D solid elements.

1.- HEX Meshing using SWEEP method

I have recorded a video where I teach how to mesh the above assembly using an alternate method to the classical one based in slicing solids and later use command MESH > MESH CONTROL > SIZE ON SOLID that automatically performs the multi-solid sizing in assemblies. Not, my alternative method is “manual” but not complex at all, basically we use the commands MESH > SWEEP followed by MODIFY > ASSOCIATIVITY > AUTOMATIC that allows to generate perfectly shaped hexahedral 8-nodes elements with excellent quality and very low reduced model size, valid only in such special cases where the geometry has a predominant direction of extrusion.

The first step in the model geometry preparation is to use command TOOLS > CONVERT UNITS because I noted the geometry was in meters, and the wall thickness of AIR GAP is only 2.54 mm, then to have 3 elements in the thickness the element size should be 2.54/3=0.85 mm (ie, 0.00085 meters). My experience tells me that working in meters in FEMAP is not recommended at all for both meshing and geometry reasons, the mesher can give error due to tight tolerances used internally by FEMAP. To help the conversion units more automatically search in the FEMAP directory where you have *.CT files like IDEAS_from_m_N_degK_to_mm_N_degC.CF that include all parameters to convert the full database of FEMAP (not only geometry, but also material properties, loads, etc..) from meters to milimeters:

The next step is to prepare the base 2-D mesh to sweep along a curve in the extrusion direction: the key is to use GEOMETRY > Curve – from Surface > Project command, first select the top surface and next select ALL curves to project over that surface, the result will be the following figure:

The next step is to mesh the splitted surfaces with 2-D Plot-Only elements: to arrive to a mapped mesh the key is to use MESH > MESH CONTROL > APPROACH ON SURFACE command and prescribe to all surfaces the option MAPPED – FOUR CORNER, the result after meshing is great, magic!, see next picture.

Next after using the MESH > SWEEP command the resulting HEXAHEDRAL 8-nodes 3-D solid elements will have an extremely good quality mesh, you can see yourself, the ASPECT RATIO = 1.0, perfect!. And the resulting model size is really, really low, the lowest possible. Also HEXAHEDRAL elements provide the best accuracy possible, they have superior performance to ANY other 3-D solid element, nothing compares.

The final step will be to use MODIFY > ASSOCIATIVITY > AUTOMATIC command, select ALL elements, next select ALL solids, and do not forget to activate the option DETAILED ASSOCIATIVITY SUMMARY, this will help you to control that not any element or node failed to associate with geometry. This command is great, in addition to the nodes and elements being associated to the main entity, they will then also be associated to the surfaces of solids, curves on those surfaces, and points on those curves allowing you to use geometry based commands in FEMAP (i.e., Loads and Constraints on geometry, any selection method using a geometric entity, etc.).

To learn more how to do it, please take a look to this video and enjoy!. By the way, sorry for my bad english speaking, I need to practice more!.

Also take a look to this another video, I have recorded as well to explain how to use HEX meshing with simply geometry solids, the idea was to explain how simple is to HEX mesh solids, then not need to think in meshing with tetrahedral elements all the time. The geometry is simply, I tried to explain basically the above geometry manipulation and meshing procedures. Ah!, enjoy the Country music.

And finally another example of HEX meshing using the great “MESH > SWEEP” command in FEMAP, in this case the solid part was meshed originally with TET10 elements resulting in a total model size of 49437 nodes: the same geometry meshed with HEX8 elements using exactly the same element size results in only 6872 nodes, a reduction of more than 86%, ie, meshing with TET10 elements will increase the model size in more than 7x times!! (enjoy the COUNTRY music again, I love it!, definitely I am a man of few words, better facts!!).

2.- TET Meshing using NonManifold-Add 

The next recorded video shows the Tetrahedral meshing approach that need to be followed with multi-solid assemblies where touching solid faces don´t have the same size. Here, I will show you how the two commands GEOMETRY > SURFACE > NonManifold-Add and GEOMETRY > SURFACE > RECOVER MANIFOLD GEOMETRY plays a critical role in cases where adjacent surfaces DON’T HAVE THE SAME SIZE: solid faces are coincident (touching each-other, yes), but if the two surfaces don’t have exactly the same size the mesh matching is not performed successfully, and the mesher will give errors of type “Unable to link mesh locations between Surface XXX and Surface YYY. Surfaces must be on same solid or coincident“.

To set the element size in multi-solid assemblies using the classical command MESH > MESH CONTROL > SIZE ON SOLIDS you need to SELECT ALL SOLIDS AT THE SAME TIME, and FEMAP will set a “slaved” mesh approach on surfaces that are adjacent to each other and with the same size. The user must ensure that the meshes on these two surfaces are identical. Setting one of the surfaces as a slave to the other insures a consistent mesh. This option automatically finds surfaces which are adjacent between multiple solids and slaves them to each other.

In cases where solid faces are touching each-other but don’t have the same size, simply run command Geometry > Surface > NonManifold-Add, select all solids and done!. The result will be ONENon-Manifold Solid Geometry”, an option in the Parasolid modeling kernel which creates “General Bodies” as opposed to regular solids (FEMAP solids). The command allows you to essentially Boolean Add solids to one another.

The key will be next to use immediately the command “Geometry > Surface > Recover Manifold Geometry“, here FEMAP will take the selected “general body” in your model and separate them into component “Manifold” Parasolid solids (FEMAP solids), maintaining the imprinted curves between touching surfaces, in summary, having coincident surfaces between solids with exactly the same size, and then the process of slaving mesh approach required to have consistent mesh between coincident surfaces will be successfully performed, OK?.

In the next video you can see that ALL solid bodies are initially perfectly cleaned, not any imprint exist, like the air component of the following image:

After using the command NonManifold-Add selecting all solids, followed by Recover Manifold Geometry then all components are each-other imprinted, see the result on the Air component:

It’s surprising how the command NonManifold-Add that is used mainly to work with stitched surfaces to mesh with 2-D Shell elements plays an important role (together with Recover Manifold Geometry command) to mesh multi-solid assemblies with 3-D Solid elements. Well, take a look to the following video where I explain how to perform the meshing approach, I hope you understand perfectly the workflow, if you have any question please do not hesitate to contact me, it will be a pleasure to be of help!!. Ah!, again the system of units here is critical, more than ever, working in millimeters is mandatory, forget at all to use meters. If for any reason you need to work in meters (typical in CFD jobs), first solve the meshing task in millimeters and when successful use command TOOLS > CONVERT UNITS to convert your model from millimeters to meters, OK?.



One thought on “How to Mesh in FEMAP with HEX and TET elements

  1. Hi Blas, Thanks for the tip – I’ve been using meters for years and have had my fair-share of trouble – I’ll be switching to mm, MPa et units tomorrow!


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