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ASTUTE 2020 Update September 2020

Here at ASTUTE 2020, we can support your business throughout this period of uncertainty. Our world-class academics and technical experts from across our strong Welsh Universities partnership are available to support you through research and innovation activities. If you wish to discuss opportunities for working with us e.g. to modify your production to develop solutions to support the fight against COVID-19, you can contact us via email.


Maximise Productivity and Minimise Waste by Predicting How Products and Manufacturing Processes React to Real-World Conditions

Maximise Productivity and Minimise Waste by Predicting How Products and Manufacturing Processes React to Real-World Conditions


Swansea University has an international reputation for the development of Computational Engineering Modelling. The Finite Element Method was developed at Swansea by Professor Olgierd Zienkiewicz in the 1960s, radically extending its applicability and usability, and it has now been adopted worldwide as a key engineering analysis tool which has been incorporated into a range of standard software packages.

Computational engineering applies mathematical models and simulations to solve complex physical problems arising in design or natural phenomena. The ASTUTE 2020+ team offer Computational Engineering Modelling expertise to predict how products and processes react to real-life forces and other physical effects. Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is one such modelling technique; in this article, we look at how FEA can support manufacturing businesses to review product performance in its intended use and throughout the manufacturing process.

What is Finite Element Analysis (FEA)?

The governing equations for real-life problems are seldom easy to solve. Numerical methods, such as the Finite Element Method (FEM), can be utilised to find close approximations to the solution. FEA is typically used for robust objects like components, structures, but can also be used to model rubbery materials, biological tissue etc. Other advanced techniques for liquids and gases, use Finite Volume Method (FVM) which is more popular within the Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) community. FEA breaks complex scenarios down into a system of linear equations, solved over a small volume or “element” of the geometry in question. A high-performance computer combines all the results of the elements enabling very complex geometries to be studied using real-world conditions.

The commercially available analysis tools facilitating the mathematics behind FEA include Ansys, Abaqus, LS-DYNA, Hyperworks. These can adapt to a wide range of manufacturing products, scenarios and sectors. All of which the ASTUTE 2020+ team have extensive expertise.


FEA is used to help simulate physical problems and can be applied to a wide range of industries and many engineering areas:

  • Heat Transfer and thermal analysis 
  • Metal forming
  • Stress analysis and deformation - elastic, plastic and hyper-elastic
  • Polymers and Composites
  • Aspects of Injection Moulding
  • Electromagnetics
  • Fatigue, Fracture and Creep
  • Coupled Multi-Physics Simulation - combining FVM and FEA to investigate the flow of a liquid in a deformable tube


In reality, FEA is only a tool. Like a very sophisticated calculator, it works well when operated skilfully. Some of the challenges to obtaining effective solutions include:

  • The lack of accurate material properties due to technical data sheets that may not cover the mechanical properties required as inputs for the FEA
  • Computer Aided Design (CAD) of complex geometries or processes may not be available in a suitable format for easy transference to the FEA simulations
  • The simulated process may not be sufficiently understood or monitored to enable accurate input data to the computer models

Often these issues are not insurmountable although they can cause delays due to the additional preparatory work required.

Benefits/Impacts of using FEA

Irregular shapes, complex geometries, and adaptable processes are the advantages of FEA that businesses can tap into to understand interactions and effects:

  • It can reduce the number of physical prototypes and experiments needed in product development with their associated costs,
  • Optimize components in their design phase to develop better products, more quickly
  • Facilitate “blue sky” thinking; investigating changes within the simulation that might be too expensive or unrealistic to risk in production.

Modern computer power means that ASTUTE 2020+ staff have access to all simulation software at all times, even when working from home. The modelling capabilities supported through advanced techniques and bespoke software allow FEA modelling to continue supporting manufacturing processes through the pandemic. 

How have/can we use these techniques to help the Welsh Manufacturing Sector?

Through this time of uncertainty, research, development and, innovation needs to be at the forefront of manufacturers’ plans for future growth. ASTUTE 2020+ can collaborate with manufacturers remotely to help save costly trial and error scenarios, de-risk change and future-proof businesses. FEA techniques have been successfully used in a wide range of collaborative projects and have helped to increase understanding and knowledge of products and processes to boost innovation.

Low Cycle Fatigue Analysis in Lighting Columns

The Aluminium Lighting Company Ltd. (ALC) manufactures a range of aluminium lighting columns or lamp posts as many people call them. Based in Neath/Port Talbot, the company and ASTUTE 2020+, have collaborated since 2010 to investigate the fatigue performance and expected lifespan of ALC's manufactured lighting columns. Wind and traffic-induced vibration has increased the number of premature fatigue failures of the lighting columns on exposed sites. The collaboration examined the fatigue behaviour using FEA and microstructural evaluation of the aluminium lighting columns. FEA modelling illustrated regions of the column where fatigue could be an issue, FEA highlighted that pre-stressed columns showed superior fatigue resistance to welded columns. The stresses simulated demonstrated that the fatigue life of the column would exceed the desired lifespan. As a result, the ALC columns showed good resistance to fatigue cracking over the lifespan in the most demanding of environments.

To read the full case study on the project, visit the astutewales.com website here.

Electromagnetic FEA to Support the Development of a Magnetic Flux Detection Tool   

Swansea based Silverwing (UK) Ltd. is a leading manufacturer of Non-Destructive Testing - NDT equipment for storage tanks, vessels and pipeline inspection within the oil, gas and petrochemical industries. The company's development of their Magnetic Flux Leakage (MFL) equipment, which detects under floor corrosion in bulk liquid storage tanks, prompted them to seek ASTUTE 2020+ assistance to advance their MFL technology. The collaboration aimed to investigate opportunities for improved and enhanced inspection capabilities of the floor map system incorporating near and far surface defect discrimination. Undertaking FEA electromagnetic simulation to optimise permanent magnetic geometrics and simulated signals for magnetic field/defect interactions for evaluation and analysis, the company was able to gain valuable knowledge to develop techniques to improve the floor map system. The collaboration helped the company consider new product developments that incorporate magnetics and the classification of corrosion.

To read the full case study on the project, visit the astutewales.com website here.

Stress Analysis for Material Study for Single-use Medical Equipment

DTR Medical Ltd. manufactures sterile single-use products for the medical industry. The Swansea based company sought ASTUTE 2020+ support to investigate alternative materials within their existing product range. The objective of the company was to replace the forged steel forceps with a polymeric without sacrificing mechanical properties. FEA and plastic injection moulding investigations were conducted, highlighting the need to maintain the use of steel for the load-bearing components within the forceps.

To read the full case study on the project, visit the astutewales.com website here.

ASTUTE 2020+ can support manufacturing companies across a variety of sectors, such as aerospace, automotive, energy generation, oil and gas, medical devices, electronics, foods, etc., stimulating growth by applying advanced engineering technologies to manufacturing challenges driving cutting-edge research and innovation. ASTUTE 2020+ collaborations inspire manufacturing companies to improve and streamline their manufacturing processes, manufactured products and supply chain, generating sustainable, higher-value goods and services and bringing them to a global market.

The ASTUTE 2020+ operation has been part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and the participating Higher Education Institutions.