Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is based on the concept that all materials have unique properties, and thus react differently to unique loads and forces. FEA can be used in computer programs to anticipate the reaction of materials and product designs to forms of stress, such as the weight of a 4-wheel ATV on its trailer.
Finite Element Analysis is used by designers to test different materials in their products, determining spots where the design is weak or unnecessarily strong. For example, an airplane manufacturer could use FEA to ensure the materials on landing gear will safely support its high-speed impact; they could also use it to shed needless bolts on their wings, saving expensive materials or added fuel.
Hi-Ground Scaffolds asked the Malco Design and Deliver Group for assistance with a problem they were having with a new drywall cart design. Though the idea behind Hi-Ground’s innovation was to add handles onto the cart in order to provide added usability and rollover safety, the starting point for the cart’s improvements was a generic design that Hi-Ground already marketed. The Malco D2 Group used FEA to detect and fix the cart design problem.
“While testing this generic design in our FEA program, we learned that the force of a full load of sheetrock would actually push materials on the cart past their expected failure point,” said Kyle Bjork, Chief Design Engineer. Multiple welds on that design would have likely cracked during prototype testing, or even worse, once the new and improved cart had already rolled out.
“Because we hadn’t yet built any physical product, we were still able to go back into our FEA program, and start testing new designs,” Kyle added. “Soon after, we were able to find a new solution to adjust the amount and length of the welds, effectively eliminating the known failure points without adding significant cost or bulk to the cart.”
Most notably, the Malco Design & Deliver Group was able to do so within the FEA program in a matter of hours and days, instead of the months it would have taken to build a flawed prototype or manufacture product. The time and cost savings were significant for Hi-Ground Scaffolds, not to mention the added confidence they had taking their new product to market.