MECON SimSolid | Altair® SimSolid® enables Mecon—design and engineering for heavy industry— to slash its structural analysis time by 90%.

MECON SimSolid

Meet Mecon

Founded in 1997, Mecon is an engineering design and fabrication company providing turnkey solutions for organisations in, among other sectors, the steel and mining industries in northern Sweden. The company is based across two locations, Luleå and Gällivare, also in northern Sweden.

Together with its partners and subcontractors, Mecon offers end-to-end solutions in mechanics, from feasibility studies to the finished product. Its flexible and responsive approach enables Mecon to design and fabricate new solutions to age-old problems. It works often with clients who may have depended on long-established ways of undertaking certain processes but had never found alternatives. Mecon challenges this acceptance of ‘the way things are done, accompanying its clients on a continuous journey of innovation.

Mecon focuses on delivering improved ways; more customised structures or machines than the standard solutions that clients often adopt. To sharpen this focus, Mecon was looking for technology that could ease the calculation process involved in designing the highest safety standards and ensuring the resistance of its products to the harshest operating environments.

Challenge: Speed up calculation times |Enhance first-time accuracy | Ensure Eurocode compliance

Tedium, repetition, and isolation: The pillars of manual calculations
Pierre Larsson, like everyone on Mecon’s team, is a multi-disciplinarian. He’s a deeply experienced engineer and designer, yet so often takes care of other aspects of Mecon’s operations. These can range from planning and supervising the company’s IT, to liaising with customers and managing projects from specification through to delivery.

Mecon works closely with its clients to ensure the optimum solution for each one. This approach means that very little in the way of what Mecon does is ‘off-the-shelf’. Every project tends to be different in the challenges it brings, the operating conditions and stresses it will be exposed to, and the safety precautions it needs to guarantee.

The Mecon team is in constant client contact all the way through from initial enquiries to designing the solution, working with steel and components manufacturers,
and mapping out Mecon’s in-house fabrication processes for the final product.

The company also works in a strictly non-hierarchical fashion, enriching its solution skills by removing defined roles—in the interest of ensuring approaches tailored to every client’s requirement.

Yet sometimes solitude away from other team members is necessary to allow Pierre, and others, to concentrate on structural calculations for hours on end. The hours frequently run into days, and the days into weeks.

“We used to have an engineer on the team who was dedicated to working through the calculations of complex connections, but he retired a year before I joined the company”, says Pierre, “As a result, the team were making all necessary calculations manually. Checking and re-checking was the order of the day.

I am experienced in Finite Element Analysis, but the FEA approach we had didn’t address the problems of buckling and tilted beams; the maximum stress scenarios that can occur at bolted, welded, or riveted connections points have to be accommodated in the specification and the design. We wanted to be able to make all these calculations directly without altering the model, so we started to evaluate what software we could use”.

Pierre tried working with two different software applications but found them restrictive, and not always reliable. In some cases, there was a limit to the number of nodes that could be included in the model while in others the software would only offer pre-defined connection types. This brought further work in that a workaround had to be used for beam elements, since only standard connections were incorporated in the software, and much of Mecon’s project work necessitates connection modifications. The result was that remodelling a beam to take the buckling factor into account could take anything up to a week. Furthermore, the applications were not Eurocode compliant.

Solution: Big or small, Altair SimSolid does it all

Variety | Complexity | Necessity
A quick look at some of its typical outputs shows the flexibility, variety and breadth of Mecon’s products:

Conveyors, walkways, iron ore testing machines,
ball feeders, transport systems, sampling plants and machines,
dosing equipment, material pockets,
lifting equipment, and pumping plants.

Every product is different, as is every client requirement and location/factory/mill/site at which it will be used. The ball feeder, for example—which feeds cemented carbide balls into mills in which the rotation of the balls within the feeder then grinds the ore—is a Mecon invention.

Given the variety and complexity of Mecon’s projects, Symetri recommended that Mecon investigate the benefits it could gain by using Altair SimSolid, a structural analysis tool for use during the design phase. SimSolid analyses the inherent geometry of a model, eliminating the need for model reworking/geometry simplification. The Symetri team provided a demo, which convinced Pierre to move forward with the adoption of the solution.

To help the Mecon become confident and comfortable with using the software—and fully grasped its possibilities and functionality—Symetri then ran a training course for the team.

“It was apparent that Altair SimSolid would be easy to use, especially since Symetri took a lot of care in making sure we really grasped its potential and didn’t go operational using only the topline features. We’re all skilled in using solutions that have a lot of depth to them, but Symetri’s experts added even greater depth”.

Altair SimSolid does not use a mesh. Its degrees of freedom (DOFs: the direction that a node is permitted to move or rotate) are functionals with geometric support, so they can be volumes, areas, line clouds or point clouds. For Mecon’s wide variation in final structures it means the geometrical and/or assembly contact imperfections—such as the way in which a conveyor may be affixed to the wall, or the adaptations required regarding access to and around the main steel walkway—can be handled by the software and do not require tedious hand calculations.

“It’s almost as if there’s no complex part of the design process that Altair SimSolid can’t handle”, says Pierre. “From huge calculations such as multiple conveyors secured together, right down to second-degree calculations, joints details, welds, bolted and riveted connections and so on.

You can do inertia relief calculations such as is needed for lifting equipment, taking opposing forces into account. What’s more, it’s just two clicks away”.

Outcomes: One week down to 4 hours (max)

A game-changer in huge calculations
“Altair SimSolid is a game-changer for any design work involved in heavy machinery fabrications”, says Pierre. Those days and weeks of solitude away from colleagues, ploughing through calculations, feeling time run away, are now at an end for Mecon’s team.

Pierre says that Mecon can now design smarter, devoting all the time they save to the bigger picture rather than the tiniest details. The design process now takes anywhere between a fifth and a tenth of the time it took before the adoption of Altair SimSolid. While the impact on project throughput and productivity is yet to be quantified, nobody at Mecon expects anything less than delight at the outcome. “I can do in four hours what it used to take me a week to do”, says Pierre. “I can get back to the team, back on the production floor, back to reality”.

Challenges

  • Reliance on intuition and personal skills/experience
  • Complex calculations taking too long and requiring multiple checks and verifications
  • Restrictive capabilities of the FEA approach (e.g., buckling is not calculable)

Solutions

  • Structural analysis the modern way
  • Altair SimSolid addresses the finer points of steel design, from the largest calculations to the smallest second-degree considerations such as joints details, welds, bolted and riveted connections.
  • Mecon can now instantly make inertia relief calculations

Benefits

  • One week reduced to 4 hrs
  • Cost savings resulting from fewer person-hours
  • Significantly improved engineering and manufacturing productivity
  • Highly skilled individuals now have considerably more time to dedicate their talents to innovation, client service, and new business initiatives
  • Align to Eurocode requirements for the Design of Steel Structures/Joints

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