Keywords

SolidWorks’ Statics, Spaghetti-Based Truss Bridge, Finite Element Analysis

Abstract

Application of Computational Tools to Spaghetti-Based Truss Design

Statics and Strength of Materials are two foundational courses for Mechanical/Civil Engineering. In order to assist students in better understanding and applying concepts to a meaningful design task, SolidWorks and theoretical calculation were used for a spaghetti-bridge design contest with the constraints of given maximum weight and allowable support-material weight. As the first step of this iterative designing process, both extrude feature and structural member were introduced to model planar bridge trusses. Then SolidWorks’ Statics module was used to run FEA analysis of the structural performance in efforts to optimize the load-carrying capacity of the structure. To make simulation possible, a universal material-response testing apparatus was used to measure the key mechanical properties of the bridge material, namely spaghetti bundles, and add it to SolidWorks’ material database. The building stage started upon completion of design refinement, and the project culminated with performance prediction (as to the weakest spots of the structure) and testing.

The theoretical calculation went down two paths—A full truss analysis was performed based on the method of joints, along with more thorough FEA analysis through coding, before comparing the internal forces, displacements, etc., with the simulation results. Through the holistic design process, the course turned out more engaging and students gained experience of solving a typical real-life engineering problem involving trade-off between economy and quality.

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Application of Computational Tools to Spaghetti-Based Truss Bridge Design

Application of Computational Tools to Spaghetti-Based Truss Design

Statics and Strength of Materials are two foundational courses for Mechanical/Civil Engineering. In order to assist students in better understanding and applying concepts to a meaningful design task, SolidWorks and theoretical calculation were used for a spaghetti-bridge design contest with the constraints of given maximum weight and allowable support-material weight. As the first step of this iterative designing process, both extrude feature and structural member were introduced to model planar bridge trusses. Then SolidWorks’ Statics module was used to run FEA analysis of the structural performance in efforts to optimize the load-carrying capacity of the structure. To make simulation possible, a universal material-response testing apparatus was used to measure the key mechanical properties of the bridge material, namely spaghetti bundles, and add it to SolidWorks’ material database. The building stage started upon completion of design refinement, and the project culminated with performance prediction (as to the weakest spots of the structure) and testing.

The theoretical calculation went down two paths—A full truss analysis was performed based on the method of joints, along with more thorough FEA analysis through coding, before comparing the internal forces, displacements, etc., with the simulation results. Through the holistic design process, the course turned out more engaging and students gained experience of solving a typical real-life engineering problem involving trade-off between economy and quality.