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OnScale: A Beginner’s Perspective

By Chloe Allison 25 November 2019

When I joined OnScale I had just graduated from university. I’ve got to admit, straight out of university a lot about the world of Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) was still a mystery to me. FEA is a fascinating area — but I think it’s fair to say that it can at times seem daunting to beginners!

I thought it might be worthwhile noting down some of my own experiences, as well as offering some tips that I’ve picked up along the way, in the hope that it’s of help.

What is Finite Element Analysis?

It’s probably worthwhile starting off with a definition of FEA.

Finite Element Analysis is the simulation of any given physical phenomenon such as electrical current, pressure, force, temperature and more using the Finite Element Method (FEM). It’s used by many engineers as a product development tool. FEA shows whether a product will break, wear out or work as it was designed.

In the product development process FEA is used to predict what will happen when a product is used. Partial Differential Equations (PDEs) are usually used to express the laws of physics for space and time-dependent problems. But PDEs describing complex devices can’t be solved with an analytical method: instead an approximation of the equations can be constructed. FEM is used to compute these approximations, more details can be found here.

Designer vs Analyst

OnScale offers two modes for simulating your applications: Designer and Analyst.

Designer is our graphical interface for creating simulations, and it’s a great place to start for beginners. To get started, you can import a geometry from an external CAD file or else you can natively create the geometry using the shapes (“primitives”) that Designer offers.

By contrast, Analyst takes a script-based approach to simulate a design. Rather than clicking in the interface, you type commands. Analyst has all the same underlying functionality as Designer, together with additional functionality.

Behind the Scenes of Designer

Here’s something I discovered early on that proved to be helpful: when you run a simulation that you’ve created in Designer, an Analyst script is generated in the background. It’s this that is submitted to the cloud for processing.

For me, looking at these generated scripts was helpful. It proved to be a great way of progressing from Designer onto Analyst.

I should also point out that a full debug log is created when you run your simulation. If ever you’re in Designer and you see an error message that says, “check the print file”, it’s this debug log that you’re being told to look at!

Help Is Available

If you’ve not already checked out our Help Center, you really should! It’s full of tutorials and example simulations to help you out, and it’s also where you can find our forum or else submit a support request.


Chloe Allison
Chloe Allison

Chloe Allison is an Application Engineer at OnScale. She received her MA in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the University of Strathclyde. As part of our engineering team Chloe assists with developing applications, improving our existing software and providing technical support to our customers.