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Re: Anyone using freeware FEA?

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Of course I agree that it is up to you to check your tools.
I'm only puzzled to see in that mentioned thread that some people think software price tag relates in some way to results accuracy.
As for the software that I had a chance to take a peek at, here it goes.
Note that I don't pretend to be wise guy here since my experience is too tiny to make generalizations.
I'd be happy to stand corrected if anyone comes up with evidence.
1. CalculiX.
Good: Frequently updated, kind of an offspring of the renowned Plaxis (?). Has some user-to-user support. Lots and lots of features including large displacements, nonlinear material, etc.
Bad: pre/post is total hell. Not because it's strange, it really is very uncomfortable. You have to operate some weird named groups, etc.
Also, it 'inflates' beam elements (that usually have a precise analytic solution) to form 3D 20-node solids which in turn causes problems with torsion calculations, hollow sections etc.
Resume: really needs a good pre/postprocessor (I'm going to write one when I'm out of work and so become rich and famous) and some workarounds for problems with beam elements.
2. CAELinux comes packaged with Gmsh mesher, Salome pre/postprocessor, and CODE_ASTER solver.
Code_aster has solid nuclear background. Initially seems like a powerful out-of-the-box solution, Linux is really not scary at all, no need to setup anything. Multiphysics available if you need it.
components are time-consuming and unintuitive to get to work together. You'll make lots and lots of mouse clicks before you get that neat stress map that clients are so fond of.
Actually I can't tell anything about the FEA solver performance because I couldn't fight my way to postprocessing.
Also, Code_aster has English interface but is developed in French so documentation is scarce.
Resume: a way to go if you are ready to invest time. A lot of time.
3. z88.
Pros: has graphic interface, meshing tools and DXF import. Works without installing anything.
Cons: unintuitive GUI, limited solver abilities.
Resume: good if you need only linear static calcs.
4. Wolsink framework 3D. This looks like a favorite freeware tool among some of my Russian-speaking fellows, especially for steel.
frequently updated; the author is an engineer (as far as I know) and can be reached for a talk, has Eurocode design modules (!) and built-in shapes database. Kind of intuitive interface. Calculates eigenfrequencies in 3D. Yields very pretty force charts.
no plates or solids. Can handle geometric nonlinearity in 2D only as I know. Meshable shear walls are to be released soon.
Resume: recommended for basic tasks with 1D elements.
5. MASTAN2. Contains parts of Matlab engine, so is "for private use only". Has pretty interface and functions but limited solver.
Resume: can be used for some preliminary analysis or as a secondary tool.
6. OpenFEM, a FEA toolbox for Matlab and Scilab (the latter is freeware). Seems like a powerful tool for those who are good at programming. I don't have any real experience with it but would like to get some. Also, the Scilab version is for Linux only.
P.s. I intentionally didn't include links to not look like an advertisement. Please google for the names if interested.

Alexander Bausk
Civil/Structural design & inspection engineer, CAD professional
Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine
Tel. +38 068 4079692
Fax. +38 0562 470263