Part 5: A digital safety net Following the digital thread

As we saw in the previous video, techniques such as topology optimization can help design a product in ways lighter, cheaper and more durable—with the click of a button. But will the product work? That’s where engineering simulations such as finite element analysis (FEA) typically come in.


“Why would anyone paint a board and leave it in the middle of nowhere?” Because one might argue that the only way to know if the paint would last through two years of weathering is to put it through two years of weather. The problem is that approach is slow and expensive. We’d like to avoid such costly efforts if we can. But how?

That’s where digital simulation techniques come in. In this video, Mark and Jay return to the bell crank to verify whether it is flight worthy using the digital simulation technique known as finite element analysis (FEA).

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Watch the previous episode:

Episode 4: Augmenting part design with topology optimization

Watch the next episode:

Episode 6: Fabricating with the digital thread

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The advantages of techniques like FEA include dramatically reducing the time and cost associated with product testing. And the time and money saved can facilitate deeper, faster exploration of performance limits for components and systems.

Results of advanced simulations, such as FEA, are captured and saved in the digital thread so that they can be accessed as needed in the future, to potentially enhance the build process, enable smart inspection protocols, or even compare against actual field use experiences. But how can such a unique looking part actually be built? To see that process, the digital thread will move the design cross-country, at the speed of light, to its point of production.

(Link to the next episode)

Further references:

Mark Vitale, Brian Tilton, Matt Conner, Aman Shah, “3D Opportunity for Scan, Design, and Analyze: The first phase of the digital thread”, Deloitte Insights, November 2, 2016, /content/www/us/en/insights/focus/industry-4-0/digital-twin-technology-smart-factory.html, accessed January 12, 2018

Mark Cotteleer, Stuart Trouton, Ed Dobner, “3D opportunity and the digital thread”, Deloitte Insights, March 3, 2016, /content/www/us/en/insights/focus/3d-opportunity/3d-printing-digital-thread-in-manufacturing.html, accessed January 9, 2018.

Brian Tilton, Ed Dobner, Jonathan Holdowsky, “3D opportunity for standards”, Deloitte Insights, November 9, 2017, /content/www/us/en/insights/focus/3d-opportunity/additive-manufacturing-standards-for-3d-printed-products.html, accessed January 29, 2018.

Siemens, "Finite Element Analysis (FEA)",, accessed June 4, 2018

Bathe, Klaus-Jurgen, FEA - Finite Element Procedures, Prentice Hall, 1996.

University of Victoria, "Introduction to Finite Element Analysis (FEA) or Finite Element Method (FEM)",, accessed June 4, 2018