SonoAnalyzer Pro, OE and Free - version 2.1.2 pre-release 6

A significant update release of SonoAnalyzer version 2 is now available to download in the usual Pro, OE and Free editions. This is the sixth(!) pre-release, or PR6. It includes some bug-fixes, some improvements to reduce memory usage and support for another auto-mesher: Gmsh. As always, if you find any issues please let me know. Notable changes include:

  • Alternative mesher Gmsh to replace / complement Netgen when meshing user-provided geometry.
  • Fixed a bug causing some analyses to fail when Windows was set to non-English regional settings.
  • Reduced memory usage by reading displacement / stress data only for visible surfaces.
  • Added new "High-frequency #4 user-defined" element. Length can be as small as 2mm - useful for small parts of multi-component analyses.
  • New dialog allows user to clear old calculation files from remote FEA servers, including cloud servers (freeing disk space as required).


More details follow.

New mesh generator:

The main focus of this release is improving the mesh generation for user-geometry (imported STEP and STL files).

In the event of a meshing failure SonoAnalyzer will open a dialog requesting that information about the problem be sent to help improve the SonoAnalyzer program. Several clients have been kind enough to agree. Many thanks to all who did - I really appreciate both the value of the information provided and the trust you have placed in me. Rest assured that all design information sent will be kept strictest confidential. If any of you would like a response specifically addressing your geometry please email me directly.

I found a wide range of different issues causing the meshing failures. Some files contained invalid geometry (eg. surfaces that didn't join up) or surface / shell geometry that the mesher was unable to convert to solid. In most cases though the problem was more subtle: the geometry provided was perfectly valid but difficult to mesh. This was often a problem with relatively large structures containing fine detail; the fine detail demands a fine mesh but extending the fine mesh to include the entire object becomes very time-consuming and can cause out-of-memory errors. In some cases this would lead to a situation where setting a coarse mesh would cause meshing to fail (because it couldn't follow the fine detail in the shape) and setting a fine mesh would cause an out-of-memory crash. So getting the mesh setting "just right" is a challenge.

While looking for solutions to these hard-to-mesh models I tried out Gmsh, another open-source mesh generator similar to Netgen (which SonoAnalyzer has used since version 2). Given STEP files of the most challenging geometries I found Gmsh to be much more versatile - more tolerant of coarse meshes and at the same time less likely to crash on fine meshes. So from now on, STEP geometry with the Gmsh auto-mesher is the recommended format for SonoAnalyzer's user-geometry models.

For STL files the results were different. Perhaps it was my failure to find the correct settings but I was unable to get a consistently useful finite-element mesh from Gmsh when the import format was STL. The problem is that most STL files contain very long thin triangles that are unsuitable for finite-element analysis. Gmsh converts these triangles directly into the finished mesh where Netgen seems able to recreate the entire surface and mesh that, producing a mesh very similar to those produced from STEP files. I'll continue to look for better settings and monitor new releases but for now, if STL files must be used then Netgen is the recommended mesher.

From version 2.1.2 SonoAnalyzer supports Gmsh as well as Netgen. When connecting to a FEA server it performs a version check for all available software. Where both meshers are available, by default it will use Gmsh for STEP files and Netgen for STL. This selection can  be overridden in the "Additional FEA options" dialog, now extended to include custom meshing settings for both Netgen and Gmsh.

In addition to SonoAnalyzer version 2.1.2, to make use of Gmsh you will also need to install it on the FEA server you are using. For all currently-active cloud servers I have already installed it (previous versions of SonoAnalyzer will simply ignore it). For native installs I will soon be releasing a new setup file but in the meantime you can add it to an earlier v2 native server as follows:
Download Gmsh for Windows 64 bit from here.
The download is a zip file - unzip to a folder which will be called something like "gmsh-4.7.0-Windows64"
Rename the folder to "gmsh" and place it in the existing "FEAServer" directory (typically C:\FEAServer)

On connection to a FEA server that includes Gmsh SonoAnalyzer 2.1.2 should find it automatically (Help -> About will show "Gmsh version 4.7.0") and use it thereafter for STEP file meshing.

New element:

SonoAnalyzer contains some rather arbitrary limits on dimensions for its older element types, including a 10mm minimum length. While it seems unlikely that anyone would want a sonotrode shorter than that, in certain situations (like modelling a screw-head on a transducer, using the multi-component sonotrode model) it did become an issue. Changing the limits while maintaining backward-compatibility would be difficult so instead I've introduced a new "High-frequency #4" element which can be combined with the other four types (#4 stepped, conical, exponential and user-defined) in a multi-component analysis.

Access to clear files on remote FEA servers:

On Linux servers (both the cloud servers provided to Pro clients and standalone servers set up independently), analysis files can build up and eventually cause the server to run out of disk space. As the new dialog available in SonoAnalyzer 2.1.2 now says:

It is safe to delete all old analysis files from SonoAnalyzer remote FEA servers. This will not affect your local cache of results.
The main reason for keeping old analysis files on a remote server is to speed up the production of images from the "FEA" menu, but these are largely redundant in recent versions of SonoAnalyzer that can create the full range of contour plots within the program itself.
If you have a particular reason for keeping these files and you need more disk space on your remote server please contact support.

To access this dialog, wait for SonoAnalyzer to complete a connection to the selected server (Help -> About should show software versions and disk usage) and then select Pro -> FEA Servers from the menu. In the current server tab you should see a button "Open file delete dialog".

Bug-fixes, improvements:

A formatting problem when using some non-English regional settings was affecting Pro analyses. I believe this has now been fully resolved but if you discover any unusual behaviour, particularly when installed on a non-English version of Windows, please let me know.

SonoAnalyzer's memory usage when loading large models (typically user-geometry with a fine mesh) has been significantly reduced by loading data only for the visible surfaces (including sectional surfaces) instead of the entire solid model.

Information for new purchasers (Pro):

New purchases will be provisioned with version 2.1.2 software and version 2 analysis server. Version 1 can be provided on request but is no longer recommended.

For information on all available products please see the purchase page.

Information for new purchasers (OE):

New purchases will be provisioned with version 2.1.2 software as standard but version 1 can be provided on request.

STEP export is supported on SonoAnalyzer OE version 2.x for current OE models but the new STEP-imported models are only available on SonoAnalyzer Pro.

For information on all available products please see the purchase page.

Information for current license holders (Pro or OE):

Updates are included with your original purchase for one year. The new download can be found in your user account under the "Files" tab. On Pro, the new file is named "SonoAnalyzerPro2-setup.exe". On OE the new file is named SonoAnalyzerOE2-setup.exe.

Upgrading from version 2.04 - 2.1.1:

Version 2.1.2 can be installed on top of 2.0.4, to take advantage of the larger cache of results files in the earlier version. There is no advantage to installing on top of version 2.0.7 - 2.1.1, but no likely issues either. Your license should be detected automatically. As the changes are mostly in the Pro models, OE users may prefer to wait for a later update unless they want to view the Pro model examples.

Upgrading from version 1.x:

If you have version 1 installed and your license is activated, SonoAnalyzer version 2 should pick it up automatically on the first run after installation. In the event that this doesn't happen it will ask you to register again - you can copy the same key from the "Product keys" tab of your user account.

Version 1 should be uninstalled to clear all old files. You should also clear the user cache to save some disk space - the new version should read the old results but will prompt you to rerun the analysis anyway, so the old cached files are of little use with this version. From the menu choose Options -> Cache -> Clear cache.

The new version also connects to new external servers to perform the FEA and meshing functions. If you choose to use the cloud server provided with the software, this should update automatically but it may take a few minutes after you first run the program.

If you prefer to download and install a server locally, please use one of the downloads for SonoAnalyzer version 2, here.