How Simulation Drove Innovation at Waters

By Caroline Dee on


As SOLIDWORKS’ involvement in the product design process continues to grow, one area that shows significant potential is virtual design analysis. From basic finite element analysis (FEA) and tolerance stack-up analysis using intuitive wizards, to mold flow analysis, to streamline plastic mold design and advanced simulation studies using premier simulation tools, SOLIDWORKS offers a complete range of tools to make product design more efficient and productive. 

Using simulation to innovate pressure sensor designRecently, we sat down with a client to learn more about their success using SOLIDWORKS during the design process. Gabe Kelly, a Senior Supplier Development Engineer in the Global Operations organization at Waters, and his team, used SOLIDWORKS Simulation to drive the development of an innovative new design for pressure sensors. Learn more in the interview below.

SOLIDWORKS Simulation: Driving Innovation at Waters

1. What were you and the engineering team designing at Waters?

We started a project which sought to investigate a series of pressure sensors used in our instruments – an ambitious project! It would not have been possible to get this far without SOLIDWORKS, considering the time and resources available. 

2. What challenges did you encounter when designing pressure sensors?

For our sensor, we wished to improve on the existing design, which has a custom sensing element and setup for practically every device and pressure range being measured. We thought it should be possible to design a better element, such that a larger range of pressures could be measured (without suffering from low signal to noise ratios or a burst element). Designing pressure vessels to this degree of accuracy is a non-trivial task and can be very expensive to produce and re-iterate test cases.

3. How did SOLIDWORKS Simulation help you overcome these challenges?

Conventional engineering techniques make calculations of stress and strain over a surface similar to ours very complicated. By contrast, a properly setup FEA study within SOLIDWORKS takes minutes to run. This capability allowed immediate changes to be made in the underlying model. Thanks to SOLIDWORKS, we could rapidly study the cause and effect that geometry changes had on the working surface of the sensor without having to expend the time or capital to make working models. 


4. What was the impact of using SOLIDWORKS Simulation to test your designs before sending to production? 

Having done the early investigations and design iterations digitally, we were confident that the sensor would perform as predicted when we decided to make it in our model shop. Assembled versions of this early design actually outperformed the currently spec’d devices.

Using what we learned from building just one round of prototypes, we were able to further optimize the design. Thanks in big part to the FEA module, we have three core element designs that could replace nearly 13 highly customized sensors. We now stand to gain the advantages of mass production of a critical component, as well as a greater understanding of the underlying science behind these devices.

5. How did your use of simulation impact operations at Waters?

We soon discovered that not only was this fundamental science important, but it was likely novel. We sought a patent on the design and have gone so far as to file a provisional patent (filed June 10th 2015). This ensures security for a core technology asset for Waters, and I’m proud to be a part of that. We expect this project to yield tremendous cost savings and technology enhancement value for Waters, and without access to SOLIDWORKS, I’m not sure if we’d be where we are today.

If Gabe’s story resonated with you or if you’d like to learn more about SOLIDWORKS Simulation, watch our Get to Know SOLIDWORKS Simulation webinar today!