Structural Analysis

The most common use for analysis software is assessment of how a model or object will respond to an applied design load. There are a variety of tools within the SOLIDWORKS suite of analysis software that allow you to evaluate these design loads, and the tool required depends on whether the model is a part or an assembly, and whether the loading/deformation is significant enough to require non-linear analysis techniques.

SOLIDWORKS SimulationXpress – Part-level linear static stress analysis

Every license of SOLIDWORKS contains a module called SOLIDWORKS SimulationXpress, which is accessible from the Tools menu. SimulationXpress allows you to perform stress analysis on a single-body part in SOLIDWORKS under some basic loading and restraint conditions. This analysis uses the full SOLIDWORKS Simulation solver, and is based on a linear-static analysis methodology, which assumes linear material behavior, static application of loading, and assumes part deformations are small.

SimulationXpress provides a fast, easy to use, and accurate analysis tool for screening of stress levels in single parts, but the limitations on load and restraint conditions, and the ability to only model one part at a time mean that often for a dedicated analysis a higher-level software package is required.

SOLIDWORKS Simulation – Assembly-level linear static analysis

Static Stress analysis in SOLIDWORKS Simulation is available as part of SOLIDWORKS Premium, and also with either SOLIDWORKS Simulation Professional or SOLIDWORKS Simulation Premium. It allows you to do linear static stress analysis on all SOLIDWORKS parts and assemblies, with a full range of loading and restraint types, and a variety of ways you can assess contact and connections between parts.

This analysis module assumes linear material behavior (it assumes that the stress/strain curve for the material in the loading range of interest can be represented as a straight line), small deformations of the parts under load, and static application of loading. It will assess the stress developed in materials and allow you to predict the onset of yield failure, but will not model post-yield behavior. This module is the most commonly used analysis module within SOLIDWORKS, and provides accurate result data for a wide range of real-life situations. However, in situations where material behavior is not linear (rubbers, elastomers, plastics, metals post-yield), or where the shape of parts is significantly changing under load, nonlinear analysis is required to get an accurate result. In situations where the load is changing dynamically (varying with time), a dynamic analysis is required.

Nonlinear Analysis

Nonlinear analysis is available within SOLIDWORKS Simulation Premium, and is the best way to accurately represent situations where either material or geometric behavior breaks the assumptions associated with static stress analysis. This typically applies to situations where the components are made of materials that cannot be represented with a linear stress-strain curve (plastics, rubbers, elastomers, metals loaded beyond their yield stress) or in situations where an object deforms so much that it’s shape and stiffness have significantly changed.

Both static and dynamic (time-dependent loading) nonlinear analysis is possible with SOLIDWORKS Simulation Premium.

Vibration Analysis


Static Stress analysis assumes that any loading applied to a model is statically applied. This means that there is no time-dependent component of the loading being applied. For example, this accurately reflects what would happen if a weight was carefully placed onto a support frame, but not what would happen if that frame was struck with a hammer.

Frequency Analysis

Frequency analysis, available with SOLIDWORKS Simulation Professional, is a modal analysis tool that can provide information to assess whether your structure is likely to experience problematic vibrational response at key frequencies.

It provides two key pieces of information – the resonant or natural frequencies of your model, and the mode shapes, or the general direction and shape of the vibration that will occur at those resonant frequencies.

From a design perspective, frequency analysis is most often used to confirm whether your structure/model has any resonant frequencies in or near the operating range of externally applied vibrational loading that your model is likely to see. For example, if you are designing a support chassis for a hard drive which runs at 120Hz (7200rpm), and the chassis has a natural frequency at 115 Hz, you are likely to experience performance problems. You can use the mode shape provided by the frequency analysis to review the vibration, and make design changes to improve

The frequency analysis doesn’t include the amplitude of any dynamic loading applied, and as such does not provide any information about the amplitude of the vibratory response. For this type of information, dynamic analysis is required.

Dynamic Analysis

Dynamic Analysis, in SOLIDWORKS Simulation Premium, allows you to specify time-dependent loading in a SOLIDWORKS stress analysis. This analysis is based on a technique called modal superposition, which determines the response of each resonant mode to a given input for a number of modes, and then adds these responses together to give an overall measure of the reaction of the system to a shock, input or vibration.

There are 3 major types of dynamic analysis in SOLIDWORKS:

  • Time History - Response of a system to a time-dependent acceleration or load. Commonly used to replicate shock or impact tests.
  • Harmonic - Response of a system to load or acceleration that is changing with frequency. Commonly used to replicate vibration or shaker table testing.
  • Random Vibration - Response of a system to a non-deterministic excitation. This is expressed as a power spectrum density (PSD) curve. Commonly used for vibration testing where the actual excitation is hard to define, such as transport testing, or responding to shipboard/aircraft vibrations.

Thermal Analysis


As well as applied forces and pressures, a static analysis in SOLIDWORKS Simulation allows you to assess the effect on a structure of a specified temperature change because of thermal expansion.

For example, for a structure that is manufactured at 68F, you can evaluate how much expansion will occur (and any ensuing thermal stress) if some or all of the parts in the structure are heated to 200F. A static analysis does not allow you to make any estimation of heat transfer or heat flow through the system, and you are unable to represent thermal gradients through the structure.


SOLIDWORKS Simulation Professional - Thermal module

SOLIDWORKS Simulation Thermal is a solid-based, FEA thermal analysis module that allows you to analyze thermal conditions within your system by mapping 3 types of heat transfer: conduction, convection and radiation. Conduction and radiation are accurately analyzed between solid bodies in your SOLIDWORKS model, but energy lost or gained by convection is estimated by providing the software with a convective coefficient. Because this type of approach does not directly analyze any air or fluid flow, this convective coefficient controls the rate of convective heat transfer. For scenarios with simple airflow patterns, or under natural convection, a good estimate of this value can give acceptable thermal result information.

The thermal map achieved as an output from a Simulation Professional - Thermal analysis can be linked to a static stress analysis to see the expansion/contraction caused by any temperature changes, and the ensuing thermal stress.

SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation

SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation is the most accurate way to analyze heat transfer, cooling and heating in your SOLIDWORKS models through accurate modeling of conduction, convection and radiation. SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation is a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tool that allows you to model air and fluid flow around and through your models. As such, it can perform very accurate, very detailed thermal analysis evaluations of a variety of heating and cooling scenarios, and performs conductive, convective and radiative calculation simultaneously, without any need for estimation of convective coefficients or any other approximations.

In scenarios where air or fluid is being forced through a system by fans or blowers, as well as in natural convection scenarios, SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation will give the most accurate thermal information available with SOLIDWORKS. This makes this approach to thermal analysis very popular in high-tech and electronics applications, where accurate and detailed thermal information is needed.

The thermal map achieved as an output from a Flow Simulation analysis can be linked to a static stress analysis to see the expansion/contraction caused by any temperature changes, and the ensuing thermal stress.