Tao You, an engineer with Nelson Div. of Fleetguard, Nashville, quickly came up with several possible solutions: He could make the filter cover thicker, change the cross-sectional shape, or add a ring dent around the hole for stiffness.

But it could have taken weeks to analyze the effects of the alterations with physical prototypes. Instead, Cosmos FEA software from SRAC, Los Angeles (www.cosmos.com), let You analyze the ideas in a few hours. "I began by experimenting with the cover thickness," he says. "The FEA software showed the effects of several thicknesses. Analysis pointed to 0.024 in. as the most effective at reducing displacement," he says.

The software also allowed experimentation with different cross-sectional shapes. "I tried a curved surface, but it did not help much," said You. The software showed that the ring dent reduced the deflection. Of the two viable solutions, the thicker-material idea won because it cost less.