Finite Element Analysis | FEA

In this article Introduction to Finite Element Analysis is discussed. FEA is a computerized method for analysis / simulation for the engineering structures or Components. They are widely used in Automotive and various fields to replace the experimental design / testing.

Finite Elements in Analysis and Design

Finite Element Analysis is a way to simulate loading conditions on a design and determine the design's response to those conditions. FEA is based on the idea of building a complicated object with simple blocks, or, dividing a complicated object into small and manageable pieces, application of this simple idea can be found everywhere in everyday life as well as in engineering.

FEA Elements

In FEM a complex domains divided / discretized into simple geometric shapes called "elements".

FEA Nodes

The properties and the governing relationships assumed over these elements and expressed mathematically in terms of unknown values at specific points in the elements called "nodes".

Finite Element Method

An assembly process used to link the individual elements to the given system. When the effects of loads and boundary conditions considered, a set of linear or nonlinear algebraic equations usually obtained.

Solution of these equations gives the approximate behavior of the continuum or system. The continuum (any system is considered for analysis) has an infinite number of degrees of freedom (DOF), while the discritized model has a finite number of DOF. This is the origin of the name, "Finite Element Method". The number of equations is usually rather large for most real – world applications of the FEM, and requires the computational power of the digital computer. The FEM has a little practical value if the digital computer were not available.

Advances in and ready availability of computers and software has brought the FEM within reach of engineers working in industries, and even students.

Two features of the finite element method are worth noting:

  1. The piece-wise approximation of the physical field on finite elements provides good precision even with simple approximating functions.
  2. Simply increasing the number of elements can achieve increasing precision.One method to solve a wide variety of problems, including problems in Solid Mechanics, Fluid Mechanics, Chemical Reactions, Electromagnetic, Bio-mechanics, Heat transfer and Acoustics, to name a few.
FEA Model

A typical representation of a FEA model with reference to its original system is as shown below:

Why is FEA needed?

FEA needed for the following reasons –

  1. To reduce the amount of prototype testing
    1. Computer simulation allows multiple "what-if" scenarios to be tested quickly and effectively.
  2. To simulate designs that are not suitable for prototype testing
    1. Example: Surgical implants such as an artificial knee etc
  3. The bottom line:
    1. Cost savings
    2. Time savings
    3. Reduced time to market
    4. Create more reliable, better quality designs

List of Industries using FEA:

Following are the Industries using FEA-

  1. Aerospace
  2. Automotive
  3. Biomedical
  4. Bridges & Buildings
  5. Electronics & Appliances
  6. Heavy Equipment & Machinery
  7. MEMS – Micro Electro mechanical Systems
  8. Sporting Goods

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