Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is a computer-based method used to simulate and analyse the behaviour of engineering components under a variety of conditions. It is often used in design to reduce or replace experimental testing.
Typically the method involves dividing a structure or component into smaller, more manageable elements (mesh) to reach an approximate solution to the engineering problem at hand.
This numerical technique allows the analyst to solve complex engineering problems that would not be otherwise possible using conventional hand calculations. This deeper level of analysis leads to safer and more robust designs.
FEA can be applied to many different engineering areas. The majority of FEA calculations involve metallic components, just as the majority of industrial components are made of metal.
FEA plays an important role in the design process and can be used for:
FEA gives a complete insight of the design being analysed.
Some of the results that can be obtained from FEA are:
Nowadays, 3D CAD software vendors have made great progress to integrate FEA components within their modelling package and suggest that anyone capable of learning CAD can perform FE based simulation on their products.
However, FEA is still an engineering tool requiring engineering level insight into failure and material characteristics and engineering decision based on the results.
Data reported by a Finite element solution requires interpretation and this is a skill that goes beyond one’s ability to use the software.
A finite element software simply processes data to provide a solution. It doesn’t possess any additional insight to suggest alternative options or prompt the user if the inputs are wrong or unrealistic. It will give the user a solution even though the input and initial boundary conditions are incorrect. “Garbage IN-Garbage OUT”
It is therefore important that FEA is conducted by experienced analysts who understand what is happening behind the scene.
When integrated early in the design process Finite Element Analysis can provide valuable information and help in the decision-making.
Using FEA can help ruling out weak concepts or highlighting weaknesses of a design early avoiding costly redesign.
At METIS D&E, we can use FEA to help you understand your design and give you a better insight. We can highlight behaviours that could not be apprehended or stress concentrations in concealed areas of the structure.
FEA can be used to work out the optimal design to match the project requirements. This means that multiple design variations (plate thickness, dimensions …) can be tested to determine the optimal combination, avoid overdesign and save money on material cost.