How is Finite Element Analysis Performed?

Explore the power of FEA software. Predict how your product reacts to forces, identify design issues, and optimize performance.

Carter Aldridge
Carter Aldridge

What is Finite Element Analysis?

Finite element analysis is a typically computerized method used by engineers to predict how an object will react to forces generated from mechanical stress, vibration, heat, and fluid flow/pressure, amongst others. The process starts with breaking a large, complex problem down into smaller and easier to solve equations. These smaller sections are known as "elements" and the solutions for individual elements are compiled back into a composite solution for the original problem. It helps engineers determine whether a product will break, wear out, or work the way it is supposed to under certain conditions. It is performed to identify design problems and test product performance under various conditions. It can help reduce the number of physical prototypes to be created and optimize product design, saving manufacturers time and money.  

How is Finite Element Analysis Conducted?

Here are the steps to performing a finite element analysis.

Step 1: Modeling

In the first step, a solid model of the object is created. When modeling an object, ignore complex geometric features and focus on its basic structure. Think about the reason why you want to create a simulation of the object. Try to gain insights and remove insignificant features.  

Step 2: Define the Material

This step involves defining material properties (which typically depend on the type and nature of analysis being performed). If you’re lucky, you will find the material in the material library of your FE tool, in which case all you need to do is select and import material properties from the library.  

Step 3: Define Loads

Be careful when defining external forces acting on the structure to avoid singularities and other problems. A material can be subjected to different types of loads, such as pressures, thermal gradients, and forces. Double-check to make sure that the magnitude and direction of the loads are accurately represented.  

Step 4: Apply Boundary Conditions

When setting boundary conditions, think about real-world constraints (such as fixed supports and rollers) imposed on the structure.  

Step 5: Meshing

A finite element mesh is created by breaking down the physical structure into smaller, interconnected elements. Remember, the more elements you have, the higher the accuracy of your FEA, but you’ll also need more computational resources. ANSYS, Abaqus, COMSOL and other FEA software can help simplify the process.    

Step 6: Solve the Equations

The behavior of every element is described by a system of equations. Convert the partial differential equations into algebraic equations so the code represents equations as matrices and assemble individual matrices into a global matrix. Solve the matrix computationally for unknown variables.  

Step 7: Post-processing

Once you have performed the FEA analysis, use tools offered by your FEA software to study data related to stress distributions, deformation, and displacement. An in-depth analysis can help you understand how the component behaves under the given conditions.  

Use physical tests and real-world data to validate the result of your analysis. If the result is not what you expected, consider tweaking the model or adjusting loads or boundary conditions.  

The Nel PreTech team possesses diverse expertise and capabilities to execute intricate analyses effectively.

To schedule an appointment, call 708-429-4887.  

Want to learn more? Download the FEA brochure here.

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