How finite element analysis works and where it's used.

Definition: Finite element analysis (FEA) is a computational approach used to determine how a product will behave when subject to complex conditions like crash, temperature changes, fatigue, etc.

What is Finite Element Analysis (FEA)?

How FEA works

1. Problem definition

First, decide what you want to learn about your design. For example, how a car would respond in a head-on collision.

Second, define the situation. With a car collision, there are many detailed parts that are involved, and for each part, you’ll need to define things like the material it’s made out of, how it’s connected to other parts, and how much force it’s subject to during the crash. In FEA, this is called preprocessing.

2. Solve the problem

A finite element analysis is based on mathematical models. These mathematical models are solved numerically using discrete approximations.

There are many types of simulations, like linear static and nonlinear dynamic. You should pick the one that best describes the behavior you want to simulate.

3. Post processing

Finally, the results are post-processed and displayed. This might be accomplished by rendering displacement contours or an animation showing the deformation of the model over time. The results from the simulation can then be used to validate the safety of a design or identify areas that need to be improved.

Additional uses of FEA

Beyond automotive crash, FEA analysts routinely use FEA software to simulate widely varying phenomena like cell phone drop tests or fatigue and failure in airplane parts that would be impossible to simulate in real life.

Simple applications of FEA are also used by designers to get directional guidance for things like drag in car design, while engineers use a broader set of FEA embedded in CAD products as a routine part of product development.

 

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