Finite element analysis

The name FEA refers to an object or structure to be modeled with a finite number of elements. FEA can be defined as a numerical technique, involving breaking a complex problem down into small subproblems, via computer models that can be solved by a computer.

The key to effective FEA modeling is to concentrate element details at areas of highest stress. This approach produces maximum accuracy at the lowest cost.

FEA is one of the major advancements in engineering analysis. When first introduced, the cost of computer equipment and FEA software limited its use to high budget projects such as military hardware, spacecraft, and aircraft design. With the cost of both computer time and software significantly reduccd, FEA began to be used for high volume product designs in such markets as automobiles, large buildings, and civil engineering structures.

During this time period of about two decades, there occurred a dramatic increase in the power of desktop personal computers. Simultaneously, advances in relatively low priced software has made it possible for the designer to use advanced engineering techniques that at one time were restricted to these high budget projects and designs. All this action has permitted more use of desktop computers running FEA software that can be run with relative ease. At present helping this expansion is due to an increase in users and much more competition both in hardware/ software and design projects to meet fast manufactured plastic products.

In its most fundamental form, FEA is limited to static, linear elastic analyses. However, there are advanced finite element computer software programs that can treat highly nonlinear (plastics viscoelastic behavior) dynamic problems efficientiy. Important features of these programs include their ability to handle sliding interfaces between contacting bodies and the ability to model elastic-plastic material properties. These program features have made possible the analysis of impact problems that only a few years ago had to be handled with very approximate techniques. FEA have made these analyses much more precise, resulting in better and more optimum designs.

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