Finite Element Analysis

Whilst most structural elements can be analysed using simple mathematical models, they tend to be quite limited. The results of which only offer a course approximation of the true structure. Finite element analysis (FEA) however is a powerful method of analysing structures using a computer.  It can be used to obtain more accurate structural solutions for a wide variety of structural forms ranging from simple 1D elements to highly complex 3D shaped structures.

Each component within the structure is divided into smaller triangular or quadrilateral shaped connected elements that have a finite size (hence the FEA name). These elements are connected at shared nodes, which generally occur at the corners of the elements, thus creating a ‘mesh’.

Material parameters are defined along with analytical functions that describe the behaviour of each element, such as the ability to simulate geometric and material non-linearity. All of which help describe the real-world structure more fully and to a higher degree of accuracy.

The earliest mathematical papers on FEA can be found in the works of Schelbach 1851.