Fundamentals of Finite Element Analysis: A Complete Beginner’s Guide

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Finite element analysis is a technique used to evaluate how an object reacts or responds to different things around it such as forces, heat, vibration, or physical effects. It does so by breaking up the object into small chunks, or ‘elements’, and then calculating the forces acting on each one to find out how each element is reacting to different natural stimuli.

The goal of FEA is to figure out where the stresses are highest and which areas need more reinforcement. This type of analysis can be done with anything from a bridge and building to an airplane wing. Let’s have a look at some of the fundamental aspects of this process.

Selecting Elements

The first step in any FE analysis is determining which ‘elements’ are going to be included in the analysis. The simplest way to do this is to select the lines that make up the smallest parts of the object. At a higher level, it can be done by selecting groups of lines based on their ‘attachment’ points—parts of the object where they connect to other elements.

These attachment points are known as nodes and are typically identified by dots or cross-hatch marks but there are also methods for automatically detecting them using image processing software. Once the nodes have been identified, the next step is to define the size of each element.

It’s important to understand that you don’t always have to consider everything during a FEA. For example, if we have a building consisting of hundreds of thousands of panels and beams that are all connected together, you can’t include every panel and beam in your analysis. It might be sufficient to just take into account the stresses that are occurring on some specific beams to determine the overall stress.

An engineer looking at different designs for a project

Setting Material Properties

The material properties define how the material should behave during the analysis. These properties can come from a variety of sources such as databases or past experiments. It may include things like the Young’s modulus (the stiffness of the material), Poisson’s ratio (how much stiffness is lost per length change), and many other aspects.

Once the material properties have been selected, a set of equations is calculated based on these properties in order to determine how the stresses are going to be applied and distributed in the element.

Calculating Stress and Strain at Each Element

The next step is to calculate the stresses for each element using different mathematical formulas. Once you’ve done that, you have to calculate the stresses across all elements by using a formula that relates to different stresses as well as to the material properties and forces applied. Finally, the calculator will provide different values that indicate how much stress each element is experiencing.

Whether you want to conduct Finite Element Analysis or are looking for a mechanical engineering design service, reach out to us! At Connekt, LLC, we have 35 years of experience in offering a wide range of engineering design services such as 3D printing, rapid prototyping, consultation, and much more.

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