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FEATI University

Helios St., Sta. Cruz, Manila

Department of Aeronautical Engineering and

Aircraft Maintenance Technology

AE 422 - Structures II
An Overview: Finite Element Analysis

Submitted by:
Velazquez, Revor E.

Submitted to:

Engr. Lemuel F. Banal

November 5, 2018

In the 40s, Finite Element Analysis traced back its roots from the development of 'matrix theory
of structural analysis'. Until 50s, this method of analysis satisfactorily solved problems however it
caught up with the limitation of having to solve matrices on the order of tens up to thousands of
rows and columns. This arduous numerical method was deemed impractical even with the most
brilliant human computer, although still possible. By the 60s, electronic computers emerged and
during a conference about electronic computation, one paper discussed the technique for solving
plane stress analysis and where the term finite element was coined. And at that moment, it is
considered to be the launching of finite elements. Quickly, people used this technique in writing
their programs. Finally by the 70s, large general-purpose finite element such as NASTRAN was
introduced. These programs before graphical pre- and post-processors, engineers would need to
manually input all the parameters - including nodes and their locations, connectivity of the
elements, and material properties. And they didn't have a way to tell if there's an error until the
results looked untrue. Eventually by the 80s, graphical pre- and post-processors became available
and made the construction of finite element models easier. It also reduced human errors. In the
long run, the problems got more complex however by the 90s, automatic meshing technology
allows better and faster computing and FEA capabilities. In summary, if today’s problems seem
complex for electronic computers, tomorrow it will eventually be caught up being faster and
stronger. This never-ending race between human needs and technology will reliably bring out
the best in our humanity.

Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMcw0bulgbc


1. Finite Element Method (FEM)

One reason for the finite element method’s success in multi-physics analysis is that it is a very
general method. Solving the resulting equation systems are the same or very similar to well-
known and efficient methods used for structural and electromagnetics analysis. Another reason
for the method’s success is that it makes it easy to “increase the order of the elements” so that
the physics fields can be approximated very accurately. This typically corresponds to locally
approximating the physics fields with polynomials of “higher order,” such as second- and third-
degree polynomials, or higher. This technique is often critical, for example, in the case of accurate
stress analysis.

Another advantage with the finite-element method, which is particularly important for multi-
physics analysis, is that you can combine different kinds of functions that approximate the
solution within each element. This is called mixed formulations. This is important, for example, in
the case of electromagnetic heating. The physics and mathematics require one type of function
for the electromagnetic field and another type of function for heat transfer; they both need to be
tightly coupled to get an accurate solution and for the solution to converge. Mixed formulations
are straightforward to handle the finite-element method, but difficult or impossible with other

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The benefits with both the finite-element method and the finite-volume method are that curved
and irregular CAD geometries are handled in a natural way.

However, the mathematics behind the finite-element method is quite advanced and thus the
method requires mathematical expertise for its implementation. Implementations of finite-
difference and finite-volume methods are comparatively straightforward.

For certain time-dependent simulations, one needs to use so-called explicit solvers for reasons of
efficiency. Implementing such solver techniques is more difficult for the finite-element method
than for the finite-difference and finite-volume methods. However, this has successfully been
commercialized in some cases, such as in crash simulations.

2. Finite-Difference Method (FDM)

The finite-difference method is defined dimension per dimension; this makes it easy to increase
the “element order” to get higher-order accuracy. If you can fit the simulation in a rectangular or
box-shaped geometry using a regular grid, efficient implementations are much easier than for
finite-element and finite-volume methods. Regular grids are useful for very-large-scale
simulations on supercomputers often used in, as mentioned before, meteorological, seismological,
and astrophysical simulations.

With the finite-difference method, you may easily run into problems handling curved boundaries
for the purpose of defining the boundary conditions. Boundary conditions are needed to truncate
the computational domain. They represent communication with the surrounding world, which is
the part that you do not want included in your simulation. If one can overcome the boundary-
condition problem on curved boundaries, the method gives very efficient and high quality results.

For computations that need high accuracy, the extra effort in making boundary-fitted meshes and
the associated complications of such meshes for the implementation may be worth it. Examples
include Formula 1 car computational-fluid-dynamic (CFD) simulations and space-shuttle CFD
simulations. The finite-difference method is more difficult to use for handling material
discontinuities. In addition, it does not lend itself for local grid refinement or anything similar to
“adaptive mesh refinement.” This may be needed to resolve local rapid variations in solutions
such as around a corner of a complex shape, as described earlier.

3. Finite-Volume Method (FVM)

The finite-volume method is a natural choice for CFD problems, since the partial differential
equations you have to solve for CFD are conservation laws. However, both finite differences and
finite elements can also be used for CFD. Efficient technology for CFD with the finite-element
method has become increasingly popular over the last 10 to 15 years. Techniques for CFD with
the finite-difference and finite-volume method have been known and used much longer.

The finite-volume method’s strength is that it only needs to do flux evaluation for the cell
boundaries. This also holds for nonlinear problems, which makes it extra powerful for robust
handling of (nonlinear) conservation laws appearing in transport problems.

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The local accuracy of the finite-volume method, such as close to a corner of interest, can be
increased by refining the mesh around that corner, similar to the finite-element method. However,
the functions that approximate the solution when using the finite-volume method cannot be
easily made of higher order. This is a disadvantage of the finite-volume method compared to the
finite-element and finite-difference methods.


Finite Element Analysis (FEA) or Finite Element Method (FEM)

The Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is a numerical method for solving problems of engineering and
mathematical physics. It is useful for problems with complicated geometries, loadings, and
material properties where analytical solutions cannot be obtained.

The Purpose of FEA

In relation with analytical solution, the study of stress analysis for trusses, beams, and other simple
structures are carried out based on dramatic simplification and idealization of the mass
concentrated at the center of gravity and the beam simplified as a line segment with the same
cross-section. Its design is based on the calculation results of the idealized structure and a large
safety factor of 1.5 to 3.
Using the FEA, there are different considerations that must be considered because the design
geometry is a lot more complex; and the accuracy requirement is a lot higher. It is needed to
understand the physical behaviors of a complex object particularly its strength, heat transfer
capability, fluid flow, and etc. It is also necessary to predict the performance and behavior of the
design in order to calculate the safety margin, and to identify the weakness of the design

Common Applications of FEA

1. Mechanical/Aerospace/Civil/Automotive Engineering
2. Structural/Stress Analysis
3. Static/Dynamic or Linear/Nonlinear
4. Fluid Flow
5. Heat Transfer
6. Electromagnetic Fields
7. Soil Mechanics
8. Acoustics
9. Biomechanics

Types of Finite Elements

1. 1D or Line Element – examples are spring, truss, beam, and pipe.
2. 2D or Plane Element – examples are membranes, plates, and shells.
3. 3D or Solid Element – where the 3D fields are temperature, displacement, stress, and flow

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It obtains a set of algebraic equations to solve for unknown (first) nodal quantity (displacement).
The secondary quantities (stresses and strains) are expressed in terms of nodal values of primary

Object Elements Nodes

Principles of FEA
The finite element method (FEM), or finite element analysis (FEA), is a computational technique
used to obtain approximate solutions of boundary value problems in engineering. Boundary value
problems are also called field problems. The field is the domain of interest and most often
represents a physical structure. The field variables are the dependent variables of interest
governed by the differential equation. The boundary conditions are the specified values of the
field variables (or related variables such as derivatives) on the boundaries of the field.

General Procedure for Finite Element Analysis

1. Preprocessing
• Define the geometric domain of the problem.
• Define the element type(s) to be used (Chapter 6).
• Define the material properties of the elements.
• Define the geometric properties of the elements (length, area, and the like).
• Define the element connectivities (mesh the model).
• Define the physical constraints (boundary conditions). Define the loadings.
2. Solution
• Computes the unknown values of the primary field variable(s)
• Computed values are then used by back substitution to compute additional,
derived variables, such as reaction forces, element stresses, and heat flow.
3. Post Processing
• Postprocessor software contains sophisticated routines used for sorting, printing,
and plotting selected results from a finite element solution

Stiffness Matrix
The primary characteristics of a finite element are embodied in the element stiffness matrix. For
a structural finite element, the stiffness matrix contains the geometric and material behavior
information that indicates the resistance of the element to deformation when subjected to

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loading. Such deformation may include axial, bending, shear, and torsional effects. For finite
elements used in nonstructural analyses, such as fluid flow and heat transfer, the term stiffness
matrix is also used, since the matrix represents the resistance of the element to change when
subjected to external influences.


1. AFENA – It is a Finite Element Package especially

for Geotechnical Problems. This is coming with a
pre and post processors for easy data entry and
result visualization which was released on 2006 by
John P. Carter and Nigel P. Balaam in University of

2. Agros2D – A multiplatform open source

application for the solution physical problems
based on the Hermes library which was released
on March 03, 2014 by the University of West

3. CalculiX – It is an Open Source FEA project. The

solver uses a partially compatible ABAQUS file
format. The pre/post-processor generates input
data for many FEA and CFD applications. This was
released on July 31, 2016 by Guido Dhondt and
Klaus Wittig.

4. CALFEM – it is an interactive computer program for teaching the

finite element method (FEM). Its name is an abbreviation of
“Computer Aided Learning of the Finite Element Method.” The
program can be used for different types of structural mechanics
problems and field problems. This was released on December 15,
2015 by the Lund University.

5. Code Aster – is an Open Source software package

for civil and structural engineering finite element
analysis and numeric simulation in structural
mechanics which is written in Python and Fortran.
This was released on December 14, 2015 by EDF.

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6. DIANA FEA – it is a general-purpose finite element
package utilized by civil, structural, and
geotechnical engineers which was released on
November 14, 2016 by DIANA FEA BV of The

7. Deal II – it is a comprehensive set of tools for finite

element codes, scaling from laptops to clusters
with 10,000+ cores and written in C++. This was
released on August 01, 2015 by Wolfgang Bangerth,
Timo Heister, Guido Kanschat, Matthias Maier et al.

8. DUNE – this is a distributed and unified numeric

environment, written in C++ which was released
on February 29, 2016 by Christoph Grüninger.

9. Elmer – it is an open source multi-physical simulation software developed by Finnish

Ministry of Education's CSC, written primarily in Fortran (written in Fortran90, C and C++)
on May 05, 2015.

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10. FEATFLOW – it is a subroutine system for the
numerical solution of the incompressible Navier-
Stokes equations in two and three space
dimensions which was developed by the
University of Heidelberg that was released on 1998.

11. FEATOOL – it is an easy to use Matlab and Octave

Multiphysics FEM Solver and GUI Toolbox which
was released on September 16, 2015.

12. FEAP – is a free general purpose finite element

analysis program which is designed for research
and educational use that was derived from
the FEAP program which was released on
September 19, 2015 by Robert L. Taylor.

13. FEMAP – is a pre and post-processing software

with the ability to edit complex geometry and
develop highly specialized mesh for quick,
accurate results. This was released on September
12, 2016 by Siemens PLM.

14. FEBio – a software for finite elements for

Biomechanics that was released on October 09,
2015 by the University of Utah, MRL.

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15. FEniCS Project – a software package developed by
American and European researchers with the goal
to enable automated solution of differential
equations on July 29, 2015.

16. FreeFEM – a software written in C++ for rapid

testing and finite element simulations. The
problem is defined in terms of its variational
formulation. This was released on March 11, 2016
by Université Pierre et Marie Curie and
Laboratoire Jacques-Louis Lions.

17. 17. GetFEM - A generic finite element library

written in C++ with interfaces for Python, Matlab
and Scilab. It focuses on modeling of contact
mechanics and discontinuities (e.g. cracks). It was
released on July 2015.

18. Hermes Project – it is a modular C/C++ library for

rapid development of space- and space-time
adaptive HP-FEM solvers which was released on
March 01, 2014.

19. OOFEM – it is an object oriented finite element

solver, written in C++ that was released on
February 02, 2015 by Bořek Patzák.

20. OpenFOAM – it is originally for CFD only, but now

includes finite element analysis through
tetrahedral decomposition of arbitrary grids. This
was released on December 12, 2015.

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21. OpenSees – it is an open system for Earthquake
Engineering Simulation.

22. Z88Aurora – it is a freeware finite element

package. The present version Z88Aurora V3 offers,
in addition to static strength analysis modules
such as non-linear strength calculations (large
displacements), simulations with non-linear
materials, natural frequency and static thermal
analysis. This was released on March 2015 by Frank

23. Abaqus – it is an advanced Franco-USA software

from SIMULIA, owned by Dassault Systemes on
November 2015.

24. HyperMesh – it is an FEA software developed by


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25. ADINA – it is a finite element software for
structural, fluid, heat transfer, electromagnetic, and
multi-physics problems, including fluid-structure
interaction and thermo-mechanical coupling.

26. Advance Design – it is a BIM software for FEM

structural analysis, including international design
eurocodes. This was released on September 2013

27. Autodesk Simulation – it is a Finite Element

software of Autodesk.

28. ANSYS – it is a US-based and US-developed full

CAE software package which was released on
January 2016.

29. COMSOL Multiphysics – a Finite Element Analysis

Software which is formerly known as FEMLAB that
was released on November 16, 2015 by COMSOL

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30. CosmosWorks – it is part of SolidWorks developed
by the Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp.

31. Quickfield – a Finite Element software developed

by the Tor Cooperative on December 22, 2015.

32. LS-DYNA – a Finite Element software developed by

the LSTC - Livermore Software Technology
Corporation on March 2015.

33. Nastran – it is originally developed by MSC

NASTRAN, Siemens PLM NX Nastran on 2014
for NASA, now available commercially from
several software companies.

34. Simcenter3D – a Predictive Analysis that delivers a

unified, scalable, open and extensible environment
for 3D CAE with connections to design, 1D
simulation, test and data management. This was
released on 2016.

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35. RFEM – a 3D finite element analysis software
developed by Dlubal Software on February 2016.

36. SimScale – a German 100% web-based CAE

platform developed by SimScale GmbH on July

37. VisualFEA – a Finite element software for

structural, geotechnical, heat transfer and seepage
analysis developed by Intuition Software on
January 2016.

38. Permas – a Finite Element software developed by

the german company Intes GmbH.


It refers to a way of computing something that is usually symbolic using numbers. In essence
numerical methods are ways of approximating solutions to mathematical problems using
numerical values rather than symbolic values.

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Examples of numerical methods used in FEA:
1. Elements of Hilbert Space Theory
2. Elements of the Theory of Sobolev Spaces and Variational Formulation of Boundary–Value
Problems in One Dimension
3. Galerkin Finite Element Methods for Two–Point Boundary–Value Problems
4. Results from the Theory of Sobolev Spaces and the Variational Formulation of Elliptic
Boundary–Value Problems in RN
5. The Galerkin Finite Element Method for Elliptic Boundary–Value Problems
6. The Galerkin Finite Element Method for the Heat Equation
7. The Galerkin Finite Element Method for the Wave Equation

1. List of Finite Element Software Packages. [Retrieved online on November 04, 2018 at
PARTIAL DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS. Department of Mathematics, University of Athens,
Greece and Institute of Applied and Computational Mathematics, FORTH, Greece. 2013.
3. Introduction to Finite Element Analysis and Finite Element Methods.
4. Sjodin, B. 2016. What’s the difference between FEM, FDM and FVM?. [Retrieved online on
November 3, 2018 at https://www.machinedesign.com/fea-and-simulation/what-s-

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