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Introduction to

Finite Element Methods and


Mr. Junaid Wazir

Lecturer- FME
Things before we start
Discussions are encouraged but your work has to be finished by you own.
Due on Wednesday before the class.
Be on time!!!
A first course in finite element method (3rd Edition). Daryl L. Logan.
Brooks/Cole, 2002.
ANSYS Tutorial, K.L. Lawrence. SDC Publications, 2003.
The finite element methods: Linear static and dynamic finite element
analysis. T.J.R. Hughes. Dover Publications, 1987.
Finite element procedures. K.J. Bathe. Prentice Hall, 1996.
Definition and Basic Concepts

What is the Finite Element Method?

The finite element method is a numerical technique, ideally

suited to digital computers, in which a continuous elastic
structure (continuum) is divided (discretized) into small but
finite well-defined substructures (elements).

Using matrices, the continuous elastic behaviour of each

element is categorized in terms of the;
Elements material and geometric properties
Distribution of loading (static, dynamic, thermal) with in the
Loads and displacements
at the nodes of the element
Definition and Basic Concepts

The finite element method is a numerical analysis technique used by

engineers, scientists, and mathematicians to obtain solutions to the
differential equations that describe, or approximately describe a wide
variety of physical problems. Physical problems range in diversity from
solid, fluid and soil mechanics, to electromagnetism or dynamics.

The underlying premise of the method states that a complicated domain

can be sub-divided into a series of smaller regions in which the
differential equations are approximately solved. By assembling the set of
equations for each region, the behavior over the entire problem domain is

Each region is referred to as an element and the process of subdividing a

domain into a finite number of elements is referred to as discretization.
Elements are connected at specific points, called nodes, and the
assembly process requires that the solution be continuous along common
boundaries of adjacent elements.
Definition and Basic Concepts
The elements nodes are the fundamental governing entities of the element, as it is
the node where;
The element connects to other elements
Elastic properties of the elements established
Boundary conditions are assigned
Forces (contact or body) are ultimately applied
Degrees of freedom are the translational and rotational motion that can exist at a
node. At most a node can posses three translational and three rotational degrees of
Once each element within a structure is defined locally in matrix form, the
elements are than globally assembled (attached) through their common nodes into
an overall system matrix.
Applied loads and boundary conditions are then specified, and through matrix
operations the values of all unknown displacement dofs are determined.
From the known displacements, strain and stresses are then determined through the
constitutive equations of elasticity.
Nodal coordinates
A finite element mesh is defined by a set of nodes together with a set of
finite elements.

The nodes are a set of discrete points within the solid body. Nodes have the
following properties:
A node number. Every node is assigned an integer number, which is used
to identify the node. Any convenient numbering scheme may be selected
the nodes do not need to be numbered in order, and numbers may be
omitted. For example, one could number a set of n nodes as 100, 200,
300 100n, instead of 1,2,3n.
For a three dimensional finite element analysis, each node is assigned a set
of (x1,x2,x3 ) coordinates, which specifies the position of the node in the
undeformed solid. For a two dimensional analysis, each node is assigned a
pair of (x1,x2 ) coordinates. For an axisymmetric analysis, the x2 axis must
coincide with the axis of rotational symmetry.
Nodal displacements. When the solid deforms, each node moves to a new
position. For a three dimensional finite element analysis, the nodal
displacements specify the three components of the displacement field u(x) at
each node: (u1,u2 ,u3) . For a two dimensional analysis, each node has two
displacement components (u1,u2 ) . The nodal displacements are unknown at
the start of the analysis, and are computed by the finite element program.

Other nodal degrees of freedom. For many problems, we are interested only
in the change in shape of the solid. For more complex analyses, we may also
wish to calculate a temperature distribution in the solid, or a voltage
distribution, for example. In this case, each node is also assigned a
temperature, voltage, or similar quantity of interest. There are also some
finite element procedures which use more than just displacements to
describe shape changes in a solid. For example, when analyzing two
dimensional beams, we use the displacements and rotations of the beam at
each nodal point to describe the deformation. In this case, each node has a
rotation, as well as two displacement components. The collection of all
unknown quantities (including displacements) at each node are known as
degrees of freedom. A finite element program will compute values for these
unknown degrees of freedom.
Elements are used to partition the
solid into discrete regions. Elements
have the following properties.
Linear Quadratic Bilinear Biquadratic
An element number. Every element
is assigned an integer number,
which is used to identify the
element. Just as when numbering
nodes, any convenient scheme may
be selected to number elements.
A geometry. There are many
possible shapes for an element. A
few of the more common element
types are shown in the picture side.
Nodes attached to the element are
shown in red.
A set of nodes attached to the element. The picture below shows a
typical finite element mesh. Element numbers are shown in blue, while
node numbers are shown in red (some element and node numbers have
been omitted for clarity).

All the elements are 8 noded

quadrilaterals. Note that each element is
connected to a set of nodes: element 1
has nodes (41, 45, 5, 1, 43, 25, 3, 21),
element 2 has nodes (45, 49, 9, 5, 47,
29, 7, 25), and so on. It is conventional
to list the nodes the nodes in the order
given, with corner nodes first in order
going counterclockwise around the
element, followed by the mid side
nodes. The set of nodes attached to the
element is known as the element
Elements types and their properties
ET Shape No. of Application
Line Truss 2 Pin-ended bar in tension
or compression

Beam 2 Bending

Frame Axial, torsional, and

2 bending with or without
lead stiffening
Surface 4-noded 4 Plane stress or strain, axi-
quadrilateral symmetry, shear panel, thin
flat plate in bending
Plane stress or strain, thin
8-noded 8 flat plate in bending
Plane stress or strain, axi-
symmetry, shear panel, thin
3-noded 3 flat plate in bending, prefer
triangular quad where possible. Used
for transition of quads.
Elements types and their properties
ET Shape No. of Application
Surface 6-noded 6 Plane stress or strain, axi-
triangular symmetry, shear panel, thin
plate or shell in bending,
prefer quad where possible.
Used for transition of
Solid 8-noded 8 Solid, thick plate (using mid
Hexagonal side nodes)

pentagonal Solid, thick plate (using mid
6 side nodes. Used for

4-noded 4 Solid, thick plate (using mid

(tet.) side nodes. Used for
Elements types and their properties
ET Shape No. of Application
Special Gap 2 Free displacement for
purpose prescribed compressive

Hook Free displacement for

2 prescribed extension gap

Rigid Rigid constraints between

variab nodes
In two dimensions, elements are generally either triangular or rectangular.
In three dimensions, the elements are generally tetrahedra, hexahedra or
There are other types of element that are used for special purposes:
examples include truss elements (which are simply one dimensional axial
members), beam elements, and shell elements.
There are also special elements that enforce conditions between
contacting surfaces.
A set of faces. These are simply the sides of the element.
Errors inevitable in FEM
Computational Errors
Due to round-off errors from the computer floating point calculations and the
formulation of the numerical integration schemes that are employed.

Discretization Errors
Due to the continuous variation of the structural geometry and its displacement.
Therefore using finite number of elements introduces errors in matching geometry
and the displacement distribution due to inherent limitations of the elements.
Two Problems with plane stress triangular element as this element has straight
edges which remain straight after deformation
1) Geometric problem modeling of the curved edges. For large curve is
reasonable but for hole very poorly modeled
2) Strain in various regions of structure changes rapidly and this constant strain
element will only provide an approximation of the average strain at the center
of the element. So results will be very poor

Results can only be improved by increasing number of elements (mesh) or

alternatively a better element such as an eight-noded quadrilateral, as this
element can model curved edges and provides for higher order strain
Introduction to
Finite Element Modeling
Why?: When we have to find an effect (stress, strain, flux, etc)
which is distributed throughout a volume, and is too difficult to
calculate by hand.

How: Break a part into discrete chunks (elements), Apply driving

functions, constraints, etc., then solve for physical effects.

different types of elements may be used in a FEM mesh
elements that are too deformed will yield poorer results
if a field variable will be subject to a large change over an area,
then smaller elements should be used to improve the
CAD systems will often allow a user to manually, and
automatically mesh a part.
Generative meshing algorithms will
mesh a part roughly,
solve the problem using the rough mesh,
identify elements with large errors,
reduce the element sizes in the critical areas,
resolve the problem to obtain a more accurate result.
Errors of 10% or more are easy to get using FEA systems. Care
must be taken when examining results.

Boundary conditions used in FEA systems include,

x, y, and/or z positions fixed
x, y, and/or z axis rotations fixed.
applied force
applied moment
Still a research topic, and many various methods are available
Generally the computer breaks geometry into subsections
To provide a basic understanding of element
matrices, and assembly and their solution
The simplest elastic element is the Truss Element
Equations are developed in one-dimensional space first and
then through coordinate transformation the element is cast
into 2-D and 3-D space

Two methods are used to develop element equations

1. Direct stiffness method (becomes inadequate as more
abstract condition develop)
2. Energy method (Rayleigh-Ritz)
Spring/Truss Elements
Do Examples 2.1 and 2.2
One can readily verify that the displacements have the correct values at
the corners of the element, and the displacements evidently vary linearly
with position within the element.

Different types of element interpolation scheme exist. The simple example

described above is known as a linear element. Six noded triangles and 8
noded triangles are examples of quadratic elements: the displacement
field varies quadratically with position within the element. In three
dimensions, the 4 noded tetrahedron and the 8 noded brick are linear
elements, while the 10 noded tet and 20 noded brick are quadratic. Other
special elements, such as beam elements or shell elements, use a more
complex procedure to interpolate the displacement field.

Some special types of element interpolate both the displacement field and
some or all components of the stress field within an element separately.
(Usually, the displacement interpolation is sufficient to determine the
stress, since one can compute the strains at any point in the element from
the displacement, and then use the stressstrain relation for the material
to find the stress). This type of element is known as a hybrid element.
Integration points. One objective of a finite element analysis is to determine the
distribution of stress within a solid. This is done as follows. First, the
displacements at each node are computed (the technique used to do this will be
discussed later in the course.) Then, the element interpolation functions are used
to determine the displacement at arbitrary points within each element. The
displacement field can be differentiated to determine the strains. Once the strains
are known, the stressstrain relations for the element are used to compute the
In principle, this procedure could be used to determine the stress at any point
within an element. However, it turns out to work better at some points than
others. The special points within an element where stresses are computed most
accurately are known as integration points. (Stresses are sampled at these points
in the finite element program to evaluate certain volume and area integrals, hence
they are known as integration points).
For a detailed description of the locations of integration points within an
element, you should consult an appropriate user manual. The approximate
locations of integration points for a few two dimensional elements are shown
Linear Elasticity. You should alreadly be familiar with the idea of a
linear elastic material. It has a uniaxial stressstrain response (valid
only for small strains) as shown in the picture below
The stress--strain law for the material
may be expressed in matrix form as

Elasticplastic material
behavior. You should be familiar
with some of the ideas used to
model plastic deformation in a
solid. Uniaxial stressstrain
curve for an elasticplastic solid
looks something like the one
Boundary conditions
Boundary conditions are used to specify the loading applied to a
solid. There are four ways to apply loads to a finite element mesh:
Displacement boundary conditions. The displacements at any node
on the boundary or within the solid can be specified.

Standard symbols are used to denote displacement boundary conditions

applied to a finite element mesh. The symbols look much like those you
used to denote boundary conditions for beams in EN31.
For example, to stretch a 2D block of
material vertically, while allowing it to
expand or contract freely horizontally,
we would apply boundary constraints
to the top and bottom surface as shown
Observe that one of the nodes on the
bottom of the block has been prevented
from moving horizontally, as well as
It is important to do this: the finite
element program will be unable to find
a unique solution for the displacement
fields if the solid is free to slide
Prescribed forces. Any node in a finite element mesh may be subjected to a
prescribed force. The nodal force is a vector, and is specified by its three (or
two for 2D) components, (F1 ,F2 ,F3).
Distributed loads. A solid may be subjected to distributed pressure or traction
acting on ints boundary. Examples include aerodynamic loading, or hydrostatic
fluid pressure. Distributed traction is a vector quantity, with physical
dimensions of force per unit area in 3D, and force per unit length in 2D. To
model this type of loading in a finite element program, distributed loads may
be applied to the the face of any element.
Default boundary condition at boundary nodes. If no displacements or forces
are prescribed at a boundary node, and no distributed loads act on any element
faces connected to that node, then the node is assumed to be free of external
Body forces. External body forces may act on the interior of a solid. Examples
of body forces include gravitational loading, or electromagnetic forces. Body
force is a vector quantity, with physical dimensions of force per unit volume.
To model this type of loading in a finite element program, body forces may be
applied to the interior of any element.
Load history. In some cases, one may wish to apply a cycle of load to a solid. In this
case, the prescribed loads and displacements must be specified as a function of time.

General guidelines concerning boundary conditions. When performing a static analysis,

it is very important to make sure that boundary conditions are applied properly. A finite
element program can only solve a problem if a unique static equilibrium solution to the
problem exists.
Difficulties arise if the user does not specify sufficient boundary constraints to prevent
rigid body motion of a solid. This is best illustrated by example. Suppose we wish to
model stretching a 2D solid, as described earlier. The examples below show two correct
ways to do this.
The following examples show various incorrect ways to apply boundary
conditions. In each case, one or more rigid body mode is unconstrained.

Initial Conditions
For a dynamic analysis, it is necessary to specify the initial velocity
and displacement of each node in the solid. The default value is zero
velocity and displacement.
An assemblage of three-dimensional
brick elements models a representative
slice of a concrete reactor vessel.

The idealised model of the slice appears

on the left; the corresponding finite
element assembly on the right. Supports
are not shown.
Determining the
stress intensity at a
corner crack is
aided by
preferential mesh
The sketch shows
the mesh both
before and after
Engineering Design
In engineering design, it is desired to determine the performance of a
component prior to the manufacturing stage or even the prototype
construction. If potential improvements or flaws are realized at an early stage
within the product's development, then modifications can be introduced at a
relatively lower cost than later in the design process. Consequently, significant
savings of time are obtained. Analysis tools such as the finite element method
provide an accurate prediction of a product's performance which enables
further design options to be investigated.
Consider, for example, one link of a tractor tread. Each link must be designed
to withstand severe stresses that are encountered during operation of the
tractor. If critical stress areas can be identified and reduced prior to the actual
forging of the link, then significant time savings are achieved, directly
impacting the competitiveness of the product.
An example of output from a finite element analysis of a track link is
shown below. In this plot, referred to as a stress contour plot, critical
areas (shaded in red) can readily be determined by the relative
magnitudes of the principal stress components. Furthermore, one is able
to determine the "flow" of stresses through the component.

A Track Link

Definition of a Field
Finite elements are not restricted to stress analysis only, but are applicable to
any physical problem characterized by a field. Any quantity which varies
with position across the geometric region of the problem space is a field, and
the geometric region is referred to as the spatial domain. In general, the field
variable may be a scalar, a vector, or a higher-order tensor.
Definition and Basic Concepts

Transient Problems
If the field also varies with time, the type of problem is referred to as a
propagation or transient problem. Applications include diffusion problems
such as fluid flow, heat conduction, contaminant transport, and wave
propagation, including electromagnetic waves, acoustic waves, and surface

Steady-state problems are referred to as either equilibrium problems or

eigenvalue problems. The former type includes most common applications
in finite element analysis, while the latter involves the calculation of natural
frequencies in a normal modes analysis, or the determination of buckling
modes in a stability analysis.

Associated with a field is a potential, or field variable, which is related to
the field through differential equations containing spatial derivatives of the
The table below summarizes the main types of engineering analyses:

Type of Analysis Field Potential

Stress Stress Displacement
Thermal Heat Flux Temperature
Fluid Fluid Velocity Pressure
Electrical Electric Field Voltage
Magnetic Magnetic Field Magnetic Vector Potential
Solid Mechanics in Engineering Design


Material Selection
Shape Optimization
Sample Application: Hip Implant
Application: Crash Simulation
Frontal Crash: Belted and Unbelted Driver
Knee Protection
Buckling and Penetration
Underwater Explosion
Missile Detonation (!)
Bicycle frame design
More Crashing
Earthquake Response
Gear Design
Stress in solder joints
Tools of the Trade
Physical Intuition

e1 Solutions to boundary value
Thickness b
e1 a

Finite Element Analysis

Two general types of finite element analysis are conducted. In most
cases, we are interested in determining the behavior of a solid body that
is in static equilibrium. This means that both external and internal forces
acting on the solid sum to zero. In some cases, we may be interested in
the dynamic behavior of a solid body. Examples include modeling
vibrations in structures, problems involving wave propagation, explosive
loading and crash analysis.
To set up a problem properly, we need to specify
The geometry of the solid. This is done by generating a finite element
mesh for the solid.
The properties of the material. This is done by specifying a constitutive
law for the solid.
The nature of the loading applied to the solid. This is done by specifying
the boundary conditions for the problem.
For a dynamic analysis, it is necessary to specify initial conditions for
the problem. This is not necessary for a static analysis.
The Finite Element Mesh
The finite element mesh is used to
specify the geometry of the solid,
and is also used to describe the
displacement field within the solid
in a convenient form.
A finite element mesh may be three
dimensional, like the example
shown side. Two dimensional finite
element meshes are also used to
model simpler modes of
deformation. There are three main
types of two dimensional finite
element mesh:
Plane stress
Plane strain
Plane Stress FEM
A plane stress finite element mesh is
used to model a platelike solid
which is loaded in its own plane.
The solid must have uniform
thickness, and the thickness must be
much less than any representative
cross sectional dimension.
A plane stress finite element mesh for
a thin plate containing a hole is
shown below.
Only on quadrant of the specimen is
modeled, since symmetry boundary
conditions will be enforced during
the analysis.
Plane Strain FEM
A plane strain finite element mesh is
used to model a thick solid that is
constrained against out of plane
A plane strain finite element mesh for
a cylinder which is in contact with a
rigid floor is shown side. Away from
the ends of the cylinder, we expect it
to deform so that the out of plane
component of displacement
There is no need to solve for ,
therefore, so a two dimensional mesh
is sufficient to calculate u1(x1,x2 ) and
u2(x1,x2 ) .
As before, only one quadrant of the
specimen is meshed: symmetry
boundary conditions will be enforced
during the analysis.
Axisymmetric finite element mesh

An axisymmetric mesh is used to

model a solids that has rotational
symmetry, which is subjected to
axisymmetric loading. An example
is shown below.

The picture compares a three dimensional mesh of an axisymmetric

bushing to an axisymmetric mesh. Note that the half the bushing has
been cut away in the 3D view, to show the geometry more clearly. In an
axisymmetric analysis, the origin for the (x,y) coordinate system is
always on the axis of rotational symmetry. Note also that to run an
axisymmetric finite element analysis, both the geometry of the solid, and
also the loading applied to the solid, must have rotational symmetry
about the y axis.
FEM Reference Texts

Allaire, Basics of the Finite Element Method, W.C. Brown Publishers

Bathe, Finite Element Procedures, Prentice Hall
Burnett, Finite Element Analysis, Addison Wesley
Chandrupatla & Belegundu, Introduction to Finite Elements in
Engineering, Prentice Hall
Huebner & Thorton, The Finite Element Method for Engineers, Wiley-
Logan, A First Course in the Finite Element Method, PWS Kent
Zienkiewicz & Taylor, The Finite Element Method, Volumes 1 & 2,
McGraw Hill

Parametric features are becoming more common in FEA packages. The key
benefit of parametric features is that they let users see the effects of design
changes quickly.
With adequate planning, users can define an FE model entirely in terms of
variables or parameters. Even mesh characteristics can be defined as
Loads are also parameterized. For the example, the model is subjected to a unit
distributed load. One parameter denotes the load. Another (beam length
width) defines the load area on the upper section. Two other parameters
calculate the pressure required for the upper surface. In this way, changing the
model size does not affect the total load on the beam.

Even boundary conditions can be applied with parameters. For instance, we

use parameters to select nodes at the ends of the upper layer. Thus, we are
assured that the simply supported boundary conditions are correctly applied for
each run of the study, regardless of the changes that might be made to either
geometry or mesh.
Assigning parameters that describe linked nodes lets the model simulate any
number of spot welds. Model dimensions and mesh density are changed with
equal ease. Parametric models also help with convergence or mesh-refinement
studies which estimate the discretization error, an accuracy indicator.
A convergence study lets us select the FE mesh that provides the quickest
acceptable solution. This is important when the model is used many times in
parametric studies. In such case, it's advantageous to generate several solutions
with a finite, but acceptable error in each.

What is FEA?

Finite Element Analysis is a way to simulate loading conditions on a

design and determine the designs response to those conditions.
The design is modeled using discrete building blocks called

Historical Note
Each element has exact
equations that describe how it The finite element method of
responds to a certain load. structural analysis was created by
academic and industrial researchers
The sum of the response of all during the 1950s and 1960s.
elements in the model gives the The underlying theory is over 100
total response of the design. years old, and was the basis for
pen-and-paper calculations in the
The elements have a finite number evaluation of suspension bridges
of unknowns, hence the name and steam boilers.
finite elements.

...What is FEA?
The finite element model, which has a finite number of unknowns,
can only approximate the response of the physical system, which has
infinite unknowns.
So the question arises: How good is the approximation?

Unfortunately, there is no easy

answer to this question. It
depends entirely on what you are
simulating and the tools you use
for the simulation. We will,
however, attempt to give you
guidelines throughout this training

Physical System F.E. Model


...What is FEA?
Why is FEA needed?
To reduce the amount of prototype testing
Computer simulation allows multiple what-if scenarios to be
tested quickly and effectively.
To simulate designs that are not suitable for prototype testing
Example: Surgical implants, such as an artificial knee
The bottom line:
Cost savings
Time savings reduce time to market!
Create more reliable, better-quality designs