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Finite Element Method (FEM)

General Steps of the
Finite Element Method

Step 1 Step 6 Step 7

Discretise and Solve for unknown Solve for element
select the element degree of freedom strains and stresses
types (displacements)

Step 2 Step 5 Step 8

Select a Assemble to obtain Interpret the results
global equations and
displacement apply boundary
function conditions

Step 3 Step 4 Step 1 & 8 are generally

Define the strain / Derive the element decided by Analyst
displacement and stiffness matrix and Steps 2-7 are carried out
stress / strain equations automatically by
relationships computer program
Applications of FEM
Applications of the
Finite Element Method

Typical structural application areas include

Truss and frame analysis such as pedestrian walk bridges, high rise
building frames, and windmill towers

Stress concentration problems associated with holes, fillets, and

other changes in geometry such as automotive parts, pressure
vessels, medical devices, aircraft and sports equipment

Buckling problems such as in columns, frames and vessels

Vibration analysis such as in vibratory equipment

Impact problems including crash analysis of vehicles, projectile

impact, and bodies falling and impacting object
Applications of the
Finite Element Method

Typical nonstructural application areas include

Heat transfer such as in electronic devices emitting heat as
in a personal computer microprocessor chip, engines and
cooling fins

Fluid flow including seepage through porous media such as

water seeping through earthen dams

Distribution of electric or magnetic potential such as in

antennas and transistors

Biomechanical Engineering Problems

Analyses of human spine, skull, hip joints, jaw/gum tooth
implants, heart, and eye

Railroad Control Tower

Three dimensional frame
comprising a series of beam
type elements

Elements: 48

Nodes: 28

Each node has three rotation

and three displacement
components, known as
Degree of Freedom (dof)

Displacements and stresses

can be obtained using this

Underground Box Culvert

Subjected to ground shock
loading from a bomb

333 plane strain two

dimensional triangular and
rectangular elements for soil
and concrete box

40 one dimensional bar or

truss elements to model steel
reinforcement in the box

Due to symmetry, half of the

box is analysed
A structure that allows water to flow under
a road, railroad, trail, or similar obstruction

Hydraulic Cylinder Rod End

297 plane strain triangular elements

Symmetry was used and half of the rod was analysed
Areas of high stress concentration can be located by this analysis

Chimney Stack Section

584 beam elements used to
model the vertical and
horizontal stiffeners
252 flat-plate elements were
used to model the inner
wooden form and concrete
Because of irregular loading
pattern on structure, three
dimensional model was
Displacements and stresses
in concrete were of prime

Steel Die for Plastic Film Making Process

240 axisymmetric elements used to model the three dimensional die

Swing Casting for a Backhoe Frame

Three dimensional solid elements
used to model the irregular shape of
Not possible to model correctly with
two dimensional elements

Surface mount electronic

Low cycle thermal fatigue
Creep material model
Damage material model
Thermal loading
Three dimensional model
Examples 710G Backhoe Bucket
78,566 thin shell linear quadrilateral element for
bucket and coupler
83,104 solid linear brick elements to model
212 beam elements for lift arms, lift arm
cylinders and guide links

Bird Strike on an Aircraft Wing

Experimental bird strike
testing is part of certification
Includes nonlinear behaviour
and contact
Includes progressive
damage and failure of
ductile materials
Multipart analysis

Water landing of space flight

re-entry vehicles
Impart highly dynamic loads
on the crew and payload
during water landing
Fluid-structure interaction
modelling required
Dynamic forces
Advantages of
Finite Element Method

Model irregularly shaped bodies quite easily

Handle general load conditions without difficulty

Model bodies composed of several different materials because the

element equations are evaluated individually

Handle unlimited numbers and kinds of boundary conditions

Vary the size of the elements to make it possible to use small elements
where necessary

Alter the finite element model relatively easily and cheaply

Include dynamic effects

Handle nonlinear behaviour existing with large deformations and

nonlinear materials
Computer Programs for FEM

Large commercial programs

Designed to solve many types of problems

Special purpose programs

Developed to solve specific problems

Advantages of General Purpose
FEM Programs

Input is well organised and developed with user ease in mind

Can solve many types of problems of large or small size with

same input format

Can be expanded by adding new modules for new kind of

problems and kept current with minimum effort

With increased storage capacity and computational

efficiency of PCs, many general purpose programs run on PCs

Many commercially available programs have become very

attractive in price and can solve a wide range of problems
Disadvantages of General Purpose
FEM Programs

Initial cost of developing general purpose programs is high

May be less efficient than special purpose program for some

class of problems because of extra checks

Many of the programs are proprietary. Hence user has little

access to the logic of the program

Any revision is to be carried out by developers

Advantages of Special Purpose
FEM Programs

The programs are usually relatively short, with low development


Small computers are able to run the programs

Additions can be made to the program quickly and at low cost

The programs are efficient in solving the problems they were

designed to solve

Disadvantages of Special Purpose FEM Programs

Major disadvantage is their inability to solve different classes of
Commercially Available FEM Programs

MSC Marc

Chapter 1, A First Course in the finite element method (fifth

edition) by Daryl L. Logan, Cengage Learning, 2012.