Math in Engineering

Basics of Engineering

Why is finite element analysis important to many industries?

Finite element analysis (FEA) is important to various industries—especially those that need to predict failure of a structure, object, or material when under unknown stresses—because it allows designers to understand all of the theoretical stresses within the structure. This cuts manufacturing costs that would occur if a sample of the structure was actually built and tested.

FEA uses a complex system of points (nodes), making up a grid called a mesh. The mesh is programmed to contain all the material, properties, and other factors that constitute the structure and determine how it will react to certain load conditions, such as thermal, gravitational, pressure, or point loads. The nodes are then assigned a density throughout the material, all depending on the stress levels anticipated in a certain area. In general, points with more stress (such as corners of a building or contact points on a car frame) will usually have a higher node density than those with little or no stress. As researchers examine the results of the FEA, they learn how the structure responds to the various stresses. In this way, a prototype of the structure won’t have to be built until the majority of the theoretical “kinks” are worked out of the system.


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