Finite element analysis (FEA) covers a variety of simulation and modeling techniques and can significantly improve product development by streamlining testing and design. Using FEA to test and optimize throughout the design process ultimately helps your team create better products faster. But the question remains: What is finite element analysis?

What Is Finite Element Analysis (FEA)?

FEA Definition

Finite element analysis (FEA) uses the practical application of finite element method (FEM) mathematics to model complex geometric shapes. FEM divides complex geometries with unknown structural behaviors into simplified geometric elements, also known as an FEM mesh. Then, matrix equations are developed and solved at geometric boundaries to compute the strains and displacements within the model when forces such as heat and vibration are applied.

Finite element analysis (FEA) applies the finite element method (FEM) of mathematics to predict how complex geometric models will react to forces in the real world and understand points of failure.

FEA Benefits

Using FEA early and often in the design process helps teams understand points of failure so they can be optimized before physical prototyping, ultimately saving time and money thanks to:

  • Improved accuracy: FEA leverages the power of digital tools for improved accuracy in calculating model stresses—far superior to calculations done by hand using a physical model.
  • Conditional boundaries: A variety of conditional boundaries can be applied to models, such as thermal effects, distributed forces, and point forces, to determine reactions to different conditions.
  • Advanced digital prototyping: Physical prototypes are expensive, but a key FEA capability is digitally analyzing real-world stresses on models.
  • Detailed visualizations: Complex visualization models give engineers an x-ray-like view into the interiors and exteriors of objects so vulnerabilities can be identified and fixed throughout the design process.

Simulation is best completed early and often in the design process to optimize product development and increase speed to market.

FEA Use Cases

There are a range of FEA use cases that apply the mathematical applications of FEM. Here are just a few:

Computational Fluid Dynamics

Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) helps engineers model digital fluids using computer-aided design (CAD) software to visualize flows in real life. It’s a critical part of any simulation stack as it helps designers understand real-world elements that may not be visible to the naked eye, like airflow and other pressures. Analyzing these elements ensures products can be modified to operate as intended.

Modal Analysis

Modal analysis reveals the impacts of vibrations on a model. For example, engineers can input the mass and rigidity of a structure to determine where it naturally resonates to guide required changes.

Structural Analysis

Structural analysis determines the impacts of static and dynamic loads on assemblies, parts, and mechanisms. Designs can be modified to prevent failure associated with intended use by understanding how these components work under various constraints. Using these simulation tools early and often in the design process helps uncover flaws to improve product development and quality.

Thermal Analysis

Thermal analysis investigates how the properties of materials change as temperatures change. The need for this analysis is evident in certain industries, such as aeronautics, but it should be implemented across all types of products.

To create quality products, teams must understand how their prototypes will operate in the real world under various stresses and conditions.

Get Started with Finite Element Analysis

Ready to implement finite element analysis into your engineering operations? PTC offers a range of CAD solutions that leverage FEA benefits so your team can focus on designing better products faster.

For example, Creo Simulate Live makes it possible to complete simulations and analyze design changes in real time. Instead of waiting hours for simulations to run, teams have the power to iterate quickly to determine the best solution. Interested in learning more? Just contact us, and we will put you in touch with one of our FEA experts.