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Basic Applied Finite Element Analysis

Robert B. Wilcox, P.E.

Course Outline

This course will cover the basics of linear static finite element analysis of a machine part to accurately determine stress distributions due to applied loads. It will focus on practical application and real-world issues related to finite element analysis, as opposed to theory. While just about any engineer can get a contour plot showing stresses, many do not understand the iterative nature of FEA and how to obtain meaningful results. This course will use a verifiable geometric example so the user can gain confidence in their ability to create and refine a mesh, loading, and boundary conditions which give accurate results. Students have the option to download a trial version of a popular FEA program and obtain hands-on experience of meshing, material property specification, load application, boundary condition application, solving, and interpretation of results. Symmetry modeling and convergence of results will also be covered.

The course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

At the conclusion of this course, the student will:

Intended Audience

This course is intended for mechanical and structural engineers and designers.

Benefit to Attendees

The attendee will obtain some experience-guided insight into modeling methods, pitfalls, and how to attain meaningful result from the FEA, particularly in the areas of mesh validity and convergence - two highly overlooked areas for newer users of FEA.

Course Introduction

Finite Element Analysis is a powerful tool for the mechanical or structural engineer, but it is easily misapplied, and results can easily by incorrect or misinterpreted by the uninitiated. Rather than focus on the mathematical theory behind FEA, this course will look at how to practically set up the model and get meaningful results. The focus will is on correct loads and boundary conditions, good meshes, convergence of results, and correct interpretation of results. The attendee will be downloading and installing a demo FEA program, and going through the steps of modeling using the program.

Course Content

The course content is in a PDF file (830 KB) Basic Applied Finite Element Analysis.

You may need to download the following FEM Demo Softwasre and sampel files:

Demo Software FEA Code.

Sampel Files

Please click on the above underlined hypertext to view, download or print the document for your study. Because of the large file size, we recommend that you first save the file to your computer by right clicking the mouse and choosing "Save Target As ...", and then open the file in Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you still experience any difficulty in downloading or opening this file, you may need to close some applications or reboot your computer to free up some memory.

Course Summary

FEA can give good results and save much time and expense in development in testing provided that models are set up, run and interpreted correctly. A good understanding of model symmetry, constraints and loading, and mesh quality contribute to an accurate model. Through convergence, precision evaluation and element quality, the analyst can be confident of the accuracy of the results.

Related Links

For additional technical information related to this subject, please visit the following websites or web pages:

Engineering Tips Finite Element Analysis Forum
MATweb - Material Property Data


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

Take a Quiz

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.