DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Washington, DC 20314-1000
Technical Letter31 July 1995No. 1110-2-544
Engineering and DesignGEOTECHNICAL ANALYSIS BY THE FINITEELEMENT METHOD
This engineer technical letter (ETL) provides guid-complex geometries, a variety of loading conditions,ance on the use of the finite element method in thenonlinear material behavior, nonhomogeneous mate-analysis of problems in geotechnical engineering. rial distribution, and soil-structure interaction effectsThis ETL is intended for engineers who are unfa-that are not accounted for in the simpler procedures.miliar with the method, but who are interested inUnfortunately, the FEM is an underutilized technol-understanding its potential use in geotechnicalogy in the design process because engineers believeengineering.its application is time consuming, expensive, and
This ETL applies to all HQUSACE elements andUSACE commands having responsibilities for thedesign of civil works projects.
See Appendix A.cation, and what resources in terms of time, effort,
The finite elementseepage analysis. Appendix A includes discussionsmethod (FEM) is a numerical technique which canon the details of finite element modeling, case histo-be used to solve problems in geotechnical engineer-ries, and a section which will help interested engi-ing. Computer codes based on the FEM have beenneers find further information on how the FEM candeveloped to solve problems involving soil structurehelp in the analysis of their problems.interaction, embankment construction, seepage, andsoil dynamics.
b.Traditional methods of analysis.
Traditionalmethods of analysis often times use techniques thatare based on assumptions that oversimplify the prob-lem at hand. These methods lack the ability to ac-count for all of the factors and variables the de- signengineer faces and may severely limit the accuracy of the solution. The finite element method canovercome many of these shortcomings, therebyoffering many advantages over the conventionalapproaches. Accordingly, the FEM accounts forcomplicated. However, with recent advances in thehardware and software associated with modern digi-tal computers, a properly conducted FEM analysiscan be conducted rapidly and at a relatively low cost.
The objective of this ETL is to provide a basis forunderstanding what can be learned from finite ele-ment analyses, what skills are required for its appli-and cost are involved. The emphasis is on practicalapplications of the method. Appendix A containsinformation as to how the FEM can be used in soil-structure interaction, embankment construction, and
FOR THE DIRECTOR OF CIVIL WORKS