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# What is FEM? . . .

Definition
FEM, or Finite Element Method, is a mathematical technique used to predict the response of
structures and materials to environmental factors.
Finite Element Analysis (FEA) uses FEM, as a powerful enineerin tool, to numerically
simulate the real world without the need to test prototypes in a lab.
History
Finite Element Analysis was first developed in the early !"#\$%s as a simulation and desin
tool in the aerospace and nuclear industries where the safety of structures is critical.
&he process starts with the creation of a eometric model. &hen, the model is su'divided
(meshed) into small pieces (elements) of simple shapes connected at specific node points.
Within each element, the variation of displacement is assumed to 'e determined 'y simple
polynomial shape functions and nodal displacements.
Equations for the strains and stresses are developed in terms of the un(nown nodal
displacements. From this, the equations of equili'rium are assem'led in a matri) which can
'e easily prorammed and solved on a computer. After applyin the appropriate 'oundary
conditions, the nodal displacements are found 'y solvin the matri) stiffness equation. *nce
the nodal displacements are (nown, element stresses and strains can 'e calculated.
*nly within the last few years have computers 'ecome powerful enouh to solve these FEA
math pro'lems in a timely fashion, and thus help improve the enineerin process.
+ow can FEA help you?. . .
Finite Element Analysis is 'ecomin one of the most powerful enineerin tools widely
used in desin, optimi,ation, and prototypin processes.
-n the hands of a competent user it is a convenient and speedy tool for appro)imation of the
solution to a wide variety of complicated engineering problems. -t can produce
accurate, relia'le appro)imate solutions, at a small fraction of the cost of more riorous,
closed.form analyses.
/umerical simulation can help you at every 0uncture of the desin process from concept to
finished product in industries ranin from consumer products to aerospace or nuclear
components.
FEA can 'e used early in the desin process to reduce prototypin costs, and later
to optimize designs and improve the performances of your new product.
FEA is a very valua'le tool for investiatin the 'ehavior of your new product under a lare
variety of potential wor(in solutions.
FEA, com'ined with 1A2 will help reduce, dramatically, the development time of your new
product.
-ntellient use of FEA can therefore help to3
Ensure that desins are "first time right"
4educe product lead times
Enhance product quality throuh optimi,ation
4educe the number of physical tests and prototypes
5rovide a better insight into product behavior