FEA Best Practices

Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is a computational technique used to predict how an object will respond to external forces, vibration, heat, fluid flow, and other physical effects. FEA breaks down a real-world object into a large number of finite elements. Mathematical equations help predict the behavior of each element seperately. When you assemble these equations for all elements, you can predict the behavior of the entire object. This article describes the best practices used in the industry to succesfully perform an accurate finite element analysis.

FEA Best Practices

Adhering below best practices can help ensure that your FEA is as accurate and effective as possible, enabling you to make the best possible informed decisions based on the analysis.

1. Define the goal clearly

  • Understand the problem: Clearly define what you want to achieve with the analysis (e.g., stress analysis, thermal analysis, etc.).
  • Specify the performance criteria: Know what you need to find out or optimize (e.g., maximum displacement, stress levels, temperature distribution).

2. Simplify the geometry

  • Remove unnecessary details: Simplify complex models by removing small features that won't significantly affect the analysis, like small fillets and holes.
  • Use symmetry: If the part or assembly is symmetric, model only a section to reduce computational effort and to allow for easier constraining of the model.

3. Choose the right element type

  • Element type: Depending on the type of analysis (structural, thermal, etc.), choose the appropriate element type (tetrahedral, hexahedral, etc.).
  • Element size and quality: Smaller elements increase accuracy but also computational time. Ensure elements are of good quality to avoid skewed results.

4. Material properties and boundary conditions

  • Accurate material properties: Ensure that the material properties (modulus of elasticity, Poisson's ratio, thermal conductivity, etc.) are accurate.
  • Realistic boundary conditions: Apply forces, constraints, and interactions that closely mimic the real-world scenario.

5. Mesh the model

  • Mesh refinement: Perform mesh refinement in areas of high stress gradients or where more accuracy is needed.
  • Mesh convergence study: Conduct a mesh convergence study to ensure that results are independent of the mesh size.

6. Apply loads and boundary conditions carefully

  • Correct application of loads: Ensure loads are applied correctly and represent the real-life application.
  • Use of constraints: Apply constraints that accurately represent the actual constraints without over-constraining the model.

7. Solve and analyze the results

  • Solver settings: Choose appropriate solver settings that balance accuracy and computational time.
  • Result interpretation: Carefully interpret the results, looking for stress concentrations, displacement patterns, and other key indicators.

8. Validation and verification

  • Validate results: Where possible, compare the FEA results with experimental data or analytical solutions to validate the model.
  • Sensitivity analysis: Perform sensitivity analyses to understand how changes in parameters affect the outcome.

9. Documentation and reporting

  • Comprehensive reporting: Document all aspects of the analysis, including assumptions, boundary conditions, material properties, and results.
  • Clear communication: Ensure that the report is clear and understandable to stakeholders, highlighting key findings and recommendations.

10. Continuous learning and improvement

  • Learn from each analysis: Use the insights gained from each analysis to improve future models.
  • Stay updated: Keep abreast of advances in FEA software capabilities, element technology, and modeling techniques.

Our courses

If you want to learn more about how to use the Finite Element Method more efficiently in your designs, then you might want to take a look at our course Practical Introduction to the Finite Element Method or our course Introduction to Fatigue Analysis with FEA.