Quickly Create Better Products with FEA


Introduction to FEA (Finite Element Analysis)

Parts experience forces and pressures when they interact with mechanical components and structural members. These forces and pressures cause parts to twist, bend, and even break if not designed properly. Getting the design right the first time and accounting for these scenarios with finite element analysis (FEA) is the right way to approach the creation of any product. There are an endless number of intricacies to consider, test, and change in a part, model, or component and, ultimately, FEA can help you reduce the number of prototypes and optimize parts and components to create better products, in record time.

Imagine, you’re designing a trailer hitch mount for a new car. The trailer hitch mount is going to experience different loads and forces, depending on the kind of trailer being hooked to it and the weight of the trailer and it’s contents. More importantly, you don’t want the hitch to damage other parts of the car when traveling over potholes, cracks, and dips that suddenly shift the weight of the attached trailer. So how do you guarantee that your design will hold up? How would you determine a proper safety factor? How do you make the right material, thickness, and general design decisions? The answer to all these questions lies within FEA simulation software.

Introduction to FEA – Introduction to the Course

FEA software takes the solid geometry of your model and applies forces and constraints to it. By generating a mesh of the model, the design scenario can be simulated with highly accurate results. The finer your mesh and the more iterations of the designer, the lower the number of experiments and prototypes you need to create. Iterating on your design and running an updated simulation can provide you with valuable feedback before manufacturing. The earlier you get the design right, the more time, money, and material you save.

For example, to keep permanent damage from occurring to the trailer hitch mount, utilize FEA software to simulate and then analyze if your design will withstand the maximum load requirement placed on the hitch. If your design can’t withstand the maximum load, you can use the data gained from a simulation for targeted iteration and improvement of your designs. A simulation will have identified deformation and stress failure areas and you’ll mitigate stress and load issues by changing the material of your design, it’s thickness, or by adding additional support structures.

Introduction to FEA – The Finite Element Method

Your mount will need to have a certain factor of safety to account for extreme instances of pressure and force. A factor of safety specifies how much stronger the system is than it needs to be for an intended load. Some products can handle 50% more, 100% more, or even three to five times the demand placed on it, depending on the design. To create a reliable and safe design that customers will appreciate and recommend, comparing the FEA generated factor of safety with your desired factor of safety determines if your design is safe enough for production. A generated safety factor that is lower than your desired safety factor means design iterations are needed to reach the necessary requirements.

Dive into the details and theory of FEA in the first half of the course. Fundamental governing equations, the finite volume method, and important concepts related to meshing, boundary conditions, and turbulence modeling are all explained in detail. Then, walk through the practical applications of FEA, interactive case studies, and hands-on exercises in the second half of this course using SimScale. By the end of this course, you’ll have a solid foundation in FEA that you can use to analyze your own models and make informed iteration decisions.

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James Jepsen
About the Author

SolidProfessor Senior Content Manager and electric guitar pedal-head.