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Finite element method is to find the solution of a
complicated problem by replacing it by a simpler one
Approximate solution rather than the exact solution

The solution region is considered as built up of many small,

interconnected sub-regions called finite elements
Finite Element Method (FEM) :
Very Popular Method based upon discretization of component into Finite number of
blocks (elements)

Applications : Linear, Nonlinear, Thermal, Dynamics ,

Buckling and Fatigue Analysis

Boundary Element Method (BEM) :

Just like Finite Element Method, it also requires Nodes and Elements but as the name
suggest, it considers only the outer boundary of the domain

Finite Volume Method (FVM) :

All Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) soft wares are based upon FVM.
Unit Volume is considered in Finite Volume Method (similar to Elements in Finite
Element Method)

Variable properties at nodes :Pressure , Velocity , Area , Mass etc.

Finite Difference Method (FDM) :

Finite Element and Finite Difference share many common things.

In general, Finite difference Method is described as way to solve difference


Is it possible to use all the above listed methods (FEA ,BEM , FVM,
FDM) to solve same problem
YES ! But the difference is in Accuracy achieved , programming ease
and time required to obtain the solution
Area of Problems Area of Problems
study study
Stress Analysis Of Nuclear Engg Analysis of Nuclear
Pressure Vessels, Pressure Vessels and
Pistons, Containment Structures;
Composite Materials, Steady-state Temperature
Linkages, and Gears Distribution in Reactor
Static Analysis of Trusses, Components
Frames, Folded Plates, Biomedical Stress analysis of
Civil Engg. Shell Roofs, Shear Walls, Engg eyeballs,
Bridges, and Concrete Bones, And Teeth;
Structures Load-bearing Capacity Of
Static Analysis of Aircraft Implant And Mechanics
Aircraft Wings, Fins, Rockets, of Heart Valves
structures Spacecraft, Electrical Steady-state analysis of
and Missile Structures machines & synchronous and
Steady-state Temperature electro- induction machines,
Heat magnetics eddy current, and core
Distribution in Solids and
Conduction losses
Can readily handle very complex The FEM obtains only "approximate"
geometry solutions.
Can handle a wide variety of
engineering problems:
-Solid mechanics
The FEM has "inherent" errors
- Dynamics
- Heat problems
- Fluids
Can handle complex restraints:
Mistakes by users can be fatal
-Indeterminate structures
Can handle complex loading:
-Nodal load (point loads)
-Element -
-Time or frequency dependent
Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and Finite Element Method (FEM) both are
one & the same.

FEA is a method/process based upon FEM

Term FEA is more popular in industries while FEM at Education centers

Process of modeling a structure
using suitable number, shape and
size of the elements is called

Most engineering problems, we

need to find the values of a field
variable such as Displacement, No. of Points =
DOF per point = 6
Stress, Temperature, Pressure, Total No of Equations to be
and Velocity as a function of Solved = * 6 =
spatial coordinates (x, y, z)

Replacing the Domain having an No. of Points = 8

infinite number of degrees of DOF per point = 6
freedom by A system having finite Total No of Equations to be
number of degrees of freedom. Solved = 8 * 6 = 48
The case of transient or unsteady state problems, the field variable has to
be found as a function of not only the spatial coordinates (x, y, z) but also
time (T).

First step of the finite element analysis involves the discretization of the
irregular domain into smaller and regular sub-domains, known as finite

From Infinite to Finitehence the Term Finite Element

Geometry, material properties, and
the field variable of the problem
can be described in terms of only
one spatial coordinate, we can use
the one-dimensional or line
Analysis of beams, the values of
the field variable (transverse
displacement) and its derivative
Element (slope) are chosen as the unknowns
(degrees of freedom) at each node
Problem can be described in terms
Element of two independent spatial
coordinates, we can use the two-
dimensional elements
Geometry, material properties, and
other parameters of the body can be Hexahedral
described by three independent
spatial coordinates

Some problems, which are actually

three-dimensional, can be described
by only one or two independent
coordinates. Such problems can be
idealized by using an axisymmetric
or ring type of elements
Demands on the Computer Storage
Reduced by storing only the elements
involved in half bandwidth
Bandwidth of the overall or global
characteristic matrix depends on the
node numbering scheme and the
number of degrees of freedom
considered per node
Minimizing the bandwidth, will
minimize the storage & solution time
Eg: Three degrees of freedom per
node, there are 240 (20*3*4)
unknowns in the final equations
Stiffness matrix is stored in the
computer it will Require
240*240 = 57,600 locations

Bandwidth (strictly speaking, half

bandwidth) of the overall stiffness
matrix is 15 and thus the storage
required for the upper half band is
only 15 240 = 3600 locations. The bandwidth of the overall
system matrix depends on the
Band Width B is given by the manner in which the nodes are
expression numbered
B = (D + 1) f For simple systems or regions,
it is easy to label the nodes
where D is maximum difference in
node number in an element after For large systems, the
considering all elements procedure becomes nearly
f-degrees of freedom per node. impossible
Automatic mesh generation algorithms, capable of discretizing any
geometry into an efficient finite element mesh without user intervention
Mesh generation program generates the locations of the node points and
elements, labels the nodes and elements, and provides the elementnode
connectivity relationships
User can also specify the minimum permissible element sizes for
different regions of the object.
Common methods used in the development of automatic mesh
generators are the Tessellation and Octree methods
The user gives a collection of node
points and also an arbitrary starting
Then creates the first simplex element
using the neighboring nodes.
Subsequent or neighboring element is
generated by selecting the node point
that gives the least distorted element
Procedure is continued until all the
elements are generated.
Alternately, the user can define the
boundary of the object by a series of
The object is first considered enclosed
in a square region
If the object does not completely
cover the square, the square is
subdivided into Four equal quadrants.
If any one of the resulting quadrants is
full (completely occupied
By the object) or empty (not occupied Step-1 Step-2
by the object), then it is not
subdivided further.
On the other hand, if any one of the
resulting quadrants is partially full
(partially occupied by the object), it is
subdivided into four quadrants.
Procedure of subdividing partially full
quadrants is continued until all the
resulting regions are either full or
empty Step-3 Step-4
If the body has no abrupt changes in
geometry, material properties, and external
conditions Concentrated Load on a Beam
(e.g., load and temperature), the body can
be divided into equal subdivisions and
hence the spacing of the nodes can be
Discontinuity in Loading on a Beam
If there are any discontinuities in the
problem, nodes have to be introduced at
these discontinuities
Discontinuity in Geometry

Discontinuity in Material Properties

Discontinuity in Material
Number of elements to be chosen for
idealization is related to the accuracy
preferred, size of elements, and the
number of degrees of freedom involved

Increase in the number of elements

generally means more accurate results, for
any given problem, there will be a certain
number of elements beyond which the
accuracy cannot be improved by any
significant amount.

Moreover, since the use of large number of

elements involves a large number of Effect of Varying the Number of Elements
degrees of freedom

Which on increases computer memory &

Global and local coordinate It may be necessary to establish
systems are used to locate nodes, your own coordinate system,
key points, etc. in space. whose origin is offset from the
global origin, or whose
A global coordinate system can orientation differs from that of the
be consider as an absolute predefined global systems. Such
reference frame user defined coordinate systems,
known as local coordinate
Finite element method is piecewise approximation
Complicated problem is obtained by dividing the region of interest
into small regions (finite elements) and approximating the solution
over each sub region by a simple function
Functions used to represent the behavior of the solution within an
element are called interpolation functions or approximating functions
or interpolation models
Polynomial-type interpolation functions have been most widely
Easier to formulate & perform differentiation or
integration with polynomials
Is possible to improve the accuracy of the results by
increasing the order of the polynomial
The interpolation polynomial is of
order one, the element is termed a
linear element
The interpolation polynomial is of
order two or more, the element is
known as a higher order element
Higher order elements, some
secondary (midside and/or interior)
nodes are introduced in addition to
the primary (corner) nodes in order
to match the number of nodal
degrees of freedom with the
number of constants (generalized
coordinates) in the interpolation
One-dimensional Element

Two- and Three-dimensional Finite Elements

where 1, 2, . . . , m are the coefficients of the polynomial

n is the degree of the polynomial
m is number of polynomial coefficients
m = n + 1 for One-dimensional Elements
For n = 1 (Linear Model)
One-dimensional case:

Two-dimensional case:

Three-dimensional case:
For n = 2 (Quadratic Model)
One-dimensional case:

Two-dimensional case:

Three-dimensional case:
Validation and Effectiveness of the FEM depends on how best
approximate solution converges to the exact solution
1. The displacement with in an element must be continuous.

Obtained by the appropriate choice of the continuous polynomials as

the general displacement function

2.Displacement field assumed must have the capability to maintain a

state of constant strain.

Infinitesimal Element whose strain approaches a constant value

3. Displacement field assumed must be capable of rigid body motion

Ensure all the nodes of an element to go through similar displacement