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The Basic Idea of FEM or FEA

The finite element method (FEM), or

finite element analysis (FEA), is
based of the idea of building a
complicated object with simple
blocks, or, dividing a complicated
object into small and manageable
FEM in everyday life
FEM in engineering
Lego (kids play)
Buildings or Houses
Approximation of the Area of a
Types of Elements
Objectives of FEM Course
Understand the fundamental ideas
Know the behavior and usage of
each type of elements covered in this
Objectives of FEM Course
Be able to prepare a suitable FE
model for given problems
Be able to interpret and evaluate the
quality of the results (know the
physics of the problems)
Be aware of the limitations of FEM.

Chapter I: Introduction to FEM.

Definition of Finite Element Method
Basic Concepts
Applications of FEM
Chapter II: Review of Matrix Algebra

Linear System of Algebraic Equations

Symmetric Matrix
Determinant of a Matrix
Solution Techniques
Inverse matrix
Chapter III: Stiffness Matrices,
Spring Elements, & Bar
Chapter IV: Heat Transfer

Chapter V: Trusses
Problem Sets 20%,
70% of the PS grade is based on technical
content and 30% on presentation
Quiz 1 20% Matrices (Week 4)
Quiz 2 20% (Wk 6)
Quiz 3 20% (Wk 8)
Project 20%
Group Presentation on (Wk 10)
The Project
Applications of FEM to your own field
of specialization. Use Matlab or any
FEM software for simulation of PDE
or ODE.
Grade is based on the following
60% technical content
documentation, software used
40% presentation knowledge, power
point, etc.
A group project- at most 5 members per
What is FEM?
What Is FEM ?

In the field of Engineering Design we

come across many complex
problems, the Mathematical
Formulation of which is tedious and
usually not possible by analytical
methods. At such instants we resort
to the use of Numerical techniques.
Here lies the importance of FEM,
which is a very powerful tool for
getting the Numerical solution of a
wide range of Engineering problems.
The basic concept is that a body or
structure may be divided into smaller
elements of finite dimensions called
as Finite Elements.
The original body or structure is then
considered as an assemblage of
these elements connected at a finite
number of joints called as Nodes or
Nodal Points.
The properties of the elements are
formulated and combined to obtain
the properties of the entire body.
The equations of equilibrium for the entire
structure or body are then obtained by
combining the equilibrium equation of
each element such that the continuity is
ensured at each node.
The necessary boundary conditions are
then imposed and the equations of
equilibrium are the solved to obtain the
required variables such as Stress, Strain,
Temperature Distribution or Velocity Flow
depending on the application.
Thus instead of solving the problem
for the entire structure or body in
one operation, the method attention
is mainly devoted to the formulation
of properties of the constituent
A common procedure is adopted for
combining the elements, solution of
equations and evaluation of the
required variables in all fields. Thus
the modular structure of the method
is well exploited in various disciplines
of Engineering.
The finite element method
(FEM) is used for finding
approximate solutions of partial
differential equations (PDE) as
well as of integral equations such
as the heat transport equation.
The solution approach is based either
on eliminating the differential
equation completely (steady state
problems), or rendering the PDE into
an approximating system of ordinary
differential equations, which are then
solved using standard techniques
such as finite differences, Runge-
Kutta, etc.
Finite element method (FEM) is a
fairly recent discipline crossing the
boundaries of mathematics, physics,
engineering and computer science.

The method has wide application and

enjoys extensive utilization in the
structural, thermal and fluid analysis
The finite element method is
comprised of:
pre-processing, in which the
analyst develops a finite element
mesh to divide the subject geometry
into subdomains for mathematical
analysis, and applies material
properties and boundary conditions,
solution, during which the program
derives the governing matrix
equations from the model and solves
for the primary quantities, and
post-processing, in which the
analyst checks the validity of the
solution, examines the values of
primary quantities (such as
displacements and stresses), and
derives and examines additional
quantities (such as specialized
stresses and error indicators).
FEM in Structural Analysis
DSM: we break down the system ...
Describe the behavior of the
physical quantities on each
and then we put it back together ...
Connect the elements at the nodes
to form an approximate system of
equations for the whole structure
Solve the system of equations
involving unknown quantitites at the
nodes (e.g. , displacements)
Calculate the desired quantities
(stresses and strains) at selected
It is also important to recognize the limitations of FEM.
Commercial software packages and the
required hardware, which have seen
substantial price reductions, still require a
significant investment. The method can
reduce product testing, but cannot totally
replace it.

Probably most important, an

inexperienced user can deliver incorrect
answers, upon which expensive decisions
will be based. FEM is a demanding tool, in
that the analyst must be proficient not
only in elasticity or fluids, but also in
mathematics, computer science, and
especially the finite element method itself.
One aspect often overlooked when
entering the finite element area is
education. Without adequate training
on the finite element method and the
specific FEM package, a new user will
not be productive in a reasonable
amount of time, and may in fact fail
miserably. It is also important that
the user have a basic understanding
of the computer's operating system.