finite element analysis

Visualization of how a car deforms in an asymmetrical crash using finite element analysis.

Mechanical engineering such as aeronautical, biomechanical, and automotive industries, commonly use integrated Finite Element analysis and method in design and development of their products. The computer simulations may include specific components such as thermal, electromagnetic, fluid, and structural working environments. Finite Element Analysis (FEA) computer simulation are used to calculate component displacements, strains, and stresses under internal and external loads.

  • product design – cars, aircraft
  • structural – bridges, buildings – stiffness and strength visualizations to minimize weight, materials, costs
  • orthopedics – hip replacement design
  • archeology – dinosaur reconstruction from fossil records

Finite Element Analysis (FEA) consists of a computer model of a material or design that is stressed and analyzed for specific results. It is used in new product design, and existing product refinement. A company is able to verify a proposed design will be able to perform to the specifications prior to manufacturing or construction. Modifying an existing product or structure is utilized to qualify the product or structure for a new service condition. In case of structural failure, FEA may be used to help determine the design modifications to meet the new condition.

Finite Element Method (FEM) – mathematical solutions to include all the methods for connecting many simple element equations over many small finite elements, to approximate a more complex equation over a larger complex problem. FEM allows detailed visualization of where structures bend or twist, and indicates the distribution of stresses and displacements.

Some example of analysis

  • linear elastic range – once the load is removed, the component returns to its original shape
  • nonlinear stress analysis – strain hardening, residual stresses, permanent set, deformation
  • displacement, stresses – forces, pressures, accelerations, temperatures, contact between components

What’s the problem?
Beaks Helped Dinosaurs Eat Plants – Using CT scans and computer modelling (Finite Element Analysis), a beak was shown to help stabilize the skull while feeding on plants and required less muscular stress. It had been previously assumed that beaks evolved to replace teeth and thus save weight, as a requirement for the evolution of flight.

  • Ask – With only some fossils of dinosaurs, how can researchers reconstruct the conditions that would cause a dinosaur to evolve to have a beak?
  • Imagine – Using engineering computer simulations, would it be possible to model the animal based on the fossils to determine the action of the beak?
  • Plan, Create – The Finite Element Analysis was used and the results indicated some different potential reasons for dinosaur beaks. Which explanation seems most likely based on the simulations?
  • Improve – With further study, will this explanation be ore or less likely?

Engineering ideas

  • displacement, stresses, forces, pressures, accelerations, temperatures, contact between components, deformation, load, thermal, flow, motion

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