Finite Element Analysis

Finite element analysis (FEA) is a component of a digital prototyping system. FEA is a software system which simulates the effect of stress on components in a digital prototyping environment. This allows designers to predict how a component will perform once manufactured without having the cost and worry of producing a physical prototype.

The FEA was created in 1943 by R Courant. Before FEA was in use old fashioned mathematic equations were used to check the limitations but that came with the possibility of error, either by miss calculating or the equations limiting the structural creativity of the parts.

The system works by placing a mesh over the surface of the 3D component. The mesh is configured with the parameters of the material. The mesh can then used to measure the heat, friction, stress and contact with other components without having to make a costly model or countless prototypes

most FEA test are done with a metal component in mind as they are the most common time a simulation is needed instead of a physical test with wasted resources. The reason a simulation is better in this circumstance is that there can't be an error that can't be helped such as a fault in metal or environmental conditions, there is also the fact that safety isn't an issue because you don't have to have flying metal shards flying around when testing the pressure capacity. Another plus to the FEA is the time it takes to preform a test is shortened tremendously by cutting out the making shipping and setup of the components. It also means it only takes one person at a computer to test instead of a team going through all the stages. The FEA can also see that expected lifespan of a part before it becomes impractical by taking into factors the material and the conditions or strain it will be under.



In this example the stress on a crank shaft is analyzed. The different colours indicate the stress pressure on the shaft at different points. This analysis allows an engineer to predict how the component will perform in operation. In other words the designer can be reasonably confident with the digital prototype that the component will function correctly before a solid prototype is manufactured. This saves time and money in the prototyping stage of development.

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