Finite Element Method (FEM) or often referred to Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is a very powerful and modern method to solve engineering problem, structural analysis is on of the most commonly find. This method utilising computational method to solve structural problem which previously have been discretized, from the continuous to finite element object, which can be solved numerically.
This method has been initially developed in the late 1960s to design NASA’s space vehicle, and the given name was NASA Structural analysis or NASTRAN, and then firstly commercialized by MSC Software which is the one of the principal and original developer of this code.
After years of utilizations, Finite Element Analysis (FEA) become common in many industries, from aerospace, automotive, energy, ship building, or even biomedical engineering. Not only for calculation of stress and deformation of a structure, but also fatigue, modal analysis, buckling, explicit impact, or even electromagnetic.
Because of years of development and proving the tools, FEA become more reliable and used in some critical applications to ensure the safety of design, such as aircraft frame, automobile chassis, turbo-machinery, or bridge structure. The flexibility of the process makes FEA fast and feasible to test a lot design variations and find the most optimal design: ensure the stress not exceed the maximum yield strength, no excessive deformation occurs, and minimum material wasted.
More over, from this approach, not only ensure the safety, but designer and the company can obtain the best economical value to maximize their revenue.
As the development and the demand of analysis increasing, FEA also shows its improvement for capabilities. Some basic simple FEA solver can only solve static structural analysis to get the stress and deformation with relatively low deformation (typically below 10%), with linear material, and simplified contact analysis. But, in the real world applications, sometimes these conditions cannot be compromised and dominated. Hence, the nonlinear solver must be used.
Or for impact analysis, very short duration of time involved, in this situation stress wave and extreme geometric alteration become important consideration. For this case, explicit solver must be used to solve the problem.
Not only for the physical phenomena, often some FEA solvers designed to meet specific applications in the industry, for instance metal forming and working, which need special “template” to streamline the whole analysis.