By the late 1970's and early 1980's, as computing power became more widely available, increasingly industry was starting to solve practical engineering problems using finite element analysis techniques.
There was however considerable concern that the accuracy of the methods, and software implementations, required to be verified in order to allow the results to be effectively used.
Following extensive lobbying, by industry and academia, the UK Government's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) set up, and funded, a project within the National Engineering Laboratory (NEL), based in East Kilbride, Scotland, to investigate the issues.
A Special Agency
As a result the National Agency for Finite Element Methods and Standards , quickly shortened to the acronym NAFEMS, was founded as a special interest group in 1983 with a specific objective namely:
"To promote the safe and reliable use of finite element
and related technology"
At the time when this mission statement was written, the engineering community was concerned primarily with the accuracy of stress analysis codes, which were predominantly based on the finite element method. The initial efforts concentrated on developing standard 'Benchmarks' against which codes could be tested. NAFEMS published the results of these Benchmarks for a variety of codes and the software industry quickly responded by adopting these tests as a method of improving and verifying the accuracy of codes. Today most major vendors routinely use the NAFEMS benchmarks as part of their ongoing quality control process.
In parallel with these activities the need for good quality education & training materials was also quickly recognized. As a result NAFEMS commissioned a number of textbooks and detailed technical reports in areas where information was felt either to be essential or simply lacking. These texts were, and continue to be, produced for NAFEMS under contract from leading experts in the field.
One of the important features of NAFEMS texts, which quickly earned them a high reputation, was that each text underwent a rigorous examination and critique, by the experts sitting on the NAFEMS technical working groups , which commissioned the work. These working groups drew together a potent blend of leading academic researchers, engineering practitioners and software vendors giving a unique insight and perspective into the problem area being scrutinized.
Building a Library
As each new text became available the members of NAFEMS, who in conjunction with the DTI had effectively funded the work, were automatically sent free copies of these texts as a benefit of membership. This built up a large library of reference materials, which continue to be available to new members at preferential rates, or as part of the NAFEMS Membership Joining Pack.
The early work of NAFEMS established Awareness Seminars as excellent vehicles for networking and effective sharing of information. A key feature of these seminars was the wide cross-section of industries represented, thus providing outstanding technology transfer opportunities. In time a bi-annual international conference , which is today held in the highest esteem, was also established to expand networking to a global scale.
In order to keep engineers abreast of the latest developments in the Analysis World the quarterly magazine benchmark was launched by NAFEMS in July 1987.
Independence for NAFEMS
After seven years of seed funding by the UK government, and with the support of it's industrial members, the decision was taken to launch NAFEMS Ltd as an independent not-for-profit company, owned by its member's in 1990.
Today, NAFEMS and its members are involved in many different types of engineering simulation covering both products and processes. Membership continues to grow, now exceeding 1000 corporate members in over 50 different countries. Regional Steering Groups are active in the UK, Germany, North America, Italy, India, France, Iberia and the Nordic Regions, and these groups co-ordinate local activities and interaction with members.