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Basic Finite Element Analysis (FEA)

NAFEMS e-Learning Course  

one 2-hour session per week

Ideal for design engineers wanting to learn more about
the basics of FEA


Combine the Basic FE Analysis e-learning Course with a place on a complementary "live" NAFEMS training course in UK, USA, France or Germany, and receive a 10% discount on the total cost. 
E-mail for full details.

Course Overview

This course serves as a 'bite-size' introduction to Finite Element Analysis (FEA), and is complemented by a more in-depth series of 'in-person' training courses in the UK, Germany and France. It is recommended that attendees at this e-learning course go on to supplement the knowledge gained online by attending one of our industry-leading in-person training courses. Details can be found here in the training course section of the website.

Finite Element Analysis has become widely used and universally accepted in many industry sectors. Finite Element Analysis is a powerful technique, able to produce solutions to challenging structural analysis problems. The technology and computational efficiency of the method, together with the rapid increases in computer processing power means that today the scope and size of simulations far exceeds the capabilities of even a few years ago.

However for those engineers embarking on Finite Element Analysis, or companies adopting the technique to improve designs or achieve certification of new products, there is a steep learning curve to overcome.

There are a bewildering array of element types, solution types, meshing methods and pre-post processing options that have to be faced. This is before we get down to the engineering physics behind the problem, with associated classic traps and errors. What is needed is guidance via a thorough but practical assessment of the method and how to use it in the real world. 

NAFEMS, the only vendor neutral, not-for-profit organization with the aim of promoting the effective and reliable use of Finite Element AnalysisA, addresses this requirement by providing this e-learning course to supplement its traditional 3 day live class.

Students are shown the background to the FEA methodology, via simple real examples with a minimum of theory. The strength and weaknesses of the various FEA techniques are shown and discussed. Practical considerations of loadings, boundary conditions and structural details are shown by numerous examples.

The assessment, validation and interpretation of Finite Element Analysis results are vital for delivering safe, effective products. A process is shown which provides confidence in the results and aims to provide conservative, reliable and qualified results.

The course offers excellent guidance on how to assess and plan the task of carrying out a structural analysis using Finite Element Analysis. A clear understanding of the objectives of each analysis is vital and a road map for achieving this is presented. A review of the trade-off between available resource and analysis methodology is given.

Course Process and Details 

This course is completely code independent. No software is required.

Each topic in the class is treated as a building block and is presented using an overview of the physics and theory involved. The math is kept simple and the emphasis is on practical examples from real life to illustrate the topic. The mapping to Finite Element analysis techniques is shown with numerous workshops. The tutor will be running analysis interactively and involving the students in the process via Q and A periods during each session, follow up emails and a Course Bulletin Board

Full notes are provided for the students, together with personal passwords for e-learning backup material, bulletin board access, etc.

Students will join the audio portion of the meetings by utilizing the VoIP (i.e. headset connected to the computer via headphone and microphone jacks) or by calling into a standard toll line. If you are interested in additional pricing to call-in using a toll-free line, please send an email to: e-learning @ .

Who Should Attend?

This course is aimed at engineers who wish to learn more about how to apply finite element techniques to static linear analysis in the most effective manner. Ideally a student should have some experience of FEA analysis, but this is not essential. The material that is presented is independent of any particular software package, making it ideally suited to current and potential users of all commercial finite element software systems. This course is a must for all engineers aiming to use Finite Element Analysis as a reliable predictive tool for structural analysis.

E-learning classes are ideal for companies with a group of engineers requiring training. E-learning classes can be provided to suit your needs and timescale. Contact us to discuss your requirements.

Course Program

Note: This is a four-week course. Each session represents one 2-hour session each week (Note: Sessions may last for 2.5-3 hours, including the Q&A sessions.) Recordings of each session are made available to course attendees in the event they are unable to participate in one or more of the live meetings, or if they wish to review the material following each session.

Session 1 

Background to Finite Element Analysis   

  • Origins of FEA , leading to today’s process
  • Emphasis on limitations of a displacement solution
  • The route from CAD to Mesh to Solver to Results
  • A simple case study – a bracket
  • Simple Element stiffness matrices described
  • •Grid Points , Degrees Of Freedom (DOFs) 

Overview of Element Types

  • 1d elements
  • 2d elements
  • 3d elements
  • Solid 3D elements: Hex versus Tets, the trade off
  • Types of meshing and meshing issues
  • I-beam example spanning element types

Session 2 

Making healthy models

  • Mis-matched  DOF’S and other issues
  • Element distortions – effect on accuracy
  • Convergence checking
  • Solver and Preprocessor checking
  • Post processor checking and the dangers of smoothing 
  • Stress concentrations and stress singularities
  • Bracket lightening hole example


  • Constraint methods
  • Real world boundary conditions 
  • Poisons effect 
  • Case Study – bracket analysis
  • Linear Contact methods – new technology to supplement constraints 

Loading Types 

  • Distributed load, Point Loading 
  • Real world loading versus FEA
  • Bearing load methods 
  • Nonlinear implications
  • Centrifugal and Inertial Loading
  • Unit load cases for better understanding
  • Case Study – tanker body under cornering and accident loading

Session 3 

Multi Point Constraints (MPCs)

  • What are they and why use them?
  • Different terminologies and usage
  • Soft and rigid load and constraint distribution

Making Life simpler 

  • Symmetry
  • Anti-symmetry  and Axi-symmetry
  • Sector Symmetry
  • Plane Stress 
  • Plane strain 
  • •Comparing 1d, 2d, 3d modeling case study of a pressure vessel

Understanding the objective of the analysis 

  • Clear view of scope of problem – how do we tackle it 
  • Resource and timescale factors
  • FEA Analysis objectives –case study

Looking at Computer Aided Design geometry 

  • Why not use 20 million elements 
  • Trade offs
  • De-featuring
  • The reality of CAD models
  • Manual methods of meshing

Session 4 

Engineering Assessment

  • Anticipate the load paths  
  • Free body Diagrams
  • Force Balance
  • Review of Stress and Load fundamentals
  • Revisiting the I-Beam, comparing theory with FEA

Checking the answers

  • Ways of checking the results 
  • What type of stress do I use?
  • Review of fundamentals
  • Post Processing and More Checking
  • Other Checks 

Brief Overview of Other Topics

  • Buckling 
  • Introduction to Non-linear Analysis
  • Introduction to Dynamics and Normal Modes Analysis
  • Introduction to Composite Analysis

Session 5 

  • Details TBC


Feedback from former e-Learning students:

"This course did everything right. From organization to presentation to interaction, this is a good model for what online training should be."  B.T.

"Tony's command over the subject and excellent teaching skills made this course worthwhile." G.K.

"Super! Doesn't get better than this. Good idea to start having e-Learning courses." R.P.

"I'm really happy not to pay a big fraction of my annual training budget to airlines and hotels. A BIG plus to e-learning." V.G.

Special Note(s):

Telephony surcharges may apply for attendees who are located outside of North America, South America and Europe. These surcharges are related to individuals who join the audio portion of the web-meeting by calling in to the provided toll/toll-free teleconferencing lines. We have made a VoIP option available so anyone attending the class can join using a headset (headphones w/ microphone) connected to the computer. There is no associated surcharge to utilize the VoIP option, and is actually encouraged to ensure NAFEMS is able to keep the e-Learning course fees as low as possible. Please send an email to the e-Learning coordinator (e-learning @ ) to determine if these surcharges may apply to your specific case. 

Just as with a live face-to-face training course, each registration only covers one person. If you plan to register a large group (10+), please send an email to e-learning @ in advance for group discounts.

Upcoming Presentations


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    Course Tutor:
    Tony Abbey 

    Tony Abbey - NAFEMS Tutor

    Read Tony Abbey's bio on the NAFEMS tutors page