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Education & Dissemination

Barriers to the uptake and effective use of finite element technology can be grouped into two categories

  • Education and training of key practitioners to the appropriate level
  • Exploitation and Dissemination of the technology. This includes particular issues concerning Quality Assurance, IPR and software verification and validation

In the industry-focused discussions, education and training features highly in the wish list for improvement. There are, of course, numerous initiatives aimed at meeting this deficiency, ranging from academic short courses to code specific training courses, from web-based material to traditional text books. This diversity is both a strength and weakness: Industry tends to find the academic material too theoretical, too diffuse and insufficiently focused on industrial issues. Code specific training material can be too parochial and lacking in objectivity. In particular it tends to be skewed to what “can be done” – industry needs also to know what does not work. At the same time academics tend to be concerned at the apparent desire to de-skill the analysis process by “procedurising” it and by attempts to remove all mathematics from user manuals etc.

Against this background there is an ongoing need to discuss and debate the real needs of industrial users and how, and in what manner, they should be met. This will then stimulate the production of material to satisfy the needs of industry and encourage more effective forms of delivery. For example initial discussions have identified a number of projects addressing the issue of training through emerging techniques such as web based learning. The web-based survey of finite element users identified ways of capturing and re-using experience as a high priority, and there is perhaps scope to revisit knowledge management and expert systems technology.

There is also a requirement to examine the need for certification of engineers and accreditation of courses to a uniform standard. It is envisaged that this would contribute to improving the quality of analysis being carried out and enhancing the confidence levels in the use of technology. There is much to be said for a pan European “standard” for short courses on Finite Elements covering many aspects of FE modelling, e.g. linear, non-linear, dynamic analysis, fracture mechanics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, etc. The feasibility of devising a written examination to assess students for a “Certificate of Competence” in the relevant FE area might also be considered.

There are a number of exploitation and dissemination issues that currently limit the effective uptake of analysis and simulation technology; two of the most important ones being Q A and IPR. Quality Assurance in the broadest sense is about ensuring “fitness for purpose” of the analysis results and embraces the still maturing concepts of “verification” and “validation”. There have been a number of attempts to formalise these concepts, involving rigorous definitions and procedures, in the belief that these can then be integrated with the quality procedures for other business processes. A difficulty is that nonpractitioners tend to want validation (and verification) to be an absolute process with a “black and white” answer: A set of results (or even the model!) is either valid or is not and no qualification is needed. Practitioners, on the other hand, tend to want to qualify their validation by highlighting all the uncertainties and assumptions that go into the simulation. Against this background current QA philosophies for simulation fit somewhat uncomfortably with the more formalised procedures of other business processes.

A further issue, which is likely to become more important as simulation is integrated more closely with product development and other business processes, is how Intellectual Property Rights can be preserved. Conflicts can arise between the desire to standardise and the desire to maintain competitive advantage by asserting ownership of a process, data etc.

Again a forum to debate the nuances of the issue is needed.


Project Reports

Summary of the Project Findings relating to Education & Dissemination
(as presented at the project review meeting in Malta, May 2005) (PDF Format)

D5603 - Procedural Benchmarks for Common Fabrication Details in Plate/Shell Structures
Jim Wood, University of Strathclyde  (Hi-Res ZIP Version - 22MB )

WorldWide FEA Survey
Jim Wood, University of Strathclyde


Project Workshops