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How To Understand Finite Element Jargon.

How To Understand Finite Element Jargon

How To Understand Finite Element Jargon

Criticism of the use of jargon is common. It can be argued that it is used by some groups in an attempt to retain their status as an elite. This should be seen as a fault in the way in which jargon is used, rather than in jargon itself. In any field of science, particularly in its development stage, it is necessary to invent new expressions to describe newly-discovered phenomena or techniques. Often a group of words is used, consisting of the discoverer’s name and a brief description of the phenomenon or method. Later the group of words may be abbreviated to a group of letters which are meaningless without further explanation. Perhaps this should be regarded as a good thing. ‘Uridian Gradation’ might sound much less daunting if it were called ‘'ug'’, but it would of course be very confusing if everything were called ug.

It is necessary therefore, for the newcomer to any field of activity to develop an understanding of the jargon that is used by existing members of the community. Often the jargon describes simple ideas or concepts that are so familiar to the practitioners that they are not even aware that any explanation is needed. Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is rich in jargon that has been introduced over the years and is now part of everyday parlance in the industry.

Some jargon terms pervade much of finite element practice and section 2 of this booklet is devoted to the explanation of the most common of them. Section 3 offers a more comprehensive glossary of terms and provides a read reference for the newcomer of the field.

The jargon associated with FEA derives from three principal areas: 

  • FEA theory
  • Mathematical and numerical analysis
  • Hardware and software installation

The glossary has been divided into three sections in an attempt to clarify the source of the terminology, and to make the section of finite element specific terminology more readable. Some general engineering terms have been included in this section to make the glossary more self-contained. Cross-references are made where a subject falls into more that one category. As far as possible, any equations and discussion of mathematical techniques have been separated into the second part of the glossary, and some knowledge of numerical analysis procedures is assumed in this section.

The novice can manage very well without understanding many of the FE terms he will encounter, particularly if they are related to a type of analysis with which he is not concerned. The initial difficulty may be in discovering whether or not he needs to understand. In section 3.1, the brevity of some of the definitions is intended to show the novice does not need to know any more. The implications of some terms are quite important, and hints on these have been added to the definitions. For simplicity, absolute accuracy is compromised in favour of a general description of the concepts involved. 




Examples of Very Common Jargon

  • Nodes and Elements
  • Displacement, Translations, Rotations, Degrees of Freedom and Skew
  • Shape Functions and Isoparametric Element
  • Solution Techniques '
  • Banded and Frontal Solvers
  • Gauss Quadrature, Gauss Points and Gauss Point Stresses
  • Jargon Associated with Dynamic Anlaysis


  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Mathematics
  • Computer


Document Details

AuthorsBaguley. D Hose. D
AudiencesAnalyst Manager
Date 1st January 1994


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