How To Choose a Finite Element Analysis System

Due to the evolving nature of the engineering analysis and simulation market this publication no longer represents current best practice and has been archived. The document may be of historical interest and is therefore still available for purchase.

The purpose of this booklet is to discuss the issues that arise in the section of a finite element analysis program. It is assumed that the decision to purchase software has already been made, and that the reader understands basic finite element terminology. The companion booklet '‘Why Do Finite Element Analysis?'’ provides advice on both of these.

Finite Element Analysis is one part of the design process, and must be integrated effectively into the process as a whole. The position of the analysis software in the global scheme is illustrated in figure 1.1. The design process may be extended to include feedback from prototype testing and service performance. The requirement for interfaces and for peripheral support devices will be discussed in some detail in this booklet. The diagram shows that there are three separate pieces of software within a typical finite element system.

These are:

  • The pre-processor '– for creation of finite element model
  • The solver'– for assembly and solution of the finite element equations
  • The post-processor –for presentation of results

A detailed review of the attributes, performance and selection of pre and post processor software is presented in this booklet '‘How to Choose a Finite Element Pre and Post-Processor'’. The current booklet is concerned with the section of an analysis system, of which the pre and post-processors are an important part, and so there is much relevant information in the above publication. To avoid excessive repetition of material, the emphasis in this booklet is on the general issues associated with the analysis and on the solver itself. In the past it has been common to purchase the pre/post processor from one vendor and the solver from another. Although this option still exists, it is likely that the novice user will choose to purchase integrated analysis software from one vendor. For the newcomer to finite element analysis technology, the advantages of integrated software usually outweigh the primary disadvantage that every part of the analysis suite is unlikely to offer the optimum performance available in terms of ease of the use or breadth of functionality. The experienced user might choose the enhanced capabilities that can be obtained by the purchase of separate modules from separate vendors with particular strengths in each.

It is assumed that this booklet will be of most value to the novice who has had little previous exposure to finite element systems. The selection process can readily be divided into four principal stages.

  • Identify the requirements of the analysis system
  • Study the resources that might be committed to analysis
  • Write a product specification
  • Evaluate specific software

At the software evaluation stage it will be necessary to liaise closely with potential vendors, and a well-defined specification, perhaps support by benchmark problems typical of work likely to be analysed, will be invaluable in this process.



Identification of Requirements

  • Preliminary Specification
  • Sources of Information
  • Publications,– Journals/Periodicals and books
  • System vendors
  • Users


  • Hardware
  • Personnel & Training


  • Types of Analysis
  • Linear Static Analysis
  • Nonlinear Static analysis
  • Dynamic Analysis
  • Thermal Stress Analysis
  • Buckling Analyses
  • Types of Elements
  • The Analysis Package
  • Components of Analysis Software
  • Adoptive Refinements and Design Optimisation
  • Sub-structuring and Super Elements
  • Application-specific and Customised Software
  • Interfaces

Evaluation of Software

  • Short list of Vendors
  • Benchmarks
  • Standard Benchmarks
  • Customised Benchmarks
  • Performance Parameters
  • Accuracy
  • Speed
  • Robustness
  • East of Use
  • Quality Assurance
  • Costs



Document Details

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


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