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Basic Finite Element Analysis

Basic Finite Element Analysis

New to FEA and concerned about how to use it in the real world? This course gives you practical advice with a minimum of theory.

The six-session course offers excellent guidance on how to assess and plan the task of carrying out structural analysis using FEA.

Finite Element Analysis is a powerful, widely used and universally accepted technique. However, for those new to FEA there is a steep learning curve to overcome, with a bewildering array of:

  • element types
  • solution types
  • meshing methods
  • loading and constraint methods
  • pre-post processing options

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.

Content includes:

  • Background to FEA
  • Defining your objectives and planning your analysis
  • Making healthy models
  • Real-world constraints and loading
  • Engineering assessment – is your model realistic
  • Integrating with CAD and geometry
  • Checking the answers – guilty until proven innocent!

Why an e-learning class?

Travel and training budgets are always tight! The e-Learning course has been developed to help you meet your training needs.

If your company has a group of engineers, or specific training requirements across any subjects, please contact us to discuss options.

Course Program

Session 1

  • History and background
  • FEA Process
  • Element Stiffness Matrices
  • Avoiding Free Motion
  • Spreadsheet Bar Solver
  • Degrees of Freedom
  • Homework

Session 2

  • Homework review
  • Displacement shape functions
  • Element Types
  • A sanity check on FEA
  • A simple case study
  • Beam structure example
  • Homework

Session 3

  • Homework review
  • Controlling DOF
  • Special elements and methods
  • Element stress inaccuracies
  • Convergence checking
  • Homework

Session 4

  • Homework Review
  • Local Stress Raisers
  • Real World Boundary Conditions
  • Real World Loading
  • Summary of FEA Model Checks
  • Checks prior to analysis
  • Pre Processor and Meshing Checks
  • Auxiliary Analysis Checks
  • Solver Checks
  • Post Processor Checks
  • Reporting
  • Homework

Session 5

  • Making Life Simpler
  • Cylinder Example
  • Understanding the Objective of an FEA analysis
  • Looking Critically at CAD Geometry
  • Why Not Use 20 Million Elements
  • Homework

Session 6

  • Free Body Diagrams
  • Types of stresses
  • Assessing Stresses
  • Checking Results
  • Load Paths
  • Other Solution Types
  • Conclusions
  • Homework

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.


PSE Competencies addressed by this training course

IDCompetence Statement
FEAkn1List the various steps in the analysis/simulation process.
FEAkn2Define the meaning of degree of freedom.
FEAkn3List the nodal degrees of freedom and the associated force actions for common beam, 2D solid, 2D axisymmetric, 3D solid and shell elements, for the Displacement FEM.
FEAkn4Define the meaning of adaptive mesh refinement
FEAkn7Name other finite element methods.
FEAkn8List the requirements for an axisymmetric analysis to be valid.
FEAkn9List the degrees of freedom to be constrained on a symmetric boundary.
FEAkn11Sketch problems showing the various form of symmetry.
FEAkn12List the advantages of using symmetry.
FEAkn14List the possible advantages of applying material properties, loads and boundary conditions to underlying geometry rather than to finite element entities.
FEAkn15List 2 common solvers for large sets of simultaneous equations.
FEAkn16List the various forms of element distortion.
FEAkn17List the various element types commonly used in the analysis of components within your organisation.
FEAco1Describe the sources of error inherent in finite element analysis, in general terms.
FEAco2Discuss checks that may be used post-solution to check for the presence of inaccuracy.
FEAco3Explain the term solution residual.
FEAco4Explain the meaning of convergence, including h and p types.
FEAco5Discuss the difficulties that can arise in using a CAD model as the basis for carrying out analysis and simulation.
FEAco6Discuss the need for a consistent set of units in any analysis and illustrate possible pitfalls.
FEAco7Explain why strains and stresses are generally less accurate than displacements for any given mesh of elements, using the Displacement FEM.
FEAco8Discuss the validity of using symmetry techniques to model non-symmetric problems.
FEAco9Explain the meaning of the term ill-conditioned when used in the context of a set of solution equations and illustrate physical situations where this might reflect reality.
FEAco11Discuss the finite element / spring analogy.
FEAco13Explain how the structural stiffness matrix is assembled from the individual element matrices.
FEAco14Discuss the nature of the structural stiffness matrix.
FEAco16Discuss the salient features of the integral equation for Consistent Nodal Loading.
FEAco17Explain the process of Gaussian Quadrature and the terms Reduced Integration, Shear Locking and Mechanisms.
FEAco19Discuss the general requirements for suitable Displacement Functions.
FEAco20Discuss the terms C0 and C1 Continuity.
FEAco23Explain the Equilibrium and Compatibility conditions, normally found within and between displacement elements.
FEAco28Explain why element distortion generally results in poorer results.
FEAco32Explain the concept of substructuring, where applicable and highlight common limitations of use.
FEAco33Describe the process of nested or submodelling.
FEAco36Discuss how developments in computing power and system functionality are affecting modelling strategies, highlighting techniques that are falling into disuse.
FEAco37Discuss modelling issues related to wind, sea, and other relevant forms of stochastic loading.
FEAco40Explain the rationale behind the use of 1-D, 2-D and 3-D elements used in the analysis of components within your organisation.
FEAap1Employ an analysis system for the determination of stresses and strains in small displacement, linear elastic problems.
FEAap4Illustrate the various steps in the Displacement Finite Element Method from assumed displacement polynomial to determination of stresses.
FEAap9Employ cyclic symmetric boundary conditions effectively, where appropriate.
FEAap11Illustrate consistent nodal loadings for uniform loading on a range of common linear and quadratic shell, 2D and 3D solid elements and note any unusual features.
FEAap12Employ a range of post-solution checks to determine the integrity of FEA results.
FEAap13Conduct validation studies in support of FEA.
FEAap14Carry out sensitivity studies.
FEAan1Analyse the results from small displacement, linear static analyses and determine whether they satisfy inherent assumptions.
FEAan2Compare the results from small displacement, linear elastic analyses with allowable values and comment on findings.
FEAan3Analyse the results from sensitivity studies and draw conclusions from trends.
FEAsy1Prepare an analysis specification, including modelling strategy, highlighting any assumptions relating to geometry, loads, boundary conditions and material properties.
FEAsy2Develop an analysis strategy that enables the relative significance of individual model parameters and their interactions to be evaluated.
FEAsy3Plan an analysis, specifying necessary resources and timescale.
FEAsy4Prepare quality assurance procedures for finite element analysis activities within an organisation.
FEAsy8Prepare a validation plan in support of a FEA study.
FEAev2Assess the significance of neglecting any feature or detail in any idealisation.
FEAev3Assess the significance of simplifying geometry, material models, loads or boundary conditions.
FEAev5Manage verification and validation procedures in support of FEA.
MESMkn6Sketch the graph of force versus deflection for a linear elastic spring and identify the potential energy and the complementary energy.
MESMkn9Sketch a general 3D stress element showing all stress components.
MESMkn10Sketch Mohr Circle for a simple tensile test specimen, illustrating the plane of maximum shear.
MESMkn11Define Hooke's Law.
MESMkn12Define Poisson's Ratio.
MESMkn13Define the relationship between Young's Modulus, Poisson's Ratio and Shear Modulus.
MESMkn14Sketch the through-thickness shear stress distribution in a rectangular beam subjected to a shearing load.
MESMkn15List the equations for the hoop and longitudinal stresses in an internally pressurised thin sphere and a thin cylinder with remote end closures.
MESMkn16Sketch the contact normal stress distribution for a circular pin in lug with a circular hole.
MESMkn17List the section properties for a range of common shapes, including hollow circular.
MESMkn18List various Failure Hypotheses / Criteria.
MESMkn19State an appropriate failure criteria for brittle materials.
MESMkn20Define Tresca and von Mises Stress for a 3D stress state.
MESMkn21State the elastic Constitutive Relations in 2D, for a homogeneous, isotropic material.
MESMco1Discuss the term Rigid Body and explain its significance in relation to any analysis.
MESMco2Explain the terms Uniaxial, Biaxial and Triaxial Stress.
MESMco3Explain the significance of the terms Equilibrium, Compatibility and Constitutive Relations.
MESMco4Discuss the terms True Stress and Natural Strain.
MESMco5Describe the stress distribution around a hole in an infinite plate subjected to uniaxial tension.
MESMco6Sketch deformed shapes, shear force, bending moment and torque diagrams, for simple structures.
MESMco9Discuss the uncertainties typically present in analyses and explain how these are handled.
MESMco10Explain the term Statically Indeterminate and illustrate with a few examples.
MESMco11Explain the significance of the assumption plane sections remain plane in relation to beam bending.
MESMco12Explain when deflection due to shear starts to become significant with beams, plates and shells.
MESMco14Provide examples of Plane Stress and Plane Strain.
MESMco15Explain the Tresca and von Mises Failure Criteria in 2D, sketching the failure surface.
MESMco16Discuss the stress states that give rise to maximum differences between the Tresca and von Mises criteria.
MESMco17Discuss the Principle of Superposition and its limitations.
MESMco18Explain how St. Venant's Principle may be of use in FEA.
MESMco19Explain how the interaction of stress concentrations may be handled.
MESMap1Employ Free Body Diagrams effectively.
MESMap2Use tables to retrieve stress concentration data for common configurations.
MESMap8Evaluate deformed shapes, shear force, bending moment and torque diagrams for simple structures.
MESMan1Use tabulated formulae or first principles to determine deflections and stresses for simple, beam, plate and shell problems, as a check on values from FEA.
MESMsy1Plan analysis strategies.
BMPSkn2Sketch typical beam, membrane, plate and shell elements showing degrees of freedom and corresponding force actions.
BMPSco1Describe the basic differences between a membrane, a plate and a shell.
BMPSco2Explain the term and significance of a drilling degree of freedom for a shell element (rotational freedom normal to the shell surface).
BMPSco3Discuss, in general terms, the assumptions inherent in beam, plate or shell theory forming the basis of any element being used.
BMPSco9Discuss the significance of a facetted representation of a curved shell, where relevant and explain why use of this type of element is no longer necessary.
BMPSco14Describe any inherent dangers in using a membrane or a plate idealisation rather than a shell one.
BMPSco15 Discuss the use of beam and shell elements to model stiffeners and highlight limitations.
BMPSco22Describe the terms Neutral Axis and Centroidal Axis in relation to beam elements.
BMPSco23Describe the terms Shear Centre, Shear Coefficients, Torsional Constant and Warping in relation to beam elements.
BMPSco25Explain why the through-thickness stress is commonly neglected in thin shells.
BMPSco26Describe the boundary conditions appropriate to fully-fixed and simply supported beams and shells and explain the link to bending stress.
BMPSco29Discuss the effect of an offset in shell mid-surface on local and global result quantities.
BMPSco31Explain the challenges in connecting beam and shell elements to solids.
BMPSap3Determine positive plate/shell normal directions and use this effectively in the application of pressure and the correct display of surface stress plots.
BMPSap4Use beam elements effectively for appropriate idealisations of components and structures.
BMPSap5Use membrane elements effectively for appropriate idealisations of components and structures.
BMPSap6Use plate elements effectively for appropriate idealisations of components and structures.
BMPSap7Use shell elements effectively for appropriate idealisations of components and structures.
BMPSan1Analyse requirements for finite element models of industrial components using beam, membrane, plate and shell elements and determine whether the basic assumptions inherent in the element formulations are valid.
BMPSsy1Plan modelling strategies for stiffened plate/shell structures.
BMPSev1Justify the appropriateness of a beam, membrane, plate or shell idealisation for any analysis.
MASco1Describe the salient features of a stress strain curve from a uniaxial tensile test on a typical steel and aluminium alloy.
MASco4Describe the characteristics of ductile and brittle failures.
MASco15If relevant to your industry sector, explain how use of a modulus and allowable stress can be used in a small displacement linear elastic analysis of a plastic component.
MASap1Employ material constitutive data appropriately in analysis and simulation.
SIMMkn17SPDM - State applicable simulation process for the relevant project in your organization.
SIMMkn18SPDM - State input data from other disciplines and domains (e.g. design, loads, materials, tests...).
SIMMkn19SPDM - State output of simulation & analysis processes, including design substantiation, test requirements...
SIMMkn20SPDM - State the different phases and control actions of an efficient simulation and analysis process
SIMMkn26SPDM - Identify model/simulation data to be managed.
SIMMkn27SPDM - List the import and eIntro to FEAport formats available in your application software.
SIMMco27SPDM- Understand the process to import and select loads for the relevant project(*).
SIMMco28SPDM- Understand loads selection and combination rules applicable to the relevant project(*).
SIMMco29SPDM- Understand different load characteristics and variability(*).
SIMMco36SPDM - Understand successive phases of the applicable simulation process including preparatory phase, modelling and simulation phase, validation and assessment phase.
SIMMco47SPDM - Describe the limitations of the import and export formats available in your application software.
SIMMap14SPDM - Use applicable capability to eIntro to FEAtract/import applicable material data for simulation(*).
SIMMap15SPDM - Use applicable capability to import applicable loads and environmental data(*).
SIMMan16SPDM - Analyze the impact of input data changes ( e.g.loads..) in support of a decision to launch a new simulation loop.
SIMMan17SPDM - Analyze the impact of material changes in support of a decision to launch a new simulation loop(*).
SIMMco7 - V&VExplain the term solution verification.
SIMMap4 - V&VPerform basic model checks
SIMMap6 - V&VPerform test /analysis correlation studies
SIMMan6 - V&VAnalyze simulation results to support validation activities.
SIMMsy7 - V&VPrepare a validation plan in support of a FEA study.
SIMMkn9 List the various CAD, and CAE systems your company uses and has a need to transfer data to/from.
SIMMkn10 State whether the CAD CAE interfaces amongst your analysis and simulations applications are uni directional or bi directional
SIMMco15 Understand fundamentals of the mechanical design process
SIMMco16 Explain how a CAD model can support different CAE models.
SIMMco18 Understand procedures to extract and import applicable CAD geometrical data, and/or drawings for the relevant analysis.
SIMMco20 Understand the tracking of changes in CAD and simulation models
SIMMco23 Review the functionality of STEP in relation to your analysis and simulation needs.
SIMMco25 Review whether features are retained across the import and export filters available in your application software.
SIMMap8 Apply any model clean up facilities available in your application software, for use on imported data.
SIMMap9 Use facilities in your application software to solidify imported geometry where necessary.
SIMMap10 Use your application software to extract mid surfaces from solid geometry
SIMMap11 Employ any feature-recognition facilities on imported geometry, to allow suppression or modification.
SIMMap12 Apply appropriate tolerances and other settings when importing and exporting model data.
SIMMan8 Appraise whether any geometrical entities have been approximated on importation into your analysis and simulation systems.
SIMMan18 Analyze the impact of design changes in support of a decision to launch a new simulation loop.
SIMMan19 Assess the justification of design changes coming from simulation results.


Event Type eLearning
Member Price £354.57 | $458.00 | €421.74
Non-member Price £524.88 | $678.00 | €624.31
Tutor: Tony Abbey


Start Date End Date Location

Session Times

Basic Finite Element Analysis

Six-Session Online Training Course

2.5/3 hours per session
PDH Credits - 15

Attend the live sessions, or view the recordings at your convenience.
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Please click here to view the FAQ section, or if you need to contact NAFEMS about this course.

Engineering Board PDH Credits
*It is your individual responsibility to check whether these e-learning courses satisfy the criteria set-out by your state engineering board. NAFEMS does not guarantee that your individual board will accept these courses for PDH credit, but we believe that the courses comply with regulations in most US states (except Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana, and New York, where providors are required to be pre-approved)

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) 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.
For NAFEMS cancellation and transfer policy, click here.