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Composite Finite Element Analysis

Time to take a closer look at Composites FEA?
Need a clear path through analysis setup and interpretation?

This industry-leading, code-independent e-learning course gives you the background for effective FEA.

Composite Finite Element Analysis

This 5-session, live online course will cover a range of topics, all aimed at structural designers and engineers.

Composite systems include many more factors than conventional metallic structures.

The objective of this course is to break down the composite analysis process into clearly defined steps, give an overview of the physics involved and show how to successfully implement practical solutions using Finite Element Analysis.

Moving to composite structures will allow you to explore:

  • increased structural strength and stiffness to weight ratios
  • simpler manufacturing processes
  • more innovative design capabilities

Composite materials span:

  • cheap and freely available glass fiber reinforced systems
  • exotic and tailored carbon, boron or Kevlar systems
  • many other fiber and matrix systems

The challenge for the designer and analyst is to make decisions on the type of idealization and level of detail required in the Finite Element Analysis. Your design may include:

  • thick composite sections with large numbers of plies
  • regions of significant ply drop off
  • tee joints loaded in tension
  • structural shapes causing changes in draping angle or thickness

Analysis is further complicated by:

  • a wide range of failure theories
  • large amounts of stress and strain data for each ply

We can help you plan a strategy for dealing with these challenges.

You can either attend the live sessions or take the course on-demand at your leisure.

NAFEMS e-learning gives you the best of both worlds, giving you real, practical knowledge that you can use day-to-day to improve your analyses

The course is completely code independent.

  • A full set of notes in PDF format will be available for download. Each session is presented live and is available for review via a streamable recording.
  • Personal passwords are provided to allow you to access e-learning backup material via our special bulletin board. Reading lists, homework submissions, supplementary data are all stored as files on the bulletin board.
  • Interaction via the bulletin board is strongly encouraged to obtain the most from the e-learning class. Typically the board runs for 4 weeks after the last live class sessions, giving you plenty of time to catch up with homework, review and ask questions.

Note: homework is purely voluntary!

Free Composite Stiffness and Strength Calculator

Composite Stiffness and Strength Calculator

All attendees on the course will be able to download a fully functioning Composite Stiffness and Strength Calculator, together with user guide.

  • Carry out the homework tasks
  • Explore composite layup stiffness and strength
  • Calculate Failure Index and Strength Ratios
  • Display ABD matrices
  • View full details of calculation ply by ply

Many past attendees have found this tool a useful supplement to post processing available in their usual Finite Element solution. Attendees will be entitled to future upgrades.

Course Process and Details

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 @ .

Course Program

This is a five-session online training course, with each session lasting for approximately 2.5/3 hours, depending on homework submissions, questions & discussions.

You can attend the sessions live, and/or by listening to the recordings, which will be made available shortly after the end of each session.

(click to expand)

Session 1


  • Introduction to composite systems
  • Strength and Stiffness of plies
  • Comparison with published data or test results
  • Ply angle effect
  • Simulation of single ply using FEA
  • Introduction to Failure Criteria
  • Homework


Session 2


  • Homework Review
  • Multi ply layups – evaluation of stiffness
  • A B D matrix terms and their importance in design and analysis
  • Interlaminar shear stresses
  • FEA model simulations of varying layups
  • Symmetric and balanced layups
  • Special types of Layup
  • Homework


Session 3


  • Homework review
  • Composite beam case study
  • Practical composite modeling
  • Inner or outer mold line considerations
  • Ply drop off, draping effects
  • Homework


Session 4


  • Homework review
  • Sandwich Panels
  • Isotropic Equivalent method
  • Laminate method
  • Solid Element method
  • Sheet and core Stability
  • Comparison of 2D shell and solid element solutions
  • Bulkhead Sandwich Example
  • Edge Effects: Thin Shell and Solid comparisons
  • Plane Strain


Session 5


  • Advanced failure methods
  • Progressive ply failure methods
  • Cohesive Zone methods
  • Virtual Crack Closure method
  • Micromechanics of Composites



PSE Competencies addressed by this training course (click to expand)


IDCompetence Statement
MASco2Explain the terms Isotropic, Orthotropic, Anisotropic and Homogeneous.
CMPSkn1List the various steps in the analysis/simulation process and identify those requiring particular consideration due to the inherent nature of the composite material / structure.
CMPSkn3List the various failure criteria available in any system used.
CMPSkn4Identify the laminated elements available in any system used, highlighting any developer preferences.
CMPSco1Discuss the sources of approximation inherent in finite element analysis of composite materials and structures.
CMPSco2Describe the approximate post-processing method used with some elements to obtain inter-ply shear and normal stresses.
CMPSco3Discuss approximations relating to fibre direction in curved shell models.
CMPSco6Discuss the various failure mechanisms in composite materials.
CMPSco7Discuss the difficulties inherent in conducting analyses involving damage progression.
CMPSco9Outline how element stiffness matrices are evaluated for laminated elements.
CMPSco10Explain the term free edge effect.
CMPSco19Discuss the general roles of fibre and matrix in a composite.
CMPSco21Discuss scenarios where a Representative Volume Element modelling approach would be appropriate.
CMPSco24Contrast the relative significance of transverse shearing effects for composites and isotropic homogeneous materials.
CMPSco26Explain the purposes of the skins and core in a sandwich construction.
CMPSap2Illustrate the approximate nature of finite element analysis, through examples chosen from your industry sector or branch of engineering.
CMPSap3Illustrate situations where use of an equivalent orthotropic idealisation may be appropriate.
CMPSap4Use laminated shells and bricks effectively in small displacement, linear elastic FEA.
CMPSap5Use sandwich elements effectively in small displacement, linear elastic FEA.
CMPSap6Use laminated shells and bricks effectively in nonlinear FEA.
CMPSsy3Plan a series of simple benchmarks in support of a composite analysis.
CMPSev1Select appropriate idealisations for typical industry components/structures, which are consistent with the objectives of the analyses.
CMPSev2Specify appropriate failure criteria for a range of analyses.
MSAkn1Define Multiscale Analysis.
MSAkn7Define and list the classical approaches to multi-scale analysis.
MSAco3EComposite FEAplain continuum theory and why continuum methods cannot be used at the atomistic scale.
MSAco12Describe the trends in hardware and software and how these will impact on current multi-scale analysis procedures.



Event Type eLearning
Member Price £341.29 | $435.00 | €401.19
Non-member Price £523.31 | $667.00 | €615.15
Tutor: Tony Abbey


Start Date End Date Location

Session Times


Session Times

Composite Finite Element Analysis

Five-Session Online Training Course

2.5/3 hours per session
PDH Credits - 12.5

Attend the live sessions, or view the recordings at your convenience.

Not Available to Attend this Time?

Would you like us to notify you when the next course is open for enrollment? If so, add yourself to the eLearning Waitlist

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.