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Basic Finite Element Analysis (FEA)

NAFEMS e-Learning Course  

Five sessions; 2.5 hours per session

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

FEA 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.

Session 1

Background to FEA  

  • Origins of FEA , leading to today’s process
  • Emphasis on limitations of a displacement solution
  • The route from CAD to Mesh to Solver to Results
  • A simple case study – a bracket
  • Simple Element stiffness matrices described
  • Basic element shape functions
  • Avoiding Free Motion

Overview of Element Types

  • 1d elements – usage of bars and beams
  • 2d elements – when to use plates and shells
  • 3d elements - Hex versus Tet, the trade off
  • Types of meshing and meshing issues

Session 2

Element usage

  • I-beam example spanning element types
  • Special elements and methods

Making healthy models

  • Mis-matched  DOF’S and other issues
  • Element distortions – effect on accuracy
  • Convergence checking
  • Solver and Preprocessor checking
  • Post processor checking and the dangers of smoothing

Session 3

Stress concentrations and stress singularities


  • Constraint methods
  • Real world boundary conditions
  • Linear Contact methods – new technology to supplement constraints

Loading Types

  • Real world loading versus FEA
  • Basic Loading methods
  • Centrifugal and Inertial Loading
  • Unit load cases for better understanding

FEA Model checks

  • Prior to analysis
  • Preprocessor checks
  • Solver checks
  • Post processing checks
  • Writing the report

Session 4

Making Life simpler

  • Symmetry and axisymmetry
  • Plane Stress and strain
  • Global local modeling

Understanding the objective of the analysis

  • Clear view of scope of problem – how do we tackle it
  • Resource and timescale factors
  • FEA Analysis objectives –case study

Looking at CAD geometry

  • Why not use 20 million elements
  • Trade offs
  • De-featuring
  • The reality of CAD models
  • Manual methods of meshing

Session 5

Engineering Assessment

  • Anticipate the load paths 
  • Free body Diagrams
  • Force Balance
  • Review of Stress and Load fundamentals
  • Revisiting the I-Beam, comparing theory with FEA

Checking the answers

  • Ways of checking the results
  • What type of stress do I use?
  • Review of fundamentals
  • Post Processing and More Check-in

Brief Overview of Other Topics

  • Buckling
  • Introduction to Non-linear Analysis
  • Introduction to Dynamics and Normal Modes Analysis
  • Introduction to Composite Analysis

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."


"Tony's command over the subject and excellent teaching skills made this course worthwhile."


"Super! Doesn't get better than this. Good idea to start having e-Learning courses."


"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."


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 w/ microphone) 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

Upcoming Session:


    Not Available to Attend this Time? 

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

    Course Tutor:
    Tony Abbey 

    Tony Abbey - NAFEMS Tutor

    Read Tony Abbey's bio on the NAFEMS tutors page