12 Replies Latest reply on Mar 27, 2012 3:12 AM by Andrew Ratsep

    Finite element analysis - what about it?

    Andrew Ratsep

      First of all I am new in the community and not a native English speaker, so I apologize for any misunderstandings. Thank you for reading my thread anyway.


      I am a production/mechanical engineering student and I am familiar with parametric modeling and different kind of additional possibilities that come with it. Lately I got interested in more advanced engineering tools in SolidWorks. One of them is SolidWorks Simulation. Thou I never been very good in physics and math (due to the lack of appropriate study programs in high school) I have good understanding and interest in analyzing and incorporating that with powerful computing software brings up lots of excitement. So lately I have tried to understand the FEA (finite element analysis) and what the SolidWorks Simulation looks like to work. Still, I thought before taking the long road I should find out if my expectations are right at all. I know that FEA is about more than just click "calculate" in the program and maybe i am wasting my time and should stick to something more "suitable" for me. So i have gathered a list of facts of mine. These are my wievpoints that drive me towards studying FEA in Solidworks. Tell me if i have wrong expectations and help me to become to better understanding.


      1. FEA is more accesible and simpler than ever. CAD packages include great FEA tools that are very userfriendly. Even non-mathematical engineers have a chance to work with FEA utilising these kind of programs. That means even if I dont understand all the mathemathical and physical nuances, I still can work with FEA trough the continous experience and good analysing skill. Working with FEA in small scale doesn't require higher knowledge in math and physics but of course adds additional value to engineer.


      2. FEA calculating software is just a tool. It simplifies engineers work by calculating and it turns out to be very time saving. Everything else but depends on engineers skills and experience. It is very important to understand dfferent methods of FEA and all the exceptions in terms of model geometry. The exercise has to be analysed before the calculations and after that. And what most important, accurate results mostly require numerous of calculations and analysis with different methods.


      3. Best way to start studying FEA individually as a student is to have a good book of basics of the FEA and just run numerous of simple analysis in program and to analyse them, use lots of trial-error method - it is all about experience.


      4. Work in small companies doesn't usually require high knowledge of theoretical base of FEA, just cause the work over there isn't that complicated. In big companies on the other hand very high knowledge is required but also the work is more organized and also people for more simpler FEA tasks are required. So even if you are not specialized on FEA, You still have a chance work with it.


      5. Engineering companies always appreciate engineers with any FEA skills and it comes handy in every way.


      6. Solidworks Simulation is very userfriendly software and other more specialized FEA softwares require  strong knowledge on math,physics and FEA.


      So this is thats what i feel like. And if that all is true then i'm gonna stick to my plan. Tho i believe it is more complicated than that. No matter what I like to analyse myself and my capabilities and educate myself. So if you are more familiar with the subject or even work with FEA  please give me some advice.


      With all respect,


        • Re: Finite element analysis - what about it?
          Chris Freshman

          Hi Andrew,


          At my compnay and for my degree I specialised in FEA. I would agree with your post (or at least most of it) and yes I think solidworks simulation is brilliant, it provides what 95% of users require in a user freindly way.


          If you are interested in learning my FEA, then I am starting a blog soon which is effectively a walk through of how to use SolidWorks Simulation, but it will also provide FEA background knowledge and explain through defferent expeptions and moddelling processess. If your interested let me know and I will inform you when it is uop a running


          Kind Regards,



          • Re: Finite element analysis - what about it?
            David Anderson

            Hi Andrew,


            See my reponses below....


            1. True and you should always check your results w/a closed form solution or testing.


            2.  "Its a poor craftsman who blames his tools" Yes it is a tool and how skillful you are is directly correlated to the accuracy of your results.


            3. Experience is the key. Training is also helpful but the best way to learn is to glom on to a mentor.


            4. Not true. Complicated FEA modeling exists at all companies of all sizes. Size does not matter here but you often will find more analysis specialists in larger companies. This is typical for all engineering disciplines in large companies.


            5. Familiarity and exposure is always desirable but an FEA neophyte turned loose w/o proper supervision is dangerous.


            6. Not necessarily true. The more sophisticated packages are just that. They provide more capabilites and it just takes time to learn these capabilites.


            Hope this helps.



            • Re: Finite element analysis - what about it?
              Andy Sanders

              FEA can be very misleading as far as the results if you don't have a good grasp on the mechanics behind the loads and restraints, and how the part interacts with it's environment.


              FEA can only give you what you put into it. If you set up your analysis without knowing how this part will be used in the "real world" you might get wildly different results than actual.

                • Re: Finite element analysis - what about it?
                  Andrew Ratsep

                  Indeed. I have heard this already from different sources and that's why I try to be careful with it. But i probably never gonna understand the real meaning of FEA before i get into it. I believe i have to keep listen others experience and knowledge to find out if this is right "job" for me.


                  At the moment i have solid base of using SW simulation but i am only running analysis to find out how different restraints and fixtures act. Not really getting into analysing results at the moment. I love to know basics before i get into something and I believe it's a good habbit, but I always thniking maybe it isn't enough.


                  Thank You Andy!

                    • Re: Finite element analysis - what about it?
                      Paul Kellner

                      FEA solves mechanics of materials problems that are too unwieldy for hand calculations. If you don't understand how the hand calculations work, FEA just gives the opportunity to make bigger blunders. So your care is appreciated.


                      There are plenty of example problems in the install folders.


                      One has to ask what it is you are going to simulate? If it is something not related to safety and that will go through some testing before being put to use perhaps that would be suitable for learning.

                        • Re: Finite element analysis - what about it?
                          Andrew Ratsep



                          I'm trying to learn from my university program as much as possible, but i am not very keen with hand calculations. Still understanding the problems isn't a difficulty for me.

                          I am likely to deal with machine and equipment building and design, developing material handling systems or something like this. Probably not gonna work in the fields where safety is priority number one. I would love to manage FEA to use it within product design to more effectively create better products.


                          I believe that having experience to solve even very simple FE tasks would very effectievly increase my work process and quality, especially if there are some important links in mechanical designs that need more attention.

                    • Re: Finite element analysis - what about it?
                      Andrew Ratsep

                      Sorry for a late reply. I've been really busy lately.


                      Thanks Paul and Josh, you made your point. Safety is vital concern in all these areas but what i am considering is that, is there a jobs out there where engineers use FEA simulations just to improve their solutions in design progress. Removing materials where it is possible, make them more rigid, and just to make sure that i am at right direction with my design solution. Or it is just my imagination?