Finite Element Analysis
Finite element analysis, or FEA, is the use of a computer to simulate the response of a part, sub-assembly, or even complete structure to a given set of loadings and constraints. Each component in the calculation is broken down into a finite number of 1, 2, and 3-dimensional elements, for example, rigid rods and beams (1D), plates and laminates (2D), and solids (3D). Material properties are defined for each region, as well as contact surfaces and support constraints. FEA calculations are used to design a wide variety of composite structures, where laminate theory is applied to simulate the composite elements, and then integrated into comprehensive analyses of entire assemblies. Typical outputs from FEA calculations include stresses, deformations, natural frequencies, and mode shapes. In addition, FEA is often used for impulse response, heat transfer analyses, and to calculate buckling loads. At Element 6 Components, we use the NeiNastran software package from Nei Software. Nastran was originally developed by NASA, and is known as one of the premiere FEA analysis codes. Through careful analysis, many iterations of the design can be achieved before the first prototype is ever built, often greatly reducing the total cost for prototyping.