How Detailed Does FEA Need To Be?

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How Detailed Does FEA Need To Be?

28 April 2021
 Categories: Technology, Blog

One of the biggest factors in determining how involved finite element analysis will be is the level of detail. Someone seeking FEA services may wonder what level of detail is necessary for their project. FEA consulting professionals look at these four factors to answer their questions.


Some assumptions in the process are very well-known. Consequently, they don't necessarily call for more granular studies of what would happen.

If you're trying to figure out how many cars can sit on a bridge in traffic before the structure would fail, most of the assumptions are close to set in stone. Engineering history provides strong assumptions about how well concrete, rebar, steel, and other components of the bridge are going to hold up to stresses.


When an FEA consulting firm performs an analysis, they create a mesh in a computer program. This mesh reflects the finite elements that define FEA.

For analysis purposes, the mesh size is determined by the scale at which the assumptions about the materials are known to withstand scrutiny. To present an extreme example, you wouldn't need to think below the level of a sand grain to analyze how the base for a new road would perform.

Most engineering assumptions hold up at larger scales, too. That means the mesh might represent fractions of an inch. You might go smaller in scale if you're already analyzing something small, such as a new hand tool.

Computational Power

When a computer analyzes elements, it commits computational power and time to do the job. If you analyze one million elements instead of 1,000, you'd expect to see a significant increase in the time it takes to complete one run through the process.

Fortunately, computational power is becoming more readily available by the year. That means most firms can analyze many more elements now than they could 5 years ago.

Budgeting Time for Simulations

All FEA services providers and their clients have to budget computing power and time. If you want to run 1,000,000 simulations instead of 500,000, for example, you have to decide whether you're willing to pay for more time or reduce the number of elements per run.

Much of this decision boils down to what the acceptable limits of your project are. If you have to check for the risk of cracks down to 1/100th of an inch, then the analysis will need enough elements to represent that faithfully. Similarly, someone that needs to analyze how a structure will withstand a range of temperatures needs to plan enough simulations to cover the whole range.

For more information on FEA services, contact a service provider.