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Combining Computer Analysis And Physical Testing In A Finite Element Analysis Course

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Topics in Mechanical ET

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.318.1 - 9.318.16



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Paper Authors

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Vincent C. Prantil

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Thomas J. Labus

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William Howard

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2547

Combining Computer Analysis and Physical Testing in a Finite Element Analysis Course William E. Howard, Thomas J. Labus, and Vincent C. Prantil Milwaukee School of Engineering


Finite element analysis (FEA) has become an essential tool in the product design process of many companies. A course in FEA is required in a large number of mechanical engineering and mechanical engineering technology curricula. Most FEA courses necessarily include some balance of theory and practical use of a commercial FEA program. In a course recently developed at Milwaukee School of Engineering, another element has been added to the FEA class in the Mechanical Engineering Technology Program: a mechanics of materials laboratory in which physical experiments are conducted to support the analysis exercises.

In this paper, the course content will be discussed, with emphasis on the specific lab exercises that allow measured results to be compared to FEA results.


Finite element analysis is a subject area that is now commonly taught in Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) programs. Several authors1,2,3 have reported on the development of undergraduate courses in mechanical engineering and mechanical engineering technology programs. Others 4,5 have reported on efforts to add finite element analysis to traditional mechanics of materials courses. Most courses try to balance some amount of finite element theory with practice using a commercially-available software package. In this paper, the authors describe a course that adds a third component to a finite element course: a physical laboratory in which mechanics of materials experiments are performed and the results compared to FEA results where practical.

When the MET curriculum was revised recently at MSOE, the addition of the physical lab to the FEA course seemed to be a good fit. Although some of the reasons for considering this addition were logistical ones (elimination of one-credit stand-alone labs to make evening scheduling easier was a goal), the idea had merit for other reasons. For both the mechanics lab and the FEA course, one of the focuses has been the comparison of results to theoretical solutions. By integrating physical testing and FEA, additional comparisons can be made, and more complex problems can be considered. While performing FEA or mechanical tests for which closed-form solutions exist is obviously a necessary starting point, one of the main purposes of both FEA and

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Prantil, V. C., & Labus, T. J., & Howard, W. (2004, June), Combining Computer Analysis And Physical Testing In A Finite Element Analysis Course Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13705

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