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Introducing Finite Element Analysis In Statics

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.654.1 - 6.654.4

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Martin Pike

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

Session 2268

Introducing Finite Element Analysis in Statics

Martin Pike Purdue University


When new technologies are developed, often they are introduced to engineering and technology students at the upper baccalaureate or graduate level. Over time, as the technologies mature, they are introduced to students and used by students earlier in the educational process. Such is the case with finite element analysis (FEA). FEA up to now generally has been introduced to engineering and technology students at the junior or senior level. Recently, associate degree graduates with exposure to FEA have been in demand by some industries. The sophistication and relative user-friendliness of modern modeling and analysis software has made it possible for an early introduction of FEA. This paper relates the experience and advantages of introducing FEA in a Statics course. The application of FEA was used to verify manual calculations and help predict if failure would occur where expected and in an expected mode. Through the analysis, build, and test process the students gained an appreciation for the power and limitations of FEA. Students also gained a first use experience that serves as a foundation for more sophisticated models and analysis for FEA use in future courses.


Finite element analysis (FEA) has become a major tool in the design or redesign of many mechanical devices. As with many technical tools, as industry starts using the tools, engineering schools introduce these same tools in the graduate or upper baccalaureate-level work. Over time these tools trickle down to the middle baccalaureate and finally associate-level education. This trickle-down is a function of two concurring events. First, the tool becomes easier to understand and use. Second, industry uses the tool for more applications and more complex applications. The use of FEA is following this pattern. For example, in Indiana, the automotive industry uses FEA for almost all design and failure analysis. This, in turn, has created a demand for AS and BS graduates with FEA experience. This trend exists elsewhere as suggested by Boronkay and Dave1.

In an attempt to provide students with a useful FEA exposure, initial educational experience with FEA should occur as early as possible in a technical program to allow for other FEA assignments throughout the degree program. Statics is the first technical course for both mechanical engineering and mechanical engineering technology students and is therefore the logical place to introduce FEA. In previous papers the author has discussed the truss design, build, and test project that he incorporates into his Statics class2. This paper will detail how FEA was added to the design project and the results of two classes’ experiences.

Pike, M. (2001, June), Introducing Finite Element Analysis In Statics Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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