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Introducing Finite Element Analysis In The First Course Of Statics And Solid Mechanics

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Innovative Mechanics Education Programs and Projects

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Page Count


Page Numbers

12.966.1 - 12.966.11



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Paper Authors


Pramod Chaphalkar Grand Valley State University

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Dr. Chaphalkar received his M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai (Bombay), and Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina A&T State University. He has worked in Bajaj Auto, India and General Motors, US. He has industrial experience in the analysis and design of various vehicle components; testing and experiments; finite element modeling and analysis; development of engineering software; and training; vehicle crash simulations; interface with suppliers, consultants and universities. Dr. Chaphalkar's research and teaching interests include Solid Mechanics, Finite Element Analysis, Automotive Crash, Product Design, and Composite Materials.

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David Blekhman California State University Los Angeles

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

Introducing Finite Element Analysis in the First Course of Statics and Solid Mechanics


To remain competitive companies are increasingly adopting a so called math-based strategy of virtual product development wherein Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) tools, including Finite Element Analysis (FEA) are used. Teaching FEA has thus become a necessity for the today’s undergraduate mechanical engineering programs. At Grand Valley State University (GVSU), we strive to keep our curriculum up to date, reflecting the demands of industry. We have therefore begun the process of integrating the use of FEA tools throughout the curriculum, instead of delaying it until the senior year either for senior design or elective courses. This paper describes the introduction of FEA to students in the first course of Statics and Solid Mechanics. The first priority of this course is to build the foundation for Mechanics. The challenge therefore was to determine the content without compromising the priority. Keeping this in mind, 1-D Bar elements and 2-D Truss elements are introduced in the course. These two limited topics are chosen because they are based solely on the fundamentals of the first course of Statics and Solid Mechanics. The 1-D Bar element is taught as an extension of an axially loaded member. The stiffness matrix for this element is derived using the force equilibrium at a node. Later the concept of the 1-D Bar element is extended to the 2-D Truss element with trigonometric transformation and matrix manipulations. Essentially it is a matrix method of structures with an FEA flavor. Advantage of this methodology is that the students can perform more complex analysis such as a truss design project. With FEA software tools such as ANSYS, they can quickly make design changes and complete more design iterations. They are required to analyze the final iteration using MATLAB or SCILAB. At the same time, they are also required to perform hand calculations, thus providing experience in validating the results produced by an FEA package. The inclusion of this introduction to FEA reinforces their understanding of the concepts of Statics and Solid Mechanics for the cases of axially loaded member and truss structures with increased capability of analysis. Throughout the course, the importance of understanding fundamental FEA techniques is emphasized for becoming a "well educated" engineer, as opposed to mere "well trained" user of FEA tools.


The highly competitive business environment requires that the product development processes need to be faster and less expensive. To remain competitive companies are increasingly adopting a so called math-based strategy of virtual product development wherein FEA tools are used. FEA needs no introduction. With the advent of cheap computing power and proliferation of commercial softwares with strong capabilities to model complex geometries, FEA has become

Chaphalkar, P., & Blekhman, D. (2007, June), Introducing Finite Element Analysis In The First Course Of Statics And Solid Mechanics Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2552

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