FEA Best Practices


B.S. in engineering or engineering experience. Knowledge of finite element theory recommended. Basic functional familiarity with computers.


This course is designed to bridge the gap between procedurally oriented vendor training seminars and mathematically oriented finite element method classes. The course material is derived from many decades of applied FEA experience and is presented in a clear style developed from years of FEA training and support.

The course presents a variety of topics relevant to every engineer or manager of engineers engaged in the simulation of thermal and mechanical systems with the use of finite element software. Every manager must be able to ask and every analyst must be able to answer the questions "how do your assumptions impact the accuracy of your finite element model?" and "how do you use FEA results to make responsible engineering decisions?" To help students answer these all-important questions, reliable and practical techniques are presented with clarity and insight. In addition to these issues, specific modeling techniques are presented to help make the most of your time. In addition, guidance is provided as to how to select the right approach for a given problem taking in to consideration the current state-of-the art in computer hardware and software resources.

At the start, an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of the finite element method are discussed. Insight is provided into which types of problems are considered readily solvable and which classes of problems are not practical for FEA. The question of how FEA is best used in concert with CAD, prototype testing, and field failures in an overall design plan is addressed.

Element theory is covered in a way that helps the student to see the physical effects of numerical assumptions. Concrete guidelines for element selection are presented in the context of typical problems so that the analyst can best balance the demands of accuracy and efficiency. Many analysts abide by hard and fast rules on everything from element aspect ratios to element shapes without understanding the reasoning behind the rule. We will debunk the myths and provide flexible guidelines, which can be applied to a wide range of problems. A significant amount of time is spent explaining and categorizing available solver technology (e.g., frontal, iterative, sparse) and solution methods (e.g., static/dynamic, steady-state/transient, implicit/explicit, linear/nonlinear) so that students will leave with a clear understanding of all analysis tools in their arsenal.

Advice is given for many common modeling situations such as analysis of beam and shell structures, meshing to capture dynamic response, and modeling interfaces. Time-saving techniques, common pitfalls, and practical skills are the focus here. Other topics of common interest include modeling of interference fits, bolted joints, threaded connections, and mixing of incompatible element types.

Before one can make responsible design decisions based on FEA results, it is critical that one first verify that the finite element method was implemented appropriately. In the postprocessing section of the course, a detailed checklist is provided to give the analyst a solid plan for evaluating the accuracy of results. Topics such as free-body diagrams, primary and secondary results items, nodal stress averaging, convergence studies, and mesh discretization error measurement are covered for this purpose.

The main goal of the FEA Modeling Best Practices course is to equip students to use FEA with skill and confidence, regardless of their FEA software of choice.

General Information

Seminars begin promptly at 9 a.m. and finish at approximately 5 p.m. each day. Please arrive by 8:45 a.m. The seminar fee includes: course manuals, full color workshop manuals, & instruction. Coffee & donuts in the morning & lunch are provided for each student.  Students must make their own travel arrangements. CAE Associates recommends against purchasing non-refundable airline tickets. Please see our course cancellation policy for more details.