Courtroom FEA: But how does FEA work?

Courtroom FEA: But how does FEA work?


- Advertisment -spot_img

Many legal professionals are exposed to Finite Element Analysis (FEA) in the courtroom. Having a fundamental understanding of how the method works can help an attorney (i) recognize when FEA can strengthen a case, (ii) choose a capable expert and (iii) develop meaningful challenges to the opposition’s expert. 

As discussed in the last issue of Courtroom FEA, if a loss, injury or death is due to something bending or breaking, FEA can help identify the cause of failure and hence the responsible party. But how does it work?

Divide and conquer.

But first, let’s back up and discuss what is being conquered. FEA is applied to many types of problems, such as temperatures in consumer electronics, airflow around aircraft, and magnetic fields in electric motors. By far the most common application is structural FEA — determining how a solid body responds to various forces. 

The structural problem amounts to writing down some “governing equations” that describe the material and how it behaves, and then solving those equations for the physical part being analyzed subject to how it is held and loaded. 

This can be done on paper for some simple part shapes. The resulting “closed form solution” is another equation that provides the answer in terms of the basic variables, such as the part’s dimensions.

But reality intervenes, and most parts are too complicated to solve in closed form. FEA comes to the rescue by providing a “numerical solution” for each individual problem. This is a large gathering of numbers approximating the desired answers, such as displacements and stresses, across the part. But each solution is unique to a specific case; there is no simple answer in equation form.

Now then, how does FEA divide and conquer the problem to provide the numerical solution? The answer lies in the name, “Finite Element Analysis”.

“Analysis” is obvious: the part is being analyzed under certain conditions.

“Element” describes a small section of the part. In fact, the governing equations mentioned above can generally be derived by considering a small section, writing the equations for what’s happening in that section, and then mathematically allowing the size of the section to become infinitesimal, or infinitely small. In FEA, each section is called an “element”, and the elements are not made infinitely small.

“Finite”, then, refers to the countable number of elements used to represent the structure. The elements are of finite, measurable size. A computer can handle the computations on this finite number of elements.

Each element acts on its neighboring elements. FEA assembles the equations from all the elements into one large matrix equation, and the computer is used to determine the numerical solution. A key concept of FEA is this: if the elements are made small enough and are spread advantageously across the part, the numerical solution can closely approximate reality.

An experienced analyst can prepare the finite element model such that it accurately predicts the part’s behavior, and can ensure that the solution algorithms do not interject significant errors. Results from the less-experienced are often suspect, and identifying them as so can be a tremendous advantage in the courtroom.

Disclaimer:  The contents of this site, such as text, graphics, images, and other materials contained on the page are for general information purposes only. This article is not a substitute for professional advice on the topics mentioned. This article does not create any form of offers to any legal or professional service. The site assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions in the contents. In no event shall the site be liable for any special, direct, indirect, consequential, or incidental damages or any damages whatsoever, whether in an action to follow the content, negligence or other tort, arising out of the use of the contents of the article. The blog reserves the right to make additions, deletions, or modifications to the contents at any time without prior notice. The site does not warrant that the site is free of viruses or other harmful components. It may contain views and opinions which are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other author, agency, organization, employer or company, including the site itself. It also does not provide professional advice, diagnosis, treatment or any legal service. The site does not endorse official procedures, legal actions or qualified services and the use of its contents are solely at your own risk.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest news

Divorce & Health Insurance

Recently, I had a question from someone who was going through a divorce and was concerned about lost health...

Divorce & Health Insurance

Recently, I had a question from someone who was going through a divorce and was concerned about lost health...

Dissolution by Affidavit – Personal Appearance Not Required

The elimination of the requirement of personal appearance for hearing in Missouri dissolution of marriage actions arose out of,...

Discover The Nine Vital Questions You Need To Ask Before Hiring Your Personal Injury Lawyer

Once you know the right questions to ask, hiring your personal injury lawyer is not only easy, but you...
- Advertisement -spot_imgspot_img

Disciplining And Firing Employees

Perception is Reality – Discipline with Care! Disciplining and firing employees is one of the most crucial areas for consideration...

Dental And Medical Collection Legal Guidelines

Every medical and dental practice has to deal with patients who do not pay. If it doesn't deal with...

Must read

Deeds of Variation – Are They Justified?

Deciding to make a Will and then actually putting...

Courtroom FEA: But how does FEA work?

Many legal professionals are exposed to Finite Element Analysis...
- Advertisement -spot_imgspot_img

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you