Finite element analysis

Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is a computer-based process which, through physical simulation, helps verify initial assumptions and manual calculations to validate an engineering design. Occasionally, however, the function is undertaken by engineers who lack a comprehensive understanding of the concepts and principles of FEA which, in turn, can be detrimental to the integrity of subsequent outputs.

Entering data to a wrong decimal point can be just as damaging to results as applying the wrong boundary conditions or loads.

At KGAL we have been using finite element analysis modelling for over 15 years and have expert knowledge of the process’s value and capabilities. We know that to deliver reliable data an analysis, depending on the nature of the project (for example, where a seismic risk is a factor), might take several months. That’s why we never underestimate the timing required to truly understand the structural behaviour and provide a final design on which the client can depend.

That’s not to say we strive for impossible perfection. Aware of the boundaries, we assemble all the elements to present the entire problem but, unless specifically briefed, we look at the reasonable worst case scenarios. In simple terms, for a water control gate as an example, we would develop equations for a matrix of tensions and forces created by local effects, thermal changes, various current pressures, ice formation, gale winds and ship impact, but would not, as a matter of course, consider all these variables occurring simultaneously.

Our objective is always to identify any weak point or potential failure in our own designs and manual calculations, and to help specify the structural materials; especially so when two dissimilar materials collide. The analysis then informs any subsequent design modifications which, in turn, are exposed to further FEA validation.

Almost every job we undertake is subject to FEA. On rare occasions we have even undertaken FEA modelling for other consulting engineers where evidence of an objective assessment was mandatory.