Recommendations on finite element analysis software?

Hey guys, been reading up on the stuff and it's terribly fascinating. There are TONS of FEA freeware programs floating around the net... any
suggestions for a beginner to learn the ropes on?
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Miki,
You may find the following FEA resources useful:
http://www.engr.usask.ca/~macphed/finite/fe_resources/fe_resources.html http://www.comco.com/feaworld/feaworld.html http://femur.wpi.edu /
As regards software with a specifically educational orientation, you could perhaps take a look at Felt (see http://felt.sourceforge.net /) or Felipe (see http://www.brunel.ac.uk/~blstmbr/felipe /); although I personally have no experience with either of these, you can readily evaluate these as free / demo versions are available.
Trust this helps.
Regards
Stewart

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I have used Cosmos in conjunction with Solidworks and found it pretty easy to catch one. Whether or not I was interpreting the results correctly I don't Know.
stan
Miki Kanazawa wrote:

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I'd recommend starting with 2D truss or frame analysis. The basic steps are all there of defining nodes, elements (members), boundary conditions, loads, running the solver, post processing. But it is not overwhelming like a full FEM program can be and it is less likely you will make a GIGO error which is very easy to do with FEA. Also, as you have probably seen, free frame analysis programs abound from the civil engineers:
http://www.structural-engineering.fsnet.co.uk/free.htm (Framework and Fastframe both seem pretty good. The step-by-step organization in Fastframe makes it a better learning tool, I think.)
(In a truss, all members are straight and loaded in pure tension or compression due to pinned joints, and ~all members form triangles. In a frame, members can be bent and joints can exert torque on the members, creating internal bending moments as well as tension/compression. Trusses generally have the best potential for high stiffness/weight ratios; frames are easier to build. Any frame analysis program can analyze a truss, not vice versa.)
After you get the hang of it, I'd recommend creating some models to match textbook examples to verify results. Study some Statics and Mechanics/Strength of Materials texts to understand the mechanics (Beer and Johnston are good for both). No GIGO.
All that said, the worst pitfall of FEA programs is that users don't understand both the mechanics and the program well enough to get meaningful output. The color-shaded stress distributions may be impressive, but 1) are the stresses meaningful, 2) if they are, what do they mean, and 3) was FEA even the appropriate tool for analyzing/optimizing that design? E.g., for 1), if an unrealistic boundary condition is specified, stresses can be off by a factor of 10, easy. For 2), lets say you get a peak principal tensile stress of 30ksi and your material has a yield stress of 60ksi; is that a sufficient factor of safety (it depends)? Is the material notch sensitive or will it allow local yielding w/o global failure? ... For 3), 100 FEA iterations on a bad design will result in a slightly less bad design, although the user may believe it is 100x better; zero FEA iterations on a good design will result in a good design, and for that one needs to understand the fundamental mechanics. All this is to point out that FEA is just a tool. But if you do understand both the mechanics and the program, it can be an invaluable one.
Hope this helps, David
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