Archive for July 8th, 2009

Finite Elements Analysis (FEA)

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

     Perhaps you have come across references to “Finite Elements Analysis,” or “FEA,”  and wondered what it meant.  In the world of engineering, FEA is used to analyze stresses and strains within mechanical component and structural elements.  The results of FEA can then be used by an engineering expert witness as an effective demonstrative to convey highly technical concepts to a jury in an easily understood and visually appealing way.

     In order to conduct FEA, engineers use software to create models of mechanical components.  These models are based on scale drawings of the components.  Each model includes the physical constraints and material properties of the actual component. 

     After a model is complete, the engineer subjects it to simulated forces.  The software creates a colorful map of the results.  (See the example below.)  The colors represent different stress intensity levels.  Blue is an area of low stress and red is an area of high stress.   In other words, a red region is where the part is more likely to fail.

FEA of a Plier Handle

FEA of a Plier Handle

     In a product liability or personal injury lawsuit, the results of FEA can be used in the courtroom to show areas on a machine part where it can become deformed or fracture due to forces placed upon it.  FEA can be also be used in patent infringement lawsuits to demonstrate to the jury how a mechanical component in a device actually performs differently from an element in the claimed invention.