The main tool of predictive structural engineering is finite element analysis (FEA). At its core, FEA is a mathematical algorithm that divides a structure into thousands of small, regularly-shaped regions—finite elements. Solved by computer, the algorithm processes each element individually and also in relationship to its neighboring elements, eventually producing “the answer”: the amount of displacement (movement) experienced by the corners of each element. Then, from this computed field of displacement, stress and strain at every location in the structure are calculated.
With FEA you are able to perform relatively inexpensive “virtual tests” on your developing product with much less dependence on expensive hardware prototypes. Money and time are saved, mistakes are caught early and avoided, and insight into your product’s structural behavior allows you to optimize for better performance.