Home News What is Finite Element Analysis (FEA)? Finite Element Analysis Defined

What is Finite Element Analysis (FEA)? Finite Element Analysis Defined

Finding or designing seals for a specific application can be daunting, especially in specialty applications where performance matters most and failure is not an option. That’s where Finite Element Analysis (FEA) can help you save valuable time and money in your search.

Take a deeper look at FEA and discover how it can make it easier to find the right sealing solution for your project.


What Is Finite Element Analysis?

Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is a powerful tool that engineers can use to optimize and validate their designs. Using an advanced mathematical technique, it can analyze structures, collect information about material properties, and predict deformations resulting from various loads or temperature changes. In other words, it helps you understand and explore the performance of structures under varying conditions, like pressures or temperatures.

FEA isn't limited to solids; when applied to fluid flows, it's known as computational fluid dynamics (CFD).

Reused with permission of Parker Hannifin


How Does FEA Work?

FEA functions by breaking down a structure, such as a seal, into discrete elements, creating a mesh. Where these elements meet, you'll find nodes. FEA calculates how loads and forces affect them. By considering the response at these nodes, engineers can predict how the whole structure will behave. 

Like most software, it works best with more information to analyze. For the most accurate results, engineers typically break down the elements into smaller sizes to add more nodes without compromising processing power. In general, the more nodes, the better the results.

The results of the FEA are typically displayed graphically, with colors superimposed on a 3D model of the structure. This provides a clear visual representation of stress points so engineers can better understand performance under varying conditions.

what-is-finite-element-analysis-fea (compressed)-min

Reused with permission of Parker Hannifin


What Is Involved in Running an FEA?

Running an FEA involves multiple steps. The initial, often most challenging step, is defining the problem or question. This is important because it determines the boundary conditions, mesh used, material properties, and other conditions applied.

Having established what FEA is expected to investigate or reveal, the next step, if not already done, is to create a 3D CAD model, which is then meshed and material properties are applied to develop an analysis model. 

The designer or engineer can then perform a series of analyses to investigate the particular behavior of interest.


Types of FEA Tests

There are different types of FEA tests, each with a unique focus. Static analysis examines the effect of fixed, constant, or steady-state loads. When motion is involved—such as wind acting on a building or fluid pulsing in a pipe—a dynamic analysis is performed. 

Modal analysis looks at vibration and thermal factors to predict heat flows and temperatures through a structure.


Advantages of FEA

FEA is a valuable tool for optimizing and understanding a seal's behavior under varying conditions. Here are some of the key benefits of FEA:

  1. Reduce Risk: With a detailed understanding of how a seal behaves under different conditions, you can minimize the risk of failure and improve your seal's longevity and reliability.
  2. Improve Quality & Performance: FEA allows you to analyze and optimize the seal design before developing the physical product so you can enhance its quality and functionality.
  3. Save Time & Money: With more efficient design and less need for physical testing, FEA can dramatically reduce product development time and give you a competitive advantage.

When performance matters most, FEA can be a critical tool to ensure you have the right seal for the job.


Common Applications of FEA

FEA has diverse applications across all fields of engineering but has proven to be especially valuable in certain areas, such as:

  1. Dynamic Applications: FEA is instrumental in designing seals for applications that require excellent performance in high-pressure environments. These include heavy-duty hydraulics and pneumatics, where seal failures can have serious consequences.
  2. Custom Designs: FEA shines when the seal design needs to fall outside the range of standard seals. It can accurately predict the behavior of custom seals in unique operating conditions, helping engineers make informed design choices.
  3. Failure Analysis: When a seal fails prematurely, FEA can help identify the root cause by simulating the conditions leading to failure. This information is crucial for designing seals that perform better and last longer.


If you need help navigating this process to find the right seal for your project, talk to a seal expert at Wyatt Seal. We’ve spent 50 years building relationships with seal manufacturers worldwide to offer you access to thousands of seals, gaskets, O-rings, and other specialty items for any application.



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