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Finite Element Method

Did you know that the Finite Element method has roots in A&A?

A&A Professor Harold Clifford Martin was part of the research team that pioneered the Finite Element Method (FEM), a 1956 engineering breakthrough still in practice today. 

FEM produces models of structural behavior with software, which was a big step in leap-frogging the inefficiencies in manufacturing and testing a working model.

Collage image of Professor H. C. Martin's headshot and a ripped newspaper article

Professor H. C. Martin

What is the Finite Element Method?

Rendering of an aircraft wing


Top: Finite Element Analysis (FEA) on an aircraft wing. Bottom: The process of creating finite elements, or nodes, over a surface.

FEM breaks complex geometries into a large number of “finite elements,” which are much simpler and easily solvable for loads and stresses than the geometry as a whole. Each element is summed up to compile a high accuracy approximation of material behavior.

The mathematical equations behind FEM are applied to create a simulation, or what's known as a Finite Element Analysis (FEA).

An engineering breakthrough

FEM allows engineers to solve structural behavior without having to manufacture and test a working model, cutting costs and time allowing for fast interaction.

Wide-ranging applications

FEM has a wide range of applications in structural and fluid behavior, thermal transport, wave propagation, and the growth of biological cells. This powerful tool revolutionized engineering design and manufacturing.

Rendering of a turbine blade and the pelvis

Finite Element Analysis can be performed on any surface under load. This includes machined parts such as a turbine blade (left) or even organic structures (right).