Application of FEM and Popular Software Packages For FEM

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Application of FEM in Civil Engineering

The present advancements in Finite Element Method is because of Hrennikoff and McHenry. Actually, FEM is an extension of the stiffness method of structural analysis. The FEM became popular after 1943, especially after the development of high-performance computers and processors.

Finite Element Method never gives exact solutions but rather gives lower bound solutions as it’s an approximate method. Also, it is very interesting to know about finite elements that in Finite Element Method, role of computers is very vital, as for even an analysis of simple bridge FEM needs.

Top 14 Finite Element Method Software Packages

FEM software packages are available for both, general purposes and for special requirements. Following are various software packages available in the market for FEM analysis.

  1. MIDAS Civil
  2. Algor
  3. Abaqus
  4. ANSYS
  6. LS-Dyna
  7. MARC
  10. NISA
  11. Pro / Mechanica
  13. CSi Bridge – CSi Bridge is software developed by CSi America. It is a specialized software use to analyze the different types of bridges. We can model and analyze cable-stayed bridges, suspension bridges, truss bridges, and many others with different types of loading conditions and material properties.
    CSi Bridge Software Package
    CSi Bridge Software Package
  14. etabs
    etabs is specially designed for buildings only. etabs is the most popular software package among building designers. This software is made by CSi America.
  15. SAP 2000
    This software is made for the purpose of bridge design. Again, this software from CSi America.

Points to Check Before Buying FEM Package

  • An FEM Package Should provide all the types of elements, like one dimensional element beam, two-dimensional element plates and slabs and three dimensional element like solid.
  • The software package should have different and vast types of material property inbuilt.
  • Type of analysis should be available such as static linear of non-linear and dynamic analysis should be included in the package.
  • One should also ensure that the software package he has chosen to buy should offer various loading conditions like concentrated load, distribution load, thermal load, and displacement load.

Advantages Of the Finite Element Method

  • FEM Software allows to incorporation of any type of boundary conditions.
  • With the help of computers, we can model any irregular shape of the model.
  • We can impose any type of loading definition on the structure. We can use concentrate or distributed or thermal and even displacement load on our model.

Limitations of FEM Packages

  • We need to use high end compute and software systems to perform the analysis as FEM software are using too much virtual memory (RAM). FEM packages can run only on high-end computers that use the best CPUs and GPUs.
  • FEM analysis is time-consuming. Finite Element Method involves solving of computations that include solving of matrices as high as the order of several thousand and it is normal thing for FEM.
  • As FEM Analysis is done on computers so we need to check post processing. It is quite simple that if we put garbage in computer input, it will also output the garbage result. (GIGO Concept).

7 Steps Of Finite Element Method

Every FEM analysis follows these general steps.

  1. Discretize and select element types
  2. Select a displacement function
  3. Define the strain/displacement and stress/ strain relation
  4. Derive the element stiffness matrix and equations
  5. Assemble the element stiffness equations to obtain the global total equations and introduce boundary condition.
  6. Solve for unknown degrees of freedom or say for displacement (displacements are the primary unknowns)
  7. Solve for element strains and stresses

    Interpret the results – This step demands experience, as FEM also follows the GIGO principle. That means “Garbage in-Garbage Out”


Without use of finite element method, the modern days problems are seeming impossible to solve. Inventions in finite element method are unlocking new doors which are previously even didn’t recognized.

Some of the best books on Finite Element Method are listed here.

  1. A First Course in the Finite Element method

    Author – Daryl L. Logan

  2. Finite Element Analysis

    Author – S.S.Bhavikatti


If you have share something more with our readers then please do comment below. 😉

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IS Codes To Calculate Design Load (Latest PDF)

Most Useful Software for Civil Engineers


What is the use of shape function in FEM analysis?

Shape function relates elemental displacements with nodal displacements.

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