An FEA structural analysis is a way to study how a design will perform under certain environmental loading conditions. FEA stands for finite element analysis. FEA takes a model representation of an engineered design that can be anything from an automobile, to a bolt, to an airplane wing and uses physics to simulate real world conditions. Finite element structural models are representations of what the engineered design will experience in real life, and a good way to pre judge the validity of a model before the final design is chosen. Follow the steps below to perform an FEA structural analysis and test your design.

**Step 1**

Model your design in the 3D CAD modeling software of your choice. Make sure your CAD model accurately represents the design you want to test. Keep all units in the software program the same. For example make sure you decide between metric and English units, sticking with your choice throughout. Many errors in FEA occur because of a few mix matched units which throw off all the calculations.

**Step 2**

Check your geometry in the CAD program for any errors. Run geometry diagnostics and fix any issues. Now export your geometry from your CAD program into the FEA analysis software you are using. There are many 3D model file import options for the procedure from Acis file formats to Iges formats. The best import options are the 3D options that your FEA software is compatible with. Read your FEA analysis software manual to determine the most effective solid model import options.

**Step 3**

In your FEA program choose the type of analysis you want to run. In this case it is a structural analysis. Choose a structural linear analysis for most stress analyses. Choose a non linear structural analysis if you want to see how your design deforms over time for example and if the material properties of your design are non linear.

**Step 4**

Once your solid model has been imported run geometry diagnostic tools in the FEA software to clean up the geometry and make sure it is ready for meshing.

**Step 5**

Mesh your model. Mesh is the elemental framework that the FEA program will use to apply loads, constraints, and stress results to your model. Make sure the mesh is dense enough so that your results will be accurate. In general the denser the mesh the more accurate the results. However the more dense the mesh is the longer it will take the computer to calculate the results as well.

**Step 6**

Apply loads and constraints to your structural analysis model. Constraints are used to simulate how your object is attached, bolted, or connected to another object, wall, or part of the environment. Constraints are used to simulate restrictions of a real world model such as no movement in the X direction for example. The loads you apply to your structural analysis model can be in the form of forces, pressures, and inertial loads. Each structural load has a direction of application associated with it. Make sure you apply the loads in the correct orientation that your design would experience in the real world.

**Step 7**

Once all your loads, constraints, and special conditions are applied run your structural FEA analysis. This may take anywhere from a few minutes to several days depending upon how large your model is and how fast your computer is.

**Additional Advice**

Experiment with different types of mesh elements when running your model. Some are more efficient and suited towards certain analyses than others.