The Finite Element Method (FEM) is a powerful numerical technique used to solve complex engineering problems. It has been applied in various fields, such as structural mechanics, fluid dynamics, and electromagnetics.

FEM offers an accurate and efficient way to approximate the behaviour of physical systems by breaking down complicated problems into smaller pieces that we can solve using mathematical equations.

**While FEM can appear daunting at first glance, it’s actually quite straightforward once you understand its underlying concepts and principles. However, a good analyst needs to understand the engineering problem thoroughly.**

At first, the finite element method and application of finite element analysis might seem easy to a new analyst who can quickly learn the interface of a particular simulation software. However, you need the skill to apply FEM in the right way and to fully understand and complete an engineering simulation well.

In this article, we’ll discuss what FEM is and how easy it is to learn, covering:

- What is FEM?
- Is FEM easy to learn?
- Is FEA easy?
- How useful is the finite element method?
- How can I learn FEM?

## What Is FEM?

The Finite Element Method (FEM) is a numerical technique used to solve complex engineering problems, such as those related to structural mechanics, fluid dynamics, and electromagnetics. It works by breaking the problem into smaller components that can be solved more easily using mathematical equations.

FEM begins by dividing the physical system into multiple elements. Each element is then assigned several numerical parameters that represent its physical properties, such as its shape, size, material composition, and boundary conditions.

The FEM then discretizes the problem domain into a mesh of discrete points.

Finally, mathematical equations are used to approximate the behaviour of each element based on these numerical parameters and the solution is obtained by combining them together.

This is just a brief overview of FEM. For a much deeper dive, including an investigation of the mathematics that drive FEM, I recommend a more thorough course, such as a dedicated Finite Element Analysis course which you can take on Coursera for free.

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## Is FEM Easy To Learn?

FEM is a sophisticated numerical technique that can seem complex at first, but it’s actually quite straightforward once you understand its underlying concepts and principles.

It requires knowledge of calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, and numerical analysis to fully comprehend the method.

In addition, it requires practice and experience to become proficient in using FEM for real-world applications.

However, with proper guidance and instruction, anyone can learn the basics of FEM in a relatively short period.

Many new engineers starting a career in simulation FEA engineering do not necessarily understand every complex piece of mathematics behind the simulations.

The priority for simulation engineers is to understand their specific engineering problem, appreciate the material properties involved and apply great attention to detail to the boundary conditions and setup of the problem.

Once you become efficient at running accurate simulation problems (verified by real-world tests) you can then dig deeper into the mathematics to elevate your understanding and take your skill to the next level.

As the motto of the Institute Of Mechanical Engineers states, “the best engineers never stop learning”.

## Is FEA Easy?

FEA (Finite Element Analysis) as opposed to FEM (Finite Element Method) is the application of FEM to real work engineering problems.

The answer to whether Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is easy or not depends on the individual and the amount of effort they are willing to put in.

FEA requires a solid understanding of mathematics, physics and computer programming, so it is not necessarily easy for everyone.

It is possible to learn the basics of FEA relatively quickly, but mastery of the method requires diligence and practice. The key is precision and a fundamental understanding of the engineering problem you are trying to solve.

Many novice FEA engineers will apply a mesh to a simulation and hit solve, without fully understanding the boundary conditions and subtle yet important features of an engineering model.

I have found that once you start to think that FEA is easy, check your ego and start looking for problems in your simulations. Complacency is detrimental to an accurate simulation of a model.

In FEA, finite element models of a structure are created using computer programs. The model is then ‘solved’ with an analysis program to determine how the structure behaves under different loading scenarios. This process involves understanding and manipulating a range of mathematical equations and algorithms which can be quite complex.

For those with a firm foundation in mathematics and physics, FEA can be straightforward. However, the complexity of the method means that it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. It is possible for someone with no prior knowledge of FEA to learn how to use it, but it would require considerable effort and dedication.

The best way to get a grasp on FEA is to break it down into sections and work through each one systematically. There are many online tutorials and courses available that can provide valuable guidance on the subject, and it’s important to take advantage of these resources in order to learn effectively.

I recommend checking out Coursera for excellent FEA courses taught by top-ranking universities for a great price.

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## How Useful Is The Finite Element Method?

The Finite Element Method (FEM) is an incredibly powerful tool for solving problems that involve physical interactions between objects. It can be used to model a wide variety of engineering and scientific problems, from car crashes to fluid dynamics.

FEM has been used in the development of many products, including aircraft, cars, medical devices, consumer products, and robots.

FEM is a numerical approach to solving partial differential equations, meaning it allows us to solve complicated mathematical problems without having to work out the solutions manually. This makes FEM an essential tool for engineers and scientists when they need to analyse complex systems or objects.

FEM can be used in many fields and applications, including structural analysis, mechanics of solids, heat transfer modelling, fluid flow modelling, and more. It is a powerful tool for simulations and optimisation because it allows us to model complex phenomena accurately that would be difficult or impossible to solve with traditional analytical methods.

## How Can I Learn FEM?

Learning FEM can be a daunting prospect for some, as it involves a lot of complex mathematics and numerical analysis. Fortunately, there are several resources available to make the process easier.

First, I recommend reading the book “Building Better Products with Finite Element Analysis”

This book is plain and straightforward, perfect for aspiring (or experienced) simulation engineers who want a comprehensive overview of the topic.

There are also plenty of online resources and tutorials available to help those who want to learn more about the method.

Personally, I recommend Coursera as a wonderful resource, full of courses to learn FEA. If you do not wish to achieve a qualification, you can take many of these courses for free.

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## Final Thoughts

The Finite Element Method (FEM) is a powerful numerical technique used to solve complex engineering problems.

While it requires a certain level of knowledge and experience to become proficient in its use, it can be an easy subject to learn for those already knowledgeable in mathematics, differential equations, linear algebra, and numerical analysis.

For CAD expert users, it can be very easy to transition to using simulation software. However, take care to ensure you understand your simulation problem fully, as simply applying a mesh and hitting solve will most likely produce a false result.

With proper guidance and instruction, anyone can learn the basics of FEM in a relatively short period.