Element Type Comparison

Element Type Comparison

When building a mesh for FEA, there are different types of elements that can be used:
– Line elements (https://www.fea-solutions.co.uk/line-elements/).
– Surface elements (https://www.fea-solutions.co.uk/surface-elements/), e.g. plate or shell elements.
– Solid elements (https://www.fea-solutions.co.uk/solid-elements/), also called volume elements or 3D elements.

Because the mathematical model used for line elements consider all 6 Degrees Of Freedom (DOF), they can be described as the most accurate FE element type. They should only be used if, the length of the actual beam is at least 10 times more than the width or height of the profile.

When using line elements, a fine mesh is not necessarily required if only end point results are of interest.

The mathematical model for plate or shell elements takes 5 DOF into account. Surface elements are in particular suited to represent thin walled structures subjected to bending and are for this application superior to solid elements. They should only be used if, the length and width of the actual surface is at least 10 times more than its thickness.

The mathematical model for solid elements takes just 3 DOF into account. That is why these elements are prone to shear locking (https://www.fea-solutions.co.uk/shear-locking/). They are however well suited to represent parts with complex geometry. There are types of solid elements with 4 to 8 corner nodes (https://www.fea-solutions.co.uk/fea-terminology/), with the latter producing the most accurate results.

The beam analysis example illustrates how accurate the FEA results are depending on the element type and mesh setting used.

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