Courtroom FEA: But how does FEA work?

| Total Words: 518

Many legal professionals are exposed to Finite Element Analysis (FEA) in the courtroom. Having a fundamental understanding of how the method works can help an attorney (i) recognize when FEA can strengthen a case, (ii) choose a capable expert and (iii) develop meaningful challenges to the opposition’s expert. As discussed in the last issue of Courtroom FEA, if a loss, injury or death is due to something bending or breaking, FEA can help identify the cause of failure and hence the responsible party. But how does it work?

Divide and conquer.

But first, let’s back up and discuss what is being conquered. FEA is applied to many types of problems, such as temperatures in consumer electronics, airflow around aircraft, and magnetic fields in electric motors. By far the most common application is structural FEA — determining how a solid body responds to various forces. The structural problem amounts to writing down some “governing equations” that describe the material and how it behaves, and then solving those equations for the physical part being analyzed subject to how it is held and loaded. This can be done on paper for some simple part...

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