Finite Element Analysis

Finite Element (FE) Analysis

Finite Element Analysis or FEA is the process of approximating a real structure’s behavior through a numerical representation of the structure and input mechanisms. Intelligent Infrastructure Systems’ approach to FEA is based on the specific needs of each project, the process of building and leveraging a finite element model must be guided by the scope of the project and the specific purpose of the model. Two specific use cases that have benefited from Finite Element Analysis are described below.

Structural Health Monitoring – Our philosophy of Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) projects is based on acquiring knowledge of structural performance, not just obtaining measurement data. This philosophy requires a careful analysis to identify the physical parameters that will reliably quantify a structure’s behavior. This analysis serves as the interpretive key to the collected data. The benefit of this process is a clearly defined data interpretation plan to address the specific questions that motivated the work. This analysis is typically performed using FEA to both design the SHM system and interpret the recorded data as structural behaviors. Typically, the first step of an SHM project consists of reconciling the differences between measured behavior and pre-conceived notions of this behavior based on engineering judgment and design assumptions. This initial FE model is referred to as the a priori model since it is not yet calibrated using field data. The calibration process follows the guidance of structural-identification (St-Id), of which Intelligent Infrastructure Systems staff are recognized industry experts.

Refined Load Rating – If a bridge has shown less than desirable load ratings using approximate methods (such as a single line girder analysis), a refined analysis offers an approach to more accurately represent member demands due to vehicle loading. This analysis uses FEA to approximate individual member responses to specific vehicles, and uses these responses combined with member capacities to determine the load rating.

While these two services are fundamentally different, they offer a perspective of how the same analytical tool benefits them both. FEA has proven to be a valuable tool, and our team has worked to improve its efficiency through the use of automated modeling and data processing routines that make our work more consistent, traceable, and ultimately more valuable to our clients.

For more information about our Finite Element Analysis services, please contact us at