Finite elements in engineering. A short introduction

Helmut F. Schweiger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Within the past three decades numerical methods have been increasingly employed to solve problems in many fields of engineering. This was possible only because of the rapid advancements in computer technology which made computers commonly available and affordable. Due to its versatility, the finite element method is especially popular with engineers, although other methods, such as the boundary or discrete element methods, are an attractive alternative in some circumstances. Successful applications of the finite element method have been reported from civil, mechanical, electrical engineering, fluid mechanics and many other disciplines, even from medicine. There is no doubt that today numerical methods play a dominant role in pioneering new or in improving traditional technologies. In many cases these methods proved to be advantageous over physical modelling and thus have replaced them or at least become an additional tool for the engineer. In this short paper, the concept of the finite element method is described very briefly, and two examples from the rock mechanics field are presented to illustrate the power of the method. Finally, some critical remarks are made to highlight potential difficulties which may be encountered when finite elements are used.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-326
Number of pages10
JournalVeitsch-Radex Rundschau
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Metals and Alloys


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