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Department of Biomedical Engineering

Finite Element Analysis
Spring Semester 2006

Last Updated 1/12/2006 by RTH

Instructor: Dr. R.T. Hart
Office hours: Generally by appointment, after 11 AM
Boggs Center 534, 865-5889
e-mail: rthart@tulane.edu
Class Meetings: TTh 8:00-9:15
Required Textbooks:
Robert D. Cook, D.S. Malkus, M.E. Plesha, R.J. Witt, CONCEPTS AND APPLICATIONS OF FINITE ELEMENT ANALYSIS, Fourth  Edition, John Wiley and Sons, 2002.
 Getting started with ABAQUS, Version 6.5, from Hibbitt, Karlsson & Sorensen, Inc., 2005.
 Recommended Supplementary Text:
S.J. Chapman, MATLAB Programming for Engineers, The Wadsworth Group, Brooks/Cole, Third Edition, 2004.

The objective of the course is introduce finite element methods for approximate numerical solutions to engineering problems.  The course concentrates on solution of structural problems, but also provides the basis for expanding that focus to other engineering field problems (e.g., thermal, electromagnetic). The displacement method of finite element analysis is developed with emphasis on the isoparametric formulation. A balanced presentation is sought that gives a firm grounding in the theoretical fundamentals coupled some programming considerations and use of finite element computer programs to solve structural problems. Analyses will be conducted using ABAQUS (ABAQUS, Inc.), including the CAE pre- and post-processor for most assignments.  A student project involves writing a MATLAB program for analysis of plane frame structures. The course will use the TIS RS6000 UNIX cluster (on-line here: TIS UNIX documentation).

Course Specific Aims:

1. Students will be able to derive element stiffness matrices for plane frame elements using the direct stiffness method. 

2. Students will write a MATLAB computer program to solve plane frame analysis problems, plot undefomed and deformed shapes, and describe the use and operations of the program with a complete user's  manual.

3. Students will be able to use the principle of stationary potential energy and the Rayleigh-Ritz method to develop approximate solutions for structural problems and will be able to incorporate these concepts into developing the isoparametric family of finite elements.

4. Students will be able to solve and analyze a set of linear elastic structures (plane frames, plane strain, plane stress, 3-D) using the finite element method with ABAQUS software.

5. Students will read and discuss finite element literature including the history of its development as well as recent and current applications.  Results – including failures -- are discussed.  Students read about applications in the current biomechanics literature.


    1. Statics (E241), Mechanics of Materials (E243), Biomechanics (BMEN 330, or consent of instructor)
    2. Programming experience (and ability to learn MATLAB independently)
    3. Senior or Graduate standing (or for exceptional circumstances, seek consent of instructor).


    1. Introduction, Review of Matrix Algebra
    2. Direct Method: Springs
    3. ABAQUS analysis procedures
    4. Direct Method: Plane truss and beam elements
    5. Stiffness matrix transformations; Assembly of Global Stiffness Equations
    6. MATLAB Programming considerations
    7. Equation solving techniques: direct and interative
    8. Stationary Potential Energy Principle
    9. Introduction to Rayleigh-Ritz Method
    10. Energy formulations of plane truss and frame elements
    11. Review of Elasticity: Equilibrium equations, Strain-Displacement relations, Stress-Strain relations, Compatibility relations.
    12. Interpolation functions
    13. Isoparametric element formulation, Jacobian matrix
    14. Numerical integration techniques
    15. Plane 2-D elements, consistent nodal loads, convergence requirements
    16. Introduction to Dynamic and Non-Linear problems and/or Introduction to Biomechanics applications
    17. Introduction of finite element theory for non-structural applications

FINAL EXAM: The "final" exam is generally a take-home exam due near the end of the semester.


In order for the course to be effective, students must assume responsibility for being prepared to learn, and in particular to keep up to date with the reading and assignments -- students must be "active learners." This is a demanding course, especially for undergraduates, but can provide methods needed in a variety of biomechanics research projects.

Although you can discuss your homework with others, including me, (e.g., if you get stuck), assignments are not intended to be done by a "team," and what you turn in must be your own work.

For the program project, you may ask others for MATLAB or computer help, but the project must represent your own work. The take home exam must be entirely your own work.

Compliance with the School of Engineering Honor Code is, of course, expected and assumed.

Approximate Grading Criteria:
Weekly homework 30%
Frame project 30%
Take home exam 40%

Note: in accordance with BMEN Departmental policy, 2% of the final grade will be determined based on whether the end-of-semester course evaluation is completed by the student.


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