MECH ENG 7059 - Finite Element Analysis of Structures

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2022

The course will equip students with the necessary knowledge to use finite element analysis to solve problems related to solid mechanics, dynamics, heat-transfer and acoustics. FEA is a design/research tool that is extensively used in industry and research institutions. Students will also gain hands-on experience in using finite element analysis software ANSYS to solve realistic engineering problems.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code MECH ENG 7059
    Course Finite Element Analysis of Structures
    Coordinating Unit School of Mechanical Engineering
    Term Semester 1
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 4 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Assumed Knowledge MATHS 1011, MATHS 1012, CEME 1004 (or C&ENVENG 1010), MECH ENG 1007, MECH ENG 2002, MATHS 2106, MATHS 2107, MECH ENG 3102, MECH ENG 3026, MECH ENG 3028 (or MECH ENG 3111) (or equivalent courses)
    Assessment Assignments, Quizzes, Project, Final exam
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Professor Ben Cazzolato

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

    Each week consists of lectures and tutorial classes. The tutorials are held in the Computer Aided Teaching Suites. Further details will be provided in the lectures.
  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

    1 Explain the principles of current finite element modelling techniques applied to solid mechanics, dynamics, heat transfer, and acoustics.
    2 Explain the mathematical representation of the various processes involving stresses in structures, vibration of structures, transfer and conservation of heat.
    3 Define and describe of limitations and applications of current techniques and codes to solve complex engineering problems.
    4 Use analytical cognitive skills and improve problem solving skills in the areas of solid mechanics, dynamics heat transfer, and acoustics using FEA.
    5 Design a self directed project to use FEA as a tool to solve an engineering problem.
    6 Write a professional engineering report and present their problem solving outcomes using FEA.
    7 Critically assess a finite element analysis for correctness.
    8 Recognise the need to undertake lifelong learning in technical and professional engineering.

    The above course learning outcomes are aligned with the Engineers Australia Stage 1 Competency Standard for the Professional Engineer.
    The course is designed to develop the following Elements of Competency: 1.1   1.2   1.3   1.4   1.5   2.1   2.2   2.3   2.4   3.1   3.2   3.3   3.4   3.5   3.6   

    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)

    Attribute 1: Deep discipline knowledge and intellectual breadth

    Graduates have comprehensive knowledge and understanding of their subject area, the ability to engage with different traditions of thought, and the ability to apply their knowledge in practice including in multi-disciplinary or multi-professional contexts.


    Attribute 2: Creative and critical thinking, and problem solving

    Graduates are effective problems-solvers, able to apply critical, creative and evidence-based thinking to conceive innovative responses to future challenges.


    Attribute 3: Teamwork and communication skills

    Graduates convey ideas and information effectively to a range of audiences for a variety of purposes and contribute in a positive and collaborative manner to achieving common goals.


    Attribute 4: Professionalism and leadership readiness

    Graduates engage in professional behaviour and have the potential to be entrepreneurial and take leadership roles in their chosen occupations or careers and communities.


    Attribute 5: Intercultural and ethical competency

    Graduates are responsible and effective global citizens whose personal values and practices are consistent with their roles as responsible members of society.


    Attribute 8: Self-awareness and emotional intelligence

    Graduates are self-aware and reflective; they are flexible and resilient and have the capacity to accept and give constructive feedback; they act with integrity and take responsibility for their actions.

  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources

    Access to the Computer Aided Teaching Suites, and Access to MyUni.

    Recommended Resources

    Course Notes and Course Slides available on MyUni, and library textbooks on Finite Element Analysis (recommended books will be discussed in class).

    Online Learning

    Course material and additional study resources are provided via MyUni. The online tutorial quizzes that are part of the assessment will be available through MyUni.

  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes

    Teaching and learning modes for this course are through contact lectures, computer laboratories in the Computer Aided Teaching Suites (CATS), self-study, and a project using finite element analysis software. The lectures provide the background theory for the subject, and the computer laboratories provide learners with the practical experience in using Finite Element Analysis software to solve engineering problems. The FEA Project is an integral part of the course learning and outcomes, and is used to develop the graduate attributes of the learners. The FEA project enables Learners to demonstrate their knowledge gained from the course by independently solving a complex engineering problem. Online quizzes are a formative part of the learning experience and provide learners with the ability to demonstrate their understanding of the course material.


    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    Lecture Contact Hours: 24 hours
    Tutorial Contact Hours: 24 hours
    FEA Project: > 50 hours
    Exam Preparation: 34 hours
    Assignments: 12 hours
    Lecture preparation: 12 hours
    Total: 156 hours
    Learning Activities Summary

    Fundamentals of Finite Element Analysis

    • Why FEA?
    • The finite element procedure
    • Conceptualisation of real problems
    • Pre-processing and Considerations of finite element modelling
    • Solving
    • Post-processing and Interpreting results
    • Verification and validation

    Theory of the Finite Element Method

    • The finite element method
    • Nodes and elements
    • Direct element formulation
    • Weighted residuals formulation
    • Minimum potential energy formulation
    • Shape functions
    • Background on numerical methods


    • Mesh density and refinement
    • Mesh structure
    • Mesh quality
    • Mesh independence
    • How to create a good mesh
    • Meshing and modelling real structures

    Heat transfer analysis

    • Review of heat transfer theory
    • Finite element method for heat transfer
    • Non-linear & transient analyses
    • Coupled field analysis

    Non-linear analysis

    • Types of non-linearity
    • Non-linear solution methods
    • Geometric non-linearity
    • Material non-linearity
    • Contact

    Dynamic analysis

    • Equation of motion
    • Modal analysis
    • Harmonic analysis
    • Response spectrum analysis
    • Transient (implicit) analysis
    • Damping


    • Stability
    • Buckling theory
    • Linear (eigenvalue) buckling
    • Non-linear buckling analysis

    Explicit dynamics

    • Time integration schemes
    • Governing equations
    • Solution procedure
    • Modelling considerations


    • Fluid-structure interaction
    • Theory of acoustics
    • Element formulation
    • Modelling considerations

    Additional topics (time permitting)

    • Rigid body dynamics
    • Sub-modelling and Sub-structuring
    • Fracture and Fatigue
    Specific Course Requirements

    Access to CATS and CARM Lab will be required to complete the tutorial sessions and the FEA Project.

  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Due to the current COVID-19 situation modified arrangements have been made to assessments to facilitate remote learning and teaching. Assessment details provided here reflect recent updates.
    Assessment Task Weighting (%) Individual/ Group Formative/ Summative
    Due (week)*
    Hurdle criteria Learning outcomes
    Weekly online quizzes x10 7.5% Individual Formative Weeks 1-11 1. 2. 4.
    Assignment x3 22.5% Individual Summative Week 6 1. 2. 3. 4.
    FEA Project 25% Individual or Group Summative Weeks 3,7,12 40% 1. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.
    Final Exam 45% Individual Summative Exam Week 1. 2. 3. 4. 7.
    Total 100%
    * The specific due date for each assessment task will be available on MyUni.
    This assessment breakdown complies with the University's Assessment for Coursework Programs Policy.
    Assessment Related Requirements

    Completion of the FEA Project with a grading of Pass or higher is required.

    Assessment Detail

    The online quizzes comprise multiple choice answers, and some short descriptive answers. The online quizzes are to be submitted before the commencement of the following lecture, where the answers will be provided. Late submission of the online quizzes will not be accepted as the answers will be discussed at the following lecture.

    The written assignments are provided as part of the learning experience. Students are expected to enhance their knowledge and understanding of the subject matter through completing the assignments. The assignments are marked and the results included in the final assessment to ensure that students actually do the assignments and take them seriously. Solutions to the assignments are discussed in class.

    The FEA project provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their comprehension of the course material. The project is marked and included in the final assessment so that students take it seriously.

    Assignments and the project are also used to help assess whether the required graduate attributes are being developed.

    The examination is a summative assessment and is intended to assess the student’s knowledge and understanding of the course material and how it fits into the global engineering context. The final examination is open-book.

    The Late Penalty for assignments and the FEA Project is 10% per each end of day. Hence weekends lose 3 days = 30%.


    The online quizzes will be submitted through MyUni (Mobius). Late submission of the online quizzes will not be accepted as the answers will be discussed at the following lecture the next day.

    Assignments and FEA Project will be submitted to MyUni and will be passed through Turnitin to check for plagiarism.

    The Late Penalty for assignments and the FEA Project is 10% per each end of day. Hence weekends lose 3 days = 30%.

    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

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