National Physical Laboratory

Finite Element Modelling

Prediction of moisture uptake in the adhesive layer of a lapjoint subject to water immersion
Prediction of moisture uptake in the adhesive
layer of a lapjoint subject to water immersion

Finite element analysis (FEA) is a modelling tool that is widely used in the design of new products, as well as for investigation of failure in service and lifetime prediction. Within NPL, FE is used to:

  • Design new equipment and test pieces
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the physical processes that occur during experiments
  • Test assumptions made about equipment or material behaviour
  • Investigate sensitivity of experimental results to environmental and geometric parameters
  • Estimate unknown physical parameters by matching model results to measured data

We have experience of simulation across many areas of physics, including:

  • Acoustics, including nonlinear propagation, transducer simulation, scattering, and ultrasonics
  • Electromagnetics, from electrostatics to RF scattering
  • Linear and nonlinear static and dynamic stress analysis, including contact problems
  • Corrosion and damage
  • Heat flow, including thermal radiation, phase change, bioheating, stress-induced heating, and heating due to ionising radiation
  • Chemical engineering, including mass transport, fuel cells, reaction-diffusion, and gas mixing
  • MEMS and other small-scale systems

To obtain reliable predictions from FEA, the relevant materials model must be used, along with accurate materials properties data. Without these things, FE predictions can be meaningless. NPL has a wealth of knowledge regarding materials testing, and can ensure that the materials model and properties are fit for the application. We have extensive experience with specialised material models, including: models for piezoelectrics and multiferroics; plastics and adhesives; laminates and composites; and metals. We have developed and implemented our own materials models and are familiar with rate dependent behaviour and creep models.

NPL has access to a range of software implementations of FE and supporting tools, including:

  • Zinc, our in-house multiphysics FE code (available for free download here)
  • Abaqus, which benefits from an extensive range of material models
  • Ansys, a multiphysics code mostly used at NPL for heat flow, MEMS and CFD
  • Comsol Multiphysics, a general multiphysics code
  • LUSAS, a general FE tool with good composites capabilities
  • PAFEC, a general FE tool with good vibroacoustics capabilities
  • CST Microwave Studio, a specialist tool for electromagnetics
  • Opera, a specialist tool for magnetics
  • Solidworks, a CAD tool

NPL offers CAD and mesh development capabilities and has recent experience with linking FE tools with optimisation, sensitivity analysis and uncertainty evaluation routines to automate key steps in the design process.

In addition to our FE capabilities, we have experience with finite difference, finite volume, and boundary element techniques, and have an ongoing interest in emerging techniques such as meshless methods, the xtended finite element method, and the Lattice Boltzmann method.

Further resources


For further information, please contact Louise Crocker

Last Updated: 16 Jun 2016
Created: 31 Oct 2007


Please note that the information will not be divulged to third parties, or used without your permission