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Finite element analysis (FEA) or finite element method (FEM) is a numerical technique for solution of boundary-value problems. It was first developed in the late forties for use in structural analysis. In its application, the object or system is represented by a geometrically similar model consisting of multiple, linked, simplified representations of discrete regions - i.e., finite elements. Equations of equilibrium, in conjunction with applicable physical considerations such as compatibility and constitutive relations, are applied to each element, and a system of simultaneous equations is constructed. The system of equations is solved for unknown values using the techniques of linear algebra or nonlinear numerical schemes, as appropriate. While being an approximate method, the accuracy of the FEA method can be improved by refining the model using more elements and nodes.
A common use of FEA is for the determination of stresses and displacements in mechanical objects and systems. However, it is also routinely used in the analysis of many other types of problems, including those in heat transfer, fluid dynamics and electromagnetism. FEA is able to handle complex systems that defy closed-form analytical solutions.