Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is our main tool for assessing structural strength. From 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) data we build a mathematical representation of the structure with finite elements. This finite element model can then be loaded as the in service equipment would be and the software will calculate the stresses, strains and deformation of the structure.
Many types of loading can be applied such as proof, ultimate and fatigue loads as well as dynamic (time based) and frequency domain loads.
Most analysis work these days is completed using our non-linear solver. Non-linear analysis brings in extra complexities during the solve to account for the real world effects of contacts, plastic deformation and large scale deflection. This introduces multiple iterations during the solve to converge on the final solution. These multiple iterations increase solution time over simple linear analysis, but with the advanced multicore software and hardware solutions we do not see this as a barrier.
We use the Altair HyperWorks CAE software for all our FEA analysis work.