FEA Stress Analysis

Code books contain equations to design simple vessel shapes like cylindrical shells. What about shapes that are not found in code books? What about standard shapes used in arrangements or sizes not covered by the rules? This is the job for Finite Element Analysis (FEA).

A solid model is created. The model is split into small pyramids or cubes – a mesh of simple shapes that can be calculated by the laws of physics. Loads are applied to the mesh and displacements are calculated. Displacements are converted into stresses and both can be seen. Code rules separate areas of the model that are acceptable from those that are overstressed, and if required, the solid model is modified, and the process repeated until successful.

FEA can be used for much more. Wind and seismic loads can be input. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) can determine shell temperature distributions which are used to calculate thermal displacement and stresses. Stresses are used to calculate the permissible cycle life (fatigue life).

The use of FEA is increasing. Users see the value in knowing the code permitted cycle life of their vessel. Designers can use irregular shapes more appropriate to their process needs. Inspectors are insisting on FEA for items that code rules do not do well – see the obround nozzle article below.

Introduction to FEA

If you are new to FEA we suggest starting with these pictorial guides.

Finite Element Analysis in Action

Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is used in this introductory sample to iteratively refine a pressurized elbow design and provide design alternatives. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is used to choose between the alternatives.


A Step By Step Introduction to FEA

This simple manifold block is analyzed to show the steps involved in a FEA study, including quality control. A good introduction to the steps required to make sure a FEA study is done right.

FEA Samples and Articles

These are our most read FEA samples and articles. More can be found in the FEA blogs below.

How Permissible Cycle Life (or Fatigue Life) is Calculated using FEA

From cycle life curves to FEA to a permissible cycle life for a vessel. How fatigue life calculations are done.


Designing Trouble-Free Large Obround Nozzles

ASME VIII-1 Code provides the required rules to design obround nozzles, but it also takes FEA to design a trouble free obround nozzle that does not leak.


Heat Exchanger FEA with Thermal Loads Sample

The tubesheet stresses for this heat exchanger with differing tube sizes cannot be calculated by regular code rules. This FEA study combines thermal and pressure stress analysis as required by the ASME code, but FEA replaces the stress formulas that cannot function in this case. We regularly run this type of analysis on heat exchangers with non-circular tube patterns.


Sample - Seismic Analysis of a Propane Storage Sphere

This propane storage sphere is analyzed in multiple steps: 1) FEA provides the vibration frequency. 2) The building code base shear is calculated with a spreadsheet based on the FEA calculated frequency. 3) The base shear is added back into the FEA model and the stresses are compared with code allowables. A pass / fail assessment is made.

FEA Blogs

More samples and articles, validation of our software and methods by comparison with published articles and FEA techniques.

More FEA Samples

More Samples of FEA in use – Obround nozzles, unusual flanges, reverse dished heads and thermal analysis. Of interest to anyone trying to see if FEA can be used to solve their design or service problems.


SolidWorks Simulation Validation (Blog)

How do you know you are getting the correct FEA results? We compared our methods with published results in ASME PTB-3 and got the same results. CFD limitations and methods to work around them are also discussed.


FEA Methods (Blog)

A large collection of articles covering how to apply FEA to the design of pressurized equipment. Of interest to the FEA professional.

Finite Element Analysis at PVEng

We use FEA to design and validate fittings and vessels that can not be designed by rule-based codes like VIII-1 or B31.3. We are experts in the specialized field of pressure equipment design by FEA to validated ASME VIII-2 methods.

  • SolidWorks Simulation and Abacus software
  • Pressure and thermal stress analysis
  • Permissible service life (fatigue life)
  • Wind and seismic analysis
  • Leg, saddle and clip design
  • Frequency and vibration analysis
  • Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)

Pressure Vessel Engineering has used Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to design and verify thousands of pressurized components. We have the knowledge and experience to get the job done right.

Other Services

ASME Code DesignWe work to many ASME standards to design and validate pressure vessels, boiler, fittings and piping systems.

Pipe Stress AnalysisPipe stress analysis is mandatory for British Columbia registration and it is recommended practice for many other systems.

Canadian Registration Number (CRN)We are Canada’s largest independent registrar of fittings, vessels and piping under the CRN program registering for more than a thousand customers.

About Us

Pressure Vessel Engineering has twenty years of successful experience in the pressure vessel field working for more than a thousand customers.

  • Ten Professional Engineers on staff licensed to stamp and sign off on designs for use in all Canadian jurisdictions.
  • Fast and professional assistance from our team.

Need help? Our contact information is to the right.