One of the recent discussions in an Aerospace Stress Engineers Linked In group was about the reasons behind the delays in new airplane programs such as the A380 and 787. See the following link for more details:
One of the prevalent discussion items was the division between designers and stress analysts. As part of that discussion, someone mentioned that most young engineers rely too heavily on FEA for the stress work and that often FEA results are wrong. FEA is a classic GIGO (garbage-in garbage-out) discipline and without proper process and methods, you can clearly get erroneous and even nonsensical results with FEA.
The key then is to develop proper process and methods. The automotive industry, for example, heavily relies on FEA for design and analysis, especially in the area of crashworthiness. As you probably have noticed, crash test ratings continue to improve to the extent that almost all cars have a 4- or 5-star crash rating. This is largely due to FEA. The Auto industry has had to establish and enforce strict modeling practices because they outsource a lot of work to suppliers and require standards to insure models are accurate.
What I see in Aerospace is that FEA modeling standards are not uniformly enforced except for the development of the global loads model and some other specialized areas. Component or sub-system level FEA is often passed through the system without conforming to established modeling procedures. If modeling methods can be more strictly enforced, the reliability of FEA models will increase. Maybe with that, we can have a new and improved airplane model every year.
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