At FAC technology we use FEA to model tests which would otherwise have been conducted experimentally. This greatly reduces the product development time and cost. Of course these models are only as valid as the data and mathematical assumptions made in producing them. Modern FEA software programs often come with user friendly graphical user interfaces (GUIs), that allows a user to build and interact with the finite element method. In fact, many users may never interact with a finite element solver through any other method. However, proficiency in a using a GUI is by no means correlated to the accuracy of the model. To help explain this, analogies will be drawn between FEA and the popular spreadsheet application, Microsoft Excel.
Finite Element Analysis is a powerful computational tool for stress analysis. Although the roots of the finite element method can be traced back to WW2, it has been the advent of the computer and the rapid increase in, and availability of, computational power that has lead to its widespread adoption.