What is FEA(Finite Element Analysis) / FEM(Finite Element Method)?
Most geotechnical engineers use FEA (Finite Element Analysis) / FEM (Finite Element Method) software for your geotechnical design. Using the FEA software to carry out the numerical analysis, you are checking the capacity of underground structures, temporary structures, and others related to geotechnical engineering. It is frequently used in the impact assessment to check the stability of the ground during construction work such as excavation, pile foundation, and tunneling.
I understand that it is so time-consuming that you need to consider many things when you are carrying out 3D numerical analysis using FEA software. You might need to delete the whole stuff and re-generate mesh, which is very stressful work if you missed out on something in the 3D numerical analysis. Hence, geotechnical engineers prefer to carry out a 2D numerical analysis. However, 3D Numerical analysis needs to be conducted more and more now a day due to the more building, roads, metro, and convenient places for people.
What's the difference between 2D and 3D finite element analysis?
As a typical method of geotechnical engineering, 2D analysis has many benefits. The biggest advantage is its simplicity. It enables engineers to amend their projects easily and carry out analyses with a small file size which helps them to save time. However, It has a limitation in reflecting reality. You might make a conservative design due to the unrealistic condition or one direction of load transfer that is less understandable to your contractor.
On the other hand, 3D analysis has also pros and cons. Basically, as an emerging finite element method(FEM), FEM analysis software is a bit hard to perform for those who haven't used it before. Sometimes it takes a longer time to get the results compared with the 2D approach.
Despite its accessibility, the strong strength of making a model with the real condition is expected to increase the importance of 3D analysis in geotechnical engineering in the future. In addition, many 3D software companies offer various educational opportunities to learn 3D finite element analysis. Hence, what's better depends on the choice of the engineers themselves.
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