Side by side comparison chart of 72 mechanical Finite Element Analysis (FEA) programs. We welcome suggestions and additional information.

Price Price in USD for one user. Most vendors don't publish prices so these are listed as "no" and are typically in the range of $1,000-$20,000 per seat, possibly with annual subscriptions. Some prices shown on this site were obtained from quotations and might not be typical for all customers.

Graphical geometry modeler Uses a graphical display and mouse actions to build a model defined by geometry rather than a mesh. This is similar to a CAD program, and in some cases is a complete CAD program.

Graphical manual meshing Uses a graphical display and mouse actions to build a finite element mesh directly. Either element by element or with tools such as extruding, revolving and laying structured meshes on simple shapes.

CAD import Ability to read geometry from a CAD program. This is often in the form of file formats such as STEP, IGES and DXF or through a common CAD kernel like Parasolid or ACIS. For solid models, the FEA software must also have an auto mesher to generate a mesh from the geometry. Simple beam structures may not need meshing if read directly from a line drawing such as a DXF or DWG file.

Units aware Some FEA programs require you to use any consistent system of units. This can be more flexible, allowing unusual units but also involves doing a lot of conversions by hand and has the risk of choosing the wrong the units. Other programs are aware of engineering units such as inches and millimeters so they can accept input in a mixture of inconsistent units and give output expressed with similar units.

Linear static This is a very common type of analyis that can find stresses in structures that undergo small displacements and whose displacement is a linear function of load.

Nonlinear - large displacements A type of geometric nonlinearity which allows displacements to be large compared to the dimensions of the structure. An important phenomenon this can model is stress stiffening, for example a hanging cable is much stiffer in bending than the same cable without tension. Another effect is follow loads such as pressure whose direction changes with displacement.

Nonlinear - contact A contact detects when two parts touch each other and applies a reaction force or constraint to prevent them occupying the same space. This can be useful for deformable objects being forced together where the contact area isn't known in advance.

Transient linear Also called dynamic analysis, this finds the time dependent response of a structure to changing loads by incorporating inertia and damping as well as stiffness. As with linear static, the displacements must be small.

Transient nonlinear Similar to transient linear but includes nonlinear effects such as large displacements, non-Hookean material laws or contacts which may open and close with time.

Natural frequency Finds the natural mode shapes and their frequencies for a structure vibrating freely.

Linear buckling Also called eigenvalue or bifurcation buckling, this can find the critical buckling loads of certain types of structure without doing a time consuming non-linear analysis.

Acoustic There is a wide range of capabilities in this category. Some software can find resonant modes in a room or cavity. Others can model wave propogation from a sound source. Finite element analysis is not always practical for acoustic analysis because of the high use of computing resources.

Heat transfer Also called thermal analysis, this models the flow of heat through objects. It can often be combined with mechanical analysis to model thermal expansion.

Electric/magnetic This is also a very broad category, ranging from steady state electrostatics to time dependent electromagnetic waves and interaction with materials.

Fluid flow The software may use either Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) or the finite element method.

Fluid structure interaction Forces applied by fluid flows can be applied to structures and/or displacements of structures can alter the flow of fluids in contact with them.

Solid elements Also called brick or volume elements, these usually include tetrahedra and hexahedra.

Shell elements Locally 2-dimensional elements for modelling thin, curved structures in 3D space. This does not include 2D plane stress elements which cannot be curved or carry bending loads like shells can.

Beam/rod/tie The simplest type of finite element. Used for slender parts such as truss members and columns.

Anisotropic materials These materials have different stiffness in different directions or complicated linear stress-strain relationships. Examples are orthotropic materials and those defined by a 6x6 compliance or stiffness matrix.

Composites Typically laminated fibre-matrix composites but may also include reinforced concrete and specialized materials.

Hyperelastic/rubber Nonlinear material models such as Mooney-Rivlin and Ogden. This requires large strain (finite strain) nonlinear analysis.

Plasticity It can model plastic deformation and/or work hardening/softening using material models such as perfectly plastic, bilinear hardening and Ramberg-Osgood. This category does not include linear analysis which simply shows where stress exceeds a yield criterion but doesn't model the post-yield state.

Viscoplastic/creep Load rate dependent deformation which may continue to change even with constant loads and so is a function of time.

Piezoelectric Coupled structural and electrical effects.