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Stress Analysis at Your Fingertips

Previews of NEi mobile app for iPhone and iPad.

Previews of NEi mobile app for iPhone and iPad.

NEi Software‘s upcoming FEA application will put analysis at your fingertips, literally. Developed for iPad and iPhone, the software takes advantage of remote computing clusters and hosted software to let you conduct simple FEA tests on basic shapes, then retrieve the results in a combination of statistics and graphics — all done over the internet.

In this debut release, you may select the basic shape you wish to analyze (cube, tube, cylinder, or flat plate), enter its dimensions (length, width, height, and radius), specify force or pressure, specific the direction of the force (by selecting a surface or edge with your fingertip), specify material, then let the application run.

The application uses the computing horsepower and solvers hosted elsewhere, allowing you to access and run it from an iPhone or an iPad. But the technology working behind the scene is the same NEi Nastran software you’ve come to know and respect. This could be the beginning of a new wave: FEA on demand, accessible from mobile devices previously considered unsuitable for analysis.

Mobile devices are still too lean and limited to run computing-intense applications like FEA or CFD. Nevertheless, using the web-enabled device as a portable terminal to communicate with remote servers, you may bypass the need to process FEA and CFD algorithms on your local hardware.

With this version from NEi, you cannot upload your own geometry or mesh model to solve in the cloud. But I’m willing to bet NEi — or someone else — is already working on such a solution.

When the application becomes available publicly may depends on Apple, the custodian of iPhone and iPad apps. The program must go through Apple’s review and QA process before it appears in your iTune app store.

This week, NEi will demonstrate the application at Pacific Design and Manufacturing Show (Feb 8-10, Anaheim Convention Center; Anaheim, California). For more, you can visit NEi’s dedicated site for the mobile app here.

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About Kenneth

Kenneth Wong has been a regular contributor to the CAD industry press since 2000, first an an editor, later as a columnist and freelance writer for various publications. During his nine-year tenure, he has closely followed the migration from 2D to 3D, the growth of PLM (product lifecycle management), and the impact of globalization on manufacturing. His writings have appeared in Cadalyst, Computer Graphics World, and Manufacturing Business Technology, among others.


  1. A great novelty but an iPhone won’t be a useful FEA input device and suggesting that it will trivializes the value of the analyst who needs to interact with the toolset. Nor can I imagine that it will be much more useful as a post processor.

    But then again, i suppose FEA/CFD might be real conversation items at the hotel bar. Or, perhaps one more distraction while driving home…alone.

    Smartphones/tablets, etc are great productivity tools when the technology is appropriate – and enormous wastes when not.

  2. It is important to not take what this is out of context. The application handles predefined models with minimal user input and relies on cloud computing to do all of the meshing and number crunching. It is a very useful tool for predesign work.

  3. @Dave: I agree that a mobile device like iPad, iPod, and iPhones will not be ideal for complicated simulation and analysis exercises (for example, running stress analysis of an automotive chassis or visualizing fluid flow inside a medical device), but this application is not intended for those. It’s meant for people who are in the field and need to obtain a quick estimate on load, structure, and boundary conditions (for example, how much force at the base of a steel beam of a certain size is enough to topple it).

    The application does NOT propose using mobile devices with limited computing horsepower to solve complex equations or mesh models. Instead, the application lets you use your mobile device to send instructions over the web to a more powerful server cluster to do analysis.

    In my view, it’s not trivializing FEA. Instead, it simplifies some of the basic FEA operations.

  4. I saw this at the “Pacific Design and Manufacturing Show” and the salesperson had a good analogy. “It’s to FEA what the cocktail napkin is to CAD”

  5. @Dave,

    I get this all the time from people who have never used an iPad. I have used my iPad to link back to my PC using VNC to access my CAD software and NEi Nastran with very good results for field/remote work. It is especially useful for checking in on the progress of an analysis, and making tweaks and reruns when you are away from your desk. I don’t do all my CAD work this way, but it is great to have access to all my drawings and files in this way when I need them. The biggest problem is the user interface on an iPad is significantly different than that of a PC. This limits the usefulness of the iPad for drawing remotely on a PC. For NEi to develop an app, customized to work well with the iOS UI and leveraging the power of performing calculation in the “Cloud” is a huge step. This is Great news!

  6. Joseph Williams

    This is FEA for the sake of FEA. Let’s remember one thing about the application of FEA… you already know the answer within a reasonable tolerance before running the analysis, which is why at the end you can say with confidence that the answer is what you were expecting… Using FEA for example to size a beam with known loadings and support conditions (while ‘out in the field’) is really missing the point. We know how to manually determine those answers without an iPhone running what is effectivly ‘DesignSpace for toddlers’. FEA is already in many wrong hands and giving it a wider audiance on mobile telephones is possibly tempting fate. I can see it is simply a novelty and an excercise to see just what can be achieved using the iPad and iPhone as the interface to internet based analysis.

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