I refer to your article on finite element analysis (NCE last week) and note the concern and reservations expressed by several structural engineers regarding the capabilities of the method.
We seem to forget that the twin towers of the World Trade Center were not designed to withstand the impact of such a large aircraft or the resulting fire, and conveniently blame the method of analysis.
A similar argument can be made about Terminal 2E at Charles de Gaulle airport. It is not the method that is to blame, but the people using it. The method - quite rightly - relies on the user.
I recently visited a student on industrial placement. I was talking to his supervisor, a site manager, who strongly believed analysis skills need no longer be taught at university because 'one can do a complex analysis today by pressing a computer button'. This can be dangerous.
Of course the method has its limitations as does every other method of structural analysis.
Safer structures will only be produced when those of us involved in analysis recognise our own limitations.
Finite element analysis is still a developing technique.
John N Karadelis, lecturer in computational mechanics, Coventry University, j.Karadelis@coventry. ac. uk