Research Projects: SketchFEA

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Project Name SketchFEA: Sketch-Based Finite Element Analysis
Team Members Mark E. Phair, Tara C. Hutchinson and Falko Kuester
Project Sponsor National Science Foundation (NSF)



Images have played a substantial role in documenting historical structures and structural systems and the extensive archives available today can now be used to reconstruct both modern and ancient buildings, bridges and other structures for subsequent analysis and visualization. While common approaches require the creation of complex three dimensional models to facilitate the study of response to anticipated loading of a target system or subsystem, faster techniques are required for preliminary data analysis. SketchFEA uses an image-based approach that allows users to sketch structural systems over a reference image while using standard engineering symbols and nomenclature. Within this framework, the response of the sketched system is analyzed and presented using an image-centric finite element analysis approach. Finite element models of the sketched structural system and image are constructed and simulation results fused into a final visual encoding, using deformation patterns and image warping respectively. SketchFEA offers intuitive sketch-centric modeling and simulation capabilities and has proven particularly beneficial in education environments, where fundamental behavioral characteristics of structural system are studied.


This research is supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number EIA-0203528 and the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) Graduate Student Fellowship program. The above support is greatly appreciated.


  • Kuester, F., Phair, M. E., and Hutchinson, T. C. (2005). Image centric finite element simulation. Computers and Graphics Journal, 29:379–392.
  • Phair, M. E., Hutchinson, T. C., and Kuester, F. (2004). Two-dimensional sketch-based finite element analysis. In Proceedings of the IASTED International Conference on Modeling and Simulation, pages 135–140.

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