Finite element meshes can today be used to represent very complex structures because of high performance hardware and software. Although a very successful contributor to modern engineering analysis, such techniques are prone to certain classes of numerical analysis errors which have been long recognized and widely investigated. A more recently recognized source of error has, however, received the attention of analysts, being due to the shape distortion effects of popular types of element, such as isoparametric elements. A mesh scanning program, BERQUAL, part of the BERSAFE system, highlights such potential sources of error, but a more precise assessment is only possible from the final results since element performance depends on the stress gradients in each element. Hence additional error checking using certain stress error measures has been devised and implemented in the post‐processing program PLOTTER, part of the BERSAFE system, to enable rapid, interactive, screen diagnosis. The error measures and implementation details are described and illustrated with suitable examples of progressive shape distortion effects.
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