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Modeling elastic properties in finite-element analysis: how much precision is needed to produce an accurate model?

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Department of Anthropology, University at Albany, Albany, New York 12222, USA.


The influence of elastic properties on finite-element analysis was investigated using a finite-element model of a Macaca fascicularis skull. Four finite-element analyses were performed in which the model was assigned different sets of elastic properties. In analysis 1, elastic properties were modeled isotropically using published data obtained from human limb bones. Analyses 2-4 used data obtained from skulls of a closely allied species, M. mulatta, but varied as to how those data were incorporated into the model. In analysis 2, the model was assigned a single set of isotropic elastic properties. In analysis 3, each region within the model was assigned its own set of isotropic elastic properties. Finally, in analysis 4, each region received its own set of orthotropic elastic properties. Although a qualitative assessment indicates that the locations of strain concentrations across the model are broadly similar in all analyses, a quantitative assessment of strain indicates some differences between the analyses. When strain data from the finite-element analyses were compared to strain data derived from in vivo experiments, it was found that the model deformed most realistically using the orthotropic elastic properties employed in analysis 4. Results suggest that finite-element analyses can be adversely affected when elastic properties are modeled imprecisely, and that modelers should attempt to obtain elastic properties data about the species and skeletal elements that are the subjects of their analyses.

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