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  1. The Finite Element Method (FEM) is widely used to solve discrete Partial Differential Equations (PDEs) in engineering and graphics applications. The popularity of FEM led to the development of a large family of variants, most of which require a tetrahedral or hexahedral mesh to construct the basis. While the theoretical properties of FEM basis (such as convergence rate, stability, etc.) are well understood under specific assumptions on the mesh quality, their practical performance, influenced both by the choice of the basis construction and quality of mesh generation, have not been systematically documented for large collections of automatically meshed 3D geometries. We introduce a set of benchmark problems involving most commonly solved elliptic PDEs, starting from simple cases with an analytical solution, moving to commonly used test problem setups, and using manufactured solutions for thousands of real-world, automatically meshed geometries. For all these cases, we use state-of-the-art meshing tools to create both tetrahedral and hexahedral meshes, and compare the performance of different element types for common elliptic PDEs. The goal of this benchmark is to enable comparison of complete FEM pipelines, from mesh generation to algebraic solver, and exploration of relative impact of different factors on the overall system performance. Asmore »a specific application of our geometry and benchmark dataset, we explore the question of relative advantages of unstructured (triangular/ tetrahedral) and structured (quadrilateral/hexahedral) discretizations. We observe that for Lagrange-type elements, while linear tetrahedral elements perform poorly, quadratic tetrahedral elements perform equally well or outperform hexahedral elements for our set of problems and currently available mesh generation algorithms. This observation suggests that for common problems in structural analysis, thermal analysis, and low Reynolds number flows, high-quality results can be obtained with unstructured tetrahedral meshes, which can be created robustly and automatically. We release the description of the benchmark problems, meshes, and reference implementation of our testing infrastructure to enable statistically significant comparisons between different FE methods, which we hope will be helpful in the development of new meshing and FEA techniques.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 30, 2023
  2. For a given PDE problem, three main factors affect the accuracy of FEM solutions: basis order, mesh resolution, and mesh element quality. The first two factors are easy to control, while controlling element shape quality is a challenge, with fundamental limitations on what can be achieved. We propose to use p-refinement (increasing element degree) to decouple the approximation error of the finite element method from the domain mesh quality for elliptic PDEs. Our technique produces an accurate solution even on meshes with badly shaped elements, with a slightly higher running time due to the higher cost of high-order elements. We demonstrate that it is able to automatically adapt the basis to badly shaped elements, ensuring an error consistent with high-quality meshing, without any per-mesh parameter tuning. Our construction reduces to traditional fixed-degree FEM methods on high-quality meshes with identical performance. Our construction decreases the burden on meshing algorithms, reducing the need for often expensive mesh optimization and automatically compensates for badly shaped elements, which are present due to boundary con- straints or limitations of current meshing methods. By tackling mesh gen- eration and finite element simulation jointly, we obtain a pipeline that is both more efficient and more robust thanmore »combinations of existing state of the art meshing and FEM algorithms.« less