The Finite Cell Method: A Review in the Context of Higher-Order Structural Analysis of CAD and Image-Based Geometric Models

Dominik Schillinger, Martin Ruess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

232 Scopus citations


The finite cell method is an embedded domain method, which combines the fictitious domain approach with higher-order finite elements, adaptive integration, and weak enforcement of unfitted essential boundary conditions. Its core idea is to use a simple unfitted structured mesh of higher-order basis functions for the approximation of the solution fields, while the geometry is captured by means of adaptive quadrature points. This eliminates the need for boundary conforming meshes that require time-consuming and error-prone mesh generation procedures, and opens the door for a seamless integration of very complex geometric models into finite element analysis. At the same time, the finite cell method achieves full accuracy, i.e. optimal rates of convergence, when the mesh is refined, and exponential rates of convergence, when the polynomial degree is increased. Due to the flexibility of the quadrature based geometry approximation, the finite cell method can operate with almost any geometric model, ranging from boundary representations in computer aided geometric design to voxel representations obtained from medical imaging technologies. In this review article, we first provide a concise introduction to the basics of the finite cell method. We then summarize recent developments of the technology, with particular emphasis on the research topics in which we have been actively involved. These include the finite cell method with B-spline and NURBS basis functions, the treatment of geometric nonlinearities for large deformation analysis, the weak enforcement of boundary and coupling conditions, and local refinement schemes. We illustrate the capabilities and advantages of the finite cell method with several challenging examples, e.g. the image-based analysis of foam-like structures, the patient-specific analysis of a human femur bone, the analysis of volumetric structures based on CAD boundary representations, and the isogeometric treatment of trimmed NURBS surfaces. We conclude our review by briefly discussing some key aspects for the efficient implementation of the finite cell method.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-455
Number of pages65
JournalArchives of Computational Methods in Engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 20 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, CIMNE, Barcelona, Spain.


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