Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is used in the Solidworks package to measure stress and displacements over specified geometry. This could be used on individual components or entire assemblies. I have worked on projects relating to the following areas:
Standard Stress and Displacements (Linear Static)
This process the the most common, it allow us to look at specified load conditions on geometry and measure stress and displacements below yield strength. I would carry out the analysis and then collaborate with a customer to work out the best design for the that scenario.
Studies of geometry vary greatly from very large steel frame works to small plastic cases.
This involves test geometry to see what stress and displacements occur at a specific temperature. It is also useful are of the package for measuring generalised temperatures diffusion over time.
Stress and Displacements (Dynamic)
This is an area that i use less often but can produce some useful studies for test loading conditions that can change rapidly over time. These normally require additional information regarding on damping rates as well as frequency studies.
I have used frequency studies in the past to make sure projects that are susceptible to vibration do not have an natural frequencies at the operating resonance.
Imported Loads from CFD
This is normally loads from thermal or wind studies in the CFD package. They need to be imported to allow stress and displacements to be calculated from either pressure or thermal change.
On the odd occasion I have produced nonlinear studies based on sizeable displacements causing plastic deformation on components.