In this paper we would like to show how it is possible to develop a simple but effective finite element solver to deal with thermo-mechanical problems. In many engineering situations it is necessary to solve heat conduction problems, both steady and unsteady state, to estimate the temperature field inside a medium and, at the same time, compute the induced strain and stress states.
To solve such problems many commercial software tools are available. They provide user-friendly interfaces and flexible solvers, which can also take into account very complicated boundary conditions, such as radiation, and nonlinearities of any kind, to allow the user to model the reality in a very accurate and reliable way.
However, there are some situations in which the problem to be solved requires a simple and standard modeling: in these cases it could be sufficient to have a light and dedicated software able to give reliable solutions. Moreover, other two desirable features of such a software could be the possibility to access the source to easily program new tools and, last but not least, to have a cost-and-license free product. This turns out to be very useful when dealing with the solution of optimization problems.
Keeping in mind these considerations, we used the Scilab platform and the gmsh (which are both open source codes) to show that it is possible to build tailored software tools, able to solve standard but complex problems quite efficiently.