We have produced an automatic method with which to simulate the structural response of prestressed multi-layer plate and beam micro- structures accurately and reliably. The method relives the microsystem designer of the burden of finite element mesh design by performing local mesh refinement. A coarse mesh is iteratively refined according to an error that is computed directly from the finite element solution. The refinement strategy covers locally prestressed regions, plate composition inhomogeneities, and singular loads, yielding an optimized mesh and a highly accurate computed deformation.© (2000) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.