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Designed for use by Engineering Students, this book provides background reading for use with Altair's Radioss. Together with the accompanying Projects and their Instructor's Manual, it provides a quick, complete and correct introduction to using this software to build, solve and review Finite Element Models for linear analysis.
For more learning resources on HyperWorks and CAE, for both students and teachers, see http://www.altair-india.com/edu/students

- Altair Students Guide - CAE and Multi Body Dynamics
- Hypermesh Quality Tutorials
- HM Advanced Training
- Altair's Student Guides - Managing the CAE Process
- Nafems Dynamic Fea Webinar
- Altair's Student Guides - Instructor's Manual - CAE for Simulation of Sheet Metal Forming
- HM10 Intro Final
- Altair's Student Guides - Instructor's Manual - CAE and Multi Body Dynamics
- Altair's Student Guides - CAE and Design Optimization - Advanced
- Altair's Student Guides - Instructor's Manual - Managing the CAE Process
- Altair Students Guides - Instructors Manual - A Designer's Guide to FEA
- Altair's Student Guides - Instructor's Manual - CAE and Design Optimization - Advanced
- Altair's Student Guides - CAE and Design Optimisation - Basics
- Altair's Student Guides - Instructor's Manual - CAE and Design Optimization - Basics
- Hypermesh Basics Tutorials-1
- Finite Element Methods Lecture Notes
- M. Rades - Finite Element Analysis
- Altair Hyper Works Hypermesh Basic Training Day1 (Scans, 250 Pages)
- HyperMesh 10.0 Core Tutorials
- LS-DYNA

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Contents

Introduction ......................................................................................................2

About This Series ...........................................................................................2

About This Book .............................................................................................2

Supporting Material ........................................................................................2

FEA – What It Is … And What It Isn’t..................................................................4

Typical Usage.................................................................................................4

Limitations .....................................................................................................5

Learning FEA..................................................................................................8

The Importance Of Computing Power..............................................................9

Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory ...................................................... 10

Solid Mechanics............................................................................................ 11

Thermal Analysis .......................................................................................... 23

Fatigue And Fracture .................................................................................... 26

Mathematics ................................................................................................ 28

Essential FEA Theory ....................................................................................... 38

From The Differential Equation To A Matrix Equation...................................... 38

Nodes, Elements And Shape Functions .......................................................... 43

Some Common Elements Used In Stress Analysis ........................................... 45

Matrix Solvers .............................................................................................. 47

Some Important Properties Of The FE Solution .............................................. 50

Putting It Together – OptiStruct/Analysis .......................................................... 52

Capabilities .................................................................................................. 52

Setting Up An “Analysis” ............................................................................... 57

Nomenclature and Data Organization ............................................................ 61

Verification And Validation................................................................................ 65

Product Liability Laws ................................................................................... 66

The Seductive Appeal Of Graphics ................................................................. 66

Quick and Basic Checks ................................................................................ 67

Special Topics ................................................................................................. 70

Advanced Materials ...................................................................................... 70

Advanced Dynamics ..................................................................................... 72

Glossary And References.................................................................................. 74

References................................................................................................... 77

Common Material Properties ......................................................................... 77

Useful Data For Heat Transfer....................................................................... 79

Consistent Units ........................................................................................... 81

Lumped Mass Models In Vehicle-Crash Simulation .......................................... 81

Measures Of Element Quality ........................................................................ 82

1

Introduction A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

Introduction

About This Series

To make the most of this series you should be an engineering student, in

your third or final year of Mechanical Engineering. You should have access

to licenses of HyperWorks, to the Altair website, and to an instructor who

can guide you through your chosen projects or assignments.

volumes are only for your interest and further reading. You need not be

familiar with the Finite Element Method, with 3D Modeling or with Finite

Element Modeling. Depending on the volumes you choose to read, however,

you do need to be familiar with one or more of the relevant engineering

subjects: Design of Machine Elements, Strength of Materials, Kinematics of

Machinery, Dynamics of Machinery, Probability and Statistics, Manufacturing

Technology and Introduction to Programming. A course on Operations

Research or Linear Programming is useful but not essential.

This volume introduces you to Finite Element Analysis, a numerical method

that is the cornerstone of most Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) programs

in the industry.

Design is addressed in the other volumes of this series. This book focuses

wholly on Analysis. However the presentation is from a design perspective:

FEA is presented with a minimum of mathematics, and with a strong focus

on applications.

level of familiarity with the underlying theory. If you find any chapter hard to

follow, you should read it once for an overview, and refer to it again when

doing the assignments if necessary.

The various references cited in the book will probably be most useful after

you have worked through your project and are interpreting the results.

Supporting Material

Your instructor will have the Student Projects and Student Projects

Summaries that accompany these volumes – they should certainly be made

2

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Introduction

use of. Further reading and references are indicated both in this book and in

the Projects themselves.

If you find the material interesting, you should also look up the HyperWorks

On-line Help System. The Altair website, www.altair.com, is also likely to be

of interest to you, both for an insight into the evolving technology and to

help you present your project better.

Roger Penrose

3

FEA – What It Is … And What It Isn’t A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

“After working nearly four years with engineers, a mathematician confessed

to me that he finally began to understand what engineers meant by finite

elements … And another mathematician, attending an engineering

conference, seemingly in disbelief begged the author to tell him whether

engineers really thought of finite elements as little plate elements connected

at their edges …1”.

For an engineering tool that dates back to at least 1960 when Clough chose

the term “Finite Elements”2, the Finite Element Method has had more than

its fair share of misinterpretations. Part of this, of course, is simply because

of its success.

over the past several decades. Almost every field of engineering –

Aeronautical, Naval, Mechanical, Electrical, Chemical, Civil, … – has seen the

method deployed with spectacular success.

A good place to start the study of this fascinating blend of mathematics and

engineering-design is by reviewing some typical applications.

Typical Usage

Most design involves one or more of form, function, and fit. The various

tasks of an Engineering Analyst revolve around the investigation of the

function. Industrial designers usually address form, while CAD modelers

address fit.

Stress Analysis is easily the most widely known of these. Given a component

or an assembly, the analyst assesses the likelihood that the stress in the

material will fall within permissible limits. The difficulty lies in the shapes of

the parts to be analyzed, the properties of the materials used, and the

various sources of loads. In most popular usage, stress analysis is taken to

apply only to solids – that is, to the study of Solid Mechanics.

1

“The Mathematical Foundation of Structural Mechanics”, Friedel Hartmann

2

And probably even further back to 1943 when Courant introduced the linear

triangular element.

4

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis FEA – What It Is … And What It Isn’t

engineer investigating the flow of air around a car or the flow of water

around a speedboat focuses on the drag forces, leaving the study of stresses

for later investigations. Sometimes, however, solid and fluid mechanics

cannot be separated as easily – such coupled analyses are called Fluid

Structure Interactions (FSI).

Thermal engineering involves the study of the flow of heat, often covered in

undergraduate courses on Heat Transfer. The analyst’s

job is to predict the temperature distribution in the

areas of interest.

instance in the mixing of chemicals in a reactor, the seepage of underground

water around an oil well, or the effects of tidal flow on the release of

effluents.

A new entrant to the field can be excused for believing that FEA is the

engineering equivalent of a miracle-drug, a cure for every disease known

and unknown.

there is, it hasn’t been discovered yet! It’s important, therefore, to also

remember that there are some fields where FEA can be used only sparingly

if at all, and that there are some fields where other tools are better deployed

than FEA.

Limitations

As we will see later, FEA can be used to investigate the behavior of any

process that can be described by a differential equation. However, it’s one of

many methods that can be, and have been, used to solve differential

equations.

more widely used than FEA are the analysis of rigid bodies, the flow of

fluids, and acoustics.

Mechanisms

One of the first topics a student of mechanical engineering encounters is the

difference between structures and mechanisms. Plainly put, a mechanism is

5

FEA – What It Is … And What It Isn’t A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

a body that is capable of rigid movement. Under the action of a force, the

mechanism gains kinetic energy. This is in contrast to structures, which gain

strain energy under the action of a force.

both behaviors, for often times the analyst cannot be expected to know

when which form of energy-transfer dominates. A good example of this is

the simulation of a car-crash. At some instants, when the car is in contact

with other bodies such as the vehicle or the road, its strain energy is

increasing. At other instants, when the car loses contact with other bodies

as it flips over or bounces, it behaves as a rigid body. The analyst cannot

know before hand which event occurs when: the solution of the equations

must provide this information!

FEA is indeed a vital part of the investigations.

the mechanism is a prelude to stress analysis. The accelerations calculated

as a part of mechanisms-analysis are used to estimate the forces that will be

used for subsequent stress-analysis.

OptiStruct, which we will discuss later, provides such facilities, but it is

important to remember that kinematics and dynamics calculations use

numerical methods other than FEA3.

Fluid Flow

The Navier-Stokes equations have long troubled engineers. Sir Horace Lamb

is said to have observed “I am an old man now, and when I die and go to

Heaven there are two matters on which I hope for enlightenment. One is

quantum electrodynamics and the other is the turbulent motion of fluids.

And about the former I am rather more optimistic4.”

incompressible flow, for transonic flow, for laminar flow, and so on.

3

See CAE For Rigid Body Mechanics

4

Quoted in Computational Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer, by Anderson,

Tannehill, and Pletcher, 1984.

6

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis FEA – What It Is … And What It Isn’t

Some forms of fluid flow have been simulated using FEA, but this is more

the exception than the rule.

Difference Methods (FDM), Finite Volume Methods (FVM) and Smoothed

Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH).

The reasons for this are many, and beyond the scope of this book. We will

only note that if FEA is used to analyze fluid flows, great care should be

exercised both in modeling and interpreting the results.

Acoustics

Vibration is an essential part of engineering design. Not only does it cause

stress and strain, it causes discomfort and generates noise. All noise, of

course, is sound. And all sound is a form of vibration. However the reverse is

not true.

Engineers, particularly in fields related to vehicle design, use the term NVH

(for Noise, Vibration and Harshness) to segregate vibrations based on the

frequency of the vibration.

NVH Characteristics

FEA has been employed very successfully at the

lower end of the frequency-spectrum, typically

5 – 25 Hz: Shake

for excitations that are lower than about 10,000

rpm. There is nothing sacrosanct about that

number, of course – FEA has also been used for 25 – 100 Hz: Harshness, Boom

higher frequency vibrations. But the use of

alternative numerical methods (BEM or Boundary

Element Methods are quite popular) is more 100 – 150 Hz: Moan

common in the investigation of the generation

and transmission of sound or noise.

150 – 300 Hz: Noise

Some FE solvers, including OptiStruct, provide

acoustic analysis capabilities too.

Time Integration

Quantum Mechanicians like to theorize about time travel. But for most

engineers, the spatial and temporal domains are firmly separated. The first

involves the familiar spatial coordinates – x / y / z in Cartesian coordinates, r

/ θ / z in Polar coordinates and r / θ / ϕ in Spherical coordinates – and is

amenable to the mathematics of Finite Elements. Problems that involve a

7

FEA – What It Is … And What It Isn’t A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

variation of the parameters of interest in the spatial domain are called

Boundary Value Problems.

which the variables of interest change with time

are called Initial Value Problems. These are

often solved by applying FEA to the spatial-part

of the differential equation and FDM to the time-

variation.

Learning FEA

Traditionally, authors tended to choose one of

two approaches to introduce FEA.

is one way to study the behavior of functions whose arguments are

functions. This approach has the advantage that it is very general in its

application. There is usually little mention of applications.

developed entirely in the context of one or more specific design disciplines.

The advantage is that the physical significance of the various terms is

emphasized right from the start, while the disadvantage is that the logic is

not readily transferred to other disciplines.

Fortunately, over the years, the method has matured. Mathematical rigor

has been added to most engineering discoveries. Examples of usage and

relevance illustrate almost every mathematical proof.

Like most powerful tools, FEA in the hands of a novice can wreak havoc. For

effective use, an understanding of the mechanics is essential. A grasp of the

mathematics can help enormously, particularly to diagnose errors, if they

should occur.

you would have covered in your courses on mechanics. This is followed by a

brief summary of the theory of Finite Elements, before moving on to

applications.

8

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis FEA – What It Is … And What It Isn’t

The popularity of FEA is inextricably tied with the growth of computing

power. If FEA is today a part of the computer-desktop of most practicing

designers, it is no accident. It is largely due to the current proliferation of

desktop computers, several of which are more powerful than decade-old

supercomputers.

space and computing speed. The Finite Element method, of course, makes

strong demands on both. The level of detail addressed by FE models has

grown steadily over the years, making the best use of available computing

power5. One of the more important trends in analysis today is the increasing

usage of stochastic analyses, which can often require hundred or even

thousands of analyses of the same model to yield more reliable designs6.

The assignment problems that accompany this book are completely realistic,

drawn from actual engineering applications. However they are restricted to

linear analysis only. The other volumes in this series address more advanced

applications of FEA: optimization, reliability, multi-disciplinary analyses, and

manufacturing simulation.

It was absolutely marvelous working for Pauli. You could ask him anything.

There was no worry that he would think a particular question was stupid,

since he thought all questions were stupid.

Frederick Weisskopf

5

The table is from the American Iron And Steel Institute’s Vehicle Crashworthiness

And Occupant Safety

6

See CAE And Design Optimization - Advanced

9

Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

Mathematical physics saw an explosion of activity in the early 18th century,

following the invention of calculus. The initial enthusiasm led to the

development of numerous partial differential equations as a result of

investigations into a wide variety of areas.

addresses half the problem. It shows that the phenomenon is understood.

The other half of the problem, of course, is to predict behavior: how

parameters of interest will change as controllable parameters are varied.

We remember very well the time when almost every author dealing with a

non-trivial elasticity problem considered it very nearly a matter of his

honour to reduce it by all means to a Fredholm equation of the second

kind. After this, he was prone at least to think that his investigation was

completed theoretically without concerning himself with the

implementation of the solution. (People wonder at it now).

For a long time, the search for solutions to differential equations was an art

by itself.

of methods to solve differential equations: integrating factors, separation of

variable, partial fractions, substitution, and so on. One method, which

proved to be particularly successful, was the use of infinite series to

estimate the solutions. This led to another burst of activity in the

development of infinite series. As we will see subsequently, Finite Element

Analysis can be viewed as yet another series method of solving differential

equations.

mathematics. We will need to be familiar with these in order to interpret the

results of a Finite Element Analysis. Note that rigor has been omitted, and

sometimes even sacrificed, for simplicity and brevity.

7

From Integral Equations in Elasticity, V.Z.Parton and P.I.Perlin, 1977

10

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory

Solid Mechanics

As outlined in the earlier chapter, FEA is not the preferred method for

problems involving fluid flow. The sections below, therefore, address the

mechanics of solids only.

most parameters of interest using differential equations rather than

difference equations.

Engineering Mechanics

It is not always easy to determine whether it is better to use difference or

differential equations. A first semester course on engineering mechanics

usually adopts the former approach.

In this approach, we first define a link as a rigid body that possesses at least

two joints, and a joint as a point of attachment between links. A binary link

has 2 joints, a ternary link has 3 and a quaternary link has 4.

structure or a mechanism: if there are no unconstrained degrees-of-freedom

it is a structure, else it is a mechanism.

indeterminate. The former are structures which have 0 degrees of freedom.

All forces can be calculated using only the equilibrium equation: that is, by

solving for the force and moment balances.

∑F = ∑F = ∑F = ∑M

x y z x = ∑My = ∑Mz = 0

have “negative” degrees of freedom. To solve these, the force and moment

equilibrium equations are not enough. The elastic properties of the body

must be used.

involves showing all external forces acting on a body.

If the externally applied forces are independent of time, the problem is one

of Statics. If, however, the externally applied forces are time dependent, we

are faced with a problem in Dynamics.

11

Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

we assume the body is in static equilibrium at every instant by applying a

D’Alembert force. This is calculated as

F = M ⋅a

at the center of mass, and is in the direction opposite to the acceleration.

F

σ=

a

The strain is defined by

∆L

ε=

L

σ = Eε

where E is the Modulus of Elasticity of the Young’s Modulus. Hooke’s Law is

sometimes referred to as the constitutive equation, since it involves the

material properties, which in turn depend on the constitution of the material.

Continuum Mechanics

The difference-equation approach is valid as long as it is reasonable to treat

the link as a rigid body. That is, if it is reasonable to assume that there is no

variation of stress or deformation within the link itself. In engineering

design, these assumptions are relevant if the links are more or less uni-

dimensional – long and thin – and if the links are joined with pins. The study

of such assemblies usually centers around “trusses”. Electric-transmission

towers are an excellent example.

properties, etc., it is better to use a continuum approach. That is, to assume

that the variables of interest vary though the continuum, and to write

equations that allow us to track these changes.

12

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory

The first step is to define the deformation vector. Recall that a body in 3-

dimensional space has 6 degrees of freedom – translations and rotations

about 3 coordinate axes. Remember also that we need to differentiate

between rigid movements and flexible deformations. A rigid movement is

relevant to a mechanism, while a structure must deform under the action of

external forces. By definition, the structure cannot move as a rigid body.

The displacement vector has six components. These are decomposed into a

deformation vector and a rotation vector. The deformation vector is usually

denoted by u.

matrices or column vectors are frequently employed to represent quantities

of interest. Some quantities like stress, which have components that

themselves are vectors, are called tensors8. Again, matrices are used to

represent the components.

u x

u = u y

u

z

du

ε=

dx

replaced by

8

Strictly speaking, a tensor is a group of functions that satisfy some conditions.

Matrices are a convenient way to represent tensors, but not every matrix is a tensor.

9

And restricting attention to small strains. That is, we assume (du/dx)2 and higher

powers are much less than du/dx and can be ignored.

13

Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

∂u x

∂x

ε xx ∂u x

ε ∂y

xy ∂u

ε xz x ∂z

ε = = ∂u

ε yy y ∂y

ε xz

∂u y

ε zz ∂z

∂

z

u

∂z

ε xx ε xy ε xz

ε = ε yx ε yy ε yz

ε zx ε zy ε zz

Note that the strain tensor is symmetric. That is, εij = εji. Accordingly, there

are 6 components for the strain: 3 normal strains and 3 shear strains.

σ xx σ xy σ xz

σ = σ yx σ yy σ yz

σ zx σ zy σ zz

used for tensors. For instance, σxy is the stress caused by a force in

the y direction acting on a face whose normal is in the x direction.

The force per unit area is called the traction. When resolved on a particular

face, we get the stress component.

14

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory

The drawback of the stress and strain tensors is that they are coordinate

dependent. In other words, a change of coordinates can change the stresses

and strains. This reduces the utility of the mathematical definitions of the

stress and the strain. Physically, we expect the stresses and strains to give

us an indication as to the state of the body. Obviously a change in axes

cannot change the physical state of the body!

invariants. These are derived from the strain and stress tensors respectively,

and are invariant – that is, they do not change under coordinate

transformations.

The invariants use principal values: the principal stresses and the principal

strains.

σ xx − λ σ xy σ xz

σ yx σ yy − λ σ yx = 0

σ zx σ zy σ zz − λ

for λ. From linear algebra we recall that for the above equation gives us a

cubic equation that has 3 roots – these are the 3 principal stresses for that

state of stress. Mohr’s Circle is another way to calculate the principal

stresses, σ1, σ2 and σ3.

The main use of the principal stresses and strains is to calculate a value that

can be used in a failure theory. Various failure theories have been proposed

based on empirical observations. For ductile materials like steel, for instance,

the Von Mises criterion is often used:

(σ 1 − σ 2 )2 + (σ − σ 3 ) + (σ 3 − σ 1 )

2 2

σe =

2

As per this theory, a material will yield when the equivalent stress crosses

the yield stress.

15

Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

The yield stress or the yield point is most familiar when considered for a uni-

dimensional experimental specimen:

Not all materials have a clearly defined yield point. For these, a proof stress

or offset yield stress is sometimes used. This is obtained by drawing the line

as shown, at a strain of 0.002. This strain is called the 0.2% proof strain.

For tri-axial states of stress, designers often use the principal stresses as

axes. In this depiction, the yield surface marks the limit of the elastic region.

Stress and strain are related by the 3-dimensional version of Hooke’s Law.

Since the stress and strain each have 6 components, the material properties

are often represented by a constitutive matrix.

σ 12 c 21 c 22 c 23 c 24 c 25 c 26 ε 12

σ 13 c 31 c32 c33 c34 c 35 c36 ε 13

=

σ 22 c 41 c 42 c 43 c 44 c 45 c 46 ε 22

σ 23 c 51 c52 c53 c54 c 55 c56 ε 23

σ 33 c 61 c 62 c 63 c 64 c 65 c 66 ε 33

Note that in the above equation the subscripts 1, 2 and 3 have been used

instead of x, y and z.

16

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory

∂σ xx ∂σ yx ∂σ zx

+ + + Bx = 0

∂x ∂y ∂z

∂σ xy ∂σ yy ∂σ zy

+ + + By = 0

∂x ∂y ∂z

∂σ xz ∂σ yz ∂σ zz

+ + + Bz = 0

∂x ∂y ∂z

where Bx, By and Bz are the body forces in the respective directions x, y and

z.

A body force is distinct from a boundary force. The former is distributed all

through the body – for instance the magnetic attraction an iron bar

experiences, the force due to gravity, etc. The latter can be a point, line

force, or an area force. Point loads are also called concentrated loads.

It is important to remember that point loads and line loads are idealizations

– they can never be achieved in practice.

In the equations above, time variations were ignored. All derivatives were

spatial derivatives only. In other words, the equations defined problems of

static analysis.

data. In this case, the permissible stress is a fraction of the yield stress:

σy

σp =

k

where k is the stress concentration factor. Design codes use historical data

to suggest factors of safety for different applications.

In closing, two important aspects of stress analysis are worth noting: stress

concentration factors and St.Venant’s Principle.

17

Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

If a geometry is complicated, the nominal stress is calculated over a simpler

geometry, and then factored up using a stress-concentration factor.

Handbooks10 present factors for various configurations.

us that the difference between the stresses caused by statically equivalent

load systems is insignificant at distances greater than the largest dimension

of the area over which the loads are acting. This means that we can replace

a load by its static equivalent, and is the reason why point and line loads are

used even if they are not realistic.

Dynamics - Theory

If variables of interest change with time, the differential equations need to

be modified to include time derivatives. Conventionally, different symbols

are used for spatial-derivatives and time derivatives: a prime for the former

and a dot for the latter:

du d 2u

= u ′, 2 = u ′′

dx du

du d 2u

= u&, 2 = u&&

dt dt

Note that that the first and second time derivatives of deformation (u) give

the velocity (v) and the acceleration (a) respectively.

statics. To understand why, it is useful to recall the equilibrium equations for

the mass-spring-dashpot, which is a single-degree-of-freedom system:

ma + cv + ku = p

The mass and stiffness are relatively easy to measure, but the

damping is often difficult to obtain. In the equation above, we

assume that the dashpot is a viscous damper. That is, the

resisting force depends on the velocity of motion. Viscous

10

See, for instance, “Stress Concentration Factors” by R.E.Peterson

18

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory

damping is not always a good model, however. Various alternatives are

available, including hysteretic damping, sliding friction, Coulomb damping,

etc. Unfortunately damping, like friction, is hard to characterize.

modify the damping coefficient c to match experimental results. This is

sometimes called the equivalent damping coefficient.

For most materials, the damping coefficient depends on the frequency of

excitation. A material that behaves in this fashion is characterized by modal

damping factors. The dependence of the damping coefficient is not always

predictable: higher frequency excitations die away (or attenuate) more

rapidly than lower frequency excitations, for most mechanical engineering

applications11.

a source that sweeps through the entire range of frequencies of interest.

The response is captured and characterized as the Frequency Response

Function (FRF).

X (ω )

H (ω ) =

F (ω )

An FRF is a transfer function that relates the excitation at one point with the

response at a point of interest. Note that an FRF is a function of the

frequency of excitation, ω12.

If there are multiple points of excitation / interest, the FRFs are best treated

as a matrix, with

X i (ω )

H ij (ω ) =

F j (ω )

frequency. The critical damping value ζ, which is the value at which the

11

An important exception is the occurrence of flutter. See the references for more

details.

12

ω is usually measured in Hertz (Hz). Beginners often confuse rpm, Hz and radians

/ sec.

19

Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

estimate the modal damping coefficients σ:

σ

ζ =

σ + ω2

2

degree-of-freedom system using similar equations, with the added

complexity of manipulating multiple equations. Often matrices are used to

make the manipulation easier. Using matrix notation, the equilibrium

equation is written as

where the square braces represent square matrices, and the curly braces

represent column vectors. For a system that has n degrees of freedom, M, C

and K are each nxn, while a, v, u and f are each nx1.

freedom if it is to represent a continuum, which is what an ideal elastic body

is. The principal is the same even if the mathematics can be quite messy.

Recall that we earlier wrote the equilibrium equation in terms of the stress

components and the body forces. Dynamics involves accelerations and

velocities. These are derived from the deformation vector by taking the time

derivative. We can rewrite the equation in terms of the deformation using

the stress-strain and strain-deformation equations. One familiar form of this

equation is the wave equation. In its simplest form, for example the

vibration of a string, the equation is:

∂2 y 2 ∂ y

2

= a

∂t 2 ∂x 2

(or density) of the string.

Most design problems involve multiple degrees of freedom. If the structure

consists of rigid links, as in a transmission tower, then a model with a finite

20

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory

number of degrees of freedom is a good representation. If, however, the

structure is like a casting or is made from sheet-metal, a continuum

representation is more appropriate. In this case, the structure has infinite

degrees of freedom.

Regardless of which approach is taken, the reality is that most models have

more than one degree of freedom.

above becomes

One obvious solution to this equation is the trivial solution: an identically

zero deformation vector. But could there be other solutions? In other words,

is it possible that the structure will deform even in the absence of an

external force? The answer is “yes”, and leads to the study of mode-shapes

and natural-frequencies, which lie at the very heart of studies of vibration13.

u ( x, y, z , t ) = uo ( x, y, z ) sin(ωt )

we then have

and

we could well use other forms, but this is a very convenient choice. If we

neglect damping14, the equilibrium equation now becomes

− w 2 [M ]{u0 } + [K ]{u0 } = 0

13

The Sturm-Liouville equation is usually treated as the basis for all such

investigations for partial-differential equations.

14

Only for brevity. Damping need not be excluded.

21

Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

[A]{u0 } = 0

where

[A] = −w2 [M ] + [K ]

If we assume that

λ {uo }

[A − λI ]{u0 } = 0

This equation will have non-trivial solutions (i.e. solutions where u0 is not

identically zero) if the matrix is singular. That is, if the determinant is zero.

The equation

A − λI = 0

The order of the polynomial equation depends on the size of the matrix A.

An nxn matrix gives us an nth order polynomial, which will have n roots. For

each of these values of λ, we can find a corresponding {u}. These λ and {u}

pairs are called eigen-solutions. λ is called the natural-frequency or eigen-

value and {u} is the corresponding mode shape or eigen-vector.

If we include the damping factors, [C], the characteristic equation may have

imaginary roots. These imaginary roots can be interpreted physically15: the

15

Interested readers should review de Moivre’s theorem, the Argand diagram,

Nyquist and Bode plots

22

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory

imaginary terms are the equivalent of a phase lag. That is, due to the

presence of damping, response lags behind excitation.

In the absence of damping, the eigen-values are all real: physically, this

means the response and excitation are always in phase. In this case, the

eigen-solutions are called normal modes. Complex Modes are what we get if

damping is included. Normal modes have stationary nodal lines – that is,

they are standing waves. Complex modes are traveling waves.

estimating natural frequencies, and introduced later when estimating forced

response, which is the response to an excitation. This simplified procedure is

reliable and very widely used.

damping factors need to be estimated experimentally, which means a

prototype needs to be available for testing. Early in the design cycle, this is

unrealistic. However estimation of mass and stiffness requires no

experimentation. CAD users will know that solid models readily provide the

mass, and we will see later how FE models provide the stiffness. Therefore,

early in the design cycle, the concentration is on the calculation of the

normal modes. In most cases we want to avoid resonance, but in some

cases we may want resonance. Either way, we use the results of the

analysis to modify the design.

literature or from databases of earlier designs. When the prototype is built

and tested, a quick verification of the earlier design can be carried out.

Thermal Analysis

The study of heat, Thermodynamics, is notoriously difficult:

it, you don't understand it at all. The second time you go through

it, you think you understand it, except for one or two small points.

The third time you go through it, you know you don't understand

it, but by that time you are so used to it, it doesn't bother you any

more16.

16

Supposed to have been said by Arnold Sommerfeld, when asked why he had not

written a book on the subject.

23

Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

Temperature itself, however, is much easier to deal with than stress, mainly

because it’s a scalar quantity. The difficulties in design lie in the estimation

of physical quantities required for a reliable analysis. This section briefly

reviews the essentials of thermal analysis and thermo-mechanical analysis.

The three modes of heat transfer are conduction, convection and radiation.

The first is important principally in solids. The second is significant in fluids

(liquids and gases). The third, radiation, is significant only at high

temperatures or if other modes of transfer are negligible, as in outer space.

The heat flux, which is proportional to the gradient of temperature,

represents the flow of thermal energy. In a solid it depends on the

conductivity, and in a fluid on the convection coefficient. At a steady-state

(i.e. when thermal equilibrium has been reached) in one-dimension we have

dT

q = − kA

dx

and

q = hA(T − T∞ )

temperature. For many engineering materials the variance is so small at

operating ranges that we assume it is constant.

just a property of the materials that make up the fluid, but also depends on

the velocity of the fluid. The study of heat-transfer therefore needs to

borrow heavily from the study of fluid-flow. It is customary to estimate non-

dimensional numbers (the Reynolds Number, the Biot Number, the Prandtl

Number, the Nusselt Number, the Grashoff Number, etc.) for a design

problem. These numbers are then used to look up literature to estimate the

convection coefficient.

Boltzman constant, and T1 and T2 are the temperatures of the two bodies in

24

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory

transfer is significant only when the temperatures are substantially high (as

in the cooling of molten steel) or when other modes of heat transfer are

negligible (as in spacecraft traveling through “empty” space).

derived:

∂ ∂T ∂ ∂T ∂ ∂T ∂T

k + k + k + q& = ρ .c.

∂x ∂x ∂y ∂y ∂z zx ∂t

where ρ is the density of the solid, c is the specific heat capacity, and q& is

the energy generated per unit volume. If the temperature is dependent on

time, this called transient heat transfer. For a steady-state problem the time-

derivative is zero.

this case, we sometimes define the thermal diffusivity as

k

α=

ρc

For most materials, the thermal field is independent of the deformation field.

This means the temperature in the body can be solved for without worrying

about the stress distribution in the body. Once the temperature field (that is

the distribution of temperature in the body) has been obtained, it can be

used to calculate the stresses in the body.

differential expansion or if the body is prevented from expanding or

contracting freely. The coefficient of thermal expansion is an important

property of the material in this regard.

mechanical stresses. They are a significant part of many designs. For

instance, it is customary to hold two components in a fixture for welding.

Since the welding process involves an inflow of thermal energy and the

fixture prevents free expansion, designers have to worry about how the

structure will distort after the fixture is removed!

25

Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

Describing the investigations of 19th century engineers into the failure of

parts, Frost et al write17 “because these failures occurred in a part that had

functioned satisfactorily for a certain time, the general opinion developed

that the material had tired of carrying the load or that the continual re-

application of a load had in some way exhausted

the ability of the material to carry load. Thus the

word ‘fatigue’ was coined to describe such failures”.

is still not much fundamental understanding of how

to design for fatigue. Most design rules are based

on gathered data and presented in the form of

curves or tables, as in the Atlas of Fatigue Curves18.

continuum is not correct. Various imperfections on the surface of a finished

component are thought to contribute to fatigue-failure, and factors are

prescribed to modify the permissible stress, which in turn depends on the

endurance limit. Usually tabled as S-N curves, the endurance limit is the

fatigue strength (S) for a given the number of cycles (N).

What is also clear is that metals fail from fatigue if the load is “reversed” or

“alternating19”. Given a load that changes magnitude and / or direction,

engineers use the stress analysis methods described earlier to calculate:

17

Metal Fatigue by N.E.Frost, K.J.Marsh, L.P.Pook

18

The American Society of Metals’ Atlas of Fatigue Curves, edited by H.E.Boyer

19

Some materials fail if the load is held steady but is held for a long time. This can

be due to creep or viscoelasticity. Several plastics creep at room temperature while

metals tend to creep only at elevated temperature.

26

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory

also calculated. Note that if the stress-state is tri-axial, the stresses listed

above are equivalent stresses (a von Mises stress, for example). As

described earlier, these are calculated from the stress components.

is applied. Commonly used theories include Goodman, Modified Goodman,

Soderberg, and Gerber.

and so on, cumulative-fatigue theories such as the Palmgren-Miner cycle-

ratio summation theory are employed.

It’s important to remember that these are all theories, not yet accepted as

laws. To emphasize the fact that Fatigue and its adjunct, Fracture, are not

well understood, we will close our brief discussion of fatigue just as we

started it: with an extract from two books on the subject.

First20, describing the investigation into the failure of a tank in 1919, which

was part of a law-suit, the court appointed auditor wrote

the auditor has at times felt that the only rock to which he could

safely cling was the obvious fact that at least one half of the

scientists must be wrong.”

- says21

“In 1988 the roof of the forward cabin of a 737 tore away during

flight, killing a flight attendant and injuring many passengers. The

cause was multiple fatigue cracks linking upto form a large,

catastrophic crack. The multitude of cycles accumulated on this

aircraft, corrosion and maintenance problems all played a role in

this accident. Furthermore, the accident challenged the notion that

fracture was well understood and under control in modern

structures. “

20

Fracture and Fatigue Control in Structures, Applications of Fracture Mechanics, by

S.T.Rolfe and J.M.Barsom.

21

Lecture Notes On Fracture Mechanics, Alan T.Zehnder, Department of Theoretical

and Applied Mechanics, Cornell University

27

Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

Mathematics

Mathematics is usually easier to deal with than mechanics, if only for the

reason that most statements can be accepted as complete and true. There is

little room for a subjective interpretation.

attack Linear Differential Equations with confidence and advises us to treat

Non-linear Differential Equations with great care, as we shall see in the

following pages.

The power of differential equations has been noted already: they give us a

ready way to model physical problems. Once modeled, we can understand,

investigate and ultimately predict the behavior of the physical world.

several mathematical models.

addressed in the chapter on Verification And Validation later in this book. For

now, we assume that the mathematical model is what we need to solve.

We focus on the tractability of these mathematical models. That is, the ease

with which we can understand, evaluate and predict real-world behavior

using the model.

It is this requirement for tractability that will lead us onto our next chapter,

where we will study the theory of the Finite Element Method.

Functions of a single variable yield Ordinary Differential Equations (ODEs)

while functions of many variables give us Partial Differential Equations

(PDEs). PDEs themselves are categorized depending on the coefficients

(constant or variable coefficients), on the right-hand-side of the equation

(homogeneous and inhomogeneous), on the highest order of derivative (first

order, second order, etc.) and so on.

models, is dominated by second order PDEs. A PDE may do an excellent job

of characterizing more than one phenomenon. An excellent example of this

is Prandtl’s membrane analogy. Prandtl pointed out that the torsional stress

28

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory

in a non-circular bar is governed by the same equation that describes the

deflection of a thin membrane under the action of a pressure. The

immediate application of this insight was to allow experimenters to use the

easier membrane-inflation experiments to measure torsional stresses!

Investigations into 2nd order PDEs led to the comparison of these equations

with the general second order analytic curve, the general conic section.

Recall that if we write the conic section in its canonical form,

curve represents an ellipse (b2-4ac < 0), a parabola (b2-4ac =0) or a

hyperbola (b2-4ac > 0).

In a similar fashion, a general 2nd order PDE can be written in canonical form

and classified as elliptic, parabolic or hyperbolic, depending on the

discriminant.

within the domain (that is, the area over which the DE is valid) are uniquely

specified by values on the boundary. These values on the boundary are

called Boundary Conditions.

values change with time. They require not just Boundary Conditions, but

Initial Conditions too. Some problems are diffusive in nature. That is, any

errors in initial conditions die away as time progresses. Other problems are

convective – initial data propagates without dying away, which means that

any errors in initial data continue to affect the solution even as time

progresses.

either on the derivatives of the independent variable (for instance the heat

flux in a thermal problem, and the stress in a stress-analysis problem) or on

the independent variables themselves (the temperature or the

deformation)22.

Boundary and Initial conditions should be prescribed with care, since they

should both mimic the physical world and be consistent with the statement

22

Boundary conditions are often classified as Neumann, Dirichlet and Mixed

29

Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

of the differential equation. Problems that are thus defined are said to be

well-posed. The opposite, of course, is an ill-posed problem.

To a mathematician, a linear differential equation has several pleasing

properties. In the first place, the mathematician can prove that the equation

has a solution. This proof of existence justifies the hunt for the solution.

Next, the mathematician can prove that the solution that exists is unique.

This is even better, since it tells us that regardless of what method we use

to find the solution, once we have found it it’s the only one.

A PDE is linear if

equation itself and in boundary conditions

variables

demonstrated with his remarkable fractal geometry, the deeper we dig into

the real world the more we uncover facts that complicate our equations. But

just as it is reasonable to depict a planet as a round ball from a macro level,

linear models are widely used as a first level of investigation. A deeper

investigation is not always required, just as all planets are not explored.

differential equations.

review some important aspects of non-linear differential equations.

The general non-linear equation is not blessed with the uniqueness or

existence theorems that linear equations boast of.

23

The Fractal Geometry of Nature, B.Mandelbrot

30

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory

Not only does this mean that the equation you are going to investigate may

have no solution, it also means that it may have multiple solutions.

over the past several years. As computing power becomes cheaper, and

software tools become more powerful, designers are increasingly able to

deploy these powerful methods to design better products. In this series, the

volume on simulation of manufacturing processes addresses one such

application.

Solutions are better viewed as sources of insight into the mechanics, than as

definitive answers to design problems.

How do you know whether you should choose a linear model or a non-linear

model?

may be markedly different from the un-deformed configuration.

Such problems are said to be problems of large deformation.

Alternately, there may be a large strain, which violates the

assumptions implicit in the strain-displacement equation

presented earlier. In some cases, the deformation changes the

stiffness of the material because of the geometric properties.

For instance, a convex curved plate’s stiffness reduces if the

load causes it to first become flat and then concave.

material behavior include creep, visco-elasticity, etc. In thermal

problems, if the conductivity depends on the temperature, the

analysis is non-linear.

involve the 4th power of the independent variable) i.e.

temperature). In structural problems, gap or contact are non-

linear, since the stiffness of the structure changes with the

deformation - depending on whether the gap is open or closed.

and requires a more complete study than can even be summarized here.

31

Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

The study of infinite series goes hand in hand with the study of differential

equations, and the reason is easy to find. Given the difficulty of solving

differential equations, there’s a strong motivation to see if the solution can

be constructed out of known and simple functions24.

Bessel’s functions will be familiar to any one who has studied the analytical

solution to the problem of the cooling of a fin. It was the investigation of

heat transfer that also gave rise to the only series that we will review – the

Fourier series. No study of mechanical vibrations can be undertaken without

this.

In its simplest form, the Fourier Series tells us that almost any periodic

function can be expanded as a series of sin and cosine functions.

a0 ∞

f ( x) = + ∑ (an cos(nx) + bn sin(nx) )

2 n=1

The “almost” contains some important conditions. For example, one of the

conditions is that function should have a finite number of finite

discontinuities within the range of interest. This means, for example, that

the familiar trigonometric function tangent cannot be expanded as a Fourier

Series over any interval that includes π/2 or 3π/2, since the function is

infinite at those points.

The significance of the coefficients of the series is not always apparent. But

if the function being investigated is time dependent, as in mechanical

vibrations, a simple transformation can inject life into the coefficients of the

series!

Given a non-periodic function f(t), the Fourier Transform is defined by the

equation

∞

1 −iωt

F (ω ) = ∫ x(t )e dt

2π −∞

24

See, for example, Fourier Series and Boundary Value Problems, R.V.Churchill and

J.W.Brown

32

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory

period. Note that the independent variable in the “original” function, f(t),

was “t”, while the independent variable in the “transformed” function is ω. It

is customary to interpret ω as the angular frequency (radians / second). This

is natural, since it is the frequency of the sine and cosine terms in the

Fourier Series.

We say that the transform has taken us from the time domain to the

frequency domain. The inverse transform takes us back from the frequency

to the time domain.

Of the several properties that the Fourier Transform has, one in particular is

interesting: the Fourier Transform of f’(t) is given by iωF(ω). This means

differential equations can be transformed into algebraic equations25. The

transform has a host of other interesting properties, covering areas like time

shifting, modulation, etc. which are very useful in signal processing.

there is no loss of information going from one domain to the other. Which

form we choose to use depends purely on convenience.

Compare the problem to that of listening to an orchestra and trying to pick

out instruments. A trained ear can do it, but for the average ear extracting

such info from the time-domain-signal is hard. If, instead, you use the

Fourier Transform to break the signal into a spectrum, you can clearly see

signatures of different instruments, since each has a different frequency

range.

Models such as this are not just instructive – they are also used quite widely

in practice. Called lumped mass models, they are used extensively in a wide

variety of applications. One such example, the simulation of vehicle crash, is

included for reference at the end of this book.

25

Recall Laplace transforms – they serve a similar purpose.

26

These figures are from The Fundamentals Of Modal Testing, Application Note 243-

3, Agilent Technologies

33

Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

vibration. These are the natural frequencies - ω1, ω2 and ω3 - and the

corresponding mode shapes.

Our design goal is to control the response of the system. That is, given any

source of excitation, we want to first predict, then alter, the response. The

first step in this is to understand how the modes of vibration contribute to

the response. Since the modes depend on k and m, we can tune the

response by making appropriate changes to the structure.

The time-response, shown below, doesn’t provide much insight. It does tell

us how the response changes with time, but tells us nothing of the relative

importance of the 3 modes.

But now let’s look at the Fourier Transform – the frequency domain plot.

34

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory

Note that the peaks in the plot correspond to ω1, ω2 and ω3, the natural

frequencies of the system. The contribution of ω1 is more than that of ω2, so

we’ll probably be better off tuning the structure to change ω1.

In fact, as the figure below shows, the frequency domain plot can be

obtained as the superposition of the plots for each individual mode!

Remember this, since we will discuss the Modal Superposition Method later

on in our study.

be intimidated. While a physical interpretation of the frequency domain plot

is not always possible (in fields like electrical engineering, for instance),

mechanical vibrations are kinder. As shown in the figure, the frequency-

domain and time-domain plots of the modes of vibration of a cantilever

beam are very easy to correlate with the physical behavior of the vibrating

beam.

35

Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

While the “actual” beam, being a continuous body, has infinite degrees of

freedom, our physical measurement is “reducing” it to a 3-degree of

freedom body if we measure just the first 3 modes. The plot along the

“frequency axis” is the frequency-domain plot we’ve seen above. Obviously

the plot will change depending on the measurement point, just as the time

response changes at each measurement point – recall the FRF we saw

earlier.

Figuring out where to measure (i.e. the choice of the measurement points)

is one of the many challenges test-engineers face, and is one reason why

the FE method goes so well with testing in the design of vibrating

equipment. FE is often used to suggest measurement points.

frequency-domain forms of a function for complicated structures, but the

principle is the same.

Several times, it is implemented in real-time. That is, even as a signal is

acquired, its Transform is calculated.

The Discrete Fourier Transform is obtained by replacing the integral with a

finite sum. This does introduce an error, but this is often tolerable27. The

27

Refer the Nyquist Criterion, taught in most undergraduate courses on Control

Systems.

36

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Mechanics, Mathematics, And Other Theory

DFT, implemented in hardware or software gives us the FFT – the Fast

Fourier Transform.

There are several different algorithms that implement the FFT. Common to

all of them is that they can generate the frequency domain form of a signal

even as the signal is being sampled.

saw that the factors are estimated from actual physical tests. In these tests,

the structure is excited at various frequencies and the response logged.

From the response, the damping factors are estimated. FFT is very widely

used to interpret data collected in such experiments, since the Fourier

Transform helps us “spread out” data into peaks. In some cases, log-log plot

or log-linear plots are used to present the data.

can help us understand which sources are most important in the response.

A detailed discussion of the FFT and the FRF is beyond the scope of this

book.

understand. Also, the solutions are difficult to verify.

Ed Wilson

describing frequency domain analysis

37

Essential FEA Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

Of the several ways to introduce the Finite Element Method, the easiest is to

view it as nothing more than a series solution for partial differential

equations.

This is the approach we will follow in this brief theoretical introduction to the

method. The next chapter will put this mathematical approach in the context

of specific applications of mechanics.

equation solver. As we will see, it offers us a toolbox of ready-made

differential equations that we can put together to describe most physical

problems. This is very appealing to a designer, who is familiar with the

approach of breaking assemblies down into standard parts or machine

elements: gears, chains, belts, beams, trusses, plates, fasteners, and so on.

It is this capability to model complicated structures that makes FE so much

more valuable to a designer than many other numerical methods.

A study of mechanics familiarizes us with the many differential equations

that are used to model continuous bodies: there is the differential equation

of beam bending, the differential equation for heat conduction, the

differential equation for general tri-axial stress, and so on.

who has worked through the temperature distribution in a cooling pin

knows. Solving them on general geometries like an engine-block is next to

impossible using analytical methods.

approach, well documented in the derivation of the many infinite series,

including the Fourier Series.

reduces the differential equation into a problem of linear algebra – that is, a

28

In a paper published in 1915. The method is also called the Bubnov-Galerkin

method, and is similar to the Rayleigh-Ritz method.

38

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Essential FEA Theory

problem of simultaneous linear equations that can be solved using matrix

methods that any high-school student is familiar with.

For the sake of simplicity, we will illustrate the method for a simple second

order elliptic differential equation with constant coefficients.

We start with the statement of the problem: that is, the differential

equation,:

d 2u du

k 2

+c + au = f

dx dx

the domain,

for o ≤ x ≤ l

and the boundary conditions29

subject to

u x =0 = u 0

u x=l = ul

Note that the boundary conditions could, in general, specify either the

dependent variable u, or it’s first derivative u’, or a combination of these.

first derivative represents the flux (i.e. heat injected or removed at the

boundary) while a combination of both represents a convective boundary.

variable x. If they depend on the dependent variable u, the equation is non-

linear.

For stress analysis, the dependent variable is the deformation while the first

derivative represents the strain or the stress on the boundary. Combinations

of the dependent-variable and its first derivative are less common, but can

represent spring-supported boundaries.

29

The FE method treats boundary conditions with great elegance, though we do not

cover the mathematics here.

39

Essential FEA Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

Higher order differential equations are encountered in mechanics. For

instance the beam differential equation can be written as a 2nd order

equation

d2y M

2

=−

dx EI

but it is usually more convenient to work with the 4th order form

d4y w

4

=−

dx EI

independent variable, its first derivative, its second derivative, and its third

derivative, or any combination.

Our problem is to find a function u(x) that satisfies the differential equation

everywhere in the domain (i.e. for o ≤ x ≤ l ) and also satisfies the

boundary conditions.

For brevity, and with no loss of generality, we will simplify our second-order

equation further, restricting our attention to just two terms:

d 2u

k. = f

dx 2

Rather than integrate the differential equation, we will assume the form of

the solution, then search for conditions that the parameters in this assumed

form must satisfy for the assumed equation to be a solution.

We will call our assumed solution u , but before searching for the solution,

we will recast the equation in its weak form. Remember that if u is to be a

solution of the differential equation, it must have a second derivative. This is

obvious: the assumed form will not fit into the differential equation unless it

has a second derivative.

But also remember that our modeling approach does lead to situations

where the solution itself cannot have a second derivative: it may at best

40

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Essential FEA Theory

have a first derivative. For example, consider a weight hanging from a cable

that is supported at both ends. In actual reality the cable is continuous –

that is, its shape changes smoothly all through. The slope of the string may

change more rapidly in the vicinity of the weight than at other points, but it

is still continuous.

sharp kink at this point. It has a first derivative, but is not differentiable: that

is, the slope to the left of the kink is not equal to the slope to the right of

the kink. Obviously, there can be no second derivative!

Why should we demand that our candidate solution u , which we will call

the trial function since we will want to try it out as a possible solution, have

a second derivative, when the mathematical model has an exact solution

that does not have second derivatives? This is the reason we recast the

problem in the weak form.

To do this, we say that to qualify as the solution, our trial function will be

accepted if it satisfies the equation

l l

d 2u

∫0 dx 2 dx = ∫0 vf ( x)dx

v.

that g ( x) = 0 ! The latter requires that g(x) be zero for all x, while the

former only requires that g(x) be zero on average.

The use of v(x) in the above equation compensates for this. If we require

that the integral equation be satisfied for all possible functions v(x), we can

satisfy ourselves that the integral equation is as demanding as the original

differential equation. This approach, called the method of weighted

residuals, uses v(x) as a test function.

From now on, it’s just a matter of basic calculus and algebra.

30

Such point-functions are defined using the Dirac-delta function. They are not

physically realizable, but are used commonly.

41

Essential FEA Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

x =l l l

du dv du

v' −∫ . dx = ∫ vf ( x)dx

dx x =0 0

dx dx 0

This equation is now symmetric. That is, it requires that both the trial

function and the test function have the same order of continuity. Since the

equation only involves the first derivatives of these two functions, they do

not need to have second derivatives at all31.

We now assume a series form for both the test and the trial functions, with

the constant coefficients a and b:

∞

u ( x) = ∑ ai .φi ( x)

i =1

and

∞

v( x) = ∑ b j .ψ j ( x)

j =1

As with any other infinite series, we will choose to terminate the series at

our convenience. That is, we choose to calculate only a finite sum. How

many terms should we include? That depends on how much error we are

willing to tolerate. Since this is a critical decision in design, we will return to

this aspect in the chapter on Verification and Validation!

You may find it useful to carry out the exercise yourself (for a small N) to

show that after substituting the series in the integral equation and

rearranging terms and ignoring the boundary terms, we get the matrix

equation

31

A C0 function is one whose zero’th derivative (i.e. the function itself) is continuous.

A C1 function has a continuous first derivative, a C2 function has a continuous second

derivative, and so on. By continuous, we mean the left-limit = the right-limit = the

value of the function at the point.

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A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Essential FEA Theory

Since we can cancel the row vector {b} from the equation as it occurs on

both sides, we get the matrix equation

l ' ' l

l

∫ φ1ψ 1 ∫φ ψ ∫ fψ 1

' '

1 2 . . .

0 0 a1 0

l ' ' l

a l

∫ φ2ψ 1 ∫φ ψ ∫ fψ 2

' '

. . . 2

2 2

{b1 b2 . . bN } 0 0 . = {b1 b2 . . bN } 0

. . . . . .

. .

. . . . .

l a N l

. φ ψ '

ψ

∫0 N N ∫0

'

. . . f

N

[K ]{u} = { f }

Given the similarity to the equation of spring-deflection, it is customary to

call the matrix [K] the Stiffness Matrix. Obviously, it may represent other

physical quantities too, such as the heat capacity in a thermal problem, but

the name is used regardless.

While we have not shown how the boundary terms are included, we will only

state that they can be very elegantly included in the matrix equation itself.

a simple matrix equation. All that’s left is to choose names for the variables

introduced above, and we will have completed our introduction to the Finite

Element Method!

In the series expansions used above for the test and trial functions, we did

not assign any physical significance to the constants ai and bj. Nor did we

say anything about how to choose the functions φi(x) and ψj(x).

The choice of these functions determines the shape of the trial function,

which is nothing but our assumed solution. We therefore call these functions

shape functions. It is by no means easy to construct shape functions for all

differential equations. Despite long years of research, it continues to be an

active area of research! The choice of shape functions depends on the

differential equation being solved, and on the order of accuracy required.

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Essential FEA Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

The bj, of course, are irrelevant to us since we have cancelled them from the

equation – we never actually evaluate them. What of the ai?

We can make a choice that is very intuitive and that turns out to be very

useful. We ask that the constants ai be the values of the function u at

selected locations in the domain. We call these locations the nodes or grids,

and since we are constructing the series, it is upto us to decide where to

locate these nodes. Without explaining the mathematical basis, we will just

state that the nodes should be closely spaced wherever we expect the

solution to vary rapidly, while they can be spaced farther apart in areas

where the solution is not expected to change rapidly.

Again, note that we are making our decision based on our judgment, not on

knowledge. We can guess where the solution will vary rapidly, but we

cannot know this till we have solved the problem! The chapter on

Verification And Validation addresses this seeming paradox.

Now remember that each term in the stiffness matrix is an integral. Since we

are using computers, we evaluate these integrals numerically. This step,

often called quadrature, usually uses the Gauss integration rule.

What then is an element? It’s a part of the domain defined by nodes, over

which everything (the shape functions, the material constants, the forcing

function, etc.) is continuous. Putting a lot of elements together gives us the

complete domain.

the integral over each element, since the integral-of-a-sum is the sum-of-

integrals. When programming the FE method, we can use this property to

calculate local or element stiffness matrices, then assemble these to get the

global stiffness matrix.

its neighbors only by the values of the dependent variable at the nodes: and

different elements can even represent different governing differential

equations!

complex, and it is next to impossible to find a single differential equation

that defines the behavior of the dependent variable everywhere over the

body. Now, however, we need not worry about this. We can “break” the

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A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Essential FEA Theory

component into subsets that are similar to readily recognizable machine

elements: beams, trusses, plates, etc., and model our component as a

combination of these.

In other words, the Finite Element method not only gives us a way to solve

differential equations, it also helps us model complicated bodies by piecing

together various differential equations in a consistent fashion!

Many commercial finite element packages offer a dizzying range of

elements, but most are variations on 4 basic types: trusses, beams, plates,

and general 3-dimensional solids. If you are familiar with these, you will be

able to model a large majority of the problems in solid mechanics.

If the polynomial is of the 1st order, we call the element a linear element. A

2nd order polynomial makes the element a quadratic element. Higher order

elements are rarely used, since it is generally believed that the increased

accuracy is not worth the increase in required computing resources.

Remember that a linear shape function in 1D requires 2 points to uniquely

specify it, while a quadratic function requires 3.

Truss Elements:

• 3 dof / node (ux, uy, uz)

• Data required: Cross-section Area

• Appropriate for pin-jointed members

Beam Elements:

• 6 dof / node (ux, uy, uz, rx, ry, rz)

• Data required: Cross-section Area, Moments of Inertia

• Appropriate for slender (uni-dimensional) members that support

bending moments

• Linear Beams have 2 nodes per element

• 2nd order beams can be curved – they have 3 nodes per element

are important if working with thin-walled sections such as pipes or

channels.

Plate Elements:

• 6 dof / node (ux, uy, uz, rx, ry, rz)

• Data required: Thickness

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Essential FEA Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

• Use for thin (two-dimensional) members

• Linear Quadrilateral Plates have 4 nodes per element

• Linear Triangular Plates have 3 nodes per element

• 2nd order (quadratic) Quadrilateral Plates have 8 nodes per element (some

packages allow 9 nodes per element, with the 9th at the centroid of the

element)

• 2nd order (quadratic) Triangular Plates have 6 nodes per element (some

packages allow 7 nodes per element, with the 7th at the centroid of the

element)

• 3 dof / node (ux, uy, uz)

• Data required: none

• Linear Hexahedral Solids have 8 nodes per element

• Linear Tetrahedral Solids have 4 nodes per element

• 2nd order (quadratic) Hexahedral Solids have 20 or 21 nodes per element

• 2nd order (quadratic) Tetrahedral Solids have 10 or 11 nodes per element

• Other shapes (pentahedron or wedge, pyramid, etc.) are also offered by

some packages

unknown at a node. If your model has N nodes, and each node has M

degrees of freedom, your stiffness matrix will have NxM rows and NxM

columns. The r in the dofs above refers to the slope at the node. For several

differential equations, we use both the deformation and its derivative (i.e.

the slope) as dofs.

dimensional solids because the resulting FE model looks similar to the actual

component. This is wrong. Remember that your FE model needs to mimic

the behavior, not the appearance, of the component. If bending stress is

more important (as for long slender members) a beam element will be much

more accurate and effective than a solid element!

since they don’t offer as good accuracy as quadrilaterals or hexahedra. For

thermal analysis, however, triangular and tetrahedral elements work just

fine.

model. Called auto-meshing or automatic mesh generation, this is rarely

supported for hexahedra.

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A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Essential FEA Theory

Plane stress, plane strain and axi-symmetric behavior are good

approximations in specific situations. Elements that offer this type of

behavior are very efficient if used in the right situations, but with the drop in

the price of computing power, they have largely fallen out of favor.

One element that is not an element at all (in that it doesn’t represent any

differential-equation) is a “rigid link”. It is just an equation that tells the

software that two dofs must be matched – they should have the same

values. From an engineering perspective, this is as if the two dofs have been

joined by an infinitely rigid link, hence the name for the element.

spring-stiffness is known.

relevant but whose stiffness can be ignored. The mass is concentrated at a

node, so the element is a “0” dimensional element.

Finally, you will see from the summary above that not all elements have the

same number of dofs / node. Beams and plates have 6 dof / node while

trusses and solids have 3. Joining a plate element to a beam is consistent:

equilibrium can be maintained since both the elements have the same dofs.

But what if you want to connect a beam to a solid, or a plate to a solid? Is it

sensible?

That depends on the physical situation. If, in the physical problem, there is a

hinge at the connection then your mathematical model will be accurate. If,

however, your physical problem has a slender member welded to a block,

then it is tempting to model the block with solid elements and the slender

member with beam elements. But it is important to remember that the

physical model is now different from the real model since moments are not

transmitted!

Building models that mix elements that have different dofs / node should be

done with care. It is often resorted to in practice, and works well if

safeguards are followed.

Matrix Solvers

Understanding how matrix equations are solved is really not important for a

designer. If the model is created right, the computer program should take

care of solving the matrix equation.

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Essential FEA Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

We will briefly review methods of solution, though, for two reasons. First,

simply because it is interesting! Second, because if things go wrong (as they

inevitably will!) familiarity with the inner workings helps diagnose what went

wrong.

determinant (Cramer’s rule is usually adopted), and calculating the inverse.

Anyone who has tried to invert a 4x4 matrix by hand will understand why

the FE method languished till computers came along!

100,000 dofs on a desktop computer, it is clear that computers too can grind

to a halt unless the matrix equation is solved efficiently. Computer

programs, in fact, rarely use Cramer’s rule. Most solvers use a variation on

Gauss’s method of triangularizing a matrix, called Gaussian Elimination. Such

solvers, called Direct Solvers, rely on the fact that subtracting one row of a

matrix from another does not alter the determinant32. There are several

variations on this method (Cholesky’s method is perhaps the most popular),

all of which involve the calculation of a pivot for every row operation.

Without going into the mathematics, we will only observe that is a pivot is

zero, the matrix is singular – that is, it’s determinant is 0. Obviously this

means that the matrix equation cannot be solved.

For solid mechanics, where we are guaranteed that the matrix will be

symmetric, pivots should never be zero. (In linear algebra, we say the

stiffness matrix is Symmetric Positive Definite). If a pivot is zero, it’s

probably because you have made a mistake in modeling. The most common

mistake is in the application of restraints (which are one type of boundary

condition).

beginner!

Given a plate with a force applied at each end, what “boundary conditions”

can we apply?

32

Iterative solvers, which are useful for very large problems, use variations on the

Gauss-Seidel method.

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A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Essential FEA Theory

The data does not tell us anything about the prescribed deformation, so we

can be forgiven for building a finite element model shown below.

we attempt it on a FE program and are told by the computer that the

problem cannot be solved because a “zero or negative pivot was

encountered”.

derived the matrix equations earlier. A study of that would indicate why an

FE program must include restraints, but for now we will only note that an FE

model will not be solvable unless all rigid body motions are eliminated. That

is, you examine your FE model and check if it will be in static equilibrium

regardless of whether the forces are symmetric or not. In the case above,

the plate is in equilibrium only if the forces are symmetric. If the forces were

unsymmetrical, the plate would move as a rigid body – with no strain33.

Symmetry is often used to introduce restraints (and can also help cut the

computational time since it reduces the size of the model!). For the plate,

applying symmetry, the model would be

insight is sometimes hard to gain. Symmetry can be of different types –

cyclic, rotational, planar, etc.

For the translational degrees of freedom, you should restrain all translations

perpendicular to the plane of symmetry for all nodes that lie on the plane.

33

Our discussion is restricted to static analysis. Also, a review of Inertia Relief,

described later on, will help you.

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Essential FEA Theory A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

Rotational degrees of freedom, if they exist, should be set to the inverse of

the corresponding translational dof.

For instance, for a plate symmetric about the x-axis, we would set ux = 0 for

all nodes on the x-axis, and leave uy and uz free. Since plate elements have

6 dofs / node, we would set ry and rz = 0 for these nodes, and leave rx free,

applying the “inverse” rule of the previous paragraph.

We will conclude our discussion of matrix solvers for FEM by noting that in

general, stiffness matrices tend to be sparse. That is, the number of entries

that are 0 is usually pretty high. Various schemes are used to take

advantage of this behavior – band-solvers, column- or skyline-solvers and

frontal-solvers are some popular methods.

Several FE packages refer to error norms. A norm is just a measure of

anything, so the error norm is a measure of the error. It is an interesting

aspect of the FE method that we can estimate the error in our solution even

without knowing the “correct” answer!

There are several different norms that can be used to estimate error, but

the error in strain energy is favored since it is consistent with the

mathematics of FE.

As with any other infinite series, truncating the series is a source of error.

Adding more terms reduces the error, but this behavior is asymptotic – the

law of diminishing returns applies here too, so after a while the increased

cost of including additional terms does not provide an adequate increase in

accuracy.

The key to efficient usage of FE is to stop increasing terms when the rate of

improvement levels off. Increasing terms, of course, means increasing the

number of nodes, which can be done in two ways: either by using more

(and therefore smaller) elements or by using higher order shape functions.

The former is referred to as h-refinement while the latter is called p

refinement. If both methods are used simultaneously, we call it h-p

refinement.

Regardless of how fine the mesh is, the use of the weak form means that

the derivative of the dependent variable can never be continuous. In other

words, in a stress analysis solution, the deformation will be continuous but

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A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Essential FEA Theory

the strain will not be. This behavior is sometimes used to judge whether the

solution is adequately accurate or not.

Finally, we saw that Galerkin’s method applies to BVPs only (Boundary Value

Problems). Remember that we integrated-by-parts. This resulted in the term

x =l

du

v'

dx x =0

0 and x = l. What if the independent variable were “time”? There is no

known way, outside of science fiction, that we can know the conditions at

future time, so obviously we cannot use the same approach for the time-

derivatives. There is no way we can apply the above integration-by-parts

rule to a time derivative.

forward” in time. The Finite Element mathematics is restricted to the spatial

derivatives only.

describe a large class of observations on the basis of a model that contains

only a few arbitrary elements, and it must make definite predictions about the

results of future observations.

Stephen Hawking

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Putting It Together – OptiStruct/Analysis A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

OptiStruct can address a variety of design tasks. It can address optimization,

as described in another volume in this series. An FEM analysis is an integral

part of a lot of design optimization, so OptiStruct includes an embedded FE

solver: OptiStruct/Analysis.

setup the problem, carry out the analysis and review results.

Strictly speaking the setting-up and review tasks (often referred to as pre-

processing and post-processing) are done using HyperMesh and HyperView.

As the assignments illustrate, this distinction is immaterial to the designer,

with all tasks carried out under the same interface!

In this chapter we

analysis and how to present results

Capabilities

Remember that a model is an idealization of a physical phenomenon. Any

results you get are only as good as the model you choose. At the same time,

the model should not be so complicated that it cannot be solved in the

required time or with available resources.

to refer to published literature for examples of models that have been used

successfully.

Linear, Static

This model is used when the response of the body is linear, and there’s no

variation with time. In stress analysis, this model is appropriate when

operating within the elastic region (i.e. the stress-strain curve is linear) and

when the deformations are small and when the loads do not vary with time.

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A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Putting it Together – OptiStruct/Analysis

This model is used widely since it’s quick to solve and relatively easy to

interpret the results. Very often, even if a non-linear model is more realistic,

a linear model is used to investigate likely behavior. Once the options have

been narrowed, a full non-linear analysis is resorted to.

[K ]{u} = { f }

where K, u and f are functions of x, y and z only – they are independent of

t.

Normal Modes

Sometimes our design problem is not just to calculate stresses or

deformations. We may be interested in identifying the resonance frequencies

of the system. In vehicle design, avoidance of resonance enhances ride

comfort by cutting out unwanted rattles. When designing a loudspeaker or a

megaphone, on the other hand, you may want resonance to occur.

In cases like these, we need to solve the “eigenvalue” problem and evaluate

the natural frequencies of the body.

[M ] ∂ u2

2

+ [K ]{u} = {0}

∂t

The solutions to this equation are pairs of natural frequencies and the

corresponding “mode shapes”. Since we omit the damping we call this a

normal modes analysis.

Linear, Transient

In stress analysis, this model is appropriate when operating within the

elastic region (i.e. the stress-strain curve is linear) and when the

deformations are small but when the external conditions do vary with time.

Either the loads or the restraints or both could be time-dependent.

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Superposition. The latter is preferred if the solution needs to be calculated

for a large period of time, but is only applicable to linear problems. The

former is preferred if the solution is required for short periods of time, and

can be applied both to linear and non-linear problems.

modal-superposition, we will need the mode shapes anyway. If we are using

direct-integration, the highest important mode helps us determine the time

step to use.

Random Response

In some situations, we cannot specify the exact value of the loads as a

function of time, but can specify the total energy in these loads. An example

would be the forces experienced by a plane when its engines are firing. We

know the total energy being transferred from the jet engines to the frame,

but cannot claim that we know the loads precisely as functions of time.

Functions, and the behavior is called stochastic. The designer’s goal then is

to predict a probability of safety.

The several ways to evaluate these responses is beyond the scope of this

book.

Inertia Relief

Setting up a Finite Element model for static analysis requires that the

structure be supported adequately.

model can be static if there are no time-varying loads. Obviously there are

structures that are not supported explicitly but are still best represented by

static-analysis models. Inertia Relief is an approach used to model such

problems.

force. In OptiStruct, we use special instructions – SUPORT cards - to

eliminate all rigid body motions. Then we tell the solver that we want to

perform an Inertia Relief analysis. It doesn’t matter which points you specify

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A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Putting it Together – OptiStruct/Analysis

the SUPORTs at. Think of the SUPORT points as reference points with

respect to which the deformation is calculated.

Frequency Response

In many designs where vibration is important and correlation with test-

results is essential, designers have to characterize the response of the

structure as a function of frequency-of-excitation instead of as a function of

time. In these cases a Fourier Transform converts the equilibrium equation

from the “time domain” to the “frequency domain”.

rather than time. This is called the frequency domain. Of course, the Inverse

Fourier Transform can convert the solution back to the time domain.

functions – explicitly. Instead, we specify the range of frequencies for which

we want to excite the structure. This is equivalent to “sweeping” through the

excitation range. We then plot the results just as we would in an

experimental setup. That is, we view the magnitude and the phase at points

of interest. This allows us to correlate with the test setup.

end by pointing out for a multiple-degree-of-freedom structure, the FRFs are

a matrix, and the FRFs themselves can be extracted from the FE solution if

required.

Linear Buckling

Designers sometimes have to take into account the fact that even if stresses

are less than permissible values, the structure may fail if it buckles – like a

tall column in compression. That is, the deflection continues to increase

even if the load is removed. This is sometimes called instability.

[K ]{u} = λB [K G ]{u}

is similar to that of Normal Modes, but the results are interpreted as a

“buckling load factor”. KG is called the incremental stiffness.

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Buckling load factors are often important in the design of aerospace

structures, where the quest for a minimal weight and the use of advanced

materials leads to the frequent use of thin-walled designs.

The terms “gap” and “contact” are often used to mean the same thing – an

opening in the body that may close or widen under the influence of external

factors.

Clearly, if a gap closes or opens, the stiffness of the body changes. Since the

gap opens or closes depending on the deformation, this means the stiffness

depends on the deformation. In other words, since the stiffness and

boundary forces depend on the deformation, the equation is non-linear.

When working with large models, resource constraints sometimes force the

analyst to break the problem into smaller parts. In static analysis, this

approach is called sub-structuring. When used in dynamic analyses, it is

called Component Mode Synthesis.

as a mechanism. Consider, for example, the feed mechanism for a high-

speed packing machine. The rates of acceleration that the mechanism

experiences may be quite high. High enough that the deflection of the levers

is large enough, perhaps, for the feed mechanism to jam because of

misalignment.

mechanics be coupled with the equations of structural deformation.

In some cases we only want to calculate the temperature distribution within

our area of interest. We call this a thermal analysis. If we also want to

calculate the stresses, we can use the temperature distribution as data for

the stress analysis. This is called thermo-mechanical analysis.

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Setting Up An “Analysis”

When we reviewed the theory of the Finite Element Method, we saw that a

problem consists of

evaluate behavior

parts of the domain

etc.

dependent variable to vary rapidly

data to define the problem. Since defining the problem is only the first part,

we usually also take some additional steps.

Some solution methods require additional data – for instance how we want

to solve a direct integration problem, how many modes we want to include

in a modal-superposition, etc.

Also, the results of the analysis can be presented in a variety of ways. Since

we don’t want to be overwhelmed with data, we usually also specify the

nature of output we want. If we specify this, HyperView allows us to present

the same data in a variety of different ways.

Geometry is not essential, of course. The FE data can de defined even

without geometry as a reference, but it’s usually easier to work with a

geometric definition as the starting point.

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It is very rare to run an analysis only once. It’s much more likely that you

will want to modify some data and run the analysis again to perform what-if

studies34. In general, your flow of work is:

generation easier

etc. that you will use.

7. Apply restraints

8. Solve

9. Review results

Geometry Preparation

While it is possible to build a model directly using elements and nodes, this

is not often done today. The geometry that defines the area to be analyzed

(also called the “domain”) is usually created first using a CAD program, and

elements are created to encompass that boundary or represent the volume.

CAD designers create models for manufacture. As many details are included

as possible. For a numerical analysis, we often choose to ignore aspects that

we think will not significantly affect the solution. For instance, a single hole

of 1 mm radius in a plate that is 2 meters wide can probably be ignored

safely when calculating the deformation of the plate. It reduces computation

time dramatically with no significant loss of accuracy. A finer model of only

34

A structured method to conduct what-if analyses is DOE – short for Design Of

Experiments. This is covered in another volume of this series.

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the region around the hole can be used subsequently if the hole is an area

of high interest. This approach is called sub-modeling.

Therefore the first task that most analysts are faced with is that of preparing

the geometry for analysis. This involves tasks like removal of features,

extraction of mid-surfaces, extrapolation of surfaces, etc.

Further, the CAD world has an abundance of data exchange formats, since

most CAD applications use proprietary data storage formats. A transfer of

data from the CAD package to the FE preprocessor sometimes results in a

loss of accuracy – gaps are introduced during the import process, for

example. Also, CAD assembly models are sometimes made up of parts that

were created in different CAD applications.

filling gaps, eliminating small edges or surfaces that will mislead the

automatic-mesh-generation routines, eliminating dangling faces, and so on.

Learning which element to choose is a little like learning how to drive in

heavy traffic. Guidelines exist, but can’t be applied blindly. You need to

adapt them to specific situations. Remember this warning!

If your product has a region that is long and thin, you can probably model it

using beam elements. If this region is connected to the rest of the structure

by pin-joints, then you should use truss elements. Regions that are like

plates are best modeled using shell elements. Any areas that don’t fall in the

earlier categories should be modeled using solid elements.

If you have different element types in your model, there are rules that

govern the assemblage. For several models, we choose to use just one

element type to avoid these complications.

Mesh Creation

Once the geometry is more or less ready for discretization, you then start to

subdivide the geometry into elements or grid points. The collection of

elements is usually referred to as a mesh. Meshes that consist of triangular

or quadrilateral elements can often be generated automatically, while

tetrahedral or hexahedral meshes usually require considerable manual

intervention.

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Mesh Editing

Once a mesh has been created, the analyst checks if it meets the

specifications – several measures of quality are checked, depending on the

analysis requirements. Usually, some editing of the mesh is required.

Depending on the complexity of the mesh, this can be done either semi-

automatically or manually.

Acceptable values for the various element quality indicators, which are

summarized in the glossary, are very problem dependent, and are

sometimes solver-dependent.

Once the mesh is ready, additional data is specified – the properties of the

materials used, the thickness or cross-sectional properties of shell or beam

elements, the conditions on the boundaries (restraints, loads or excitations),

initial conditions, data for the specific solution algorithm to be employed,

kind of output required for text and graphics records, and so on.

Once this is done, the data is turned over to the solution program for the

next phase – solving. Data is often written out in the form of a text file,

which is referred to as a deck. Each line of text in the deck is commonly

referred to as a card. A card image is the format followed by the analysis

program to interpret the text on the line.

as FEM – short for Finite Element Modeling. It’s more common, though, to

use FEM to refer to the Finite Element Method itself.

Solving

The model created in the earlier steps is now taken up for solution – the

computer program reads the data, calculates matrix entries, solves the

matrix equations and writes data out for interpretation.

This task is CPU-intensive, and is often called processing35. Most of the time,

very little interaction from the user is required. In some cases, the analyst

periodically monitors results to check that they are indeed on the right track.

If the solution seems to be evolving in an unexpected direction, the analyst

can stop the solver and modify the model, thereby saving valuable time.

35

Hence the term pre-processing for the preceding steps, and post-processing for

the subsequent steps.

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Post-Processing

After the program has evaluated the results, the analyst examines and

interprets the data – looking for errors or improvements in design.

As with pre-processing, this calls for substantial interaction from the analyst.

HyperMesh and OptiStruct/Analysis use several different files to organize

data.

Most of these aspects will become clear to you after you work on one or

more of the assignment problems. The summary presented here is useful as

a quick-reference when you’re working on the software. More detailed

descriptions are available in the on-line documentation.

Files

modelname.hm The model you create using HyperMesh. This is

a binary file containing the geometry, analysis

model and optimization model.

modelname.fem This is an intermediate file. It contains the

analysis and optimization models only, without

any geometry. It is created by HyperMesh and

read by OptiStruct. It’s a text file and can be

interpreted using the format-definitions listed in

the OptiStruct On-line Help.

modelname.out This is a text file created by OptiStruct. The

contents depend on the instructions you specify

in HyperMesh when creating the model.

modelname.spcf This file is created only if you explicitly tell

OptiStruct to record all reactions. It is a useful

check to ensure that you have applied loads

correctly.

modelname.stat This is a text file created by OptiStruct,

containing statistics on CPU usage.

modelname.h3d People who don’t have access to HyperWorks

licenses but want to view results of analyses

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Putting It Together – OptiStruct/Analysis A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

use HyperView Player, freely downloadable

from www.altair.com. The Player reads this

binary file that is created by OptiStruct.

modelname.html This is a quick summary of analysis and

optimization results. Viewable using any web-

browser.

modelname.mvw This is a text file, intended for use by

HyperView. You will use this file to view

stresses, displacements, density, convergence

history, constraint violation, etc.

modelname.res This is a binary file containing the results of the

analysis and optimization. It’s readable only by

HyperMesh and HyperView.

There are several other files36, most of which you can ignore in the normal

course of events.

Terminology

Collector A way to group related items together. For instance

all elements that have the same thickness would be

in the same collector.

Load External forces acting on the boundary. Includes

concentrated forces, moments, pressures, gravity,

etc.

SPC Short for Single Point Constraint. Refers to restraints

applied to the analysis model at locations where the

body is supported37.

Subcase Combination of SPCs and Loads. These are treated

separately in an FE model, since they represent

values on the boundary, often clubbed together as

Boundary Conditions

Card Some data in the analysis model, such as the

material properties, cannot be displayed graphically.

Such data is entered as a card image by typing in

36

Detailed in the on-line help documentation

37

Do not confuse these with design constraints, which are applicable to the

optimization model.

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A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Putting it Together – OptiStruct/Analysis

text or numerical values.

Data is often written out in the form of a text file, which is referred to as a

deck. Each line of text in the deck is commonly referred to as a card.

A card image is the format followed by the analysis program to interpret the

text on the line. Some data can be represented graphically – nodes and

pressures, for example. Other data, like the Modulus of Elasticity, is easier

viewed as text. Such data is defined using the card editor.

The table below lists the names of some of the data types

OptiStruct/Analysis and HyperMesh use, along with the relations between

them. Use this as a guideline to remember when you need to specify which

data.

Normally, you would proceed down the table: first the mat collector, then

the component collector, then elements (grids or nodes are implicit), and

then the load collector. While load collectors can contain both loads and

restraints, it’s a good practice to keep them in separate load-collectors so

that you can organize them into sub-cases.

Mat& Matid E Nu etc.

Component Mat CompName ElemType+ Mat Id Prop Data#

Property% PropId

Grid Coordsys Gridid X Y Z

Elem Grids, Elemid Propid Grid Id 1 Grid Id 2

Props etc.

Load@ Grids/ Loadid Gridid Value

Elems

Restraints! Grids Spcid Gridid Dofs Values

SubCase$ Loads, SubCaseid

Spcs

Notes:

& A Mat needs a card image. Use Mat1 for linear isotropic, Mat8 for

orthotropic shells, Mat9 for linear anisotropic.

a PCOMP or PCOMPG.

# Data depends on the element type. For a solid, there’s nothing. For a

shell, there’s the thickness. For a composite, thickness is derived from the

PCOMP or PCOMPG data.

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Putting It Together – OptiStruct/Analysis A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

elements such as springs, connectors, etc.

@ Forces and Moments need no card image. Loads such as gravity, which

cannot be depicted graphically, require card images.

! Restraints normally will not require a card image. Remember that non-

zero displacements may be specified, in which case you will need to enter

values. Restraints on non-existent dofs are ignored (for instance,

specifying restraints on all the rotational dofs of a solid element).

(Load, Spc, etc.) followed by the relevant id. These can be viewed in the

“fem” file, not using the card editor.

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.

Albert Einstein

64

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Verification And Validation

The “bumble-bee paradox” provides an “Conventional aerodynamics seemed to

excellent example of the gap between theory suggest that the insect should not generate

and practice. enough lift to fly. The bees stayed resolutely

airborne and the sums caused

consternation.

Whatever the reason, designers have

successfully violated mathematicians’ The underlying problem turned out to be

recommendations in several areas. FEM is no treating a wing as if it was fixed, like in an

exception. aeroplane and, thanks to studies over the

past few years, including the construction of

robotic bees, this "bumble-bee paradox" has

An AISI publication on the use of FEM for been solved: extra lift comes when flexible

vehicle-safety investigations38 talks of “many insect wings slice through the air at a high

conscious violations of elementary finite angle of attack, creating a large swirling

vortex at their leading edge.

element theory” in the very successful

deployment of the method for highly non- In this way, insect wings produce the

linear analyses. vortices – spinning masses of air – which

generate lift and help them move. Today,

Prof Ismet Gursul of the University of Bath

Given all this background, a beginner can be will describe another step on the way for

misled into thinking that the method more engineers to make air vehicles smaller than

forgiving than it actually is. a human hand that can be used for

detecting chemicals leaks and

reconnaissance.”

Spectacular failures that have been attributed

to faulty FE modeling are documented in Roger Highfield,

literature, and should serve as warnings to Science Editor

engineers that the cost of a mistake can be The Telegraph

extremely high.

case of the aerodynamics of the bumble-bee, to a wrong choice of elements

or even a disregard for computer round-off.

Validation consists of asking whether the right equations have been solved.

correctly.

38

Vehicle Crashworthiness And Occupant Protection, American Iron and Steel

Institute

65

Verification And Validation A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

Both are an integral part of the engineer’s responsibility, not least because

of statutory requirements.

Product Liability Insurance, in several countries, is as essential for an

engineer as malpractice insurance is for a Doctor.

and courts, but the various laws on the subject are fairly consistent in their

spirit: it is the engineer’s responsibility to ensure that the product has been

designed with care.

Designers should ideally use FEM only as a part of the design process. It is

often risky to base the entire design only on an FEM analysis. A NAFEMs39

publication warns against the GIGO approach: Garbage In, Gospel Out.

visually, and a picture can hide errors!

Stress distributions are often plotted as contours – regions with the same

stress are assigned the same color, and the component is shaded

accordingly. This is an extremely useful method. Not only is it easier to

assimilate than reading a list of stresses at various points in the component,

it is also better than contour lines since it also indicates how the stress

varies across the component.

Consider the stress in a plate that’s fixed at one end, has a tensile load at

the other end, and has a hole.

The picture looks convincing – high stress areas, colored red, are around the

hole as we’d expect.

39

National Agency for Finite Element Methods and Standards

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A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Verification And Validation

But remember our earlier discussion on the characteristic of the FE solution.

We said that the calculated stress is always discontinuous over element

boundaries. Why is this not apparent in the image above?

without averaging the stresses, a different picture emerges.

Not only is the discontinuity in stresses brought out starkly, we must now

doubt our solution itself! While the highest stress still seems to be around

the hole, what is the value of this stress? Should we pick the value denoted

by red, or by green? There is a “jump” in the stress at the edge shared by

two elements, and we cannot decide which is correct.

Refining the mesh and running the analysis again quickly brings home one

error: the FE mesh was too coarse.

With the refined mesh, the difference between the smoothed contours and

the unaveraged contours has reduced considerably.

One rule of thumb is to distrust the model until the “jumps” in stress are

within an acceptable value. What value is acceptable is a question of

judgment, of course, but this can be a very good indicator of whether or not

your mesh is fine enough.

Lots of other things can go wrong, of course, and catching errors in

production-analyses is no easy task.

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Verification And Validation A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

solutions tabulated in handbooks40.

Since not all problems can be found in handbooks, comparison with results

reported by other investigators is a good idea. Several excellent scientific

journals carry articles reporting the results of analyses, and most commercial

software providers host annual conferences where users present papers

discussing their experiences.

of a prototype is useful, but should not be treated as complete. There’s

always the chance that an experiment has missed out on investigating rare

combinations – and as Murphy’s Law41 swings into action, it is these rare

combinations that can cause product malfunction.

Advanced, discusses ways to design experiments and to detect rare

combinations (called outliers), but such a study is beyond the scope of our

introduction to the Finite Element Method.

With this background, there are levels at which checks should be performed:

at the Pre-processing stage and at the Post-Processing stage. HyperView,

the post-processor that comes with HyperMesh, is particularly good at the

latter. Checks include

• Vector-arrow plots

• Load contours

40

Roark’s Formulas for Stress and Strain is an excellent reference.

41

“If anything can go wrong, it will.”

68

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Verification And Validation

• Comparison of applied forces with reactions-at-supports

Several of these are covered in the assignments that accompany this book.

Physics is very muddled again at the moment; it is much too hard for me

anyway, and I wish I were a movie comedian or something like that and had

never heard anything about physics!

Wolfgang Pauli

69

Special Topics A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

Special Topics

Just how much FE-theory do you need to know? To answer that question,

it’s interesting to look at commonly used CAD-modelers. In the early days of

CAD modeling, users had to know the internal details of splines etc. to

effectively model surfaces. Today, the software, the technology and user

interfaces are robust enough that the internal functions are invisible to the

designer. The designer needs to delve into the inner workings only if things

go wrong.

The same is true of almost any technology. In the early 1900s car drivers

had to be efficient mechanics, but today you could own a car for a decade

without ever opening the hood!

required from the results increases. For instance, the analysis of bolted

structures presents formidable challenges if the area of interest is confined

to the bolt itself: a realistic model should include contact, friction, pre-stress,

plastic deformation, etc.

Use the summary below as an indicator only. If your problem involves any of

the characteristics described, then you will certainly need more than the

material covered in this book. The references listed at the end of this book

are a good place to start advanced research.

Advanced Materials

As weight, appearance and cost become increasingly important, engineers

are forced to choose from a wide array of materials, not all of which are as

easy to characterize as metals.

Of the various materials used in engineering design, steel is easily the most

researched and most widely documented. Like most metals, it is isotropic,

and has long been used to bear load. Much of engineering design is

restricted to the linear, elastic range of the stress-strain diagram. Plastic

deformation has received considerable attention over the recent past, as for

instance in the design of formed components.

70

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Special Topics

For designers, plastics are a formidable challenge. As cheap, easy-to-

manufacture materials, they are widely adopted. Unfortunately, an

understanding of linear-elastic analysis techniques limits the designer to

initial investigations only. To make things more difficult, the properties of

plastics are not just a function of the composition. They also depend

strongly on the processing conditions.

plastics to bear load. Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC) is an example of a

composite. The main body of material is strong in compression but weak in

tension. Steel reinforcements add tensile strength. Mechanical engineers

rarely analyze RCC, however.

Reinforced Plastics (FRPs, of which Glass Fiber Reinforced Plastics and

Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastics are very widely used) and Metal Matrix

Composites (MMCs). Composites are extensively used in the aircraft industry

to provide acceptable strength at very low weights.

than others. Exotic metal alloys are sometimes used, but these are isotropic

and relatively easy to model. Honeycomb structures are not as easy to

model and design.

by themselves. They are not plastic. In fact, they are extremely elastic -

hyperelastic. This means they can carry very large strains without any

permanent deformation. Large strains, of course, mean the analysis must be

non-linear. Further, rubbers are almost incompressible: they have a

Poisson’s Ratio of almost 0.5. Since the Bulk Modulus and Poisson’s Ratio are

related by the equation

E

K=

3(1 − 2ν )

this makes them very difficult to deal with numerically (if ν= 0.5, K is

indeterminate). Even small round-off errors can make enormous differences

in the results of the analysis.

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Special Topics A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

Advanced Dynamics

Transient analysis generates a vast amount of information, so post-

processing results is quite challenging. Stress contours and deformation-

plots are used to present the results of both static analysis and dynamic

analysis. For dynamics, however, animations of deformation and time-

history plots are also used.

analysis. Remember that a symmetric structure can have un-symmetric

modes of vibration too! So symmetry cannot be used to reduce the size of

models.

Component Mode Synthesis. In this approach, the FE model is divided into

sections considered as black-boxes. That is, interest is restricted to the

boundary nodes of each section, thereby reducing the number of active

degrees of freedom. Matrices are for constructed each section and the

overall structure analyzed by putting these reduced matrices together.

design, is ground excitation. The structure receives energy because of

enforced motion of selected regions, not because of explicitly applied forces.

Several different methods are used to carry out such analyses.

superposition and direct integration. In the former, we assume that the

response of the structure is a weighted sum of selected mode shapes. This

is an approximation, where the error stems from the choice of the subset of

mode shapes used.

in time. Here we use equations of the form

du ∆u ut + ∆t − ut

v= = =

dt ∆t ∆t

v0 .∆t + u0 = ut + ∆t

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A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Special Topics

In other words, given the values of v and u at t=0 (the “initial conditions”)

we have just “stepped-forward” in time to calculate ut + ∆t .

Together with the equilibrium equation, recurrence formulae of this type are

used to calculate the time-dependent response. Several variations of time-

stepping methods are used: Central Difference Methods, Backward

Difference Methods, Runge-Kutta Methods, etc. The source of error in direct

integration is the time-step size, ∆t.

Time stepping methods are classified based on whether they are explicit or

implicit, as well as on the order of the method.

In some conditions, we cannot state with any confidence how the forces

themselves vary with time. What we can say with confidence is how the

energy supplied to the structure varies with time. As an excellent example,

consider the forces experienced by a rocket at launch. The combustion

pattern is quite random, but the total energy released by the fuels is

reasonably clear.

methods are usually used to calculate the probabilities of various levels of

stresses in the body.

of different branches of mechanics simultaneously. To understand the forces

experienced by an aircraft in flight, for example, we cannot calculate the

deformation of the aircraft unless we know the air-pressures. And the air-

pressures depend on the deformation. Such coupled analyses are still the

subject of much active research.

digestion?

Oliver Heaviside

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Glossary And References A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

valuable if coupled with stability.

using measures of the errors in the solution.

Refinement

Anisotropic Material whose properties vary with direction, but not necessarily

along orthogonal directions. Several fused or sintered materials are

anisotropic. 21 elasticity constants are required to fully specify the

material for stress analysis. In OptiStruct, these materials are of type

MAT2 for shell elements.

Bandwidth The stiffness matrix of a typical FE model has zeroes in most entries

except for a band about the diagonal. The bandwidth measures this

“spread” of non-zeroes in the matrix. A smaller bandwidth means

faster computation.

and assemblies.

Lemon in 1980, and meant to consist of CAD + FE Modeling + FE

Analysis + Design. Today includes Multi-Body Dynamics (MBD). Often

separated into MCAE (for Mechanical CAE, or the analysis of

structures) and FCAE (for Fluid CAE, or the analysis of flow of heat

and liquids / gases).

forms of Navier-Stokes equations to analyze the flow of fluids.

the same as minimizing the stiffness.

Consistent Mass This is one way to calculate the Mass Matrix (M) in FEA. The

alternative is the lumped mass matrix.

Matrix

ISO R 1683 standard as

measured − value

N = 20 ⋅ log10

reference − value

74

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Glossary And References

node / grid has at least 1 dof, often more. For a stress-analysis

Freedom

problem, each node can have upto 6 dofs – 3 rotations and 3

translations. Other variables such as temperature at the nodes,

pressure, etc. are also included in some models.

Discretization Difference between the actual domain of a problem and the domain

defined by the FE model.

Error

excitation

Mass

load is applied, the original properties are not always recovered at the

end of a cycle. Closely related to work-hardening, in stress analysis.

That is, the same shape function is used to approximate both the

geometry and the solution.

most metals. 2 elasticity constants are required to fully specify the

material for stress analysis. The Modulus of Elasticity and the Poisson’s

Ratio are most frequently used. In OptiStruct, these materials are of

type MAT1.

a PDE. The determinant of the Jacobian Matrix is important to FE

theory: it should always be positive for an element (strictly speaking it

should never change sign). Most FE codes refer to it as the “Jacobian”

or “Det J”.

Lanczos Method A way to calculate the normal modes of a structure. Very efficient and

stable.

Large Mass A method to apply support-excitations. Uses the principle that a force

applied to a large mass attached to a model is equivalent to applying

Method

an acceleration to the model. Given an acceleration you want to apply,

Newton’s Second Law is used to calculate the equivalent force that

should be applied for a mass you choose.

Lumped Mass This is one way to calculate the Mass Matrix (M) in FEA. The

alternative is the consistent mass matrix. Computationally more

Matrix

efficient, it is often preferred.

75

Glossary And References A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

needs to be designed for optimal performance as a mechanism and as

a structure.

MPC Multi-point Constraint. Used to specify that different dofs are linked in

a particular fashion.

the working stress is calculated by applying a factor of safety to the

nominal stress.

directions. Applies to many fibrous materials, and to composites that

have 2 ply directions. Upto 9 elasticity constants are required to fully

specify the material for stress analysis. In OptiStruct, these materials

are of type MAT8 for shell elements. MAT9 should be used for solid

elements.

after a buckling-related collapse.

analysis

Rigid Body Modes Unrestrained structures can vibrate as a rigid body. A body can have

upto 6 rigid-body modes.

unpredictability of design parameters.

function gives us the spectrum. The spectrum can be used to

reconstruct the function using the inverse transform.

convergence characteristics. A monotonically convergent series allows

us to estimate the accuracy of a finite sum.

applied loads to the deformation of the structure. The matrix is

square, with “n” rows and columns. “n” is the number of unknowns

(dofs) in the FE model.

temperature, etc.) is best evaluated at the nodes, while the flux

convergence

(strain, stress, heat flux, etc.) is best evaluated at the Gauss

Integration points.

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A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Glossary And References

Integration points.

Support In many cases, such as a vehicle rolling over a rough road, the source

of excitation is not a force: it is the prescribed deflection, which varies

Excitation

with time. While this can be treated mathematically as an “inverse” of

a force-excitation problem, different techniques are employed to solve

such problems.

References

Finite Element Procedures, K.J.Bathe

E.L.Wilson

Other Resources

www.altair-india.com/edu, which is periodically updated, contains case

studies of actual usage. It also carries tips on software usage.

Be careful when using these properties. Some properties vary widely with

alloying elements or processing parameters, so treat these as indicative. It’s

probably safe to use them in exploratory design efforts, but not in designs

77

Glossary And References A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

that will be manufactured. For those, you should look for values from the

material supplier.

Also remember to check the units in your model – they must be consistent!

of Ratio Permissible

Elasticity Stress

Units N/m2 Kg/m3 N/m2

Aluminum 69 x109 0.33 2700 110 x106

Wood42 13 x109 0.029 480 50 x106

Cast Iron 190 x109 0.21 7150 170 x106

ABS Plastics 2.3 x109 40x106

Epoxy 1790

E1 181 GPa

E2 10.3 GPa

G12 7.17 GPa

ν12 0.28

Density 1.60 gm/cm3

For an isotropic material, any two properties are enough – the others can be

calculated from these. We usually specify the Elasticity Modulus (E) and the

Poisson’s Ration (ν). Other material constants such as the Shear Modulus

(G) and the Bulk Modulus (K) can be derived from E and ν using equations

such as :

E (1 + ν )

G=

2

42

In compression

78

A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Glossary And References

E

K=

3(1 − 2ν )

Conduction is the main mode of heat transfer within a solid. The

conductivity (k) is a material property that’s quite easy to ascertain for most

metals, and can be assumed to be independent of temperature for relatively

low temperatures. The thermal conductivity of 0.5%-Carbon Steel, for

example, ranges from 55 W/m°C at 0°C to 52 W/m°C at 100°C.

Plastics are a little less easy to analyze. The heat conduction coefficient must

be measured by a test on a sample, or must be supplied by the

manufacturer of the plastic. Also, several plastics are more sensitive to

temperature than metals.

convective boundary conditions require the specification of the convection

coefficient, h. This is a function of the fluid material and the fluid velocity.

More precisely, it depends on the boundary layer between the fluid and the

solid. Boundary layers depend on several factors – surface roughness,

whether the boundary is vertical or horizontal, etc.

available data, and then use empirical equations to calculate a dimensionless

number (Nusselt, Stanton, etc.) that involves h.

For example, given the flow velocity, the density and the viscosity of the

fluid, we estimate the Reynold’s number (Re).

Next, given the viscosity of the fluid, the specific heat capacity and the

conduction coefficient of the solid, we estimate the Prandtl number (Pr).

We then look for an empirical equation that relates Pr, Re and the Nusselt

number (Nu).

For instance for flow in a pipe, Dittus and Boelter43 suggest that

Nu d = 0.023 Re 0d.8 Pr n

43

See Heat Transfer, J.P.Holman, 7th Edition, Page 284

79

Glossary And References A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

for h.

Remember that we want to solve for the temperature distribution. For this

we need h. To get h we need the Reynold’s number. The Reynold’s number

needs the viscosity. The viscosity is temperature dependent. So we need the

temperature to get the viscosity. But we don’t know the temperature!

This is why problems in heat transfer are often harder to solve than

problems in stress analysis. Iterative methods are often used to arrive at the

solution – estimate the numbers, solve for the temperature, use this

temperature to re-estimate the numbers, solve again, etc. until there is no

change.

example, it is not always easy to decide whether to use the width or the

length to calculate the Nusselt number for a rectangular plate! A strong

physical insight is extremely useful for workable solutions to problems in

heat transfer!

discussion is beyond the scope of this book.

internal heat transfer (through conduction).

Nusselt Number (Nu) Ratio of internal heat transfer through convection to internal

heat transfer through conduction

Peclet Number (Pe) Ratio of rate of advection (i.e. diffusion and convection of

mass) to rate of thermal diffusion.

Stanton Number (St) Ratio of heat transferred into a fluid to heat capacity of fluid.

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A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Glossary And References

ρ density

µ dynamic viscosity

ν kinematic viscosity

β volume coefficient of thermal expansion

cp specific heat (at constant pressure)

u velocity of flow

k coefficient of heat conduction

Consistent Units

Mixing up units is one of the most common errors. It’s also the least

forgivable if committed by an engineer who is allowed to use the SI

system of units. While FPS can be challenging, the SI system is very

straightforward. The table below lists some common properties of Steel in

consistent units.

Modulus due to

Gravity

kg M s N Pa 7.83e+03 2.07e+11 9.806

kg Cm s 1.0e-02 N 7.83e-03 2.07e+09 9.806e+02

G Cm s dyne dy/cm² 7.83e+00 2.07e+12 9.806e+02

G mm s 1.0e-06 N Pa 7.83e-03 2.07e+11 9.806e+03

Ton mm s N MPa 7.83e-09 2.07e+05 9.806e+03

lbfs2/in In s lbf psi 7.33e-04 3.00e+07 386

Slug Ft s lbf psf 1.52e+01 4.32e+09 32.17

Kg mm s mN 1.0e+03 Pa 7.83e-06 2.07e+08 9.806e+02

For a dynamic analysis, OptiStruct lists both the natural frequency and the

eigen-value. The former is in cycles / unit time, or Hz if SI units are used.

The latter, which represents the square of the angular frequency ω, is

related to the former by the equation

eigen-value = (2*p*frequency)2

This material, from the American Iron and Steel Institute’s Vehicle

Crashworthiness and Occupant Protection”, shows the relevance of discrete,

multiple-degree-of-freedom (mdof) models.

“In 1970, Kamal [1] developed a relatively simple, but powerful model for simulating the

crashworthiness response of a vehicle in frontal impact. This model, known as the Lumped

Mass-Spring (LMS) model, became widely used by crash engineers because of its simplicity and

relative accuracy. This model is shown in Figure 2.2.2.1. The vehicle is approximated by a one-

81

Glossary And References A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

dimensional lumped mass-spring system, an over simplification that is quite acceptable for

modeling the basic crash features in frontal impact. Because of its simplistic representation of

the crash event, an LMS model requires a user with extensive knowledge and understanding of

structural crashworthiness, and considerable experience in deriving the model parameters and

translating the output into design data. The crush characteristics (spring parameters) were

determined experimentally in a static crusher, as shown in Figure 2.2.2.2.

The configuration of the model is arrived at from the study of an actual barrier test, which

identifies pertinent masses and “springs” and their mode of collapse. The model is “tuned” by

adjusting the load-deflection characteristics of the “springs” to achieve the best agreement with

test results in the timing of the crash events. Figure 2.2.2.4 compares the simulated

acceleration histories with those obtained from the test, and it shows that very good agreement

can be achieved.

LMS models proved to be very useful in developing vehicle structures for crash, enabling the

designer to develop generically similar crash energy management systems, that is, development

of vehicle derivatives or structural upgrading for crash. Also, LMS models provide an easy

method to study vehicle/powertrain kinematics, and give directional guidance to the designer by

establishing component objectives.

The numerical integration procedure used in FE programs imposes several

conditions on the shape of the element. Other conditions stem from the

types of shape functions used. A detailed description of these measures is

beyond the scope of this book. The on-line documentation presents more

detail, in case you want to go beyond the summary below.

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A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis Glossary And References

Remember that an ideal element is rarely encountered. The ideal elements

are:

Quadrilateral Square

Triangle Equilateral Triangle

Hexahedron Cube

Tetrahedron Regular, equilateral tetrahedron

Aspect Ratio

Applicable to all elements, this is the ratio of the longest edge to the

smallest edge. The ideal value is 1, while an aspect beyond 5 is not

recommended.

Interior Angle

Applicable to quadrilateral and triangular elements, the ideal value is 90° for

a quadrilateral and 60° for a triangle. The angle should never reach 0° or

180° in any case.

Jacobian

Applicable to all elements, this is a measure of the distortion of the element

as compared to the ideal element. A Jacobian of 0 or less is not permitted.

The closer the value is to 1, the better.

Length

There is no absolute measure for the acceptable element length. The smaller

the elements, the more elements you require to span your geometry, and

the more CPU time required. That apart, using very small elements and very

large elements in the same mesh can give rise to round-off error.

Skew

Applicable to all quadrilateral and triangular elements, an ideal element has

a skew of 0°.

Taper

Applicable only to quadrilaterals, a taper of 0 is ideal.

83

Glossary And References A Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis

Warpage

Applicable only to quadrilateral elements, warpage is 0 if all 4 nodes lie in

the same plane. Upto 5° is considered good.

Collapse

Applicable to tetrahedral elements, the perfect value is 1. The value should

never reach 0.

Used for 3D elements (hexahedra and tetrahedral), 1 is the ideal value.

Volume Skew

Applicable only to tetrahedral elements, 0 is the ideal value. The value

should never reach 1.

84

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