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There are 3 stages to this procedure: (1) disconnection, (2) localisation, and (3) computation of member stiffness equations. Disconnection In this stage we disconnect or disassemble the structure into its constituent parts. In this case it is into 3 truss members. This step is shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Breakdown of truss into individual members, (1), (2) & (3) and selection of local coordinate systems.

To each member e = 1, 2, 3 is assigned a Cartesian system { x (e), y (e)}. Axis x (e) is aligned along the axis of the eth member. See Figure 4. Actually x (e) runs along the member longitudinal axis; it is shown offset in that Figure 4 for clarity. By convention the positive direction of x (e) runs from joint i to joint j , where i < j . The angle formed by x (e) and x is called .f (e). The axes origin is arbitrary and may be placed at the member midpoint or at one of the end joints for convenience. These systems are called local coordinate systems. In the general finite element method they receive the name element coordinate systems. Localisation Next, we drop the member identifier (e) so that we are effectively dealing with a generic truss member as illustrated in Figure 5. The local coordinate system is { x , y }. The two end joints are called i and j.

The most straightforward technique relies on the Mechanics of Materials approach covered in undergraduate courses. a generic truss member has four joint force components and four joint displacement components (the member degrees of freedom). Computation of Member Stiffness Equations The force and displacement components of Figure 5(a) are linked by the member stiffness relations Eq. (7) Consequently the force-displacement equation is Eq. Think of the truss member in Figure 5 (a) as a linear spring of equivalent stiffness ks . Eq. whereas K is the member stiffness matrix or local stiffness matrix. “member” is replaced by “element” and “joint” by ”node. When these relations are interpreted from the standpoint of the FEM. an interpretation depicted in Figure 5 (b). (6) Vectors f and u are called the member joint forces and member joint displacements. (8) . Mechanics of Materials bar theory tells us that. The member properties include the length L.” There are several ways to construct the stiffness matrix K in terms of the element properties L. elastic modulus E and cross-section area A. If the member properties are uniform along its length.As shown in Figure 5. (5) which written out in full is: Eq. E and A. respectively.

which physically is the bar elongation. (8) and Eq. where F is the internal axial force and d the relative axial displacement. The axial force and elongation can be immediately expressed in terms of the joint forces and displacements as Eq. (10) Therefore: Eq. respectively.: (a) idealisation as bar element. (11) . (9) we obtain the matrix relation. y )}.Figure 5: Generic truss member referred to its local coordinate system {x . (9) which express force equilibrium and kinematic compatibility. Eq. (b) interpretation as equivalent spring. Combining Eq.

essential boundary conditions are those that involve displacements. To provide connectivity to adjoining structures or substructures. But there are more general boundary conditions that occur in practice. of the following types. The important thing to remember is that boundary conditions (BCs) come in two basic types essential and natural.C.C. which can be notoriously difficult to handle from a numerical standpoint. One of the biggest hurdles a FEM newcomer faces is the understanding and proper handling of boundary conditions. A structural engineer must be familiar with displacement B. Essential and Natural B. Next we have to put truss back together again and solve for displacements and forces BOUNDARY CONDITIONS A key strength of the FEM is the ease with which it handles arbitrary boundary and interface conditions.This is the truss stiffness matrix in local coordinates. however. and are imposed on the lefthand side vector u. Connection constraints. Essential BCs are those that directly affect the degrees of freedom. and are imposed on the right-hand side vector f. Directly restrain the structure against rigid body motions. or to specify relations between degrees of freedom. . This allows the discretisation to proceed only over part of the structure with a consequent savings in the number of equations to be solved. Many conditions of this type can be subsumed under the label multipoint constraints or multifreedom constraints. To impose symmetry or antisymmetry restraints at certain points. Boundary Conditions in Structural Problems In mechanical problems. Ground or support constraints. Natural BCs are those that do not directly affect the degrees of freedom. has a down side. This power. Symmetry conditions. lines or planes of structural symmetry. The support conditions for the truss problem furnish a particularly simple example.

Boundary Conditions Essential vs. If a BC involves one or more DOF in a direct way. Otherwise it is natural and goes to the Right Hand Side (RHS) of Ku = f . it is essential and goes to the Left Hand Side (LHS) of Ku = f 2. Natural Recipe: 1.

This body is free to distort in any manner without the supports imposing any displacement constraints. in accordance with Newton’s third law. In finite element terminology. together with A. Consequently the minimum Figure 9:Various Displacement constraints for 2D cases. This means that if the supports are conceptually removed. it is essential. In Figure 9. Additional freedoms may be removed to model . such as displacements or rotations. we say that we delete all translational displacements at point A. Otherwise it is natural. 2D constraints Figure 9 shows two-dimensional bodies that displace in the plane of the paper. Regardless of the loading conditions. If a body is not restrained. Essential BCs take precedence over natural BCs. and that we delete the translational degree of freedom directed along the normal to the AB direction at point B. provides rotational restraint. whereas support B. Engineers call A and B reaction-to-ground points. number of constraints that has to be imposed in two dimensions is three. The simplest essential boundary conditions are support and symmetry conditions. Conditions involving applied loads are natural.In structural problems formulated by the DSM. support A provides translational restraint. the recipe that distinguishes between essential and natural BC is: if it directly involves the nodal freedoms. the structure must be restrained against two translations and one rotation. an applied load will cause initiate displacements. the applied loads are automatically balanced by reactive forces at points A and B.

The configuration of 9 (c) is called a kinematic mechanism. In the example of Figure 10. The minimal number of freedoms that have to be deleted is now six and many combinations are possible. 3D Constraints Figure 10 illustrates the extension of the freedom deletion concept to three dimensions. The x displacement component at point B is deleted to prevent rotation about z.greater restraint by the environment. Figure 10 3 dimensional constraints. Figure 9 (b) shows a simplified version of Figure 9 (a). and the x translation at point B. Figure 9 (a) does illustrate the minimal number of constraints. and the y component is deleted at point D to prevent rotation about x. If the roller support at B is modifed as in Figure 9 (c). Here the line AB is parallel to the global y axis. . all three degrees of freedom at point A have been deleted to prevent rigid body translations. However. the z component is deleted at point C to prevent rotation about y. We simply delete the x and y translations at point A. it becomes ineffective in constraining the infinitesimal rotational motion about point A because the rolling direction is normal to AB. and will be flagged by a singular modified stiffness matrix.

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