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Ruffell, 2011

Using FEA for Winch Systems

Analysing Winch Systems With Finite Element Analysis Benjamin Ruffell School of Engineering, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

Abstract Some gliders use winches to launch them into the air. Winch owners have been changing from steel to nylon rope to reduce the mass of the rope, allowing higher release altitudes. However, the winch drums have been buckling after the launch, which has prompted the need for a means of modeling the behaviour of the rope on the winch. This paper presents a finite element model of a small scale experiment involving one turn of rope in the circumferential direction around a thin walled cylinder. Shear modulus reduced beam elements and 3D solid elements were used to represent the rope and drum, respectively. It was found that a quarter model with symmetrical boundary conditions was the only way to elude convergence issues. The hoop stress found during the small scale experiment matched the stress in the Abaqus model for the same load within seven percent. Future work could focus on finding the cause of failed convergence to allow analysis of multiple turns of rope.

1. Introduction


launches have become more popular in recent years. The winch pulls the glider along the runway, providing sufficient speed for takeoff. When the glider has reached a high enough altitude, the rope releases and falls to the ground. The launch can be summarised in six stages. Before ground roll, ground roll / lift, transition to climb, the climb, transition to level flight (cable release) and after cable release [1]. Steel winch ropes are most commonly used for this task, but are very heavy, causing the winch to have a large inertia and the rope between the glider and the ground to have a large sag. Reducing the mass of the cable would make it easier to stop the winch in an emergency situation and reduce the amount of sag, allowing higher release altitudes. Steel cables have been replaced with nylon to achieve these improvements. However, winches have been known to fail due to buckling after making this change in rope. The buckling usually occurs when the launch has finished, due to the retained tension in the rope. Synthetic rope has different frictional [2] and elastic properties to steel rope [3], which leaves the cause of winch failure open to speculation. Winches rely on friction of the rope to operate correctly and rope stretch so that the inner layers relax, relieving hoop stress. An accurate way of modeling winch systems is desired, with the ability to observe the effects of multiple layers, friction and rope stretch. Currently, winches are designed using empirical formulas that give a minimum cylinder wall thickness in terms of the number of layers and expected rope force [4]. They have been shown to be very conservative and make no compensation for the friction between the rope and cylinder or stretch of the rope. Also, a cylinder wall thickness does not always apply because of the variation in the designs of winches. It was proposed that Finite Element Analysis (FEA) could be used to model these characteristics. A literature review uncovered minimal past work in modeling rope using FEA and only one published journal article [5]. The published article presented a dynamic model for predicting the un-orderly windings that result when a winch is stopped suddenly. However, this ignored friction so the method could not be emulated.

This paper investigates the different ways of modeling rope systems in the FEA software, Abaqus. It details the material properties and contact conditions required for an accurate model. It also offers the results of an experimental model to validate the finite element model. 2. Methodology Because this paper is concerned with modeling the interaction between the rope and the winch drum, the first mile stone in the research was developing a model in Abaqus that accurately represented the behaviour of rope. Following this, an experimental model had to be constructed to obtain comparable data. Finite Element Model Several different models were constructed to establish the easiest and most accurate way of modeling rope. Truss elements were considered because they do not possess rotational degrees of freedom between elements, which means a bicycle chain type effect could be used to represent a rope if the elements were small enough. However, contact conditions could not be found to satisfy the truss to solid interaction. The only other way of providing near zero flexural rigidity was to use solid or beam elements with reduced shear modulus in the axial direction. The shear modulus was set to the smallest allowable value of 0.1 MPa in the property module by specifying the use of “Engineering Constants” instead of “Isotropic”. Assigning the appropriate material direction to solid elements proved too difficult to pursue. Instead, beam elements were used by sketching a circular path made up of small straight lines around the cylinder and assigning beam properties to them. This allowed material orientations to be easily assigned using the “discrete” option (Figure 1). The next step was inserting contact conditions. The outside surface of the drum was selected as the master surface while each segment of rope was selected as the slave node region. It is for this reason that node to surface contact was selected. The sliding formulation needed for the model to run was “small sliding”. Tangential and normal behaviour was selected using penalty friction method with a coefficient of 0.1. 1

01 in order for the non-linear analysis to run successfully. Figure 1: Specifying material direction. The goal of the experiment was to establish a rope force to hoop stress relationship. Two strain gauges were glued on the inside directly opposite each other orientated to measure strain in the circumferential direction (Figure 2). Figure 3: Experimental set-up. 2011 Using FEA for Winch Systems A general static step was used. Probing the reaction force in Abaqus revealed a reaction force of 128. 2 . respectively (Figure 6). The rope tension was measured with a force gauge and the hoop strains were recorded as the force was applied. The increased stress at the top gauge is thought to be due to the downward force caused by the position of the fixed end of rope. The expected reaction force at the fixed end of the rope in the Abaqus model was expected to be 127.1 (Figure 4). Figure 2: Strain gauge on the inside of the cylinder. The rope was anchored at one end. it is accurate within 7%. This was coincident with the experimental model. 3. This is within 1% of the expected value and shows that Abaqus can accurately model the friction of rope to drum contact. The quarter cylinder had a total of 720 elements with refinements made in the circumferential direction to increase the accuracy of the contact conditions (Figure 5).3 N.6 N according to eytelwein’s (capstan) equation for a coefficient of friction set to 0. respectively. If the average experimental stress is compared with the Abaqus model. The maximum stress in the wall of the cylinder was 48 MPa (Figure 5). wrapped around the cylinder once and given tension from a boat winch (Figure 3). which gave 58 MPa and 45 MPa at the top and bottom strain gauges.Ruffell. with the initial increment size set to 0. A rope force of 150 N was applied to the virtual model and run considering non-linear effects. a quarter symmetry Abaqus model of the experimental procedure was constructed. Experimental Model A small experimental model was constructed using a milo tin with a height and diameter of 173 and 130 mm. The rope was made up of 11 segments (allowing the rope to resemble a curve) with each segment having 5 elements. The cylinder was held at each end within wooden constrains and was allowed to move around on the workbench in order to avoid extra stresses being induced in the cylinder due to rotation. It was also seen that the reaction force would approach zero after 7 turns. Results & Discussion Using the method outlined previously.

Ruffell. 3 . Figure 5: Stress distribution in the drum wall with a rope force of 150 N. 2011 Using FEA for Winch Systems Figure 4: Reduction in reaction force per turn.

rope stretch and rope size can all be assessed. Particularly with the case of the glider winch. the drum is very old and designed differently compared to other winches (Figure 7). Even if several turns could be analysed and the reaction force confirmed using eytelweins equation. As multiple turns and layers are introduced. This is because there are many different designs of winches and the ability to create a solid model of the drum and observe the effects of multiple layers of rope tightening around it. Complicated contact conditions greatly increase the computation time. A model with one complete turn of rope could not be solved due to convergence issues.Ruffell. 2011 Using FEA for Winch Systems Figure 6: Hoop stress induced at each strain gauge during experimentation. which stands to reason that generic FEA packages may not be ideal for analysing winch systems. 4 . Although a small quarter model was solved with accurate results. bottom and sides. the incapability of modeling one or more turns means Abaqus could not be used in a practical winch analysis scenario. if a finite element code could be written specifically for analysing winch systems then it could be a very useful design tool. it is anticipated that modeling multiple layers would pose more difficulties and require more computing power. would remove the inaccuracies involved with the empirical equations currently used. Internal layers of rope would have four points of contact: top. However. Figure 7: Glider winch drum. A purpose made FEA application for dealing with rope contact scenarios would mean that the effects of friction coefficients. the points of contact increase. even after reducing the time step.

JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY. 2005. CHOU. NUMERICAL SIMULATION OF A GLIDER WINCH LAUNCH. AND R. AND T. If the source of this problem could be identified and appropriate remedies taken. D. SOME RECENT DEVELOPMENTS OF ROPE TECHNOLOGIES FURTHER ENHANCEMENTS OF HIGH PERFORMANCE ROPES. 2008. IN OCEANS 2008.. HIGH STRENGTH SYNTHETIC FIBER ROPE COMPARED TO WIRE ROPE FOR HELICOPTER LONGLINE APPLICATIONS. Abaqus had convergence issues. E. GILMORE. 1083-1088. If the rope is longer than this. 2010. 7. 3. If this cannot be done.G. the stress found in the quarter symmetry finite element model was confirmed by the experimental model within 7% for a rope force of 150 N. STENVERS.. 6. 2009. a special purpose finite element program could be written that is devoted to analysing winch systems. 2008. SANTEL. The cause of the convergence issues experienced when modeling a full rotation of rope were unable to be found during the allotted research time frame. IN MECHANICAL ENGINEERING. 5. D. NANJO. Recommendations Future research in this area would require investigating the convergence difficulties that Abaqus faced when solving a full rotation and addressing them. 5. This showed that Abaqus is accurate at modeling the frictional contact between rope and winch drum. References 1. NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE: SINGAPORE. LIM BUAN TECK. P. T. IMANISHI. IMPROVEMENT IN THE DESIGN OF WINCHES. However. KOBAYASHI.. 4. Yuanji for helping me prepare my rig for experimentation and Rainer for being helpful in providing information about glider winches when I needed it. 2. 23(4): P. 2011 Using FEA for Winch Systems 4.Ruffell. in this research it could only be achieved using a symmetrical model with rope no more than a quarter of the way around the cylinder..1. RWTH AACHEN UNIVERSITY: AACHEN. However.. The rope reaction force in the finite element model was validated within 1% by eytelweins equation for a coefficient of friction of 0. C. DYNAMIC SIMULATION OF WIRE ROPE WITH CONTACT. Conclusions It has been shown that Abaqus is capable of accurately calculating the hoop stress in a cylinder due to a rope being wrapped around it. 5 . Acknowledgement I would like to thank Ilanko for supervising this research project. FEA could be used to analyse winch systems irrespective of their rope. size or design. J. BARRY.