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Theoretical aspects denitions Choosing the right h & p parameters

Convergence & Choice of Finite Element Discretizations

Joel Cugnoni, LMAF / EPFL

Approximation levels Convergence

Approximations in FE models
Level of approximations in FE models FE models are based on 2 kind of approximations: Geometric discretization of the domain:
How ne the domain is discretized ? nb of elements Determined by the characteristic size of the elements This is called the h-parameter or h-renement of the model.

Internal approximation in each FE:

How accurate is the interpolation inside each element? Determined by the order of the shape functions This is called the p -parameter of the model. Changes the number of nodes of the elements.

The main question is then: How can we choose the right element size h and FE formulation order p for a given problem ?
Joel Cugnoni, LMAF / EPFL Convergence & Choice of Finite Element Discretizations

The accuracy / computationnal cost tradeo

Accuracy & number of DOFs Altogether, the h and p parameters dene the total number of degrees of freedom of the model: if h decreases (ner mesh), with have more elements and thus more nodes (each node as N DOFs) increase of the total number of DOFs. if p increases, the number of nodes in each element increases increase of the total number of DOFs. in many application, the important criteria is accuracy as a function of computationnal cost. computational cost of a model is depending approx. on O (ndof 3 ) thus in practice, the optimal accuracy / ndof trade-o is the main criteria used to select the (h,p ) parameters of a model.
Joel Cugnoni, LMAF / EPFL Convergence & Choice of Finite Element Discretizations

h-renement

p -renement

Approximation levels Convergence

Denitions
Convergence An approximate model converges with respect to one of its approximation parameters (h or p ) if its solution Sh,p tends to the when h 0 and / or p . Convergence is exact solution S ensured if the model is consistent and stable. Stability / consistency of the solution If the numerical formulation is stable, the solution Sh,p usually (stagnation of the solution). tends to a limit S is the exact However, this does not mean that the limit S . solution S =S ,which If the numerical model is also consistent, we have S means that the numerical approximation solves exactly the same problem as the analytical formulation (consistency).
Joel Cugnoni, LMAF / EPFL Convergence & Choice of Finite Element Discretizations

Approximation levels Convergence

Convergence study
Convergence study A convergence study typically consists in: vary one of the approximation parameter like h, p (or else) : analyze the evolution of the error Eh,p = Sh,p S
and compare it with S or in identify the limit of the solution S other words, does the error E tend to zero ? consistency identify the order of convergence k : Eh,p < Chk if we divide the mesh size h by 2, E should decrease by 2k

When no exact solution is available: If the numerical formulation is convergent , the error E can be estimated by looking at the size of the solution increments S for consecutive h or p renements or can be estimated by considering a very detailed model as a reference.
Joel Cugnoni, LMAF / EPFL Convergence & Choice of Finite Element Discretizations

Approximation levels Convergence

Convergence study
Convergence study in practice In practice, when no exact solution is available, you should at least do a convergence check of the mesh size h: vary h in your model, choose at least 3 values of h. Choose the smallest h such that it corresponds to the nest model that you can run within an acceptable time. take the nest model as a reference, lets call its solution S analyze the evolution of the relative error )/S : REh,p = (Sh,p S check the relative change of the solution RE between each renement step. If the relative change is suciently small, you can consider that the solution has converged and thus that the mesh is suciently ne. If not, continue to rene the mesh
Joel Cugnoni, LMAF / EPFL Convergence & Choice of Finite Element Discretizations

Convergence study: example

Convergence study for several 2D plane stress FE formulations Variables: p , integration options and mesh size h. Test case:

With: L = 0.25 m, H = 0.05 m, E = 100 GPa, = 0.3, T = 1 MPa Model output considered: U2 min = minimum vertical displacement.
Joel Cugnoni, LMAF / EPFL Convergence & Choice of Finite Element Discretizations

Approximation levels Convergence

Convergence graph

Legend: code = X Y Z opt X=(Quad, Triangle Free, Triangle Structured); Y=(Linear, Quadratic) Z=integration=(Exact , Reduced); opt=hourglass control=(Standard, Enhanced)

What aects Convergence?

What aects Convergence? Convergence is aected by: the family of element
the order of the shape functions: k p + 1 completeness of the shape functions complete FE formulations (lagrangian hexa.) are more accurate than incomplete (serendipian hexa / tetra)

the type and location of the result of interest:

convergence is fast and ensured for displacement but is slower for stress and not necessarilly ensured stress singularities

test case: geometry, type of stress / strain state and BC the mesh quality: typically distortion or aspect ratio of elements numerical problems
Joel Cugnoni, LMAF / EPFL Convergence & Choice of Finite Element Discretizations

Theoretical aspects denitions Choosing the right h & p parameters

How to choose the right FE formulation? How to choose the right mesh size?

Numerical pathologies
Numerical problems Depending on numerical formulations, ill-conditioned or inconsistent stiness / mass matrices may be produced. The two main numerical pathologies of FE formulations are:
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Locking: an over-estimated stiness when the element aspect ratio is high no shear deformation of very thin elements, related to an ill-conditioned stiness matrix. Observed typically for linear exact integration elements. To solve this issue, reduced integration may be used. Hourglass: zero energy kinematic modes can exist when reduced integration is used. These modes can appear because the reduced integration points see zero strain even if the displacement eld is not zero. Hourglass modes tend to appear in reduced integration formulations and are usually more likely to appear in coarse & uniform structured meshes.
Joel Cugnoni, LMAF / EPFL Convergence & Choice of Finite Element Discretizations

Theoretical aspects denitions Choosing the right h & p parameters

How to choose the right FE formulation? How to choose the right mesh size?

Hourglass

Theoretical aspects denitions Choosing the right h & p parameters

How to choose the right FE formulation? How to choose the right mesh size?

Locking

We consider a beam of variable thickness and compare the dierent FE formulations for a mesh of 40x4x4 elements.

Theoretical aspects denitions Choosing the right h & p parameters

How to choose the right FE formulation? How to choose the right mesh size?

Locking

Theoretical aspects denitions Choosing the right h & p parameters

How to choose the right FE formulation? How to choose the right mesh size?

Choosing the element formulation

How to choose the appropriate FE formulation Criteria: best overall results & robustness Recommendations:
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choose quadratic elements for stress analysis choose preferably complete elements (quad9 > quad8 > tri6; hex27 > hex20 > wedge15 > tet10) by default use reduced integration. For very thin structures, reduced int. is prefered. In coarse structured meshes, hourglass may be present change to exact integration. for best accuracy in bending, use hex / wedge elements with more than 1 element in the thickness. Build your own experience by doing convergence tests
Joel Cugnoni, LMAF / EPFL Convergence & Choice of Finite Element Discretizations

Theoretical aspects denitions Choosing the right h & p parameters

How to choose the right FE formulation? How to choose the right mesh size?

Mesh Convergence
Once you have chosen the type of element, you MUST always check the MESH CONVERGENCE (h-convergence) of your model. Mesh Convergence Study
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Choose the most signicant output result value and location according to your problem: if you design a part based on maximum Von Mises stress, use this value as a criteria for mesh convergence. Progressivelly rene the mesh (global or local renement): take at least 2-3 dierent & reasonable mesh sizes Plot the evolution of the output with h (and / or the number of nodes) Evaluate the computationnal cost / accuracy trade-o :
what is the required accuracy (realistic estimate)? what is the maximum acceptable comp. time?
Joel Cugnoni, LMAF / EPFL Convergence & Choice of Finite Element Discretizations

Theoretical aspects denitions Choosing the right h & p parameters

How to choose the right FE formulation? How to choose the right mesh size?

Methodology
Selecting the modelling hypothesis of your FE models

Theoretical aspects denitions Choosing the right h & p parameters

How to choose the right FE formulation? How to choose the right mesh size?

Methodology
How to choose the h & p parameters of your FE models
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choose FE formulation according to the problem & meshing considerations:

For stress analysis, choose Quadratic elements

optional but recommended:

verify the inuence of numerical integration schemes / compare with other formulations / validate with analytical solution

do a reasonably quick mesh convergence study based on the pertinent output of your model choose an appropriate mesh (comput. cost / accuracy trade-o) go on with the FE simulation...