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AAE 320 - Introduction to PATRAN and ABAQUS

Lab. 2 : A simple 2D plane stress problem with PATRAN

1. Introduction and objectives

During this lab, we will use PATRAN to analyze a simple 2D plane stress problem. This lab will demonstrate
some of the graphic capabilities of PATRAN. Some of the concepts that will be introduced are:
-creating a 2D geometry and finite element mesh using PATRAN
-applying a pressure type boundary condition
-introducing 2D 4-node quad elements
-controlling the size of the elements
-obtaining 2D contour plots of the results

1000 N/cm

4 cm

2 cm

4 cm

Figure 1. Problem geometry.

As illustrated in Figure 1, we will investigate the problem of a horseshoe-shaped plate subjected to a
symmetric distributed loading. Taking advantage of the symmetry of the problem, we just need to discretize
the upper half of the plate. What boundary condition do we need to apply along y=0?

The plate is made of Aluminum (E=70*109 Pa and ν=0.3) and has a thickness of 0.2 cm.

2. PATRAN session

Before you can run PATRAN, you must first modify your ‘.cshrc’ file as described in the general manual
pages describing the various commercial codes available on the EWS (enter ‘man software’ for more info)

set path=($path /patran3/bin)

Since the files that PATRAN generates are always very large, it is highly recommended to first move to the
scratch space.

Start PATRAN by entering
p3 & (use the & to run PATRAN in the background while keeping control on your window)

The main window will open. It is divided in four parts arranged horizontally.
• The top section corresponds to executive, or ‘housekeeping’ functions (such as opening a new
database or changing the display). These selections will be referred to in bold characters on the
following pages.
• The selections below the horizontal line and indicated with circular buttons correspond to separate
functional areas of the program (creation of the geometry, creation of the mesh, application of the
boundary conditions, definition of the material properties, definition of the element properties, ...).
Only one can be selected at a time. Once selected, these will open additional windows on the right
side of the display. These windows may have functions that will open sub-windows. These function
buttons are denoted with a diamond u in the following pages.
• The third section is the Quick Pick section which controls the display. By using the Quick Pick, it
is easy to change the viewpoint, zoom in and out, hide node numbers, etc.
• Finally, the last section provides details on the commands executed by PATRAN and gives error

Note that PATRAN has a very large number of options. In the following text, only some of the most
important options and those which need to be modified will be mentioned. You should feel free to
experiment with all aspects of PATRAN in order to familiarize yourself with its abilities.

Once PATRAN has started, the analysis can begin. All analyses performed with PATRAN include the
following series of steps:

1) creation of a new database and selection of model preferences
2) creation of the model geometry
3) meshing the created geometry
4) application of the various loading conditions
5) entering the material properties
6) defining the element properties
7) generating a load case
8) submitting the model for analysis
9) reading the results of the analysis

You will be led through each of these steps in the following pages.

1) Creation of a new database and selection of model preferences.

First, we need to create a new database (which we will call ‘lab2’). This means that most of the files that
PATRAN creates will have the prefix ‘lab2’. The most important one will be ‘lab2.db’, which contains the
whole model. We will also create a session file (with suffix ‘.ses’) which will contain the list of all the
commands that you are about to enter. This file is very useful when you have to create a complicated model
and want to modify only some parts of the model. You can edit the session file and then re-run it
automatically. This file is also considerably smaller than the ‘.db’ file, and it may be useful to save only this
file in order to conserve disk space.

The default name for the session file is ‘’. Before starting the analysis, we will change this
name to ‘’. Select

Session Record Recording Apply

Next, we create the database and select the model preferences (i.e., the code we will use to perform the
analysis after we create the finite element model),

New... New Database Name=lab2 OK

This step will take a few moments as PATRAN creates a very large file (about 6 MB). Once again, if you
have not moved to the scratch space before starting the analysis, you will most probably get a “quota
exceeded” error message at this point. If so, quit PATRAN, move to the scratch space and restart the code.
You may also get an error message regarding some protection problem. Disregard the message and click
“YES” to continue. The viewport window (on which all the graphics will be displayed) will be created. Also,
a window entitled “New Model Preferences”) will appear, giving you the choice of various codes to perform
the analysis (remember, PATRAN is just a pre- and post-processor). In this series of labs, we will choose
ABAQUS which is available on the EWS. You must also enter the type of analysis you plan to do (structural,
thermal, ...). You can review and modify these preferences at all times by selecting


2) Creation of the model geometry.

In this step, we generate the geometry to be later discretized with finite elements. This is done using
geometric entities of increasing dimension (i.e., 0D entities:points, 1D entities:curves, 2D entities:curves,
and finally 3D entities:solids). Note that 3D entities will not be used in the present lab and will be introduced
during a later lab session.

In this case, we will subdivide the top half of the horseshoe plate into two separate sub-surfaces as shown in
Figure 2. Then, we will define the mesh on the created surfaces. We will use a meshing pattern that
generates a finer mesh on the inside of the curved portion where the gradients are expected to be the highest.

Let’s begin by defining the points. The only reference points that need to be defined are :
Grid point A located at (0,0) (Note that we are using ‘cm’ as the unit of length.)
Grid point B located at (2,0)
Grid point C located at (8,2)
Grid point D located at (8,4)
To enter these points, use

Action=Create Object=Point Method=XYZ
Point Coordinate List=[0 0 0] Apply

Note that the first point will appear on your screen. The syntax for entering coordinates is either [0 3 -6.2]
or [0,3,-6.2] or [0/3/-6.2]. You may also use ‘operations’ to define a point. For example, the point
(3/64, 2 ,0) may be entered as [`-3/64`,`sqrt(2.0)`,0] (use back quotes). Continue to enter the remaining
points as follows.

Point Coordinate List=[2 0 0]
Point Coordinate List=[8 2 0]
Point Coordinate List=[8 4 0]

Note that, if you enter a wrong coordinate, you may always use either the ‘UNDO’ button in the top right
corner of the main window, or the Action=Delete option. If nothing appears on your graphic window, use
Display/Geometry to increase the size of the points, to show the labels of the geometrical objects, …

After defining the 0D objects (points), we move on to the 1D objects (lines and curves). There are many
ways to create a wide range of different curves in PATRAN, starting from the simplest ones (lines) to more
complex ones (arcs, splines, ...). Spend a few moments reviewing some of the methods available.

Let us start by creating the arcs AE and BF (Figure 2).

Action=Create Object=Curve Method=Revolve

The Axis box defines the direction of rotation of the curve using the right hand rule. The first coordinate is
the bottom of the arrow, and the second coordinate is the tip of the arrow. To create AE and BF, we will
revolve points A and B about an axis centered at (4,0) and parallel to the z-axis. So in the Axis box enter:

{[4 0 0] [4 0 -1]}

Make sure that the rotation angle is set to 90 degrees in the box marked ‘Total Angle’ and use the mouse to
select point A and then point B. Curves AE and BF are then automatically created.

Next we create the straight line curves AB, CD, EF, CF, and DE.
Action=Create Object=Curve Method=Point (2 Point option)
Starting Point List=<select point A>
Ending Point List=<select point B>

Since it is in “Auto Execute” mode, the curve AB will be automatically created. Repeat this procedure for
the remaining lines CD, EF, CF and DE.

Now that all of the 1D objects (curves) have been defined, we can create the 2D elements (subsurfaces).
Once again, there are numerous ways to create surfaces in PATRAN. Spend a few seconds reviewing them.
One of the simplest way is to define a surface between two curves

Action=Create Object=Surface Method=Curve (2 Curve option)
Starting Curve List=<select curve BF>
Ending Curve List=<select curve AE>

Sub-surface #1 should appear in green. Repeat to create sub-surface #2. You should get a geometry similar to
that shown in Figure 3 (without the grid).

3) Create the finite element mesh.

This is the most important step of the pre-processing. The quality of your finite element mesh will strongly
influence the precision of your results. It is always advisable to use smaller elements in regions where “things
happen” (i.e., where you expect the stresses to be the highest, or the deformation gradients to be the
strongest). The meshing process is performed in three steps:

a) Preparation of the meshing by defining mesh seeds
b) Actual meshing
c) Cleaning and optimization

However, before we proceed, it is usually a good idea to create a new group for the finite element model,
thereby separating it from the geometry. This allows us to create (and save) many finite element models
associated with the same geometry. It also makes it easier to keep track of things and make selections,
because the two models can be displayed separately. So far, all we have created has been put in the
default_group. Let’s create a “fem_model” group containing the whole mesh.

New Group Name=fem_model
n Make Current (all new entities will belong to that group)

3 a) In the first step, the user tells PATRAN how to distribute the elements to be created on the geometrical
model. In our case, we want 10 equally spaced elements along curves AE, ED, BF, and FC. To do this:
uFinite Elements
Action=Create Object=Mesh Seed Method=Uniform
Curve List=<select curve AE>
The mesh seeds will appear as yellow circles on the model.

Curve List=<select curve ED>
Repeat this procedure for curves BF and FC.

Along the remaining curves, we want to vary the size of the elements in order to capture the stress
concentration that will occur along the inside of the curve. To do this we will place mesh seeds that are
‘biased’ toward the inside curve.

Action=create Object=Mesh Seed Method=One Way Bias
L1/L2=2.0 or 0.5 (depending on the direction of the blue arrow appearing along the
curve AB on your screen)
Curve List=<select curve AB>
Repeat this procedure for curves EF and CD

3 b) Next we perform the actual meshing. We will use 4-node quads on both sub-surfaces. Note that many
other types of elements are available (Quad5, Quad8, Quad9, Quad12, Quad16, Tria3, Tria6, ...)
Action=Create Object=Mesh Method=Surface
Element Topology=Quad4
Surface List=<select surface 1>

Surface List=<select surface 2>

The created elements will appear on the screen and your mesh should look like that presented in Figure 4.

3 c) Since the two surfaces share a common side, there are redundant nodes along this side (curve EF). We
will use the Equivalence action to collapse these nodes, and then we will optimize the new mesh numbering
with the Optimize option.

Action=Equivalence Object=All Method=Tolerance Cube
Note that the redundant nodes (i.e., those to be collapsed) appear in purple on your screen.

Action=Optimize Object=Nodes Method=Both Minimization Criterion=Bandwidth
A table will appear showing the evolution of the bandwidth during the optimization process. Note the drastic
reduction achieved... You can view the node and/or element numbers with Display/Finite Elements… To
make sure that no element is missing, you can shrink all the elements with the FEA Shrink Ruler.

4) Application of the boundary conditions.

In this step we apply the symmetry boundary conditions and the applied uniform load. To do this, we will
fix the displacement along the bottom edge of sub-surface #1, and apply a uniform pressure along the top
edge of sub-surfaces #1 and #2.

Let’s begin with the displacement boundary condition on AB. To indicate that AB is a line of symmetry, we
want to impose zero v-displacement (i.e., no vertical displacement) along the whole line AB.

u Load/BCs
Action=Create Object=Displacement Method=Nodal
New Set Name= symm_bottom (the name is arbitrary)
Input Data...
Translations=< , 0, >
Select Application Region...
Select Geometric Entities=<select curve AB>
(Note: PATRAN may not select the desired entity. Make sure that the Curve icon is selected at the bottom
of the screen. Note also that you can apply the boundary conditions directly on the finite element model
instead of applying them on the geometry)
Click Add
Click OK
Click Apply
Symbols indicating constrained degrees of freedom will appear on the screen.

But this is not enough : the whole model is still able to translate freely in the x-direction. We must therefore
fix completely one of the nodes along AB (say, point A).

Action=Create Object=Displacement Method=Nodal
New Set Name= fixed_A (or whatever you might choose)
Input Data...
Translations=< 0 , 0 , >
Select Application Region...
Select Geometric Entities=<select the vertex located at A>
Click Add
Click OK
Click Apply

Now we apply the uniform load along the top edge of our domain. From the current Load/BCs window:

Action=Create Object=Pressure Type=Element Uniform
New Set Name= press_top
Target Element=2D
Input Data ...
Edge Pressure=-1000. (Note that we apply a negative outward pressure)
Select Application Region
Select Surfaces=<select the top edge of sub-surfaces 1 and 2 while keeping the
shift button down>
(Note: Patran may try to select the entire surface. If this is the case, select the edge icon in the little window
that opened on your screen).
Click Add
Click OK
Click Apply

5) Entering the material properties

This step is self-explanatory

Action=Create Object=Isotropic Method=Manual Input
Material Name=Aluminum
Input Properties...
Constitutive Model=Elastic
Elastic Modulus=70e5 (in N/cm2 , remember, all our dimensions are in cm)
Poisson’s Ratio=0.3
Cancel (Note : there is a major and obvious difference between Cancel and Clear)

6) Defining the element properties

Here, we decide the type of element to be used and associate a material property with each element. In this
case, we want to use plane stress elements made of Aluminum.

u Properties
Action=Create Dimension=2D Type=2D Solid
Property Set Name=set1 (or whatever name you wish to give it)
Option(s)=Plane Stress
Input Properties
Material Name=<select aluminum in the bottom box>
Application Region
Select members=<select each surface or draw a big box around the whole model>

7) Defining a load case

In this step, we define a load case to be analyzed using ABAQUS. This load case can be any combination of
the Load/BCs defined earlier.

uLoad Cases
Load case name=load1
Assigned Loads/BCs Sets=<select all load sets defined earlier>

8) Submitting the model for analysis

Action=Analyze Object=Entire Model Method=Full Run
Step Creation…
Job Step Name=my_step
Solution Type: Linear Static
Select Load Case=<select load1>

The analysis is now submitted to ABAQUS which will run in the background. Depending on the complexity
of the model and the number of users on your machine, this can take a while. One way to monitor the
progress is to open another window and monitor the size of the ‘lab2.res’ file. When this file no longer
increases in size, the analysis may be done. Another way is simply to list the active processes with ‘ps’.
While the analysis is running, you might want to look at the content of the ‘.inp’ input file used by
ABAQUS. Once the analysis is completed, check the ‘.dat’ result file created by ABAQUS to see if
everything went smoothly.

9) Reading and post-processing the results.

First, we read the results obtained by ABAQUS (or whatever code we used to solve the problem)

Action=Read Results
Select results file=<select lab2.fil>

Check the message window to monitor the translation of the ABAQUS result file in a format readable by

Finally, we view the results of the analysis.

Create QuickPlot
Select Fringe Result = <STRESS, COMPONENTS> (The default component is the Von Mises
stress, which can be used indicates the onset of plastic deformation)
Select Deformation Result = <DEFORMATION, DISPLACEMENTS> (This will draw the
fringes on the deformed shape of the structure)

You should get a fringe plot similar to that shown in Figure 5.

Use the QuickPick to get rid of the labels. Also, you might want to get rid of the geometrical objects and just
keep the mesh. This is easily done with
Post... Select Groups to Post=fem_model Apply
Then, redraw the picture.

The above selections can be varied in order to view differing results. For example, you may want to visualize
the yy-stress components instead of the Von Mises stress. This will allow you to see what part of the
structure is under tension or compression.

This concludes the example lab. What follows is an application problem for you to perform a similar
analysis on. This problem involves a fitting used in a push-pull actuator. The dimensions are as shown in
Figure 6, and the load is to be a push load uniformly applied to the right end of the fitting (Figure 7). The
displacement boundary conditions that need to be applied involve fixed x-, y- and z-d.o.f. on the left side of
the inside circle. You will need to decide how to discretize the mesh yourself. Just make sure that you
perform all the steps of the analysis...