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The Effect of User Decisions on the Accuracy of

Fatigue Analysis from FEA.
I Mercer, G Malton and J Draper
Safe Technology Limited
Abstract: Fatigue analysis from large FEA models is becoming increasingly common. This paper
looks at four main decision areas – processing the loading histories, materials data, mesh density
and choice of analysis algorithm.

1. Introduction
Many fatigue analyses from FE models use an elastic FEA for a unit applied load. The fatigue
software uses a description of the service load history to scale the results.
The finite element load case will consist of a linear elastic FEA solution for the stresses at each
node, calculated for a single applied load – most conveniently a unit load. These results will be
written to the FEA results file as a step. At each node, the elastically-calculated stress tensor is
multiplied by the load history to give a time history of the stress tensor.
On the surface of the model, the fatigue software will calculate the time histories of the in-plane
principal stresses, and their directions. The time history of the principal stresses can be converted
into elastic-plastic stress-strains using a multiaxial cyclic plasticity model. This strain-time history
can be used in a strain-life fatigue calculation and the associated stresses can be used to apply a
mean stress correction. This procedure is repeated for each node on the model.
Components with multiple load directions can be analysed. Each load direction is modelled
separately in the FEA, and the fatigue software uses the principle of superimposition.
For some components, the sequence of stresses may be calculated in the FE analysis. For example,
an engine crankshaft FE analysis may model the stresses for each 5o of rotation through two or
three complete revolutions of the crankshaft. The fatigue software follows this sequence of
The accuracy of the fatigue analysis results will depend on (i) the way in which the loading
information has been processed, (ii) the materials fatigue data, (iii) the FEA mesh and (iv) the
fatigue analysis algorithm. These four items are discussed in this paper.

2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference


(d) The damage parameter (for example the time history of the shear strains on a critical plane) is calculated. A sample frequency of 10 points/cycle is now widely used in industry. as it offers a reasonable compromise between accuracy of analysis and quantity of data (and hence analysis time). This process is known as cycle omission. The cycle omission criterion. Load processing 2.1 times the true value for a broad band signal.2 Peak-valley extraction Measured load histories can be truncated by extracting the peaks and valleys from the sampled signal. each time a peak or valley occurs on one signal. The danger in this procedure is illustrated by considering the way these signals are used in the fatigue analysis of a node in a finite element model. Analogue signals must be sampled at an appropriate sample frequency. and the effect of reducing this sample frequency is shown in Figure 2. Figure 4 shows a measured strain history from a truck steering arm (upper signal). As an example.2. the corresponding data points on the other signal are also retained. to produce time histories of each stress tensor. 2. In the upper example. (b) The time histories of the stress tensors are superimposed. To do this. The principle is illustrated in Figure 5. the amplitude of the signal has been determined correctly. or ‘gating’ (Figure 3). or ‘gate level’.5 times the true value for a narrow band signal. must be chosen with care. and a fatigue life calculated from these samples would very non-conservative. In this case it is necessary to retain the phase relationship between the signals. 1992]. In the lower example. Fatigue testing using the truncated signal produced fatigue lives which were 9 times longer than those produced using the full signal [Kerr. (c) The time histories of the principal stresses are calculated. Under variable amplitude loading the endurance limit may disappear or its amplitude may be very much reduced [Conle. Peak-valley extraction can also be carried out on multiaxial loading signals. (a) The ‘unit load’ stress tensor for each node is multiplied by its corresponding load history. the amplitude has been underestimated. and up to 1. 1980]. Two possible sets of samples are shown in Figure 1. ’Gating’ to omit small cycles can be integrated into this processing operation. 1993]. Many materials exhibit an endurance limit stress amplitude under constant amplitude testing. and the strain history that is produced if all the cycles smaller than the constant amplitude endurance limit are removed. it may be convenient to omit them during the peak/valley extraction. Because real signals contain a large number of very small fluctuations. a sine wave sampled at four times its frequency could produce many different sets of sampled values.[ DuQuesnay. Narrow band and broad band Gaussian random signals were used for this study. 2 2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference .1 Sample frequency The fatigue analysis requires an accurate description of the peaks and valleys in the load history. Figure 2 shows the effect of sample frequency on the accuracy of the subsequent fatigue analysis. A sample frequency of 100 points per cycle was used as a datum. It can be seen that sampling at 10 times the signal frequency gave calculated lives of 1.

It is possible to obtain quite adequate calculated fatigue lives from relatively short lengths of signals. 3. but the potential errors are great. Safe Technology’s fe-safe software does not peak-valley multiaxial loading histories unless the user specifically requests it. A sensitivity analysis should always be carried out to asses the effect on the calculated fatigue lives. Materials data Fatigue analysis requires the parameters for the relationship between strain amplitude and fatigue life De = s f¢ (2 N )b + e ¢ (2 N ) c f f f 2 E where De is the applied strain range 2 N f is the endurance in reversals s f¢ is the fatigue strength coefficient e ¢f is the fatigue ductility coefficient b c is the fatigue strength exponent is the fatigue ductility exponent and the parameters for the stable cyclic stress-strain curve ( ) where 1 n¢ e = s + s E K¢ E is the cyclic elastic modulus K¢ is the cyclic strain hardening coefficient n¢ is the cyclic strain hardening exponent 2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference 3 . 2. Although the calculated fatigue lives (adjusted for the different lengths of signal) were very similar. This is a characteristic of short signals. and on the statistical validity of their frequency of occurrence. but these lives are much more dependant of the accuracy of measurement of the few largest cycles. 30 000 and 300 000 cycles of a long signal. The increase in processing speed can be dramatic. In general this is far from being true and serious errors in the calculated fatigue lives can be produced by peak-valley extraction of multiaxial loading histories.The peak/valley procedure in Figure 5 therefore assumes that a peak or valley in the principal strains will always coincide with a peak or valley in one of the load histories.2 Length of load histories Figure 6 shows fatigue damage histograms for a fatigue analysis of the first 3 000. the fatigue damage distribution for the shortest signal is dominated by the largest few cycles.

The Seeger approximation can give acceptable estimates for materials properties. Integration point and elemental averaged stresses do not normally give adequate estimates of the surface stresses. Fatigue life predictions using uniaxial methods were always non-conservative. 4 2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference . A recommended method of assessing mesh density is to compare fatigue life contour plots.This data is widely available for many commonly-used steels. or un-averaged nodal stresses. [Colquhoun. or un-averaged nodal stresses. 1985] reported the following results from a multiaxial fatigue test programme (Table 1). approximation algorithms may be used. 1987]). with different amounts of averaging set in the contour plot software. and found significant differences (Figure 9). using a ‘preliminary’ and a ‘final’ mesh. 5. comparing the estimated and measured properties of a steel and an aluminium alloy. The accuracy of the surface stresses therefore has a significant effect on the accuracy of the subsequent fatigue analysis. compared to a test life of 41 000 miles at which quite long fatigue cracks were discovered. there should be little difference in the lives calculated from nodal averaged stresses. A difference of less than 15% between un-averaged and averaged nodal stresses is a reasonable criterion for defining an adequate mesh density for fatigue analysis. possible options are integration point stresses (Gauss points). Two examples. Where data is not available. 4. The three specimens were (i) simple bending. Choice of fatigue analysis method 5. 2000] compared calculated fatigue lives for a forged aluminium suspension component. FE mesh effects Fatigue cracks often initiate from the surface of a component. and experience has shown that fatigue lives calculated from un-averaged nodal stresses correlate most closely with test results. [Bannantine. With an adequate mesh. and are not recommended. In selecting the parameter for analysis. (ii) in-phase bending and torsion and (iii) axial and torsion loading with random phase relationship. In [Devlukia. aluminium alloys and cast irons (see for example [Boller. mesh density is rarely ideal. 1985] a welded steel bracket from a passenger car subjected to multiaxial loading developed fatigue cracks at a life much shorter than that predicted by uniaxial local strain fatigue analysis. The component had also been tested under two different service duties and uniaxial analysis failed to reproduce the relative severity of the two duties. In practice. calculated from un-averaged nodal stresses. nodal averaged stresses. are shown in Figures 7 and 8. with a predictions up to 19 times the achieved test life. The ‘final’ mesh produced fatigue lives which correlated very well with the results of a fatigue test of the component with a calculated life to crack initiation of 27 000 miles.1 Uniaxial fatigue The use of uniaxial fatigue methods to analyse biaxially stressed components can give very optimistic life estimates. elemental averaged stresses.

for example cast irons and some very high strength steels.66. 1927]). It has been shown over the past 20 years that principal stresses should only be used for fatigue analysis of 'brittle' metals. Calculating fatigue lives using principal stress will clearly be grossly optimistic for torsion loading. It is clear that the torsion fatigue strength is much lower than the axial fatigue strength .2 Principal stress criterion Early attempts to analyse biaxial fatigue were based on principal stresses. as Figure 11 shows. using a conventional SN curve.e. If t xy is the torsion stress.6 = 1.the allowable principal stress in torsion is approximately 60% of the allowable axial stress. and therefore that the second principal stress s 2 has no effect on fatigue life. This could mean the difference between identifying and missing a potential fatigue 'hot spot'.3 Principal strain criterion This criterion proposes that fatigue cracks initiate on planes which experience the largest amplitude of principal strain. Consider a simple circular shaft loaded in pure torsion. 5. (In 1927. For a fatigue cycle. This is not supported by test data.2 = ± t xy2 i.5. Figure 11 shows the results of fatigue tests on a commonly-used steel. A fatigue analysis using principal stresses tends to give very unsafe fatigue life predictions for more ductile metals including most commonly-used steels and aluminium alloys. then the principal stresses are : s 1. and allowable torsion fatigue stresses will be overestimated by a factor of 1/0. A fatigue cycle of produce a principal stress cycle of ±t xy will ±s1 = ±t xy . the stress range of Ds 1 . Moore reported that ‘From the quite considerable amount of test data available for fatigue tests in torsion the general statement may be made that under cycles of reversed torsion the endurance limit for metals ranges from 40 per cent to 70 per cent of the endurance limit under cycles of reversed flexure’ [Moore. The use of the principal stresses therefore predicts that the fatigue strength in torsion is the same as the fatigue strength under axial loading. would be 2 used with a stress-life curve obtained by testing an axially loaded specimen. or the stress amplitude Ds 1 . The (false) assumption in this procedure is that the fatigue life is always determined by the amplitude of the largest principal stress s 1 . The standard strain-life equation for unixial stresses is De = s f¢ (2 N )b + e ¢ (2 N ) c f f f 2 E where De is the applied strain range 2 N f is the endurance in reversals 2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference 5 . the maximum principal stress is equal to the torsion stress.

the von Mises equivalent stress is ( 2 2 2 s EFF = 1 (s 1 .s 1 ) 2 6 ) 0.5 2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference . for example as cast irons and some very high strength steels. machined from SAE1045 steel.e1 ) The value of 2 2 ) 2 0. The specimens were tested under pure bending loads. For design analysis based on stresses.5 b is chosen so that e EFF has the same value as the principal strain e1 for the uniaxial stress condition. 5. and combined bending-torsion with various proportions of bending and torsion. pure torsion loads.e 2 ) + (e 2 .s 2 ) + (s 2 . The maximum principal strain criterion produced life estimates which were nonconservative. it has been proposed as a criterion for fatigue life estimation. at high endurance where the plastic component is small.s 3 ) + (s 3 . 1989] used a 40mm diameter notched shaft with 5mm fillet radii. particularly at lower values of endurance.s f¢ is the fatigue strength coefficient e ¢f is the fatigue ductility coefficient b c is the fatigue strength exponent is the fatigue ductility exponent Replacing the axial strain with the maximum principal strain gives : s f¢ De1 (2 Nf )b = 2 E + e ¢f (2 Nf ) c The SAE multiaxial test programme [Tipton. calculated from principal strains. and the scatter was large (Figure 12). The test results have been compared with life estimates made from measured strains at the notch. Experience has shown that this criterion should be used only for fatigue analysis of brittle metals.e 3 ) + (e 3 .4 von Mises Equivalent Strain Because the von Mises criterion provides an estimate of the onset of yielding. is ( e EFF = b (e1 . The strain-life equation in terms of von Mises equivalent strain is s f¢ De EFF (2 Nf )b = 2 E + e ¢f (2 Nf ) c The von Mises equivalent strain.

such as to assign the sign of the largest stress or strain to the von Mises stress or strain. this equation uses standard uniaxial materials properties.04 s ¢ e ¢(2 N ) b+c De Dg t max + N s N . A major problem with the practical application of von Mises criteria to measured signals is that the von Mises stress or strain is always positive. and so Rainflow cycle counting cannot be applied directly.75 e ¢f (2 N f ) c This formulation of the Brown-Miller parameter was developed by Kandil.and fatigue lives could be calculated using or using Ds EFF = s ¢f (2 N f ) b 2 s EFF with a conventional S-N curve.max = 1.65 2 2 E + 1. Brown and Miller [Kandil. Chu. The Brown-Miller criterion is attractive because it uses standard uniaxial materials properties. e N s ¢f Dg max De N (2 N f ) b + = 1. 5. Some approximations have been proposed. Figure 13 shows the results from the SAE test programme [Tipton. 2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference 7 . These are termed ‘signed von Mises’ criteria. Conle and Bonnen [Chu. is the maximum shear stress Again.02 f f f f 2 2 E 2 where t max and s N .5 Brown-Miller criterion. The von Mises criteria correlate poorly with test data. The Brown-Miller equation proposes that the maximum fatigue damage occurs on the plane which experiences the maximum shear strain amplitude. max is the maximum normal stress. The Brown-Miller criterion is widely accepted for the analysis of most metals with the exception of very brittle metals such as cast irons. particularly for biaxial stresses when the two in-plane principal stresses change their orientation during the fatigue loading. even for negative values of stress or strain. 1982]. In general. 1993] have shown improved correlation if the mean shear stress is included. The different methods of determining the sign can give significantly different life estimates. More recently. test results and predictions agreed to within a factor of ± 3. and that the damage is a function of both this shear strain g max and the strain normal to this plane. 1989]. using a mean stress correction similar to a Smith-Watson-Topper correction ( s f¢ ) (2 N ) 2b + 1. and have proposed the following extension to the Brown-Miller equation. or alternatively to assign the sign of the hydrostatic stress or strain to the von Mises stress or strain.

“Multiaxial stress-strain modelling and fatigue life prediction of SAE axle shafts”.m ö çç 1 + ÷ s f¢ ÷ø æg è Dt max D ç max t ¢f g ¢f è 2 where 1 ö ÷ + ¢ ¢ De N Ds N = f (2 N f ) ø sf e f s N . Socie D F. However. took 1 hour 15 minutes on a PC running Windows. and export of results. Conle F A and Bonnen J F. For an 8 GByte FEA results file containing 36 load steps. Proc. Concluding remarks This paper has given some guidelines to be followed when planning a fatigue analysis of a finite element model. American Society for Testing and Materials. London. Processing speeds are also impressive. 1989. 2000]. took 35 minutes on a UNIX workstation.m is the mean value of the normal stress on the critical plane Dt max is the range of maximum shear stress on the critical plane Dg max is the range of maximum shear strain on the critical plane Ds N is the range of normal stress on the critical plane De N is the range of normal strain on the critical plane This equation has shown excellent correlation for constant amplitude loading where the two inplane principal stresses have the same amplitude but different frequencies. ‘Fatigue under biaxial and multiaxial loading’. Chu C-C.Varvani-Farahani has further extended the Brown-Miller equation. æ s N . MEP. References Bannantine J A. Many of the guidelines are set as defaults in fe-safe. 2003]. Stuttgart. fatigue analysis of the 36 load steps in sequence. 7. by weighting the contribution of the normal and shear stress/strains using the axial and torsion fatigue strength coefficients. the total fe-safe time for read-in. [Varvani-Farahani. Third International Conference on Biaxial/Multiaxial Fatigue. in a 3 GByte file. and it is being assessed for random loading. To give two examples: the fatigue analysis in fe-safe of a 700 000 element model (4-noded solid elements) containing two load steps. 6. allowing engineers with relatively little fatigue experience to carry out successful analyses. it requires both axial and torsion fatigue test data. EISI Publication 10. ASTM STP 1191. “A variable amplitude multiaxial fatigue life prediction method”. [Varvani-Farahani. 1993 pp 37-54 8 2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference .

Society of Automotive Engineers Kandil F A. Yates JR (eds. Carpinteri A. Davies J. “Local stress-strain analysis as a practical engineering tool”. Vol 2. NAFEMS Conference 'Fatigue analysis from finite element models'.H. Engineering Foundation Publication Number 13. 2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference 9 . 4th International Conference of the Engineering Integrity Society. 6th International Conference on Biaxial/Multiaxial Fatigue and Fracture.L. Musiol C. SAE AE-14. Proc. Draper J. Elsevier Materials Science Monographs. Final year undergraduate project. Cambridge UK. Proc. Multiaxial Fatigue: Analysis and Experiments. “Biaxial low cycle fatigue fracture of 316 stainless steel at elevated temperatures. pp130-136. Topper T.). “Overstrain effects during variable amplitude service history testing”. London. Spagnoli A (eds. “Fatigue analysis of an FEA model of a suspension component. de Freitas M. London 1983. Draper J. 2001. Brown M W.H. 1982 Kerr W. Seeger T. Elsevier 2003. ‘Manual Of Endurance Of Metals Under Repeated Stress’. Biaxial Fatigue Conference. No. SEECO 83 ‘Digital Techniques in Fatigue’. The Metals Society. SAE Paper 930400. Society of Environmental Engineers Boller CHR. 1980 Devlukia J. pp313-322. Draper J.” Book 280. Portugal.). Miller K J. Morton K. Wiesbaden. Edwards JH. Dec 1985 DuQuesnay D. Fatigue 2000: ‘Fatigue and Durability Assessment of Materials. November 2000. Bache MR. Lisbon. Fash J W. City University. 1989 Varvani-Farahani A and Topper TH. 1992. “Multiaxial fatigue life predictions for the SAE specimen using strain based approaches”.Colquhoun C. Components and Structures’. “Critical plane-energy based approach for assessment of biaxial fatigue damage where the stress-time axes are at different frequencies “. ESIS Publication 31. Sheffield University. Tipton S M. Blackmore PA. “Fatigue life prediction for variable amplitude strain histories”. Roberts P. ‘Materials Data for Cyclic Loading’. Unpublished Moore H F. and comparison with experimental data”. International Journal of Fatigue. Conle A and Topper T. 1927. “A new energy-based multiaxial fatigue parameter”. Varvani-Farahani A.3. EMAS 2000. “Fatigue analysis of a vehicle structural component under biaxial loading”. Pompetzki M. 1987 (5 volumes).A. pp203-221.

TEST LIFE (i) (ii) (iii) PREDICTION UNIAXIAL FATIGUE 600 5000 200 450 4000 1700 1000 53000 30000 19000 Figure 1. Possible samples from a signal sampled at four times the signal frequency 10 2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference .Table 1. (Lives are repeats of the test signal). Uniaxial fatigue life predictions for various multiaxial conditions.

Measured signal (top) and the same signal after peak-valley and cycle omission (bottom) 2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference 11 .1983]) Figure 3.Narrow band Relative life Broad band Points/cycle Figure 2. Effect of sampling frequency on fatigue life estimation (Narrow band data from [Morton.

Multi-channel peak-valley 12 2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference . Measured truck steering arm loading (top) and the same signal after omitting cycles below the endurance limit (bottom) Figure 5.Figure 4.

000025 0.0008 Dam age 0.0012 0.00002 Dam age 0.0.0001 Damage 0.00014 0.0006 0.001 0.000015 0.0002 0 0 -1417 721 -703 1443 Range (me) Range:uE 11 2164 726 2885 1440 Mean (me) Mean:uE Figure 6 Fatigue damage histograms from the first 3000 (top).00002 0 0 -1344 -648 703 48 1406 Range (me) Range:uE 744 2109 2812 1440 Mean (me) Mean:uE 0.0014 0.00016 0.00008 0. 30000 (centre) and 300000 cycles of a long load history 2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference 13 .000005 0 0 -1167 605 -568 1209 Range (me) 30 1814 629 2419 Range:uE Mean (me) Mean:uE 1228 0.00012 0.00001 0.0004 0.00003 0.00004 0.00006 0.

Figure 7. and cyclic stress-strain curves (right) for 2014-T6 aluminium alloy. Actual and approximated strain-life curves (left). and cyclic stress-strain and hysteresis curves (right) for SAE 1005 steel. 14 2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference . Figure 8. Actual and approximated strain-life curves (left).

Figure 9. Effect of mesh refinement on calculated fatigue lives Figure 10.0E+12 1.Max Shear Strain 40 Refined Mesh .0E+06 1.0E+04 1. Principal stresses for a shaft under axial load and torsion load 2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference 15 .0E+10 1.Applied % of Service Load 60 50 Standard Mesh .0E+14 1.Max Shear Strain 30 20 10 0 1.0E+16 Predicted Fatigue Life (repeats).0E+08 1.

Stress-life curves for axial and torsion loading Figure 12.1000 Axial stress Stress Amplitude MPa Torsional stress 100 1.0E+07 Cycles Figure 11. principal strain theory 16 2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference .0E+06 1. SAE notched shaft test results.0E+04 1.0E+05 1.

SAE notched shaft.Figure 13. Brown-Miller parameter 2003 ABAQUS Users’ Conference 17 .