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Mesh Convergence Study Using ANSYS

Nivrutti Garud,
Engineer,
Satyam Engineering Services Ltd.
Secunderabad.
E-mail: nivrutti_garud@satyam.com

Abstract: A finite element analysis for stress and displacement analysis is


commonly used in the mechanical industry. The accuracy of the analysis results
depends on the number of elements used for the FE analysis. The FE solution
approaches to analytical (Exact) solution when number of element (Nodes)
increases in the model. The accuracy of the finite element analysis solution for a
given problem and mesh density can be measured in terms of descretization
error. In this paper different methods to find out the mesh descretization error are
discussed. The mesh convergence is studied for different element types and by
varying the mesh density. ANSYS commercially available analysis package was
used for the analysis.

Introduction: Displacement results are the primary results of a finite element


analysis and other results are derived from the displacements. Displacement
results are less sensitive to the number of elements or nodes in the model, but
stress results vary much with increasing mesh density till the convergence is
achieved. So it is very important to validate the stress results before concluding
the analysis.
A finite element analysis requires the idealization of an actual physical problem in
to a mathematical model and then the finite element solution of that model. The
solution should converge (when the number of elements increased in the model)
to the analytical (Exact) solution of the differential equations that govern the
response of the mathematical model [1]. Finite element solution approaches to
analytical (Exact) solution when number of elements (Nodes) increases in the
model.
In linear elastic analysis there is a unique exact solution to the mathematical
model (i.e. for given stress analysis problem). It is also important to note that
convergence is directly related to the load and constraints applied to specific run.
Hence the mesh which is converged for particular loading and constraints may
not converge to different loads and constraints.

Elements must be complete and the element and mesh must be compatible to
insure the convergence for a given finite element mesh. The requirement of
completeness of an element means that the displacement functions of the
element must be able to represent the rigid body displacements and the constant
strain rates [1].
The requirement of compatibility means that the displacements within the
element and across the element boundaries must be continuous. Physically
comparability insures that no gaps occur between elements when the
assemblage is loaded [1].
Error Estimation:
For mesh convergence to the exact results the elements must be complete and
compatible. Using compatible elements mean that in the finite element problems
the displacements and their derivatives are continuous across element
boundaries. And the elemental stresses are calculated using derivatives of the
displacements and must be continuous across the element boundaries. But the
stresses obtained at an element edge (or face), when calculated in adjacent
elements may differ substantially if a course finite element mesh is used [1]. This
stress difference across element boundary decrease as the finite element mesh
is refined.
The stress jumps or stress difference across the element boundaries of the body
are of course a consequence of the fact that stress equilibrium is not accurately
satisfied unless a very fine mesh is used. Thus this stress jumps or stress
gradient across element boundaries can be used as the measure of
descretization error for a given mesh [1,2,3].
Methods of Error estimation:
1) Using Elemental Stresses:
The discontinuity of stress across the element boundaries can be used for the
error estimation. In order to establish a measure of stress difference across the
elements it can be compared with the absolute maximum stress value that
occurs anywhere in the model [3].
The error can be estimated using following formula [2].
Error = ((Si(max)-SJ(min))/Smodelmax)*100
Where
Si(max) -is maximum elemental stress at element I
S(min) -is minimum elemental stress at element j (Adjacent element to element i)
Smodelmax -is maximum elemental stress in the model.
Following example gives the error estimation for given four elements. Element i is
the element for which the stress is maximum and element j is element for which
stress is minimum.

Error = ((Si-Sj)/Si)*100

Element i

Element j
Figure 1: Element stress plot.

2) Using Nodal stresses:


Similarly nodal stress can be used to find out the error in mesh convergence.
Error = ((Siu-Sia)/Smodelmax)*100
Siu -is maximum unaveraged stress (Elemental stress) at node i.
Sia -is average nodal stress at node i.
Smodelmax -is maximum averaged stress in the model.
Analysis and results:
General plane stress problem (Plate with hole) was considered for this study.
The finite element model was modeled using quarter symmetry. Plane stress four
noded element (Plane 42), ten noded tetrahedron element (Solid 92) and eight
noded hexahedral element (Solid 45) were used to mesh the model and separate
error estimation study was carried out. The element density was increased
uniformly throughout the volume to study the effect of descretization. ANSYS
V5.6.2 is used as pre and post processor. Steel material properties, Youngs
Modulus 2.1e5 MPa and Poisons ratio 0.3 was used in the analysis.

Stress in X-direction (longitudinal stress) Sx is used for error estimation. The


plate dimensions (in mm) are shown in Figure 2 below. Thickness of plate is
taken as 10mm. Symmetric boundary conditions were applied at cut boundaries
and force of 10000N was applied over the end as shown in the Figure 2.

80

40

20

10000N on
this face.

Symmetric Boundary conditions on these faces.

Figure 2: Geometry and Boundary Conditions for the analysis.

Observation 1:
The averaged nodal stress (using PLNSOL command in ANSYS) and
unaveraged nodal stress (using PLESOL command in ANSYS) contours are
given in Figure 3 and Figure 4 respectively. It can be seen that the maximum
averaged nodal stress (using PLNSOL command) and maximum unaveraged
stress (using PLESOL command) are not at the same node location. These
stress values are at different node locations and hence can not be used directly
for error estimation. In the present work the averaged and unaveraged stress at
the same node location was considered for the error estimation.

Figure 3. Stress plot-using PLNSOL.

Figure 4: Stress plot using PLESOL.

Observation 2:
If the maximum stress occurs at a corner node, and this node belongs to only
one element, then the averaged and unaveraged stress at that node will remain
same. In this case the error will be zero percent even if the mesh is course mesh.
Following Figure 5 and Figure 6 gives the stress plots for problem where
maximum stress occurs at the corner node belonging to one element.

Figure 5: Stress plot-using PLNSOL.

Figure 6: Stress plot-using PLESOL.

Also the averaging is generally done considering only the selected elements
while plotting the stress contour. In this case actual averaged stress considering
all the elements attached to that node may vary with the averaged stress when
only few elements attached to that node are selected.
Following tables gives the error in the region of maximum stress (at the element
or node where the stress is maximum in the model). The error calculated using
the two methods is compared with the strain energy error in the model,
calculated using ANSYS.
Result Table 1. Element type: PLANE 42
strain
Error
No.
of Nodal
Error
nodes
solution: (Elemental (Nodal
energy
stress
Stress stress
error
method)
(MPa) method)
49
93.65
49.78
1.09 14.476
83
101.29
41.93
1.19 13.358
101
104.89
32.78
0.01 11.691
146
106.95
27.51
0.09
8.88
251
108.65
20.80
0.02
8.94
491
109.21
15.37
0.00
6.03
1172
109.53
10.08
0.00
3.96
1342
108.92
7.65
0.00
3.51
Result Table 2. Element type: SOLID 45
Strain
Error
No.
of Nodal
Error
energy
nodes solution: (Elemental (Nodal
error
stress
Stress stress
method)
method)
(MPa)
196
107.16
40.48
0.00
10.43
210
104.44
38.50
2.33
10.43
456
111.28
31.19
1.33
11.58
950
112.24
29.05
0.04
7.49
3234
112.88
17.32
0.00
5.16
4799
113.18
17.25
0.00
4.86
Result Table 3. Element type: SOLID 92
Error
No.
of Nodal
Error
nodes solution: (Elemental (Nodal
stress
Stress stress
method)
method)
(MPa)
3198
111.28
42.09
6.48
3689
110.84
31.68
4.13
4074
111.74
28.82
2.24
4151
112.04
18.65
0.97
9521
112.34
17.76
0.73
10527 112.24
17.76
0.43

Strain
energy
error
6.09
5.09
2.00
1.46
0.77
0.56

From Result table 2, it can be seen that the error is zero calculated by nodal
stress method for 196 nodes in the model (column 1). It is because of the stress
is maximum at the node belonging one element (not shared by two or more
elements; see observation 2).
Conclusions:
1. Error using elemental stress gradient is more accurate method as the element
results are absolute results (No averaging is done). Also comparing this method
with nodal stress method this method is error free method and gives fairly good
error estimation. This method is also suggested in literature (Books) very
commonly.
2. Error using nodal stress has some disadvantages and gives zero error when
the node is not shared by two or more elements, hence care must be taken
before concluding the error.
3. This study does not throw any focus on accepted range of error, but gives fair
idea about error estimation. Study can be further extended to get the range of
accepted error values.
4. The methods discussed in the paper gives fair idea about importance of mesh
convergence and methods of error estimation. This will help analyst to
understand and analyze the results of his solution.

REFRENCES:
1. Finite element procedures
Klaus-jurgen Bathe
Prentice-Hall of India printed limited,
New Delhi-110001
1997
2. Building better products with finite element analysis
Vince Adams
3. NAFEMS
A finite Element Primer
4. ANSYS 6 Documentation, (Online help).