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Swinburne University of Technology

Faculty of Engineering and Industrial Sciences


Computer Aided Engineering

Spacegass Notes
General Description
Space Gass is a three-dimensional structural analysis and design package comprising of
beam and plate elements. It has the ability to analyse all types of frame structures including
space frames, space trusses, plane frames, plane trusses, grillages, and continuous beams .
It is suitable for many materials such as steel, concrete and timber, as well as any
combination of materials used together in the same structure.
The input for analysis is entered through a series of datasheets. Space Gass also provides a
powerful graphical interface. As you develop your knowledge of Space Gass, the use of the
graphical interface allows you to avoid the use of the datasheets, and offers a considerable
time saving in modelling.

Basic Modelling Concepts


The structure must first be idealised and modelled by nodes located in space and connected
by elements (or members) with defined properties.
Nodes should be located at joints, where member properties change, at restraint (or support)
locations, or where the direction of the longitudinal axis of the member changes. An example
idealisation of nodes and members for a two-dimensional structure is shown below.
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The nodes are generally free to move along the six degrees of freedom in space (three
translational and three rotational). If modelling a two-dimensional frame, the nodes are
considered to have only three degrees of freedom (two translational and one rotational).
This is discussed in more detail in Design Procedure Section 6: Node Restraints.
Loads may be applied as concentrated point loads at nodes, or on members at intermediate
points between nodes. Loads may also be applied as distributed loads along all or part of a
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member. Space Gass also provides a self-weight feature based on the material density and
cross-sectional area of members.
The shape and position of a structure in space is defined by a set of global axes (X,Y,Z). All
node coordinates, are input relative to the global axes system. The global XZ plane is
assumed to be horizontal, while the global Y-axis points vertically upwards.
Each member also has its own set of
local axes (x,y,z). Note the use of
uppercase XYZ for global axes and
lowercase xyz for local axes. This use
of local axes is necessary because
section properties, member loads,
forces and moments are most
conveniently referenced by axes along
and at right angles to the member. All
axes are right hand orthogonal. This
means that if you are looking at the XY
plane with the Y-axis pointing upwards
and the X-axis pointing to the right, the
Z-axis points towards.
In order to determine the orientation of the local axes for a member, you must apply below
rules 1-3.
Rule 1. The local x-axis lies along the axis of the member and points from node A to node B.
Rule 2. The local y-axis lies at right angles to the local x-axis and points in the same general
direction as the global Y-axis. It is orientated such that the local xy-plane is parallel
to the global Y-axis.
Rule 3. For members that have their longitudinal axis parallel to the global Y-axis, rule 2
above is undefined. Consequently, for these members, the local z-axis points in the
same direction as the global Z-axis.
Items which act along or about an axis
are considered to be positive when they
act along or about the positive axis
direction. Positive rotations conform to
the right hand screw rule, as shown to
the right.
Applied loads have their sign determined by the axes system in which they are referred. Most
types of member loads can be specified in either the global or local system, however, node
loads and self weight must be referenced by the global system.
Node displacements are positive if they displace along or around the positive global axis
directions. External reactions are positive if they act along or around the positive global axis
directions. Positive axial forces cause compression in the member. Member forces and
moments follow the sign conventions as shown below.

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It follows that:
 Positive moments cause compression on the positive axis side of the member.
 Unsymmetrical sections (eg: channels and angles) have their flange toes pointing in the
direction of the local z-axis. Positive y-axis moments therefore cause the flange toes to
go into compression.
 Positive shears cause the node A end of the member to translate in the direction of the
positive axis with respect to the node B end.
 Positive torsions cause the node A end of the member to rotate anti-clockwise with
respect to the node B end when observed from the node B end.

Design Procedure
1. Units
As for any Windows based program, a typical menu appears at the top of the Space Gass
window, as shown below.

The Structure menu is the main menu from which the physical properties of the structure are
input. The Structure menu, which when expanded, appears as below.

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To set your units, from the Structure menu, select


Units. For each of the measurements, select the
units you wish to use for your model. The default
units that appear will typically be those that you will
use for your model. The most practical units are
generally:
Length m
Forces kN
Moments kNm
Material Strength & Stress MPa
Mass - Tonnes
Note that if you have already commenced a model,
and you change units, you must ensure that the
Convert the current job for any unit changes box
is ticked.

2. Heading
To give your job a heading, Select Headings from the Structure menu. Give your model a
Project Heading, a Job Heading and enter your initials for the Designer.
3. Save
From the File menu, select Save to save your file. Save your file with a name that readily
identifies the model (the latest version of Space Gass allows you to enter a 64 character
filename). Immediately saving your file is good practice with any application, but more so with
Space Gass as the program backs up your file after each change made to your model. If
Space Gass crashes at any stage, upon reopening Space Gass it will ask you if you wish to
access this backup file. If you are working with an unsaved file, it will not create a backup of
your work, and any input will be lost.
4. Nodes
To define your nodes, from the Structure menu, select Nodes, Datasheet. The following
datasheet will appear.

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In all datasheets, values are input in the bottom line of the window, which is highlighted in a
darker shade of grey. At the end of each line of input, you must press enter. If you do not
press enter prior to closing the window, any data entered on the input line will not be saved.
You will also notice on every datasheet, a button with a blue question mark,
, will be
located towards the top of the datasheet. This button takes you directly to the online help
topic relating to that datasheet. Space Gass comes with an excellent online help, which can
be accessed from the Help menu.
In the Nodes window, you must specify a node number, and the coordinates of the node in
each of the three global directions. If you are modelling in two dimensions, your Z values
should be input as 0. This assumes that the X axis is horizontal and that the Y axis is
vertical. It is recommended that the Y axis be always used as the vertical axis for
compatibility reasons when importing and exporting between CAD and similar applications.
The Y axis is set as the default vertical axis in Space Gass.
5. Members
To insert your members, from the Structure menu, select Members, Datasheet. The
following datasheet will appear.

In the Members window, you must specify a member number for each member. The
direction angle, direction node and direction axis assist in redefining the direction of the local
axis to suit your needs, which for our purposes can be left as the default values of 0, N/A and
N/A respectively. The member type allows you to select normal, tension only, compression
only, and cable members from the drop down menu at the top left corner of the datasheet. A

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normal member type represents a tension-compression member. Na and Nb represents


Node A and Node B, the two nodes the member is connected to.
A section and material number needs to be entered for each member. In the subsequent
steps below, you will define each cross-sectional property and material property. Each
different cross-section must have a different section number, and each different material
property must have a different material number.
A member may be released or fixed to its end nodes with varying degrees of fixity. Member
end fixity is referenced by the local axes system and there are six possible components at
each end, which may be fixed or released. These components are specified by a six
character code corresponding to translational fixity along x, y and z and rotational fixity about
x, y and z respectively, i.e. x, y, z, x, y, z.
The letter F represents fixed and R represents released. Thus, as an example, a pin
ended truss member with no rotational end fixity in a 3D frame could be modelled using a
fixity of FFFRRR at each end, while a pin ended truss member in a 2D frame could have
fixities of FFFFFR. Members with fully fixed ends would have fixities of FFFFFF.
Completely rigid frame members should have member end fixities of FFFFFF regardless of
whether the frame is pin based or not. The default connection at both ends of members is
fully fixed, i.e. FFFFFF.
The four most common types of joint connection are provided as click on buttons,
, at the top left hand corner of the datasheet so that you do not need to type the
fixity codes in. Buttons are provided for both Nodes A and B. From Left to Right, the buttons
represent FFFFFF, FFFFFR, FFFFRR, and FFFRRR.
As for node restraints, you can model a semi-rigid joint by using the letter S, although this is
outside the scope of the course.
Note that the units in which each of the values are to be input into the columns of the
datasheet are specified in the bottom right hand corner of each of the datasheets.
6. Node Restraints
Node restraints are specified by a six character code corresponding to restraints along X,Y
and Z and about X,Y and Z respectively, i.e. X, Y, Z, X, Y, Z. "F" represents fixed, "R"
represents released and "S" represents spring (or flexible). "D" restraints are no longer
supported and "F" should be used instead.
For example, a pin-based support that prevents all translations but allows the node to rotate
about X, Y or Z would have a restraint code of FFFRRR. Alternatively, a roller support that
allows the node to move in the X direction only and rotate about X, Y or Z would have a
restraint code of RFFRRR. A fully built-in (encastre) support would have a restraint code of
FFFFFF. A restraint that prevents movement in the Z direction while allowing all other
movements and rotations would have a restraint code of RRFRRR.
Node restraints should not be confused with member end fixities. Member end fixities
specify how the member is internally fixed to its end nodes. Node restraints however specify
how the structure is connected to its external reference, such as its foundation.
To insert node restraints to your model, from the Structure menu, select Node Restraints,
Datasheet. The Node Restraint datasheet is shown below. The eight most common types of
node restraint are provided as a click on button at the right of the datasheet. The type of
restraint and fixity code have been highlighted on the datasheet.
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Y
X

Fixed base FFFFFF

Pinned base FFFRRR

Pinned base FFFFRR

restraining X translation only, FRRRRR

Roller base in 2D RFFRRR

restraining Y translation only, RFRRRR

Flexible base (spring) FSFRRR

restraining Z translation only, RFRRRR

Note that a value of the stiffness does not have to be entered for Fx, Fy, Fz, Mx, My, Mz
unless a semi-rigid supported, denoted by the letter S, has been specified in the respective
degree of freedom. We will not be using semi-rigid supports as part of this course.
7. Section Properties
To define the cross-sectional properties for your members, from the Structure menu, select
Section Properties, Datasheet. The following datasheet will appear.

Section properties can be entered in any one of four ways:


i)

ii)

By selecting a standard section from the library by clicking on the button


on the top
left of the datasheet. For example, you can select a structural steel section from the
provided Grade 300 steel library.
Using the shape builder to generate a user-defined cross-section from a number of
common shapes. The shape builder is also accessed by a button
datasheet.

iii)

iv)

at the top of the

Using a standard shape from the available list, accessed by the


button. Available
shapes include circular cross-sections, rectangular cross-sections, tubes, angles,
I-beams and T-beams.
Directly inputting the properties of the cross-section.

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8. Material Properties
To define your material properties for your members, from the Structure menu, select
Materials, Datasheet. The following datasheet will appear.

Material properties can be entered in one of two ways:


i)

ii)

on the
By selecting a standard material from the library by clicking on the button
top left of the datasheet. Available materials in the provided library include steel,
aluminium, and concrete of varying strengths, from 20 to 50MPa.
Directly inputting the properties of the material.

9. Loads
All loads are input from the Loads menu, which when expanded, appears as below.

As can be seen from the Loads menu,


Space Gass has the capabilities to
apply loads in various forms. For this
course, the four main types of loads
used are node loads, member
concentrated loads, member distributed
forces, and self weight.

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Prior to entering your loads, some consideration needs to be given to how many different
primary load cases, i.e. Dead Load, Live Load, Wind Load, Earthquake Load etc, are
present, and to assign a load case number to each. Loads for each primary load case
should be entered as a separate load case.
i) Node Loads
Node loads are concentrated point loads that are located at nodes within your model. To
define your node loads, from the Loads menu, select Node Loads, Datasheet. The following
datasheet will appear.

Note that the forces and moments are in the directions of the global axes.
ii) Member Concentrated Loads
Member concentrated loads are concentrated point loads that can be located at any point on
a member in your model. To define your member concentrated loads, from the Loads menu,
select Member Concentrated Loads, Datasheet. The following datasheet will appear.

The sub (sub load) column allows you to reference multiple concentrated loads on a member
within the same load case. Each load is given a sub load number (different to a load case
number). Unless there are multiple loads applied to a single member within the same load
case, the sub load number should be 1.
Member concentrated loads allow you to define your loads in either the global or local axes
direction. The coordinate system used is selected in the axes column from the drop down
menu in the top left hand corner of the datasheet. This will affect what you input for your
loads in the Fx, Fy, Fz, Mx, My and Mz columns. For example if you specify the local axes
as your coordinate system, then Fx will represent a force in the local x direction. Whereas if
you specify the global axes, Fx will represent a force in the global X direction.

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The position of the load can be defined as a percentage of the total length of the member, or
as an actual distance, from the left end node (Node A) towards the right end node (Node B)
of the member. This option is selected in the units column from the drop down menu in the
top left hand corner of the datasheet.
iii) Member Distributed Forces
Member distributed forces allow you to specify a uniformly or trapezoidal distributed load on
all or part of a member. To define your member distributed forces, from the Loads menu,
select Member Distributed Forces, Datasheet. The following datasheet will appear.

As for member concentrated loads, you need to specify a different sub load for each
distributed force on a member within the same load case.
Member concentrated loads allow you to define your loads in either the global or local axes
direction. However, member concentrated loads offer the use of global inclined or global
projected axes. The difference between global inclined and global projected is best
explained by the example on the following page.
wY = -2kN/m

wY = -2kN/m

5m

5m

4m

4m

FY = 4m x 2kN/m
= 8kN

FY = 5m x 2kN/m
= 10kN

Global Projected

Global Inclined

The coordinate system used is selected in the axes column from the drop down menu in the
top left hand corner of the datasheet. The selection of axes will affect you input for your
loads as for member concentrated loads.

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As for member concentrate loads, the start and finish position of the load can be defined as a
percentage of the total length of the member, or as an actual distance, from the left end node
(Node A) towards the right end node (Node B) of the member.
To define a uniformly distributed load, the start and finish distributed load must be the same
value, whereas for a trapezoidal distributed load, the start and finish distributed load must be
different.
iv) Self Weight
Space Gass has a built in feature to calculate the self-weight of the model based on the
cross-sectional area of members, input in the section properties datasheet, and the material
density, input in the material properties datasheet. To define your self-weight, from the
Loads menu, select Self Weight. The following datasheet will appear.

By selecting the primary load case to which to include self-weight (ideally this should be your
dead load primary load case, although you may separate the two), Space Gass will
automatically calculate the weight of the structure and apply a uniformly distributed load on
each individual member.
10.

Load Combinations

Rather than having to input loads for each load combination (in accordance with AS1170.1),
each unfactored primary load case can be simply combined using the combination load case
feature.
To define your load combinations, from the Loads menu, select Combination Load Cases.
The following datasheet will appear.

For example if you entered Load Case 1 as your Dead Load and Load Case 3 as your Live
Load, and you required the load combination 1.2 DL + 1.5 LL, then you would enter you
combination load case as shown in the above datasheet.
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Note that your load case number for your combination load case must be different from any
number used for your primary load cases.
11.

Load Case Titles

The use of load case titles allows your work to be easily followed and checked. When
outputting results, either to the screen or to a printer, if you define your load case title, the
title will appear against the load case number every time it is used in the output.
To define your load combinations, from the Loads menu, select Load Case Titles. The
following datasheet will appear.

Load case titles should clearly define each primary load case or load combination.
12.

Analysis

For Space Gass to calculate results for you model, you must undertake an analysis. An
analysis is undertaken from the Analysis menu, which appears as shown below.

For the purposes of this course, linear static analysis will only be used. To run a linear static
anaylis, from the Analysis menu, select Linear Static Analysis. When the Static Analysis
window appears, click OK.
Note that an analysis on a structure can only be performed after you have entered sufficient
information on the jobs structural geometry and loading.
13.

Results

The Output menu allows you to output the results from the analysis of your model. The
Output menu appears as below.

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Space Gass allows you to produce loading, displacement, bending moment, shear force,
stress, and axial force diagrams on the screen. The left side toolbar (see The Left Side
Toolbar) provides a series of buttons to toggle these results, and various other graphical
features, on and off. Multiple load cases and diagram types can be superimposed together
on the screen. The graphic on the screen can be printed from the Output menu by selecting
Print Graphics.
In addition, a graphics function allows you to interactively query the values along each
diagram. This feature can be selected from the Query menu.
Alternatively, a report can be created of a selection of your input and results for your model.
This is done from the Output menu by selecting View test report. A window appears, as
shown below.

Each item can be selected individually, or you can use the All On and All Off buttons to select
all items in a group.
Having selected OK in the View Text
Report window above, a second View
Text Report window will appear as
shown to the left.
This window allows you to modify the
format of the report, as well as limit the
report to specific load cases, nodes,
members and section properties.
In clicking OK, the SPACE GASS
Report window appears, with your
requested data. From this SPACE
GASS Report window, you can print
your report to a printer.

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The Left Side Toolbar


The left side toolbar provides a series of buttons to toggle on and off a number of graphical
features. It is of particular use in displaying results from your analysis in a graphical manner.
The use of each button on the left side menu is shown below. Without a full commercial
license, several of these features will be permanently inaccessible. Other buttons, such as
View Bending Moment Diagrams, will only become activated after you undertake an analysis
of your model.
Up

Viewpoint
Left
Down

Right
View Rendered Model

View Nodes
View Plates

View Members

View Member Fixities

View Node Restraints

View Offsets
View Local Axes

View Master-Slave Constraints


View Global Origin
View 3D Geometry
View Member Results in Local XY Plane
View Load Diagrams

View Labelling and Annotation


View Member Results in Local XZ Plane
View Displacement Diagrams

View Member Bending Moment Diagrams

View Member Shear Force Diagrams


View Member Torsion Diagrams

View Member Axial Force Diagrams


View Member Stress Diagrams
View Reactions

View Plate Contours


View Envelope
View Buckling Mode Shapes

View Dynamic Mode Shapes


View Steel Member Design Group

View Steel Member Top Flanges


View Steel Member Design Results

View Steel Member Flange Restraints


View Steel connection Drawings

Cancel

OK

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The Top Toolbar


The top toolbar controls a mixture of file, editing, viewing and settings options. At this stage
of the course, you will probably only use buttons on the left hand side of the toolbar. As you
become more confident and comfortable with the program, you will come to use these
buttons, and the other graphical input features, rather than the main menu.

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