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Compufcrs & Slrrrcfurc.~. Vol. I, pp. 103-130. Pcrgamon Press 1971.

Printed in Great Britain



University of Arizona


American Bureau of Shipping

Abstract-The application of the finite element method to the analysis of a ship hull structure is discussed.
An analysis of vessel types, the appropriate computational approaches and critical loading patterns are
provided. The various types of elements available for modeling the structure and thetr limitations are de+
cribed. A summary of techniques designed to obtain the overall behaviorofthe vessel as well as local stress
details is provided. Examples illustrate the use of automatic data generating routines. The incorporation
of decision making within the computer program relieves the user of many unnecessary details and insures
against human error.

THE SUCCESSFUL use of the electronic digital computer in the analysis of complex structures
of arbitrary configuration can be primarily attributed to the advances made during the
last twenty years in the finite element method. Although this approach was originally
developed with a view towards analysis of aerospace and civil engineering structures
[l-3], it is now extensively used in the field of ship structures. The purpose of this paper
is to discuss the various aspects of application of the finite element method to ship struc-
tures, some of the problems involved, and to suggest methods that may be useful in solving
In adopting the finite element method an organization has to undertake a certain amount
of preparation and change. As in most engineering applications, the theory provides the
framework within which the engineer must exercise judgement in order to reach a valid
and economical solution. Computational tools and techniques as well as experience must
be accumulated before the theory can be meaningfully applied. This necessitates a re-
education of the technical personnel. From the managements* point of view, the dollar
cost of performing a finite element computation relative to the value of the expected
results is a major factor in determining the desirability of the analysis. Another vital
consideration is the speed by which an analysis can be performed, so that a deadline
may be met. The time required to perform a computation depends not only on the available
programs and computer type but also on the experience and training of personnel and the
complexity of the problem.

7 Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.

: Senior Surveyor.


In the application of the method to ship structures, original efforts were directed
mainly at two-dimensional analyses of a webframe or three dimensional analyses of a short
segment of the ship. It was only recently that a demand for a three-dimensional analysis
of a complete vessel emerged [4]. Traditionally ship structural design criteria are based
on long experience as set forth in the rules of ship classification societies such as given by [5].
The last ten years have seen many departures from conventional ship design with respect to
ship size and types. For example, oil tankers have increased in size from a typical 30,000
tons to well over 300,000 tons. The period saw the birth of the containership and the great
increase in the size of bulk carriers. Since for these vessel sizes little or no experience has
been accumulated, more rational methods of analysis have to be employed. Should these
new methods prove reliable, experimentation in design will be encouraged and the current
revolution in ship construction will be further enhanced.
In contrast to the aerospace industry, a small number of ships, often only one, of a
particular design are built. This limits the amount of funds available for the analysis. It is
therefore more imperative to seek efficient, inexpensive tools in performing the computation.
The total expense for problem solution consists of both computer charges and man hours,
Contrary to the belief of many, the man hours constitute a major part of the expenditure.
and more automation is called for. A reduction of the necessary man hours will also help
to meet production deadlines.
Automation of model generation and interpretation of the results will reduce man hours
while increasing computer charges. The net effect is usually a decrease in the total costs.
New numerical techniques are continuously devised in order to speed up existing programs.
New refined finite elements deliver, in general, more accurate solutions for the same com-
puter time expenditures but may result in a more complex modelling procedure. Alter-
natives such as substructuring or the super element technique, briefly described later,
achieve similar or often better results, using simpler elements.
Parallel to developments in available elements, programs and numerical methods,
improvements and innovations in computer hardware have also a profound effect. As
computational speeds greatly increase from one generation of computers to the next, com-
puter charges are bound to decrease. Interactive graphics terminals seem to be the ultimate
answer to the man hour problem.


Of the large merchant ships, (about 1000 ft in length) being built today, several types
predominate. They are the oil tankers, and open deck type vessels such as bulk carriers
and container vessels. Because of their large size, their structural strength must be assured.
Typical structural configurations are shown in Figs. 1 and 2. The areas of emphasis in the
structural analysis depends on the vessel type as described below.
II. 1. Oil tankers
Oil tankers are weight limited ships, in the sense that the amount of liquid cargo that
may be carried by the vessel is limited by weight rather than by volume. They may displace
up to 300,000-400,000 tons of sea water with their bottoms being perhaps 70 ft below the
sea water surface. Because of the large pressure heads due to the draft and liquid cargo in
the tanks, high shear forces develop in the web plating of girders and transverses near the
bottom, particularly if a cargo tank is empty, Fig. 3. Because of the high shear forces,
the depth of the webs has to be large thereby increasing the danger of elastic instability.
Application of the Finite Element Method to Ship Structures 105

Section B-B Section A-A

Transverse web frame Transverse bulkhead

FIG. 1. Typical oil tanker.

Section A-A

FIO. 2. Typical open deck vessel (container ship).


FIG. 3. Critical web frame loading in a tanker.

In addition to the local transverse web frames, the longitudinal strength of the entire
vessel deserves equal attention. Because of the extreme length and depth of these vessels,
the distributed wave and cargo loading along the length causes appreciable bending of
the hull, resulting in high tensile and compressive stresses in the outer fibres of the hull
girder. This, combined with lateral pressure from sea and cargo render the plating sus-
ceptible to buckling. The problem of instability is further enhanced by the use of higher
strength steel in these regions for their weight saving characteristics, resulting in thinner

11. 2. Coiztainerships and hulk carriers

In addition to bending, a major strength consideration in the design and analysis of

container or open deck vessels is torsion. The containership has particularly wide hatch
openings over almost the full length of the ship. This is required in order to facilitate rapid
direct loading and unloading of the cargo containers. Consequently, there is a general lack
of torsional rigidity or warping restraint in comparison with vessels having smaller deck
openings (dry cargo ships) or enclosed weather decks (oil tankers). Torsional loadings
arise prin~arily from non-symmetrical action of oblique sea waves. To a lesser extent,
torsional loads can be caused by non-symmetrical loading of the cargo containers them-
selves in the ships holds.
Due to the twisting of the vessel, the sides tend to deform in the transverse plane and
experience longitudinal Rarping. The warping deformations of the side shells are maximum
at the deck level resulting in distortion of the deck openings. This presents a practical
problem in maintaining the watertightness of the hatch covers. Structurally, the hatch covers
themselves must have sufficient strength and elasticity so as not to become permanentty
deformed and damaged. The cross deck members connecting the sides experience oppositely
directed displacements at their ends, developing shear forces and bending moments.
Additional shear stresses due to torsion bending develop at the regions of warping restraints,
such as at the intersection of the open cargo holds with the more rigid fore and after bodies
of the hull structure.
In addition to torsional effects, the vessel experiences Rexural bending and high stresses
develop at the longitudinal hatch edges due to the absence of a deck. The resultant stresses
when superimposed with the hatch corner stresses magnify the stress concentration problem.
Application of the Finite Element Method to Ship Structures 107


It is difficult to obtain a detailed picture of the behavior of the entire hull structure in
one computer analysis without a large expenditure of computer time. Alternatives must be
found to reduce the total effort and still obtain reasonable results. The approach generally
used is to perform the analysis in two or more stages. A complete hull strucutre analysis
provides the overall displacement response of the vessel under various combinations of
cargo and sea loading. With these displacements as boundary conditions, together with
a detailed local load description, an analysis of any desired portion of the structure can
then be performed to obtain an accurate stress distribution. Other techniques are described
later in the paper. In performing the analysis of the primary structure, the entire hull is
idealized as a three-dimensional finite element model using a variable size mesh. As shown
in Fig. 4, a coarse mesh is used over most of the model. A finer mesh is employed in regions
of interest where a further local analysis is to be performed. By varying the mesh size,
the problem can be reduced to tractable proportions and still yield adequate displa~ment

PIor of symmetry ._

FIG. 4. Hull structure with variable size mesh.

Although it is desirable to model the entire hull in order to correctly evaluate the res-
ponse of the structure, less exacting procedures are often employed For example, in tanker
structures where the objective of the analysis is to obtain stresses in the transverse strength
members such as web frames and bulkheads, three tank lengths of the hull may constitute
the primary structure for analysis. The stresses calculated in the transverse members wili
depend therefore primarily upon the local tank loading and the relative vertical displace-
ments of the center line, longitudinal bulkhead and side shell. To analyze only three tank
lengths, displacements must be assumed at the boundary of the tanks where they have been
cut from the entire hull structure. These boundary displacements are customarily
approximated by assuming the hull to behave as a simple beam under vertically applied
cargo and sea pressure loads. Using the engineers beam theory, the translational and rota-
tional displacements of the beam neutral axis at the location of the cuts can be imposed
onto the 3-D model as translational displacements, assuming that the tanker cross section
remains plane in bending about the neutral axis. At a transverse section, the center-line,
longitudinal bulkhead and side shell may be assumed to deflect by an equal amount in the

vertical direction due to the beam bending behavior of the hull structure or relative dis-
placements may be estimated using a separate analysis. By modeling only three tank spaces,
(one tank on either side of the tank of interest), the local effects of cargo loading in adjacent
tanks is included.
More drastic simplifications are sometimes made in finite element analysis of local
areas. Two-dimensional models of webframes using membrane elements are often em-
ployed, and in some instances beams and rods. Plate and shell structures have also been
solved using the Hrennikoff model made out of rods.
Although the authors do not doubt the usefuiness of results obtained through intelli-
gient nse of simplified models, it would still seem desirable to conduct a computation rc-
presenting the physical structure as closely as possible. The amount of simplifying assump-
tions that can be tolerated in an analysis depends on the type of vessel, the nature of the
loading and the purpose of the computation.


Symmetry of loading and structure can always be used to reduce the problem size
prior to computation. in some cases even an arbitrary loading on a symmetric structure
can be converted into symmetric and anti-symmetric loading patterns thus reducing the
computational effort significantly.
Oil cargo is symmetrically loaded about the centerline plane of a tanker. Although
waves oblique to the longitudinal axis of the vessel are present, only longitudinally directed
sinusoidal waves are considered critical. Due to the overall symmetry of the problem,
the size of the model analyzed can be reduced by half, thereby decreasing the computa-
tional time.
For a container type vessel, the critical sea induced torsional loading is caused by waves
obliquely directed to the longitudinal axis. This results in a non-symmetrical loading about
the centerline plane. This arbitrary loading can be represented by the superposition of two
loading modes, one symmetric and the other anti-symmetric. In considering the two load
cases, only one half of the vessel need be modeled, symmetry and anti-symmetry being im-
posed by selecting the appropriate boundary constraints at the centerline plane. In order to
illustrate the savings involved let us consider a vessel modeled using s stations, each in-
volving u degrees of freedom. The total number of unknowns, U, is equal to su and the half
band width, b, is 2~. Using Gaussian elimination, taking symmetry into account and as-
suming L loading cases, the number of multiplications and additions involved in the
operation is

This number is representative of the computing effort necessary to solve the problem.
It is seen that, by reducing the number of freedoms per station by a factor of 2, N is reduced
by approximately 8. The above figure does not take into account the presence of mass
storage operations, which may have a significant influence. It is also interesting to note
that the addition of a loading case increases the time by a factor of 2/(21+ 2L). For example,
if u = 150 and L = 20 the additional time required to solve one more loading case is approxi-
mately one percent of the original time.
Application of the Finite Element Method to Ship Structures 109


Without going into the theory of the finite element method, suffice it to say that the
method itself is not new in principle since the basic idea of subdividing a complex problem
into a number of simpler ones, and interfacing the simple solutions using conditions of
compatibility and equilibrium were practiced long ago. What makes the finite element
method a powerful tool is the amount of progress that has been accomplished in application
to arbitrary configurations and of course the adaptability of the approach to digital com-
puter applications. Excellent presentations of the theory can be found in [2, 6, 71, among
others. The theory is well established and readily programmable as evidenced by the many
general purpose finite element programs on the market today. The quality of a finite
element solution remains dependent, amongst other things, upon the characteristics of the
finite elements used in the process. There are many types of finite elements available for
structural analysis and a brief summary of the most relevant ones may be useful to the reader.

V. 1. C~ass~~cat~~nof elements affording to topology

Elements may be topologically classified into one, two, and three dimensional confi-
gurations. The one-dimensional (line) element connects two or more node points which lie
one a line or a curve in space and has only a length dimension. The basic line elements
are the bar and the beam. The structural characteristics of the bar element is that it ex-
hibits strength only in the direction of the bar itself, i.e. axial stiffness only. The beam
element, although geometrically one-dimensional, has in addition shear and bending
stiffnesses about its principal axes. Line eiements are principally used in truss and
frame analysis as well as stiffeners in complex structural models.
A two-dimensional (surface) element connects three or more nodal points not in a
straight line. The counterpart to a simple bar element in two-dimensions is the triangular
membrane element with three corner points. It has stiffness only in its plane exhibiting
either plane stress or plane strain properties. The counterpart to the beam element is
the plane triangular plate bending element. In addition to triangular shaped two-dimen-
sional elements, there are quadrilateral membrane and bending elements with four or
more node points. Non planar surface elements are called shell elements. Surface elements
are used in the analysis of plate and shell structures.
A three-dimensional solid (volume) element connects four or more node points, not
in a plane. The basic solid element is the tetrahedron element with four corner nodes.
Equivalent to the plane quadrilateral element there is the hexahedron element with eight
corner nodes. Solid elements are primarily used in continuum mechanics analysis.
By introducing symmetry on the element level such as in the case of axisymmetric
shells and solids, the dimension of the analysis may be reduced. An axisymmetric shell of
revolution, which would normally be solved using plate elements is reduced to a one-
dimensional problem using beam-like shell ring elements. An axisymmetric solid can be
reduced to a two dimensional analysis using solid triangular or quadrilateral ring elements.

V. 2. Classification according to displacement, stress or mixed assumptions

In a finite element analysis, a complex problem is essentially subdivided into a large
number of solutions of standard simple problems as represented by elastic finite elements.
In order to predict the response of an element, simplifying assumptions are made. These
assumptions may relate to the element displacement form, the stress distribution within it
or a combination of both. One may refer to such elements as being kinematically idealized,
statically idealized or hybrid respectively. Functions which describe displacement or
110 HUSSEIN A. KAMEL and DmAti~ Lit:

stress distributions must satisfy certain criteria so that the solution converges to the correct
answer as the finite elements are made smaller in size. In the case of kinematically idealized
elements, the correct solution is an upper bound since the element deformation is constrained
by assuming certain displacement patterns. The resulting strain energy and flexibility of
the structure are both underestimated. On the other hand, a static idealizationoftheelement
(assumed stress distribution) results in an overestimated structural flexibility so that the
correct solution is a lower bound [2].
With an assumed displacement or stress function, it is not possible to satisfy both
conditions of equilibrium and compatibility simultaneously. The hybrid method of element
formulation [8] combines features of both methods. Equilibriun: stress fields are chosen
within the element and displacement functions are cilosen on the boundary of theelement
in order to satisfy interelement compatability. The hybrid element formulation is currently
receiving widespread attention and appears promising.
Of the three methods of clement formulation, the assumed displacement method is the
most common. The resultant force deformation relationship is in terms of the element
stiffness which can be used directly in :he finite element matrix displacement method.

V. 3. Plate and shell eleixcir:.c

Much research has been conducted in the area of plate and shell element development.
As bending elements are widely used in the overall analysis of ship hulls. it is perhaps
appropriate to review some of the many plate bending element types.
Most formulations are based on the Kirchoff hypothesis for thin plates, which effec-
tively neglects cross sectional shear distortion. Derivation of the element stiffnesses by
assumed displacement functions are predominant, although the statically idealized [9-l l]
and the hybrid approach [ 12: 131 have also been applied successfully. The selection of
appropriate displacement functions generally falls in one of two classes. One approach
is based on using interpolation techniques such as those attributed to Lagrange and Hermite
[14, 151 and the other on the explicit use of polynomials. Both approaches ensure displace-
ment compatibility between adjacent elements since a complete polynomial expansion is
invariant and therefore is uniquely described by the displacement of tiiz end points and
intermediate points along an element side. Similarly, interpolation functions are chosen
so that their value at a side is dependent only on the displacement cf node pointson that side.
Some of the more notable flat plate elements of triangular, quadrilateral and rectan-
gular shapes are provided in Tables I and 2, giving the degree of the displacement ftinction,
nodal degrees of freedom, element conformity and refcrcnc-s to be consulted for mol-2
detail. The tabulation of the elements are due to Holand [ 161 and Gallagher [ 171. A bending
element is considered conforming if both transverse deflection and slope are continuou:.
across element boundaries, Although cojlformitJr is noi :I necessar! collditiou for cdl:-
vergence, it is a desirable characteristic. Element 1 is a nonconforming triangular plate
based on an incomplete bubic. Element 2 is derived from a quintic polynomial (21 degrees
of freedom) subsequently reduced to 18 degrees of freedom by establishing a kinematic
relationship between the slope at the midpoint of each side and its end nodes. Triangular
elements 3 and 4 are derived using complete polynomial expansions of the fourth and fifth
order respectively.
Elements 5 and 6 are macro elements produced by assembling a number of sub elements.
The stiffness matrix for both elements is obtained by subdivision into three triangular sub-
elements, calculating the stiffness of each from locally assumed displacement functions,
Application of the Finite Element Method 10 Ship Structures III

then assembling them in a suitable manner to obtain the stiffness of the entire element.
In subdividing the element, internal node points are specified at the midsides so that cubic
polynomial displacement functions can be employed. This increases the number of degrees
of freedom for the basic element. The degrees of freedom are then reduced by enforcing
compatibility of the internal nodes and by a static condensation process eliminating internal
degrees of freedom [18, 191.

Element Triangular plate Joint degrees Element Deg. of Conf. Ref.

No. BendingElements of Freedom Deg. of Displ. Element No.
freedom p0l.

1 w, Uz, wy 9 3 No 23

3 4 1 n
Node 1
II, Wr,

Node 2 :
w, Wn
wy 1.5 4 YCS 36

Nodt! I
II, wr, WI 24
4 l~ZZ, WYY, WLV 21 5 Yes 28

Node 2 :
Wfl 29

5 w, WI, WY 9 3 No 18

Node 1
II,ws. WY 12 3 Yes 19
6 n
Node 2


Element Rectangular and Joint deyrces Element Deg. of CO& Ref.

NO. quadrilateral plate of freedom deg. of dispt. ctcmcnt No.
bending elements freedom pal.

t 1
7 w, wr, wy, wzy 16 5 YCS 30
i i 31


, _I
30 ,y---_._
12 3 Yes 19

Table 2 illustrates some rectangular and quadrilateral plate bending elements. Elements
9 and 10 are macro elements composed of preassembled triangular plates.
The so called isoparametric elements present another example of kinematic idealiza-
tion [20-221. Polynomial displacement functions are chosen in terms of coordinates natur-
ally associated with the geometry of the element boundaries, called element or intrinsic
coordinates. By so doing, the polynomial is uniquely defined by values of the function at
the boundary nodes, hence ensuring compatibility of adjacent elements. The same functions
chosen to describe the intrinsic coordinate system are also used to describe the displace-
ment field within the element, The isoparametric concept is useful for developing families
of one, two and three dimensional plane stress and bending elements of irregular geometry
from a basic, or parent, element. By specifying more nodes on the element boundaries
and increasing the order of the displacement polynomial accordingly, elements of greater
complexity can be formulated.
In the derivation of kinematically idealized elements using polynomial functions, the
degree of polynomial selected is dependent upon the number of degrees of freedom to be
allowed for the element, which is a function of element type and number of boundary
Applicationof the Finite Element Method to Ship Structures 113

points. By using a higher degree displacement polynomial, more deformation patterns can
be represented, thus improving the structural behavior. For this purpose additional node
paints must be specified, either within the element or along its edges. Alternatively, more
freedoms must be used per node (curvature, twist, etc.). Improvements in accuracy thus
obtained must be balanced against some less desirable features. In particular, intermediate
node points along the element sides complicate automatic mesh generating procedures
and increase the band width due to the element. By including mare than six freedoms per
paint, we limit our abiiity to handle complex structures in general, and multi-connected
shells, in particular. The question whether it is preferable to use a large number of elements
having low-order displacement polynomials or a smaller number of elements having higher
order displa~me~t polynomials is still to be resolved,
The foregoing element presentation is intended as a brief review of some of the more
typical elements potentially useful for ship structural analysis. In selecting the element
types for a particular model, consideration must be given to such factors as element ac-
curacy, reliability, and simplicity as well as computational costs. If more than one element
type is to be used inter-element compatibility must be borne in mind.


The idea of conducting local analyses subsequent to the analysis of a larger area in
order to zoom on a local area of interest was mentioned and used in structural analysis
prior to the advent of the finite element method. An excellent example of its use in the area
of finite element analysis of ship structures can be found in [34]. The applicatian of a local
analysis subsequent to an analysis of the complete hull is given in [4]. There, the purpose
of the overall analysis is to obtain the displacements for the whale vessel under varying
loading conditions. Guided by the displacement results, local areas of interest are chosen,
isolated and remodeled. A finer analysis is then conducted using a mare detailed local
loading configuration together with boundary displacements from the first analysis. A
related but more promising procedure is that of the super element which has been success-
fully employed in 1969 and 1970 at the University of Arizona and Standard Oil of California
[351/. This procedure can be described as a local analysis of a refined made1 (super element)
within the overall analysis. An automatic process far reducing the interaction freedoms
between the super element and the rest of the structure using interpolation functions is
employed. The more refined local model is integrated within the computation of the overall
vessel and local results can be automatically generated.
An alternative to a displacement interface between a local analysis and a larger one is a
force interface. The authors believe that the tist procedure is easier to apply and is mare
consistent with the nature of the displacement method.


An interesting technique closely related to that of the super element is described in

this section. Assuming the presence of an efficient automatic mesh generator, a detailed
finite element model of the entire ship may be generated. The model may contain a large
number of freedoms. In fact, the number may be too great for an economical analysis.
and DONAI.D Lru

Kinematic constraints on the model may be auton~aticaily introduced in order to

substantially decrease the total number of degrees of freedom of the model as well as the
band width, except perhaps at chosen areas of interest. The procedure may be expressed
through the folowing simple formulation. The loads R and deflections r of the original
model are related through the equation

R=Kr (2)

where 1yis the original matrix of the model. Let the reduced set of displacements be denoted
by q so that
r=Tq (3)

where T is a suitable reduction matrix obtained from the applied constraints. it can be
shown that the equivalent generalized load Q can be obtained from

Q = TR. (4)
Equation (2) is transformed into
Q=K,q (5)
Kc,= TKT. (5)

Equation (6) may be solved economically for q. If the constraints are chosen appro-
priately, the solution will still be capable of indicating areas of local high stress. By re-
moving constraints in these high stressed areas and rerunning the problem, a better estimate
of the detailed stress distribution may be obtained. Whereas this procedure may involve
the generation of a large number of structural elements, it may be automated to a great
degree. We believe that the convenience and ease of zeroing on the trouble spots without
necessarily conducting large scale computations can be of great advantage to the designer.
Assumed constraints can range from those of the theory of bending of beams where
cross sections remain plane and retain the geometrical shape on the one hand, to more
sophisticated behavior patterns which may include higher order polynomial representation
for the deformation of the side-shell, deck and bulkheads on the other. We particularly
recommend this procedure for use in conjunction with interactive graphics oriented methods.


The quality of a finite element solution depends not only on the structural model used
but also on how realistically the loads are defined. Forces acting on a ship consist of its
own steel weight, inertia forces, cargo weight, and sea way loads. The steel and cargo
weights are well defined. Sea loads are a combination of the hydrostatic pressure of the
sea and the dynamic forces resulting from the vessel moving through waves. Ocean waves
are d~~cult to define since they occur randomly in nature. Because of the lack of exact
understanding of the nature of real sea waves as well as the vessel behavior in these waves,
the design and analysis of ships has traditionally been based on a static calculation. Sea
loads were computed for a ship poised statically on a trochoidal wave profile of its own
length, using an empirical wave height that is expected to give stress resultants compar-
able to what the vessel may encounter in actual operation. In applying this static sea
Applicationof the Finite Element Method to Ship Structures 115

load together with a finite element analysis, the resultant stresses are considered only as
representative stress levels rather than absolute stress values. In the absence of accurate
pressure distributions, the static calculation can be applied to a number of wave load-
ing cases that create various modes ofcritical loading (maximum bending moment, maximum
shear, maximum torsion). If the results of the stress analysis are then compared to
measured maximum values, then the wave loading can be readjusted so that the maximum
stress levels are the same. It is almost certain that areas of stress concentration that may
give rise to failure during ship operation will also show high stress levels in the static
Recent advances in the analysis of waves and in defining the response characteristics
of a ship in waves has removed many of the difficulties in prediciting ship motions in realis-
tic seas [36-381. It is now possible to solve the equations of motion of a vessel moving in
regular waves with a high degree of accuracy. The response of a vessel in irregular waves
can then be considered as the summation of responses to regular waves of different fre-
quencies [36]. A knowledge of the vessel response permits the calculation of the hydro-
static and hydrodynamic pressure distribution along the length of the vessel [39]. It has
been shown analytically and from model tests [40, 411 that maximum values of the hull
bending moment as calculated from solutions of the equations of motion are less than those
calculated from the static method. This may be attributed to dynamic effects.
Of greater interest for design purposes is the ability to predict the maximum expected
loading on the vessel during its service life. A statistical approach must be taken in order to
establish this maximum. Beginning in 1960, a long range research program was started at
Webb Institute of Naval Architecture under the sponsorship of the American Bureau of
Shipping, for theoretically predicting the maximum expected hull bending stresses in a
vessel [42-44].
In addition, several vessel types operating in various trade routes are instrumented to
provide realistic data for correlation and verification of the theory.
As a consequence of these recent advances, a better understanding of the loading on a
vessel will be achieved. A more realistic load description coupled with an accurate stress
analysis technique such as the finite element method will result in establishing a more ra-
tional design and analysis procedure. Using such a procedure the designer can more
accurately develop and analyze new and unusual vessel types. It will also provide him with
a tool for exploring optimum designs with confidence.



The generation of the computational finite element model as well as the associ&d
nodal point loads necessary to perform a finite element analysis constitutes one of the
most time-consuming portions of the total effort. The interpretation of the resultant
deflections and stresses represents the other expensive part of the procedure. In thi<!area
work has been initiated [4, 45-471 and much more remains to be done. In our opinion,
the benefits in reducing cost and time will more than compensate for the initial investment.
The model generation is also perhaps that part of the computation most prone to errors.
In order to check for these errors and reduce them to a minimum, a process of automation
of model generation coupled with graphics representation is almost compulsory. Auto-
matic and semi-automatic mesh generators can be written to speed up model generation

procedures. One example is the program EXAM [4] designed to produce finite element
models of complete vessels from scantling tables, The results of such a program can
typically be demonstrated by Fig. 6 where a plot of the deck of a container type vessel is
shown. Another example is the program MEG [48] designed to generate models for local
areas of interest as shown in the web frame of Fig. 5. The optimum mesh generator is,
in our opinion, a reasonably efficient near perfect automatic system which allows human
interference. For that purpose interactive graphics seem to provide the answer.
Automation also can be extended to other aspects of the computational procedure.
For example, the choice of freedoms for a complex structure as well as the optimum num-
bering of nodal points in order to obtain the best stiffness matrix patterns, and automatic
detection and suppression of singularities during a solution will all be discussed in the next

X-RX I5 [X10 I

FIG. 5. Computer plot of tanker web frame.

Application of the Finite Element Method to Ship Structures 117


It is assumed that structural nodes may each have a maximum of six degrees of freedom.
three translational and three rotational. Which of these six degrees of freedom are to be
allowed and which are to bc suppressed depends on many considerations. The freedoms
which a particular node is permitted are those along (or about) which the structure can
resist a force (or moment) if all other nodes of thestructure are fixed. The total numberwill
depend on the type and geometrical orientation of the elements attached to the node.
Another factor influencing the choice of freedoms at a point is the presence of symmetry
or anti-symmetry about an axis or a plane passing through the point. The presence of
symmetry will override the element considerations and eliminate some of the freedoms
already allowed. The presence of kinematic boundary conditions such as rigid supports or
prescribed displacements would override previous results. Of all three factors the first is
the more difficult to determine. The following describes a procedure which has been
successfully tested for automatic generation of freedoms in a complex structure composed
of homogeneous elements with a maximum of six displacement unknowns at each nodal
Figure 7 describes two basic freedom vectors. The first is a translation vector in an
arbitrary position in space having direction cosines 1,, ~1, and II]. The second is a basic
rotation vector which resists moments around an axis, the direction of which is described
by the three direction cosines, 12, r~?~and n2. Each finite element is replaced by a number
of basic translation and rotation vectors acting at its corner points. Figure 8 shows typical
examples of how some element types may be handled in this manner.

, t

,_.,,,. ,
/,, *

0 Basic translation vector

. -

Degrees of freedom at Q node
/ and associated direction cos,nes

FIG. 7. Basic translation and rotation vectors.

Application of the Finite Element Method to Ship Structures 119

Membrane triangle Simple beam

Bending triangle

FIG. 8. Representation of elements using equivalent basic vectors,

The flow diagram of Fig. 9 presents an overall description of the procedure for a struc-
ture with P nodes and E elements. First, freedoms of all nodes are suppressed and for each
node two sets of direction cosines, one for translational and one for rotational freedoms
are initialized to zero. The program then scans all elements. For each element the type is
determined as well as the types and directions of the basic vectors required to represent it.

Suppress all freedoms

of pt. p
Initialize direction

e= I, E _ Choose elemegt e
Replace by a number
of, basic translational
and~rototional vectors
All element - Update freedoms and
corner pts. directiancasines
of corner pts.
of elements

Fro. 9. Overall flow diagram to obtain basic freedom pattern of structural nodes.

The vectors associated with each nodal point of that element are then applied to the cor-
responding structural node and the freedom pattern of that node as well as the correspon-
ding direction cosines are updated. Figure 10 demonstrates the logic involved in choosing
the direction cosines and the number of degrees of freedom for either transfational or
rotational displacements at a node. IT,,represents the current number of freedoms at the
node p. C, represents a set of direction cosines associated with the point in question.
C, represents the direction cosines associated with a basic vector being applied to the node.
It is understood that basic transIation vectors operate on the translational freedoms of
the node whereas basic rotation vectors modify the rotational freedoms.


FIG, 10. Updating pt. freedom pattern.

If the point has no degrees of freedom so far, nP is set to unity and the direction cosines
are then those of the applied vector. Should the point already possess one degree of freedom
a test is performed to see if the new vector is in the same direction as the previous freedom
If it is, no action will be taken. If it is not the number of dgerees of freedom is increased to
two and the new direction cosines of the point are taken to be those of a perpendicular to
the plane in which the basic vector and the old freedom are located. Should the point
already possess two degrees offreedom, a test is performed to see if the vector lies within the
plane in which the two previous freedoms lie. If it does, no action will be taken. Tf it does
not, nP is set to the full value of three. From now on the direction cosines have no signifi-
cance since all freedoms will be present, and the presence of further basic vectors of this
type will not affect the freedom pattern. Figure 11 describes the logic used in the selection
of the appropriate freedoms.
Application of the Finite Element Method to Ship Structures 121

freedom corresponding

corresponding to
smallest two of

FIG. 11. Choice of freedom pattern for a structural node.

The point may be reached where a freedom should be suppressed in a direction not
coinciding with any of the Cartesian freedoms. [4, 491 prove that the choice of the nearest
Cartesian freedom produces the correct stresses, the displacement requiring a slight modifi-
cation. Should the program be capabIe of handling oblique freedoms the problem is
simplified and Fig. 1I can be adjusted accordingly.


In describing a grid a user or an automatic program may assign node numbers in the
order most convenient for the purpose of their generation. The resulting numbering
scheme produces, in general, a stiffness matrix with a non-optimal band width. It is pos-
sible to renumber the points in such a manner so as to reduce the band width to aminimum.
Figure 12 illustrates a suggested technique first described in [471 which can be used to
renumber the nodes using the element connection list prior to stiffness computations.
In the flow diagram reference is ma& to two dictionaries which represent fists relating one
node numbering system to another. The interstep dictionary relates the numbering of
nodal points between one step and the next. The accumulative dictionary relates final
num~ng of the system to the initial nurn~~ng scheme. Convergence of the scheme is
reached when no renumbering of the nodes occurs during an iteration.

updote _

dictionary 1

- element

FIG. 12. Band width optimization for a finite element model.


The solution of the equation
R=Kr (21

which produ~s the deflections in terms of the forces, presents a formidable computat~ona1
task that may occupy hours of computer time. The matrix K may be decomposed into two
triangular matrices (the so-called Choleski method) or the expression K- 'R may be evalu-
ated directly using Gaussian elimination or one of its variations. The two methods are
equivalent for any one particular solution, although the decomposition, or triangularization,
method will have a distinct advantage in evaluating any new set of loading conditions,
assuming the decomposed triangular matrices are saved.
The matrix K will have been assembled using the structural model described by the
analyst. The program must contain as many safeguards as possible, since the description
of the model is prone to human error. One major source of such errors is the choice of
freedoms at the individual nodal points which should be greatly reduced if the procedure
Application of the Finite Element Method to Ship Structures 123

of Section XI is employed. When done manually, a freedom may incorrectly be permitted

at a particular node, resulting in a singularity in the assembled stiffness matrix K. The pre-
sence of the singularity leads to a division by zero which causes the computer to terminate
the computation shortly before its completion. It is often the case that a few of these
minor errors are present in any large assembly of data. Consequently it takes more than
one run to detect all of them. It is apparent that the program must have a built-in safeguard
against such wastage. All such errors should be detected during the first run. Intelligible
diagnostics should be printed out to the user explaining the nature of the problem and the
corrective action taken by the system. The program DAISY [SO]has such a built-in detec-
tion scheme.
At an arbitrary point during the Gaussian elimination the situation may be represented
mathematically as
TKr= TR (7)

where 2 is the a~umulative operator leading eventually to the triangula~zation, and then
diagonalization of the product, 2X. Should a row, i, disappear at this point, the corres-
ponding freedom must be dependent on the preceding displacements. It is therefore not
to be considered as an independent unknown, and may be eliminated from the equation.
It can be proven that the correct way to handle this situation would be to strike out the
corresponding row and column from the product TK, and the corresponding load entry from
R. DAISY prints out a warning stating the node number and the corresponding freedom.
This valuable feature may also be extended to warn of the loss of numerical accuracy
which may be of great use in pointing out areas of poor modeling.

Acknowledgement-Theauthors are indepted to Miss JAN SCHMERBECK for typing the manuscript and to
Messrs. RICHARDB~ROATTIand THOMASMCGRATH for preparing the drawings.

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Application of the Finite Element Method to Ship Structures 125

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A brief outline is given of the theory. For further details regarding history and late
developments, consult reference list, particularly [l-3, 6, 71.

A [Air], matrix with m rows and n columns whose typical (i, jj element is A,, j
A' transpose of matrix A
A-' inverse of square matrix A
matrix defining a linear transformation between two sets of variables x and y,
such that

I3 X Y
matrix differential operator defining a differentiation operation to obtain one
set of variables x from another y, such that

A[Atjl supermatrix (partitioned matrix) whose elements are matrices in themselves

(if partitions are removed, it becomes A)
(VI V2 - - V,], symbol for column matrix

r&d2 - -d,, J, symbol for diagonal matrix

total number of nodes in structure
typical structural node
total number of elastic elements
typical elastic element
load matrix on structural node y1
load supermatrix for complete structure (= R)
deflection of a structural node n
stiffness (super-) matrix of assembled structure

element corner forces for element g

element corner displacements for element g
element stiffness matrix in global coordinates
element stiffness matrix in local coordinates
strain function matrix for element g, expressed in local coordinates

s(I stress function matrix for element g, expressed in local coordinates

Youngs modulus, Poissons ratio, and shear modulus

material stiffness matrix
displacement function of an internal point within an element g
distributed body forces acting on elastic lnatei-idol
distributed surface forces on elastic material
global coordinate system
element local coordinate axes

Struclwe uwd element

For the purpose of the analysis the structure is represented by a model. The model
consists of a number of idealized elastic elements as shown in Fig. 4. The displacements of
the elements should be compatible along their common boundaries. These common boun-
daries intersect at points called structural nodes or grid points. It is difficult to ensure a
high degree of compatibility along each boundary, particularly in the analysis of a complex
structure. Therefore tfre assumption is made that it is sufficient to match the values of the
element displacements only at the nodes. The accuracy of the model behavior will depend
on the type of elements used, as well as the number of elements.
The compatibility between the nodal displacements, pg, of element g. Fig. 13, and the
global displacements of the structural nodes, Y, is expressed by

If both pe and r were measured with respect to the global axis system, OXyr-,then TP,rl
reduces to a sparsely populated matrix with one non-zero entry (equal to unity) in every
row. TP,,., is then an identification matrix expressing the logical connection between the
element and the complete structure. It is therefore called the element connection (identifca-
tion or incidence) matrix.

Kinematicall~~ idealized eletmvt

It is assumed that once the displacements of the element boundaries are known, rho
displacements of any point within the element can be found, This is oniy true if the inter-
mediate loads within the element are neglected, or if the element loading is restricted to
particular patterns. A source of inaccuracy of the finite element method is the assumption
that the displacements of the element corner points completely describe those of the boun-
With these assumptions in mind, the relationship between the displacements, u,,, of
an internal point q of an element g, and the displacements, ps, of the corner points of the
element takes the form

= Tu,
UC? P4Ps
Application of the Finite Element Method to Ship Structures 127

where T,, Ps is a matrix which is a function of the shape and nature of the element and
the position of the internal point. Every column of T., pB gives the displacements of the
internal point due to a unit boundary displacement.
The matrix TutPB constitutes a formal definition of the properties of the element.
The choice of this matrix is critical and should be made with great care. It is essentially
a matrix by which the internal element displacements may be found by interpolation
from the boundary displacements. Therefore, it is called the element interpolation matrix.
Once T., Ps has been chosen, all other properties of the element automatically follow.
The strain function e, at a point e, is found from the displacement function, ugr by
differentiation. In a three-dimensional continuum, for example,



The relationship between e, and u, takes the form:

EX a/ax 0 0
&Y 0 alay 0

5 0 0 d/a2
&,= (4)
Y XY way 0

YYZ 0 a/az alay

Yzx alaz 0 i&k

which may be written in the general form:

q, = De,u,. (5)

Introducing equation (2) in equation (5):

e, = &, .K, Ps~s

which may be expressed as

eg= T,, pspe (6)

Te. pg= De. .Tu, ps . (7)

This essentially means that each column in Te_ is obtained by differentiating the
corresponding column in T,, pIIaccording to the usual definition of strain.
The loads on the element are described in terms of the components of the corner
forces as a matrix P, which corresponds to the corner deflection matrix pg. Assuming linear

elasticity, the work done by the forces, P,, over the complete range of displacement, Py,
is given by half the sum of the products of each force component times the cotresponding
displacement component: i.e.

Work done on boundary of element = &p,P,. (8)

The internally stored energy within the element g is a function of the stresses sy and the
strains e,; i.e.

element strain energy = e,*SgdI, (9)


where the integration is carried over the volume of the element, g.

The generalized Hookes law provides the relationship between the stresses and strains
at a point.
sg = Ee,. (10)

Since the forces P, produce the displacements pq, and since linear elasticity is assumed,
a relationship must exist in the form

p,= k?Ps (11)

where k, is a square symmetric matrix called the stiffness matrix of the element.
The stiffness matrix, k,, is a function of the element properties defined by the element
interpolation matrix, T, ps. To derive k,, the expression for the workdone on the boundary
of the element is equated to that of the strain energy. See equations (8) and (9).

s I,
e,s,dV . (12)

Introducing the concept of the stiffness matrix, equation (1 I), as well as Hookes law,
equation (IO)

PAJPs = e,Ee,d V. PaI

I V,

Substituting the relationship between e, and pe as given by equation (6), and observing
that pg is a constant matrix, the following is obtained:

p&p, = P;
s V,
T, ,gET,,~QWS
. (12bj

Since equation (12b) applies for any value of p,

Applicationof the Finite Element Method to Ship Structures 129

Assembly of structure
Having obtained the element stiffnesses, equation (13), and the element connection
scheme given by equation (I), the stiffness matrix K of the assembled structure may be
computed. K is defined as the proportionality matrix between loads R and displacements
r of the assembled structure, i.e.

R==Kr. (14)

The relationship between K, kgs and Tp,rs3 is found by equating the work done
on the assembled structure to the internally stored strain energy for the individual elements


Introducing equation (12)

and using equation (1 I) and equation (14)

From equation (1) :


Procedure for analysis

The structure is modeled by defining the structural nodes and the element types and
connections. For each node there exist six possible degrees of freedom, three translations
and three rotations. The analyst detremines whether each freedom is allowed or suppressed.
A degree of freedom is suppressed at the node if an actual support is present or if no element
exists that is capable of resisting a force (or moment) applied in that direction. The element
stiffnesses are computed and assembled to obtain K according to equation (16).
If the loading matrix R is defined, equation (14) may be solved for the displacements r.

Having obtained the structure displacements, r, the stresses may be found in each element,
g, using

sg = EC,

=ET,, PnPE

= T,, psPg. (17)

Use of the method

The finite element method of structural analysis is particularly suitable for the analysis
of complex structures. It is easily adapted to the electronic digital computer and has been
widely employed in the Aerospace, Civil Engineering and ship structures fields.

(Received 21 December 197 1)