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Using nonlinear flexible

bodies in multibody
Delivering the optimal combination of accuracy
and computation times

Simulating mechanisms with multibody models may require you to include flexible
bodies in order to take into account the effects of the deformation of parts in the
overall behavior of the system, and gain insight into the internal distribution of
strain and stress. The simulation of coil and leaf springs and twist beams in car suspen-
sions and large mechanisms in aerospace vehicles and large industrial machinery
for mechanical industries are just some examples of this kind of technology.
The typical techniques used to include the flexibility of parts in multibody mecha-
nisms are based on linear finite element (FE) methods, which allow you to mini-
mize the computation times while ensuring a good level of accuracy, at least for
small deformations. However, nonlinear effects due to large deformations (geo-
metric nonlinearity), materials with nonlinear properties and flexible contacts with
friction cannot be correctly simulated with linear methods. Such cases require the
combination of a multibody simulation (MBS) code that can be used to solve the
motion of rigid bodies with a dedicated nonlinear FE solver, enabling the calcula-
tion of the exact deformation of any flexible body participating in the mechanism.
A classical co-simulation between the two solvers often requires a difficult and
time-consuming process of tuning several parameters in order to overcome the
frequent issues with simulation stability and results accuracy, while keeping the
computation time to reasonably low values.
This white paper presents an innovative way to fully integrate a nonlinear FE solver
in a mainstream MBS process, enabling you to predict the behavior of mechanisms
with nonlinear flexible bodies in a shorter time with higher accuracy and a more
stable simulation process.

A white paper issued by: Siemens PLM Software

White paper | Using nonlinear flexible bodies in multibody simulation


Executive summary.............................................................3
Current state of nonlinear flexible bodies simulations.......5
Providing a breakthrough with a nonlinear
FE-coupled simulation........................................................6
Industrial validation example:
twist beam suspension.......................................................7

A white paper issued by: Siemens PLM Software 2

White paper | Using nonlinear flexible bodies in multibody simulation

Executive summary

Virtual processes and tools are revolutionizing the way new The flexibility of bodies is usually simulated with one of sev-
products are designed and developed. With increased comput- eral well-established methods, most of them based on the
ing speed and improved software performance, virtual proto- assumption of linear deformations1. For instance, modal
typing is used extensively for performance verification and reduction methods enable users to approximate the static and
validation. However, the compromise between model com- dynamic flexibility of a body with a linear combination of
plexity, results accuracy and solution time remains an issue. modal deformation shapes and frequencies preliminarily
The complex nature of a given problem and the need to have calculated on a finite element mesh discretization of the
dedicated software to address the problem has opened the volume of the body. A limited number of modes usually allow
door for coupled interface co-simulation. users to achieve accurate results while keeping calculation
times reasonably low.
Whenever the assumption of linear deformation is not accept-
able, such as in the case of large deformations, nonlinear
material properties and contacts between flexible surfaces,
the modal representation is no longer suitable and hence
requires more complex modeling methods. The degrees of
freedom (DOF) of the flexible bodys FE mesh nodes are con-
sidered while solving the entire mechanism. Some application
examples are rear twist beam axle suspensions, FE bushings
and tires, coil and leaf springs, airplane wings, helicopter
blades, rubber belts and tracks (figure 1).
A first approach to connect a dedicated FE solver with the MBS
code is to use a classical co-simulation scheme so the two
solvers exchange some physical data (displacements, loads,
etc.) at a fixed communication time step measured at the
interface points between the flexible body and the rest of the
Figure 1: Examples of automotive applications, including coil and leaf mechanism.
springs, tires and twist beam axles.
The main drawback of this kind of approach is that calcula-
tions usually take a long time, especially when using small
The MBS technology allows you to predict the behavior of a communication time steps to reach the required accuracy. On
mechanism through the discretization of the system in rigid the other hand, larger time steps usually allow the user to
bodies that are connected to each other with ideal constraints reduce the computation time, but it also negatively affects the
or flexible connections with linear or nonlinear stiffness and stability of the analysis and the quality of results.
damping properties.

A white paper issued by: Siemens PLM Software 3

White paper | Using nonlinear flexible bodies in multibody simulation

This paper presents a more advanced and innovative variable- Two multi-domain system simulation codes LMS Imagine.Lab
step co-simulation scheme between a multibody and nonlin- Amesim software and Matlab Simulink can also be inte-
ear FE solver. The coupling is established at the iteration level grated in this method, thereby enabling engineers to account
and involves both LMS Virtual.Lab Motion software2 and LMS for the dynamic behavior of full mechatronic systems with
Samtech Samcef Mecano software3. Although the integrator nonlinear flexible bodies in their classical multibody mecha-
of both solvers is used, only one of them in this case, the nisms (figure 2).
LMS Virtual.Lab Motion solver is used as master to solve the
Newton iterations for the whole system. The main advantage
of this approach is that a variable time step of integration is
calculated and applied to both solvers, thus enabling larger
time steps so the solution can be reached with shorter calcula-
tion time, a more stable solving process and more accurate

3D Nonlinear 1D Analyze stress and deformation

mechanism flexibility subsystems

Animate 3D mechanism

Enhance control logics

Implement nonlinear flexibility, controls, actuators into

multibody simulation

Figure 2: Simulating a 3D mechanism along with nonlinear flexibility and

1D subsystems.

A white paper issued by: Siemens PLM Software 4

White paper | Using nonlinear flexible bodies in multibody simulation

Current state of nonlinear

flexible bodies simulations

The assumption of linear flexibility of bodies can lead to 3RVLWLRQYHORFLW\DFFHOHUDWLRQ

largely incorrect results whenever nonlinear phenomena need
to be simulated, such as deformations outside the usual linear
ranges (geometric nonlinearities), material properties with 1RQOLQHDU
0%6 ,2SRLQWV
nonlinear characteristics, contacts between flexible surfaces )(
and friction forces.
When dealing with pure geometric nonlinearities, it is some- /RDGV
times possible to model using a linear representation of the
Figure 3: Pictured is a typical communication process during a
flexibility of a body by splitting it into multiple portions such
co-simulation between solvers.
that each one of them undergoes limited linear deformations.
Such substructuring techniques enable users to keep compu-
tation times short and achieve accurate results, but at the cost A fixed communication rate between the two solvers is
of additional modeling and computation efforts (the split of defined upfront, strongly affecting the calculation time and
the original FE mesh, the connections between the substruc- the stability of the analysis as well as the quality of the results.
tures and the modal analysis on each sub mesh). This requires As a general rule, the smaller the communication time step
some expertise in defining the cut sections4, 5. Another draw- the better the stability and accuracy of the analysis, although
back of this modeling technique is that the resulting stress at the cost of longer computation time. In practice, a tradeoff
distributions show unrealistic discontinuities in proximity to value is usually needed to keep reasonable calculation times
the cut sections, making this method unfit for stress recovery and accuracy, preventing optimal results for both require-
analyses. ments at the same time. Furthermore, several trials are usually
When the substructuring techniques are not suitable, either needed to find a good compromise between these opposing
for other types of nonlinearities, such as material characteris- demands.
tics, or when it is difficult to define proper cut sections, a In order to overcome all limitations inherent in the standard
more comprehensive approach must be used. The deforma- co-simulation approach, an innovative co-simulation tech-
tion of the whole meshed body can be calculated by a nonlin- nique has been developed.
ear FE solver processing in parallel with the calculation of the
multibody mechanism. Data calculated at the interface nodes
between the flexible body and the mechanism are communi-
cated between the two solvers. Typically, the boundary forces
and moments resulting from the deformation of the body are
applied as input loads to the multibody model, which in turn
calculates the displacements, velocities and accelerations and
applies it back to the FE mesh interface nodes as boundary
constraints (figure 3).

A white paper issued by: Siemens PLM Software 5

White paper | Using nonlinear flexible bodies in multibody simulation

Providing a breakthrough with

a nonlinear FE-coupled simulation

The advanced co-simulation scheme between LMS Virtual.Lab The co-simulation process is organized by means of a supervi-
Motion and LMS Samcef Mecano provides the ability to solve sor process managing the data exchange and determining the
nonlinear flexible bodies in a multibody mechanism with new time step of integration for both solvers (figure 4).
superior performance in terms of simulation stability, accuracy
of results and computation times6.
The main advantages of this solution include: ,2SRLQWVSRVLWLRQ
Seamless simulation of the nonlinear flexibility of a body in YHORFLW\DFFHOHUDWLRQ
a multibody system, overcoming the limitations inherent /06 /06
in any linear methods (low accuracy outside the linear 9LUWXDO/DE 6XSHUYLVRU 6DPFHI
range of deformation and long preprocessing time for 0RWLRQ 0HFDQR
Applicability to any FE mesh geometry ERXQGDU\FRQVWUDLQWV

A variable communication time step approach so there is no

need for long iterations to find tradeoff values for the fixed Figure 4: Enhanced variable time co-simulation scheme driven by a
communication rate supervisor process.

Optimal results for both computation time as well as stabil-

ity and accuracy of the simulation 2. Multiple nonlinear flex bodies
In principle, one LMS Samcef Mecano solver process can deal
Support for multiple nonlinear flexible bodies in the same
with multiple flexible bodies simultaneously, including con-
tacts between designated portions of FE meshes. As an alter-
Moreover, with the tight integration between LMS Virtual.Lab native approach, the supervisor code can also manage mul-
Motion, LMS Amesim and Matlab Simulink, a detailed 1D tiple instances of LMS Samcef Mecano solving processes,
representation of complex subsystems, such as electrohydrau- allowing the user to include multiple nonlinear flexible bodies
lic components and control logics, can be added to 3D models in the same motion mechanism. Multi-core parallel processing
for accurate simulations of full mechatronic systems, includ- is supported as well in order to assign each solving process to
ing nonlinear flexible bodies. a different core for optimized usage of computational
1. Advanced co-simulation scheme
With the advanced co-simulation scheme, a deeper level of 3. Adding 1D models of electric, hydraulic and pneumatic
solver integration has been achieved compared to standard subsystems
co-simulation schemes. In this technique each solver works The advanced co-simulation between LMS Virtual.Lab Motion
with its own integrator but only one Newton solver in this and LMS Samcef Mecano can also include a 1D representation
case, the LMS Virtual.Lab Motion solver is designated as the of complex subsystems. LMS Amesim provides a large set of
master solver that is responsible for integrating the Newton libraries for detailed modeling of mechanical, electric and
iterations for the whole system. The coupled iterations con- hydraulic systems together with a dedicated interface with
tinue until both solvers satisfy their solution tolerances and LMS Virtual.Lab Motion to easily interface 3D and 1D models.
convergence is achieved.

A white paper issued by: Siemens PLM Software 6

White paper | Using nonlinear flexible bodies in multibody simulation

Industrial validation example:

twist beam suspension

The advanced co-simulation scheme using LMS Virtual.Lab In figure 6 a comparison between linear approaches is shown
Motion and LMS Samcef Mecano has been validated in several in which the twist beam is modeled with one piece or four
industrial scenarios. substructures by displaying some typical outputs of a standard
suspensions elasto-kinematic analysis, a suspension roll
An example from the automotive market is the implementa-
simulated as opposite wheel vertical travel, such as toe-angle
tion of a flexible twist beam axle in a rear suspension. The FE
variation and wheelbase variation. In particular, the effect of
representation of the beam was included in an LMS Virtual.Lab
substructuring can be seen in larger roll-angle values in which
Motion multibody suspension model in order to take into
the torsional deformation of the beam is supposed to exceed
account the beam flexibility in standard linear methods (Craig-
the linear ranges.
Bampton, substructuring) and nonlinear FE solver (LMS
Samcef Mecano) methods.
Figure 5 shows an example of substructuring on a twist beam 6XEVWUXFWXULQJ SDUWV
axle in which three cut sections have been defined along the
central pipe, where the largest deformations are expected 6WDQGDUGOLQHDU SDUW
during the torsion of the structure due to the asymmetric
vertical travel of the suspension wheels.


Figure 5: Substructuring the FE mesh of a twist beam axle model.


A comparison between the elasto-kinematics results from
linear and nonlinear methods clearly shows the effects of the
flexibility of the rear twist beam, in particular with large
deformations (geometric nonlinearity).


Figure 6: Comparing suspension elasto-kinematic results: standard linear

versus substructuring.

A white paper issued by: Siemens PLM Software 7

White paper | Using nonlinear flexible bodies in multibody simulation

Figure 7 shows the same comparison, including the results

from the modeling of the twist beam as a one-piece FE mesh,
which is solved as a nonlinear flexible body with the advanced
co-simulation technique presented in this paper. As shown,
there is a strong correlation with the substructuring results.
This was achieved while overcoming the usual limitations in
terms of preprocessing complexity and inaccurate stress



)(0%6FRXSOHGVLPXODWLRQ Figure 8: LMS Virtual.Lab Motion
&RPSRQHQWPRGHV\QWKHVLV model of rear suspension with

nonlinear flexible twist beam,

bushings and coil springs.

In the final stage of the project, a 1D representation of the

two shock absorber forces was used as replacement for the
original standard damper forces based on a lookup table
formulation in LMS Virtual.Lab Motion. For instance, two
models of the same system were created in LMS Amesim, then
several different 3D-1D co-simulation schemes were success-
fully tested in order to verify the capability of solving the full
behavior of a complex system, including 3D multibody mecha-
nisms, nonlinear FE flexible bodies and 1D subsystem models
(figure 9)8.
Figure 7: Coupled simulation results versus standard linear and
substructuring methods.

In a later phase some other elements of the suspension were

made flexible through FE mesh representation and solved as
nonlinear: for instance, the two bushings connecting the
beam with the car body and the two coil springs. Regardless
of the quality of the input data, this application proved to
have the capability to support multiple instances of a
nonlinear FE solver in co-simulation with the same multibody
Figure 9: 1D models of shock absorber forces linked to LMS Virtual.Lab.

A white paper issued by: Siemens PLM Software 8

White paper | Using nonlinear flexible bodies in multibody simulation


The advanced co-simulation scheme between LMS Virtual.Lab

Motion and LMS Samcef Mecano solvers provides a powerful
tool for accurately simulating the nonlinear deformation of
flexible bodies in a multibody environment, allowing the user
to overcome the usual limitations of standard linear
approaches on one side, and the issues with alternative multi-
body simulation (MBS), such as nonlinear FE co-simulation
schemes, on the other side without compromising accuracy of
results and computation times.
An additional benefit is that 1D subsystems can easily be
included in the co-simulation process, allowing the user to
accurately predict the behavior of complex mechatronic
systems, including nonlinear flexible bodies.

Implement nonlinear flex body Prepare

into mechanism mechanism
flexible body

Solve the mechanism

Animate Display flex body
mechanism deformation and
stress color maps


Figure 10: Implementation process of nonlinear flexible bodies in multibody simulation.

A white paper issued by: Siemens PLM Software 9

White paper | Using nonlinear flexible bodies in multibody simulation


1. Yoo W.S., Haug E.J.: Dynamics of flexible mechanical systems using

vibration and static correction modes, Journal of Mechanisms,
Transmissions and Automation in Design, 108, 315-322, 1985.
2. LMS International, Virtual.Lab Online Help Manual, 2013.
3. LMS Samtech, Samcef Online Help Manual version 15.1, 2013.
4. Sinokrot T.Z., Nembrini M., Toso A., Prescott W.C.: A Comparison Of
Sub-Structuring Synthesis And The Cosimulation Approach In The
Dynamic Simulation Of Flexible Multi-body Systems, MULTIBODY
DYNAMICS 2011, ECCOMAS Thematic Conference, Brussels, Belgium,
July 4-7, 2011.
5. Sinokrot T.Z., Nembrini M., Toso A., Prescott W.C.: A Comparison Of
Different Multi-body System Approaches In The Modeling Of Flexible
Twist Beam Axles, Proceedings of the eighth International Conference
on Multi-body Systems, Nonlinear Dynamics, and Control, August
28-31, 2011, Washington D.C., United States.
6. Sinokrot T., Jetteur P., Erdelyi H., Cugnon F., Prescott W.: A New
Technique for Stronger Coupling between Multi-body System and
Nonlinear Finite Element Solvers in Co-simulation Environments,
MULTIBODY DYNAMICS 2013, ECCOMAS Thematic Conference,
Zagreb, Croatia, 1-4 July, 2013.
7. Conti G., Mertens T., Sinokrot T., Akamatsu H., Kyogoku H., Hattori K.:
A New Solution For Coupled Simulation Of Multi-Body Systems And
Nonlinear Finite Element Models, NAFEMS European Conference,
8. Conti G., Kelso M., Akamatsu H., Kyogoku H., Hattori K.: Multi-Body
Systems And Nonlinear Finite Element Models: A New Solution For
Coupled Simulation, JSAE Annual Congress, 2014.

A white paper issued by: Siemens PLM Software 10

White paper | Using nonlinear flexible bodies in multibody simulation

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A white paper issued by: Siemens PLM Software 11