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Introduction

Overview

• • • • • • • • • What is a Finite Element? Common terminology Elements Constraints Loads Analysis types Units Example model What’s coming..

What is the Finite Element Method

• Component is broken down into many regular shaped elements called Finite Elements • Nodes - where elements are connected to each other • Mesh – Arrangement of nodes and elements • Degree of freedom – displacement or rotation of a node

**What is a Finite Element?
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• A continuous structure has theoretically an infinite number of degrees of freedom • The finite element method approximates the behaviour of a continuous structure with a finite number of grid points (degrees of freedom) • In essence, the finite element method is a piecewise approximation of a function, by means of polynomials, each defined over a small region (element) and expressed in terms of the nodal values of the function.

– It interpolates displacements of points in space to get displacements anywhere in the domain of the element.

• Because of the nature of the interpolation functions, the gradient of the displacement field is continuous, meaning that a continuous strain field is implied.

This indirectly means that the stress field is continuous in an element • Elements next to each other do not share any information about their interpolation methods. so the strain. and therefore stress field at element boundaries are almost always discontinuous . the strain field in an element is continuous.What is a Finite Element? • In other words.

In general. strain can vary linearly across an element.What is a Finite Element? • In a typical first-order quad-element. • This capability is used to model more complex stress fields by using a series of linear approximations to model a nonlinear stress-field. the better the approximation . the more elements.

e.What is a Finite Element? • It’s already said that the stresses across element boundaries are not continuous. • The error at the nodes can however also be used to check for convergence of the mesh: – A small error (i. . What now? – We simply average the values at the nodes. (max predicted) – (min predicted) ) gives a good indication that the mesh has converged.. • Isn’t this dangerous? – Yes it is: If the mesh is not fine enough to accurately represent the stress state.

large rotations. loads changing as the structure deforms or if boundary conditions are dependent on displacements. • . while only Mesh convergence are required for linear analysis • A linear analysis has a linear relationship between forces. A nonlinear analysis has a nonlinear relationship between forces and displacements due to nonlinear material properties. – Mesh Convergence has absolutely nothing to do with convergence settings in Non-linear analysis! Both are needed for Non-linear analysis. displacements and stresses.What is a Finite Element? • This brings us to one of the most important concepts in Finite Elements: Mesh Convergence – A mesh is converged if it is able to represent the stress-state of a component with the required level of accuracy. Convergence for a non-linear analysis has to do with the difference between the applied load and the reaction-forces generated by the elements.

Concept of Finite Elements Physically the finite element method is the subdivision of the model into discrete components of simple geometry called finite elements. (discretization) .

uy. – Loads / Boundary conditions can only be applied to nodes. θy. Even pressure values or gravitational loads are reduced to loads at nodes by the finite element solver.uz) – Three rotations (θx. • DOF (Degree of Freedom): This is the displacement of a Node – Three translations (ux.Common Terminology • Node: A point in space that is used to connect the elements to. θz) .

Ux. θy. thereby having the stiffness of each node {F } = [ K ] ⋅ {d } . fy. Uy. { f } is the vector of element nodal loads fx.. Mx. Mz …. • Elements share common nodes – element matrices can be combined to form a global stiffness matrix – Global stiffness matrix: The assembled matrix that contains the stiffness of each element in the model. θx. My. fx. θz ….Common Terminology • Element stiffness matrix: The matrix that maps forces at nodes to displacements at the nodes of an element { f } = [k ] ⋅ {d } [ k ] is the stiffness matrix of the element Compiled using Material properties and geometry {d } is the element nodal displacement vector Ux.

Why? . This is the same as connecting an infinite stiffness at this node. NO rigid body modes are allowed in a static analysis.Common Terminology • Constraint: – Applying an enforced motion (zero or otherwise) to a node. • Rigid body mode: – The ability of a body to move in space without generating stresses. A model without any constraints can move in 6 directions without generating strain.

• Constraining the rotational DOF of a solid element will have EXACTLY ZERO EFFECT .Elements • Solid elements have only translational DOF at each node. • Because the element has the ability to generate internal moments by applying a couple. no rotational DOF are needed. A solid element is able to translate or rotate by only translating the nodes.

– Need thickness – Shell elements do not have nodes spaced apart in the thickness direction to be able to apply a couple. – They have no ‘drilling’ degrees of freedom • Some Finite Element implementations actually has a third rotation as well. It is this rotational DOF about the normal to the shell that is commonly neglected in element formulations . – In-plane bending is possible using only forces because of the possibility of applying a couple. Therefore. rotational DOF are needed to be able to bend a shell element out-of-plane. but it is not a necessity to have it to be able to fully load such an element.Elements • Plate/Shell elements – Used to model thin walled regions – 5 DOF at each node: 3 Translations and 2 Rotations.

The strain normal to the element is zero. The stress normal to the element is zero. Used to approximate thick structures loaded in 2D • Axisymmetric Element – An element that describe the cross-section of axially symmetric parts . Used to model thin structures loaded in 2D • Plane strain element: – An element that is constrained in it’s thickness direction.Elements • Plane stress element: – A thin element that can only move in a plane.

Ixy J and – Direction vector to define beam orientation in 3D • Rod/Truss type elements – One degree of freedom only – Can only support force in axial direction – Need Area property • Cable element – only tension stiffness.ux. . the element would not be able to load or constrain the two bending directions or to apply a torque) – Need Area. bending. θz) – Can support axial. Iyy.θx. shear. and torsional forces – (Without the 3 rotational DOF.uy. Ixx. θy. no compression stiffness .Elements • Bar/Beam type elements – Six degrees of freedom per node (ux.

Beam Elements • Beam Orientation .

so they end up being selectively used – Use parabolic elements for geometry with curved edges. • One important thing to remember about second order elements is that they are a lot more sensitive to distortion than their first-order equivalents .Elements Linear Second Order • Second order elements gives more accurate answers than first order elements in most cases. They are a lot more expensive in computer resources.

TRIA QUAD TET HEX . • This means that first order Tri and Tet elements do a really bad job of representing a linear stress gradient as found in bending problems. while Quads and Hexes can (in theory at least) represent it with a single element.Elements • First order Tri and Tet elements have a constant stress state. while First order Quad and Hex elements has a Linear stress distribution. • Their drawback is the large increase in number of nodes for the same accuracy. • Second order Tet elements has an accuracy very similar to that of first order Hex elements.

. Getting a good mesh may take a bit longer when you need to specify where to refine a model. – Meshing of Curves into beam elements is trivial – It is also easy to mesh surfaces to get Tri or Quad elements.Elements • A factor that impacts element-choice for an analysis is how easy it is to create a mesh using that type of element. – Meshing solid elements into Tet elements is simple. To generate a hexmesh takes a lot longer because there is no consistent way to mesh complex solids with good-quality Hex elements.

Elements • This brings us to the most important question in meshing: – What element should I use? • The answer is very simple: – The simplest element that will answer the question that I have! • Using too complex an element for the required job leads to a severe penalty in runtime and resource-usage .

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but no local stress-distribution are taken into account. of course not.Elements • Imagine modeling a Crane using solid elements. – Of course it does not make sense. a shell model may be more appropriate.and moment-handling capabilities of beams are. . The beam mesh models a “perfect” load-transfer path from one beam to the next. so in a lot of cases you may not even care what the stress is in the model! • What happens to the connections between beams? – Can beam elements model this accurately? – No. – For this. Catalogues exist that tells you what the force. Beams do a much better job by being able to use a lot less elements to get the forces and moments. The loads found by a beam model is applied to a shell-element sub-model to find the local stresses and stiffness of the connection.

This happens at each location where the thickness changes • Take note: – Even though a structure is made up of plates. They take slightly longer to run. – Recommendation: Always use thick shell elements as they will give more accurate answers. while thick-shells include them. the through-thickness stress becomes very significant. – The difference between thin. it does not mean that shell elements are the correct choice! If the ratio of the plate thickness to the other dimensions of the plate is too small.and thick-shell elements is that thin shells ignores through-thickness shear stiffness. – More sensible would be 1:20 and 1:10.Elements • Solid elements are used when there are significant throughthickness stresses at some location. which is their only “drawback” . – A ratio of 1:10 is about the limit for any kind of accuracy for Thin-Shell elements and 1:5 for thick shells.

. They are about as accurate a Hex-8 element but takes a lot less time to mesh a complex structure.Elements Further recommendations: • Use Quad elements rather than Tri elements • Use first order elements unless it is Tri or Tet elements • Use Hex elements if – Computer resources are a problem (Not enough disk / Memory) – The meshing-time will be less than the run-time (Nonlinear analysis having to perform thousands of iterations) • Use second order Tet (Tet10) elements for most cases where an answer is needed quickly for linear analysis. It’s also easy to check convergence: Simply remesh and re-run.

Usefull Tips • Aspect ratios – Avoid elements with high aspect ratios • Caution when exceeding 3 • Alarm when exceeding 10 • Skewness and taper – Skewness is the angle between two sides • At least greater than 30° – Taper is the ratio of the areas on two side of a diagonal • Less than .5 • Physical Interfaces – Elements must not cross interfaces .

Constraints • Constraints are there to generate reaction forces that balances the applied loads • In static analysis it is necessary to provide enough constraints to prevent the model from behaving as a rigid body – the minimum number of DOF that needs to be constrained (even for an unloaded model) is 6: The model may not be able to rotate or displace without reaction forces being generated. – Even if there is no force in a global direction the model must be constrained from moving in that direction – Careful consideration of constraints to prevent spurious reaction forces – Preferable to constrain translation dof’s rather than rotational dof’s • Additional supports might be necessary to remove mechanisms – Mechanisms occur most commonly in models using truss-. beams with released dof’s. and membrane elements • Shells have no ‘drilling’ degrees of freedom – need constraints in the out of plane rotation – artificial stiffness in the drilling direction .

– A series of “rigid” elements are implemented in most FEA codes that defines the coefficients of the MPC constraint equations implicitly. .Constraints • There are two types of constraints: – An SPC (Single-point constraint) is a constraint that prescribes the motion of a single node • Zero displacement/Prescribed displacement • Specified in the global coordinate system • Most programs make provision for rotating the coordinate system at the node (skewing) – An MPC (Multi-point constraint) is a constraint equation that relate one degree of freedom of a node to one or more degrees of freedom with a linear equation. • This makes possible modelling a lever action between two nodes • (Displacement 1 = 10* Displacement 2) or rigid connection between nodes (Displacement 1 = Displacement 2). This makes it a lot easier to use them.

. – The RBE2 element is a Rigid connection. and it’s very easy to make a severe modelling mistake.Constraints • In Nastran. • “R” (Rigid) type elements are more difficult to use. – Usually preferrable over MPC’s • Easier to use • Easier to display • Less prone to error • Explicit MPC’s can be very difficult to use. • SPC’s are easy to use and to understand the implications of applying them. while – the RBE3 is an averaging connection. but mostly still straightforward. the “R” type elements are implemented through MPC equations.

.Constraints • In practice. thereby causing severe stress-concentrations. at least the answers at the SPC’s will be wrong. Think very carefully before applying a constraint: – Is the part of the structure you’re replacing with SPC’s really infinitely stiffer then the part you are modeling? If not. SPC’s are used to represent the connection to the rest of the universe. Therefore. Further away it may be correct assuming the constraints are equivalent – Does the structure want to deform in a way in real life that the constraint does not allow? – Stress concentrations occur where parts of different stiffness are connected together. Because an SPC is infinitely stiff. • The same goes for MPC’s: Remember that they are infinitely rigid. They can also severely affect the load-path because of the severe stiffness. the stressconcentration effect is extreme. the results at a constraint will be wrong. except where the constraints exactly model a physical phenomenon.

Anti-symmetry can also be used to advantage • Advantages: – Less computer resources are needed for a symmetry model than a full model – Boundary conditions are greatly simplified. . The symmetry constraints removes certain rigid body modes without introducing any artificial stiffness • Disadvantages: – Symmetry is slightly more difficult to interpret than a full model – Very difficult to present results to non-technical people (especially antisymmetry!).Constraints • Symmetry is used where both the loads and the structure have mirror symmetry.

acceleration loads. water pressure. a Force per unit area (pressure loading) or Force per unit volume (inertial loading) must be applied.Loads • Loads applied can be point-. • To apply a load that is not impossible to re-create in real life. edge. etc – Body (Volume loads) • Gravity. etc . face or body loads. • In practical problems distributed loads are more common than concentrated loads – Area (pressure loads) • Wind load.

Constraints: Best Practice in FEA • • • • Use minimum number of constraints where possible Loads are softer than constraints Large loads on few nodes -> singularity Must constrain 6 global dof’s – Prevent rigid body motion • All ‘components’ must have adequate constraints – Prevent mechanism • Graphically check constraints – Loads/BC’s – Plot Markers .

a static analysis can be performed with good results. The key requirements of a good static analysis are: – – – – A converged mesh (Relatively easy) Sensible constraints (Requires careful thought) Correct loading (Sometimes difficult to obtain) Good material properties (Usually easy) .Analysis types • Static analysis: – A static analysis is useful to model a structure where the loading is applied slow enough so that dynamic effects are not excited. If a structure is loaded at a frequency of about 1/3 of it’s first mode. • The model must be fully constrained (No rigid body modes) • Mass is only needed if inertial (gravity) loading is applied • It’s the most common type of analysis performed.

but NOT to determine if the structure will fail or not. only boundary conditions. The stress corresponds to this scaled deformation shape. For the analysis to run. but unless it is an aero-plane or a satellite. The eigen-vectors (modeshapes) reported by the FEM code are arbitrarily scaled. If you make a change to a model and the modal stress comes down. – The model must have mass and stiffness! – Stresses can be requested. constraints needs to be used. nothing less.Analysis types • Modal analysis: Used to find the un-damped modes of a structure – There are no loads in a modal analysis. Yes they have meaning. boundary conditions are not a requirement. Nothing more. it does NOT mean it is a better design! – Eigenvalue is the square of the natural frequency .

No structure is perfect. so introduce small imperfections into the model to determine how sensitive your model is to initial shape. then to offset the mesh with the buckling shape within manufacturing tolerances. and then to re-run the analysis . – One way to do this is to run a buckling analysis on the perfect shape.Analysis types • Buckling analysis: Used to find the scale factors for all the applied loads for the structure to become unstable – Buckling loads for some structures are extremely sensitive to the initial shape.

Analysis types • Frequency response: This is a transfer-function between input loads and every node in the model • Time dependant (transient) analysis – used to determine displacements. otherwise no dynamics will be present. strains. and forces in a structure as they vary with time (Time history analysis) – Similar to a static analysis. – No constraints are needed for the analysis to run because the inertia of the structure can balance the applied loads – Input load can be • Static (impulse) • Harmonic • or time dependant. stresses. but with dynamics starting to play a role. – Model should have mass. .

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• All materials behave in a linear elastic fashion.Linear Static Analysis • All deformations and strains are small. (time independent) • No boundary condition varies with time or application of load. • Loads are all static. • Structural deformations are proportional to the loads applied. (contact) .

turbine blades rotating at a high speed) – Nonlinear displacement boundary conditions • Contact . – Application of non-linear forces • Force following deflection (pressure loading) • Stress stiffening (structures that are weak in bending e.Non-linear Analysis • Causes of non-linear behaviour – Material nonlinearity – Geometrical nonlinearity • large strains (membrane analyses or metal forming) • small strains. large displacements and/or rotations (cables. pressurised membranes. arches.g. leaf-springs. fishing rods. snap-through buckling).

crushing. – Boundary conditions change due to the application of load (contact).Non-linear Analysis • Identifying nonlinear behaviour Stresses that exceed that of the limit of proportionality of the material. wrinkling or plastic flows. some materials have different compressive than tensile strengths. – The direction of load application changes with deformation (follower forces such as pressures). Major changes in geometry Changes in geometry that remain after the process is finished. Nonlinear stress-strain laws. Temperatures exceeding the melting temperature of the material. Large strains. Processes involves buckling. finite strains can occur in hyper elastic materials. – – – – – – – .

Non-linear Analysis • Tangent stiffness matrix • Solution Techniques – Newton Raphson method – Modified Newton Raphson • Termination Control – Displacement control – Force Control – Internal Energy .

This means that basic equations such as F=m*a should hold for the units chosen. Be very careful when not using SI! . which has pressures (stresses) in MPa.Units • FEA codes uses a set of consistent units. • A seemingly attractive set of Engineering units is based on mm-N-s. • SI is a consistent set of units and it is strongly advised that it be used. It is very easy to make a mistake during the process of calculating the correct units and the required scale factors. acceleration in mm/s^2 etc. • Having consistent units for any dynamic-type of analysis is especially important. velocity in mm/s. – The catch is that mass is in Mg (tons) and density in Mg/mm^3! – Units for thermal analysis are even more involved.

What’s coming • • • • • • • Approaching a problem The importance of hand-calculations Debugging a model Why open the Nastran deck? Help! I’m lost in the documentation… Dynamics basics Nonlinear basics .

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