# Finite Element Structural Analysis on an Excel Spreadsheet

Course No: S04-003 Credit: 4 PDH

Richard Campbell, P.E., S.E.

Continuing Education and Development, Inc. 9 Greyridge Farm Court Stony Point, NY 10980 P: (877) 322-5800 F: (877) 322-4774 info@cedengineering.com

FINITE ELEMENT STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS ON AN EXCEL SPREADSHEET

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0) to (10.003 vertical and 0. 4 & 5 can have the same coordinates (0. .0). 2 to your spreadsheet. The maximum member axial force is 3. Therefore. Note that each node is at the end of at least one member (no nodes are unconnected). To mirror Figure 2 results. Output values all change to “!NUM” error message. To see the effect of a zero length member. change member 5 connectivity from 5-2 to 3-2 (by changing cell B21 from “5” to “3”) such that node 5 is not connected to any members. The result summary for the Figure 2 truss example is that node 3 has calculated deflections of 0. to analyze a truss the member moment of inertia needs to be set near zero (it cannot be set to zero or an Excel error message “#NUM!” will result). To see the effect of having an unconnected node. both at node 3. Note that node 1.0 load and a horizontal 2. A truss is essentially a frame with no flexural resistance.0) such hat it has the same coordinates as note 2.Section 5: Truss Example on the FE Spreadsheet ~ [Ref: Figure 2] Figure 2 Example is a triangular truss.0 load.002 horizontal.54 in member 3. but that you can’t connect a member between two identical nodes because the member will have zero length. copy the input from Fig. Verify that your output matches Fig 2. change node 4 ordinates from (0. Output values all change to “#DIV/0!” error message. with a vertical 3.

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Note that maximums may be greater between nodes. applied forces. Verify that your output matches Fig. . and can have distributed load. If more detail is required. Members have properties. copy the input data to your working spreadsheet. Nodes can have supports. Each support node has a k_y spring value of 80. Member end forces are at node locations and are not necessarily maximum values for that member Resulting deflections for this example vary from –1. end “j”. The beam has varying uniform member loads per Figure 3. To mirror results. 3. The input/output sections of the FE spreadsheet are divided into two categories: “Node Data” and “Member Data”.0 to –1. end forces.Section 6: Beam on Elastic Foundation with Uniform Member Load ~ [Ref: Fig 3] The Figure 3 example is a beam on spring supports. “Uni_Load” input cells (G17-G21) are for inputting a uniform load perpendicular to the local x-axis of the member (in the local y-direction). and deflections.8 and maximum moment is 324 at member 2. use more nodes or further analyze critical members as a component problem. Note that Member Data.

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Section 7: 16-Node Building Example with Member End Release ~ [Ref: Fig 4 & 5] Previous examples have been limited to a few nodes and a few members to demonstrate the functionality of the spreadsheet. Most design problems require more nodes and members. which is a functional size for a number of structural design problems. Reactions at node 14 are FY = 4500 & FX =-1016.0 in the y-direction and 4. Member-14 is essentially a pin of 0.01 diameter and very low friction in this example.3 in the x-direction. . Reactions at node 1 are FY = –1500 & FX = -984. Figures 4 & 5 show a 16-node. 37-member spreadsheet. Member end release of member-15 at node-15 is modeled by inserting a very short member-14 with a very low Izz value. Maximum deflections are –1. The particular problem shown is a building frame with two 1000 horizontal loads and some –50 uniform member loads.

0550 1000 0 0 0.00 -0.200 26 10 11 0.200 5 5 6 0.0789 1000 0 0 0.200 10 10 11 0.000 E_mod Uni_Load 596571 596571 596571 596571 596571 596571 -50 596571 -50 596571 -50 596571 596571 596571 596571 596571 596571 -50 596571 -50 596571 -50 596571 596571 596571 596571 596571 300000 300000 300000 300000 300000 300000 300000 300000 300000 300000 300000 0.200 4 4 5 0.050 17 1 2 0.00 -0.3 2. 37 MEMBER SPREADSHEET NODE DATA: Node x 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 y 0 0 0 0 0 0 10 20 30 30 30 30 30 30 10 20 Support Springs Input Forces k_rot k_y k_x Mom FY 0 999999 999999 15 30 40 50 60 60 60 60 50 40 30 15 0 999999 999999 30 30 [rad] Support Reactions Output Deflections FX Mom FY FX Rot Dy 0 -1750 -1124.00 -0.000 0.00 -0.FIGURE 4 3-STORY BUILDING EXAMPLE Rev: 6/25/08 16 NODE.200 8 8 9 0.200 29 13 14 0.3 0.8 -0.0 1.8 2.0541 0 0 0.9 -0.00 -0.0792 0 4750 -875.0855 0 0 0.6 -1.00 -0.0 2.200 25 9 10 0.5 4.200 9 9 10 0.8 -0.200 2 2 3 0.00 -0.050 19 3 4 0.200 30 3 15 0.000 36 4 5 0.3 0.200 6 6 7 0.0456 0 0 0.0455 0 0 0.200 12 12 13 0.050 16 16 12 0.9 3.00 -0.000 0.050 20 4 5 0.000 0.200 3 3 4 0.3 6 MEMBER DATA: Mem I_node j_node Axx Izz 1 1 2 0.4 0.0541 0 0 0.000 35 3 4 0.000 0.31 -0.3 2.050 24 8 9 0.8 3.3 2.200 11 11 12 0.200 31 15 16 0.3 2.200 28 12 13 0.0590 0 0 0.000 37 1 2 0.1 -0.0309 1 2 3 4 Dx 0.200 32 16 12 0.050 15 15 16 0.0415 0 0 0.000 0.000 0.1 -0.3 1.00 -0.200 33 1 2 0.0576 0 0 0.3 0.0333 0 0 0.00 -0.000 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 22 22 22 22 22 22 22 22 22 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 0.000 Len 15 15 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 15 15 10 10 10 15 15 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 15 15 10 10 10 15 15 10 10 15 Mi 0 -5272 -479 -1210 -1941 -3840 -3048 118 7624 2526 -2572 17750 9014 -21014 -8817 8112 0 -11598 -1054 -2662 -4270 -4709 -3833 -330 3834 1270 -1293 8926 4533 -10777 -4643 1759 0 0 0 0 0 Output Member Forces Vi Axi Mj Vj 351 -1400 5272 351 -1400 10544 73 66 1210 73 66 1941 73 66 2672 171 681 3048 -67 681 -118 -304 510 -5658 510 943 -2526 510 943 2572 510 943 7669 582 2994 -9014 582 2994 -277 -970 36 8817 -1302 36 -6707 -2056 36 -31172 773 -350 11598 773 -350 23197 161 17 2662 161 17 4270 161 17 5878 -88 86 3833 -350 86 330 -613 256 -5799 256 474 -1270 256 474 1293 256 474 3857 293 1506 -4533 293 1506 -139 -613 73 4643 -781 73 -3163 -527 73 -7030 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Axj -351 -351 -73 -73 -73 329 567 804 -510 -510 -510 -582 -582 1470 1802 2556 -773 -773 -161 -161 -161 88 350 613 -256 -256 -256 -293 -293 613 781 527 0 0 0 0 0 1400 1400 -66 -66 -66 -681 -681 -510 -943 -943 -943 -2994 -2994 -36 -36 -36 350 350 -17 -17 -17 -86 -86 -256 -474 -474 -474 -1506 -1506 -73 -73 -73 0 0 0 0 0 .00 -0.00 -0.0908 0 0 0.050 21 5 6 0.3 -0.0 -0.0 -0.0446 0 0 0.050 23 7 8 0.000 0.050 22 6 7 0.0511 0 0 0.0 0.000 34 2 3 0.9 3.4 5 0.050 18 2 3 0.200 27 11 12 0.0 3.00 -0.2 0.9 3.00 -0.69 -0.200 7 7 8 0.4 0.000 0.200 14 3 15 0.200 13 13 14 0.

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It is the fundamental equation for FE analysis. I want to emphasize that this course focuses on FE analysis of 2D structural frames subject to static loading. This is a very specific segment of a huge field of FE applications. a complete solution can be calculated with enough nodes and members. Force and deflection for each member can be related by the equation f = k * d where k is defined as a stiffness matrix and is determined based on the properties of the member. Examples of some typical frame model simplifications are: • Modeling a 3D structure in two dimensions. f = k*d is to structural engineers what E=mc^2 is to physicists. completely detailing each node and member is impractical and the number is typically pared down to simplify the problem. dividing members into increasingly small elements by adding intermediate nodes does not increase solution accuracy. and F = K*D for a system of members. but for background information the closed form integral equations for flexure derive from d2y/dx2 = M/EI. • Parsing a model because of symmetry • Parsing a model for component analysis . If we limit our scope to members in which • stress is linearly proportional to strain and • elements are isotropic. In the broader realm of FE analysis. A very fine mesh with a number of small elements will more accurately capture the system behavior than a course mesh. d and D. • Idealizing boundary conditions (“rigid” or “pinned” approximates reality). Integral calculus is beyond the scope of this course. the system is generally continuous and the model is discretized. with all elements being linear members with nodes at each end.solution method used in the FE spreadsheet without going into the details of the underlying theory. In these examples. FE analysis for this specific segment of problems is really an application of matrix mathematics to solve a series of simultaneous compatibility equations. Examples would be bending in a flat plate or fluid flow around an obstruction. In a FE frame analysis. More detailed theory can be found from a multitude of sources should the user be so inclined to pursue. and once solved can be the key to structural design. the model is discretized. you will learn how to formulate f = k*d for each member. rather it has no effect on the solution. In reality. homogeneous members it follows that member force (f) is linearly proportional to member deflection (d). and the precision of the solution varies with the refinement of the model. Since a building frame is essentially a discretized system. Some would argue that this is not a true FE analysis since the system itself is discretized (a finite number of members connected at a finite number of joints. You will learn how to solve for unknowns f. This is because member behavior between joint nodes is already solved in close-form solution (for the assumption that only bending and axial strains are relevant). In this course. the system is continuous. with shape functions derived by closed form integral calculus).

F & D are vectors with “n” number of elements K is a square stiffness matrix. of size n*n .2) F = K*D. and dx for ends “i” and “j”. D is the resulting deflection vector. The FE spreadsheet performs the following steps using Excel functions (without macros or VBA programming): • Calculates member local stiffnesses • transforms local stiffness to global stiffness components.• Eliminating / ignoring minor members (ignoring wallboard that is nailed to studs). in expanded form becomes: mz _ i vy _ i vx _ i mz _ j vy _ j vx _ j 4 EI / L 6 EI / L ^ 2 0 6 EI / L ^ 2 12 EI / L ^ 3 0 0 0 AE / L 2 EI / L − 6 EI / L ^ 2 0 6 EI / L ^ 2 − 12 EI / L ^ 3 0 0 0 − AE / L dz _ i dy _ i dx _ i dz _ j dy _ j dx _ j 2 EI / L − 6 EI / L ^ 2 0 4 EI / L 6 EI / L ^ 2 0 6 EI / L ^ 2 − 12 EI / L ^ 3 0 6 EI / L ^ 2 12 EI / L ^ 3 0 0 0 − AE / L 0 0 AE / L Bold lettering indicates a matrix. dy. • sums global stiffness components to formulate the global stiffness matrix • inverts the global stiffness matrix • multiplies the inverted stiffness matrix * node forces to calculate node deflections • calculates member end forces from node deflections The basic equation relating local member end-forces with end-deflections is: (6.1) f = k * d. These assumptions are often appropriate. In global coordinates. with the x-axis being aligned with the axis of the member. Note that these are “local” matrices. Lower case matrix letters indicate local coordinates & UPPER CASE letters indicate global coordinates. where: n = degrees-of-freedom (3*num-of-nodes for the FE Spreadsheet) F is a force vector. The equations are handled in matrix form for simplicity and easy of manipulation. and vx for ends “i” and “j”. the stiffness equations become: (6. The stiffness matrix k is the 6x6 matrix with variables E. but a sensitivity analysis may be warranted for verification. I. vy. L and A. Section 11: FE Spreadsheet Method Finite element method involves generating a series of compatibility equations relating structure deflections and forces. The force vector f consists of mz. The deflection vector d consists of dz.

1) t*F = k*t*D Then. and • applied forces (global). all supports must be entered as support “springs”. t such that: (6. pre-multiply each side by t-inverse. if members 3. Note that if a node is a support point.4) f = t*F Recalling (6. then all the node stiffness values are assembled to form the global stiffness matrix. but absolute fixity can be approached by inserting very high support spring values. K. and their X-force stiffnesses are 1.3) d = t*D Member end forces can be similarly transformed by t such that: (6.1). In mathematical terms. while the global horizontal axis is the X-axis. or t-1. A coordinate transformation is required to calculate the relationship between local and global properties. Knowing local member properties and geometry we can calculate the local stiffness matrix k for each member per Equation 6. F. or 6 kips/ft. Then substituting (6. For example.In a typical structure problem. the global stiffness factor for joint 10 would be the sum of the stiffnesses. there is an external or global support stiffness that must be added to the k_T sum for that node. If the local x-axis is aligned identically with the global Xaxis. where the local member axis is not aligned with the global X-axis. with that transformation being a function of the angle between the “x” and “X” axes. local stiffness does not equal global stiffness. f = k * d. there is no infinitely rigid support. the local member axis defines the local x-axis. first define a coordinate transformation matrix. 4 & 5 connect at joint 10.4) into (6. The stiffness of each node is calculated by summing the contributing stiffness elements from each k_T matrix. The known applied global forces are assembled into the force vector. Once all member stiffness matrices are transformed to a global reference (ie: k_T is calculated for each member). global stiffness at each node can be calculated by summing the global stiffness of each member that is connected to that node.6) F = k_T * D where: (6. In the FE spreadsheet. As in real structures.3) and (6. Knowing the geometric relationship between local and global coordinates for each member allows use to transform each stiffness matrix from local to global coordinates. For all other cases.7) k_T = t-1*k*t = a member stiffness matrix transformed to global coordinates.1 above. t-1*t*F = t-1*k*t *D Simplifying with t-1*t = unity matrix and defining k_T = t-1*k*t: (6. . the known values are: • member properties (local) • structure geometry (both local and global). 2 & 3 kips/ft respectively. In the FE Spreadsheet. then local stiffness = global stiffness.

F = K * D. particularly that stress and strain are related in a linear fashion. global applied load vector • D. FE Method as laid out in the FE Spreadsheet Figure 6 shows local stiffness and transformation matrices (k & t) for each member.Recalling equation (6. deflections are small and materials are isotropic and homogeneous.5) f = k*t*D Figure 8 shows: • K. this simplifies to (6. calculated node displacement vector .3) into (6. where K-1 = the inverse of K. To solve for D pre-multiply by K-1. • Applied load vectors • Calculated displacements • Calculated local member forces by substituting (6. inverse of K • F. but since K-1*K is the identify matrix. k_T.2) K-1 * F = D Inherent in the formulation of the stiffness equations is linear elastic theory.7) result. global stiffness matrix • K^-1.2). • Index numbers to position k_T elements into global stiffness matrix K. shear strains are assumed to be negligible and are not calculated. we have now calculated F & K so D is the only unknown. with all its assumptions. K-1 * F = K-1*K * D. Also note that the elements or members in this spreadsheet are limited to axial and flexural strains. for each member. Figure 7 shows: • Equation (6.

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