International Journal of Impact Engineering 31 (2005) 861–876

Finite element analysis of steel beam to column connections subjected to blast loads
Tapan Sabuwala, Daniel Linzell*, Theodor Krauthammer
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA 16802, USA Received 28 August 2003; received in revised form 20 April 2004; accepted 23 April 2004 Available online 26 June 2004

Abstract The behavior of fully restrained steel connections subjected to blast loads was examined using finite element analysis. Two connections that were tested as part of the AISC Northridge Moment Connection Test Program (Report for AISC, 1994) were studied using ABAQUS. Models were validated by comparing numerical results against AISC Program experimental data. Validated models were then subjected to simulated blast loads and their efficiency against those blast loads was verified based on criteria specified in TM5-1300 (Department of the Army, Structures to resist the effects of accidental explosions, 1990). Adequacy of TM5-1300 criteria was investigated and critical zones in the connection details were identified. Based on the results of the study, recommendations for modifications to TM5-1300 criteria were made and the effectiveness of the chosen connection details under blast loads was summarized. The results showed that the TM5-1300 criteria for steel connections subjected to blast loads are inadequate. Also the unreinforced (pre-Northridge) connection detail performed poorly under blast loads with excessive deflections and above yield stresses in the connection region while the reinforced connection detail showed improved resistance against blast loads and this connection may be an option when detailing steel framed connections to resist blast loads. r 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Blast loads; Finite element modeling; Steel connections

1. Introduction The study of steel connections subjected to dynamic loads was initiated in the 1960s by Popov [1] wherein tests were conducted to study the cyclic behavior of steel moment-resisting
*Corresponding author. Fax: +1-814-863-7304. E-mail address: (D. Linzell). 0734-743X/$ - see front matter r 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.ijimpeng.2004.04.013

there is rising concern in the United States over the safety of building structures subjected to blast loads. The study was conducted by Engelhardt et al. single-story. given the absence of specific criteria governing connection behavior under blast loads.. a better understanding of the behavior of structural steel connections under blast loads is of prime importance. While some general publications. Thus. No experimental studies have been reported that analyze the behavior of steel connections under blast loads. This document provides guidelines for the safe design of structural elements subjected to short duration dynamic loads (i. Hence. investigations have generally focused on their behavior under cyclic loads. Moreover due to the lack of research and specific design guidelines for blastloaded steel connections. play a major role in structural response. Sabuwala et al. the beam-to-column connections. Experimental program Connections selected for the current study were tested as part of the AISC Northridge Moment Connection Test Program. 2. few studies have been conducted which analyze the interaction of blast loads and structural components of building structures. since September 11th. [7] immediately after the Northridge earthquake to provide insight into causes of steel connection failures and to provide . When a structural steel frame is subjected to blast loads. the adequacy and effectiveness of criteria given in TM5-1300 for steel frames is not well understood due to limited research. However. existing connection details proven to be effective against dynamic loads were selected in order to obtain an initial understanding of their effectiveness and behavior under blast loads which can then be used as a stepping stone for future studies in this area.e. this publication does not provide specific design guidelines or performance criteria for steel connections under blast loads.ARTICLE IN PRESS 862 T. Hence the performance of a steel connection has to be judged based on the performance of the steel frame. relatively low. multi-bay structures). as that published by Conrath et al. Only one theoretical study [3] and one numerical study [4] investigating steel connection behavior under blast loads has been reported. (i. However. The principal code currently used for the design of structures in the United States to resist blast loads is TM5-1300. dealing with the design of structural systems to resist blast loadings exist. Most of these studies however take a macro view of the situation and analyze the effect of blast loads on the buildings as a whole instead of identifying the behavior individual structural components of the building structure under such loads. blast loads) and criteria contained within TM5-1300 are oriented toward industrial building applications common to ammunition manufacturing and storage facilities. Structures to resist the effects of accidental explosions [6]. this study aimed at verifying the adequacy of criteria presented in TM5-1300 for steel frames containing select connection details. which are responsible for load transfer between different members within the frame. The approach presented in TM5-1300 is centered on the response of structures and structural elements that are idealized as equivalent lumped-mass single degree of freedom systems. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 31 (2005) 861–876 connections. there are only a limited number of code documents that exist related to blast design. Case studies based on past attack on buildings subjected to blast loads have been presented such as by Caldwell [2] which focus on the pattern and severity of blast damage sustained by the structure.e. Since these early studies. However. While general criteria for proportioning low-rise framed military structures to resist blast loads are provided. [5]. such as those generated during an earthquake.

Sabuwala et al. Wedge elements (C3D6) were used to model curved regions of the beam. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 31 (2005) 861–876 863 Fig. 2b demonstrated improved performance against cyclic loads by providing higher values of beam plastic rotation. ABAQUS performed better than other commercially available finite element codes as per a study conducted by Krauthammer [8]. the finite element models were created using 8-noded continuum (brick) elements with reduced integration (C3D8R). which . 1). Finite element models were validated by comparing results to experimental data from the AISC Northridge Test Program. Connections selected for the current study included an unreinforced connection (Fig. 1. energy dissipation and ductile failure modes when compared to the original connection details. 2a) and the reinforced connection (Fig. preliminary guidelines regarding retrofitting any connections to increase their effectiveness against induced seismic loads. Information from previous studies indicated that. pre-Northridge shear tab connections. Experimental setup (Engelhardt et al. 3. modifications were made to the connection details to attempt to improve their efficiency against seismic loads. Analytically examining these two connections permitted studying the effects of the additional structural elements used for the reinforced connection on blast load behavior. Due to small time durations and high pressure loads required for the current study. [7] that the cover plate retrofitted connection detail in Fig. It was demonstrated by Engelhardt et al. The behavior of eight fully restrained connection details was examined experimentally at full-scale under cyclic loads (Fig. [7]). for high rate dynamic loads. 2b).ARTICLE IN PRESS T. Analytical approach The general purpose ABAQUS finite element code was selected for the current study. Based on tests of unreinforced.

(b) Reinforced connection (Engelhardt et al. [7]). . An isometric view of the finite element models is shown in Fig. 4. 3. Numerical models for certain connection components are shown in Fig. 2. and the welds. [7]). / International Journal of Impact Engineering 31 (2005) 861–876 Fig. (a) Unreinforced connection (Engelhardt et al. included weld access holes at the top and bottom of the web. Sabuwala et al.ARTICLE IN PRESS 864 T.

/ International Journal of Impact Engineering 31 (2005) 861–876 865 Fig. which were assigned an elasto-plastic material model with perfect plasticity as a brittle material model for steel was unavailable in ABAQUS Explicit. (b) Numerical model for blast studies (unreinforced). 3. Elasto-plastic material properties with isotropic hardening were selected to simulate material behavior of all components in the finite element model except the welds. .ARTICLE IN PRESS T. Sabuwala et al. Numerical study models: (a) Numerical model for validation studies (unreinforced).

Member constituent relationships for model validation were based on test data from the AISC Northridge Test Program. Since design and analysis procedures presented in TM5-1300 are based on nominal material properties. Sabuwala et al.ARTICLE IN PRESS 866 T. blast studies that followed the validation process utilized nominal properties from the Structural Welding Code [9] for the welds and from other sources [10] for . Overview of components of numerical model. 4. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 31 (2005) 861–876 Fig.

/ International Journal of Impact Engineering 31 (2005) 861–876 Table 1 Connection component yield stresses and tensile strengths for FE models under blast loads Connection component Beam Column Shear tabs Bolts Nuts Weld Cover plates Yield stress (w/o dynamic increase factor) (MPa) 248. Predicted and measured displacement time-histories as obtained from the numerical model and corresponding experimental values for the selected connection details are illustrated in Figs.2 344. and cover plates–beam.2 586. respectively. Figs.0 594.3 424.1% for the reinforced connection. The main aim of this study was to analyze the behavior of the selected connection details under blast loads and benchmark their performance against criteria from TM5-1300. The peak differences between numerical and experimental tip displacements were 9.9 867 various components of the connection details. of the structure is important.ARTICLE IN PRESS T. nominal yield stresses were increased using dynamic increase factors as required by TM5-1300 to account for the influence of high strain rates from the blast loads on the mechanical properties of steel. bolt–tabs. As per TM5-1300. This first response cycle is minimally affected by damping in the system and damping effects are subsequently neglected in the theoretical procedure given in TM5-1300 for evaluating blast load response [6].6 399. The column for the numerical model was fixed at the ends and at the base as in the experimental setup (Fig.9 594.3 Ultimate tensile strength (MPa) 399. Peak displacements . Thus.29 for Grade 50 and Grade 36 steels. Analyses were carried out over a time duration which would produce one cycle of structural response.0 482. 3). from the first cycle.7 352.9 721.0 586.7 248. Maximum differences between the numerical and experimental results are also shown.3 352. Sabuwala et al. the loads and boundary conditions applied to the numerical model replicated the experimental setup. damping was not included in the numerical models.9% for the unreinforced connection and 6.6 399. These increase factors were 1. Surface-to-surface contact interaction capabilities available in ABAQUS were used to account for the various forces generated between interacting parts of the model. tabs–beam. for blast-resistant design only the peak response.9 482.0 722.12 and 1. 5 and 6. The primary response quantity used for model calibration was the displacement timehistory of the beam tip.2 Yield stress (w/o dynamic increase factor) (MPa) 352. In addition. 5 and 6 indicate that good numerical prediction of the behavior existed for both connections. respectively.6 248.9 722. For validation.3 721. Material properties used for the finite element model for the blast load phase of the study are illustrated in Table 1. The beam was cantilevered from the column. A tied contact formulation was used for the welds and a small sliding formulation was used for the other interacting parts such as bolts–bolt holes. Cyclic loads corresponding to those used during the experimental tests were applied to the free end of the beam.

The procedure outlined in TM5-1300 to estimate an explosive charge size provides blast pressure for walls of containment structures or cubicles due to an internal or external explosion. Considering this. Theoretical estimates of the behavior of the studied steel connection details under these blast loads were obtained. experimental beam tip displacements (unreinforced connection). 4. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 31 (2005) 861–876 Fig.96 MPa [6] that would provide realistic venting of the explosive gases. in conjunction with the SHOCK and FRANG computer codes [11] and [12] respectively and loading functions corresponding to these blast pressures were applied to the numerical models. 7 was employed as the theoretical room model. Blast pressures were applied as uniformly distributed loads to the inner faces of the beam and column flanges (Fig. Theoretical/empirical load development and response prediction Simulated blast pressures were generated using procedures outlined in TM5-1300. it was necessary to consider the connection details as part of a hypothetical room within which the explosion occurred. 5. and rotations of structural members were subsequently judged based on their response during this first cycle. .ARTICLE IN PRESS 868 T. 3) and are summarized in Table 2. Hence. Numerical vs. a simple one-story steel frame structure as shown in Fig. Sabuwala et al. One side of the room was considered to be a frangible panel having a surface weight of 0.

6 1.2 2.5 0.3 48. Table 2 Numerical blast pressures Specimen Unreinf. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 31 (2005) 861–876 869 Fig.8 48. Sabuwala et al. 7).0 3.0 0.ARTICLE IN PRESS T.5 0.1 Column Reinf.0 8.8 48.0 Time (ms) 0.0 3.0 3. experimental beam tip displacements (reinforced connection).0 8. Beam Column Only part of the representative room was considered for the numerical model by taking advantage of symmetry conditions with planes of symmetry located at mid-height of the column and mid-length of the beam (Fig.4 48.2 2. 6. . Numerical vs.2 0.1 0. Member Beam Load (MPa) 3.2 0.8 1.0 1.0 1.0 0.

Theoretical room used for blast study. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 31 (2005) 861–876 Fig. . 8. Sabuwala et al. Theoretical values for the pressures were determined based on the plastic moment capacity of the beam and column for each chosen connection detail. The present study considered two typical failure mechanisms as shown in Fig. Theoretical model failure mechanisms. Fig. 8. 7. TM5-1300 provides different methods for calculating the plastic moment capacity from structural members of a frame based on the type of anticipated collapse mechanism.ARTICLE IN PRESS 870 T.

resistance (R). . These transferred loads on the beam and the column are distributed over their flanges and these resultant pressures as applied to the numerical model are summarized in Table 2. and the corresponding rotational deformation at the member end. Design charts from TM5-1300 that related dynamic properties of the structural elements. Performance evaluation In addition to estimating blast load response using ABAQUS. ductility ratio. Unreinforced connection side wall load. A representative pressure time-history for the connection details is graphically depicted in Fig. Xm. to those of the blast overpressures that consisted of the load (P) and time duration (T) were used. Table 3 summarizes values of maximum deflection. These theoretical estimations indicated that the representative room could withstand the loads from the explosive charge according to the TM5-1300 limiting criteria. A similar procedure is used for the roof and the pressures are then transferred to the beam using the effective tributary area. and deflection (X). This time-history shows shock and gas pressures acting on a side wall of the hypothetical room. y. additional estimates were obtained using TM5-1300 procedures for comparative purposes. m and rotational deformation. can be obtained from these design charts. Sabuwala et al. 9 is used. an effective pressure time-history as depicted by solid line in Fig. such as the natural period of vibration (TN). y. Response was characterized in terms of the maximum deflection at mid-span. These pressures are then transferred to the column considering the tributary area of the side wall. associated with the ratios T/TN and P/Ru. For the numerical model. m. Xm. 9. A ductility ratio. 5. 9. for structural elements of the studied connection details along with the safety limit for rotation as specified in TM5-1300. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 31 (2005) 861–876 871 Fig.ARTICLE IN PRESS T.

1.3 — Unreinf. Unreinforced connection Beam response was evaluated based on end rotation.0 1.1 17.5 55.1 4. .33 2>1.3 38.3 Reinf. Member Beam Column Beam Column Max.1 5. Beam Column Reinf.3 72.0 mm 0. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 31 (2005) 861–876 Table 3 Blast load response from TM5-1300 Connection detail Unreinf. Beam 0.3 2>0. Numerical model displacements and rotations for both the reinforced and unreinforced connections under the prescribed blast pressures are summarized and compared to theoretical predictions from TM5-1300 in Table 4.2 1.2 9.8 Rotation y (deg) 0.3 Rotational limit ylimit (deg) 2>0. However. Member Response quantity Rotation (y) Displacement (X) Rotation (y) Displacement (X) Rotation (y) Displacement (X) Rotation (y) Displacement (X) Peak numerical value 0.5 92.3 94 94 Limiting criteria (deg) 2>0.7 72.3 69. Table 4 Predicted displacements and rotations Spec.7 mm 1. and Von Mises stresses.3 2>1.8 mm 0. end displacement.3 — 2>1. TM5-1300 predicted values are 38% higher than those predicted by the numerical model and hence the beam was over-designed for the applied blast loads according to TM5-1300.3 — 2>0. numerical model beam rotation for the unreinforced connection was well within deformation criteria specified by TM5-1300 and hence it is considered as safe under the applied blast loads based upon these criteria.3 — Column 6.1 mm % Difference 38.3 1.8 92.3 69.8 mm 55.2 mm 1.7 mm 0.3 15.1 7.7 2. As shown in the table.9 Ductility ratio (m) 2.2 mm Peak theoretical value (TM51300) 0. deflection Xm (mm) 15.3 1.8 2>0.ARTICLE IN PRESS 872 T.3 17.3 0. Sabuwala et al. Results and discussion 6.

Component Beam Column Stress concentration region Lower weld access hole Upper and lower connection point with shear tabs Around bolt holes Bolt shank Bottom groove weld Beam flange at end of top cover plate Lower connection point with shear tabs Around bolt holes Bolt shank Bottom groove weld Tip of top cover plate Maximum stress (MPa) 365. indicating initiation of local yielding at this location.ARTICLE IN PRESS T.0 124. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 31 (2005) 861–876 Table 5 Observed stress summary Specimen Unreinf. These results showed that localized weld failure may occur at these locations.2 MPa).5 358.3 721. . which was marginally higher than the dynamic yield stress for the beam (352. the reinforced connection was more efficient than the unreinforced connection for limiting deflections of the beam and the column under blast loads. Increased discrepancies between TM5-1300 predictions and those from the ABAQUS model were caused by additional stiffness provided to the reinforced connection from the cover plates that were not addressed by TM5-1300 criteria.4 MPa.6 MPa.3 722. which summarizes stresses for the reinforced and unreinforced connections under the prescribed blast pressures.7 248.3 352.7 352. differences between predicted and theoretical response quantities for the beam were 55% higher than corresponding differences for the unreinforced connection. Thus. indicates that under the simulated blast loads.3 352. Table 5.2 262. stresses in the bottom groove welds between the beam and column flange reached a maximum value of 587. Reinforced connection Table 4 indicates that predicted values for beam response in terms of the tip rotation and displacement were overestimated for the reinforced connection.3 424. Beam Column Shear tabs Bolts Welds Cover plates 248.3 424.0 594.2 262.2.2 151. which was marginally smaller than the weld dynamic yield stress of 594. Moreover.0 587. as expected. The observed peak stress in this region was 364 MPa.7 Comment Local yielding — 873 Shear tabs Bolts Welds Reinf.3 — — Near failure Local yielding — — — — Local yielding Stress contour plots of the numerical model indicated that the highest stresses were generated near the weld access hole at the bottom of the beam web due to the reduced area of the web at that location. Sabuwala et al. Column response under simulated blast loads was elastic with low stresses and deformations.4 379.9 594. 6.5 352.0 358.1 Dynamic yield stress (MPa) 352.

This behavior matches observations made during testing of this connection detail under cyclic loads for the AISC Northridge Test Program [7] where the connection detail failed due to localized fracture of the bottom groove welds. structural members were over-designed for the blast loads as peak values of displacements and rotations from the numerical models were lower than the limiting criteria given in TM5-1300.5 MPa) being 33% less than peak stresses observed in the unreinforced connection (Table 5).ARTICLE IN PRESS 874 T.4 and 124. 1. which initially deformed the beam upwards with high pressures. Flange cover plates added to the reinforced connection were efficient in reducing the stress concentrations on the groove welds. They were concentrated in the beam flange at the end of the top cover plate with the maximum stress being 379. The bottom groove weld was an area of concern for the unreinforced connection as it was subjected to high stresses exceeding its dynamic yield stress. As in the unreinforced connection. 4. the column remained elastic. 3. rotations and stresses. Beam stresses in the connection region ranged between 103. 2. The formation of plastic hinges in the reinforced connection would occur away from the connection zone at the end of the cover plate as indicated by initiation of yielding of the beam flange at this point. The cover plates added to the reinforced connection aimed at reducing this stress concentration for induced seismic loads. Sabuwala et al. stresses on the other weld components were also reduced to a maximum of 255.1 MPa. The reinforced connection performed better than the unreinforced connection under blast loads. The reason for the difference in stress was caused by the blast load application procedure. which indicated local yielding. which was approximately 65% lower than the peak stress observed for the unreinforced connection. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 31 (2005) 861–876 Table 5 indicates that stresses generated in the beam for this connection were lower when compared to those in the unreinforced connection. Response of the reinforced connection under simulated blast loads indicated that adding cover plates to reduce weld stress concentration can be effectively used for blast loads. One of the key problems identified with the unreinforced pre-Northridge connections was the concentration of stresses at the groove welds. This behavior corresponds with the design philosophy of the reinforced connection for seismic loads whereby cover plates were utilized to position plastic hinges in the beam away from the connection zone. According to the TM5-1300 criteria. . Moreover. Lower stresses occurred for the bottom cover plate. which indicated the formation of a yielding zone at that point. The cover plates were subjected to high stresses at their tips under blast loads with maximum 358. Conclusions Based on the results obtained from the numerical models the following conclusions were made regarding connection performance and adequacy of the TM5-1300 criteria. 7. 5.2 MPa. with peak stresses (358. The top cover plate attempted to resist this motion leading to stress concentrations at its tip. exhibiting lower displacements.5 MPa at the top cover plate tip.1 MPa. Reinforced connection groove weld stress concentrations were significantly reduced.

Report No.Columbo. AISC Northridge moment connection test program. which results from the addition of cover plates and column stiffeners to the connection region. [5] Conrath EJ. References [1] Popov EP. it would be advantageous to incorporate a strength based criterion into the TM5-1300 document that would augment existing serviceability criteria to evaluate steel frame performance under blast loads.ARTICLE IN PRESS T. New Orleans. data and background information provided by Dr. [3] Krauthammer T. Seismic moment connections for moment-resisting steel frames. 1999. Sri Lanka. TM5-1300. . Marchand KA. Earthquake Engineering Research Center. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 31 (2005) 861–876 875 6. It is also recommended that unreinforced connection details similar to those included in this study should not be used for blast-resistant structures as they show undesirable failures within the connection zone near the column face. LA. 1983. showed improved performance under blast loads with reduced stresses in the connection region and indication of plastic hinge formation in the beam away from the connection. Mlakar PF.’’ The assistance of PTC personnel and personnel at the US Army Corps of Engineers ERDC is gratefully acknowledged. UCB/EERC-83/02. any strength criteria added to TM5-1300 should account for contributions to the connection strength and stiffness. Krauthammer T. CA. Structural design for physical security. Failure of the unreinforced connection would appear to occur in the connection zone as indicated by local yielding of the region near the bottom weld access hole and failure of the bottom groove welds. In addition. [6] Department of the Army. 1994. 1990. The studied reinforced connection details. Development and Implementation in Support of DoD Force Protection Needs. and the subsequent increase in blast resistance. Bomb blast damage to a concrete-framed office building Ceylinco House . [2] Caldwell T. [4] Krauthammer T. State of the practice report. Acknowledgements This work was supported by The US Army Corps of Engineers through a project with the Protective Technology Center (PTC) at Penn State University entitled ‘‘Protective Technology Research. These conclusions appear to indicate that criteria presented in TM5-1300 used to judge the adequacy of a steel frame based purely on rotations of the structural members is not adequate and should be revised. Michael D. Thus. Int J Impact Eng 1999. Sabol TA.22: 887–910. Int J Impact Eng 1999. 1999. Report for AISC. Berkeley. Structural concrete and steel connections for blast resistant design. 22(9–10):887–910. which included cover plates for the beam flanges and stiffeners for the column web. Engelhardt at the University of Texas was invaluable to this investigation. The studied connection details satisfied these criteria but were shown to be subjected to high localized stresses that were indicative of failure. Sabuwala et al. Proceedings of Structures Congress. Structures to resist the effects of accidental explosions. American Society of Civil Engineers. Aboutaha RS. Blast resistant structural concrete and steel connections. In addition. Frank KH. Oh GJ. [7] Engelhardt MD.

LA. 1994. CA. p. New Orleans. 1994. Naval Engineering Lab. [12] Wager P. Connett J. New York: HarperCollins College Publishers. Proceedings of the 29th Department of Defense Explosive Safety Seminar. 2000. Structural Welding Code for Steel/ANSI/AWS Dl. 1989. Connett J. Port Hueneme. Port Hueneme. [9] American Welding Society.ARTICLE IN PRESS 876 T. Naval Engineering Lab. emphasizing load and resistance factor design. Sabuwala et al. [10] Salmon GC. 18–20.1–94. Lim J. . CA. 1989. Johnson EJ. [11] Wager P. Findings from three computer code validations with precision impact test data. Steel structures: design and behavior. Oh GJ. SHOCK User’s Manual. FRANG User’s Manual. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 31 (2005) 861–876 [8] Krauthammer T.