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Finite Element Method

Brian Hammond Ivan Lopez Ingrid Sarvis

Fundamental Concept of FEM

A continuous field of a certain domain having infinite degrees of freedom is approximated by a set of piecewise continuous models with a number of finite regions called elements. The number of unknowns defined as nodes are determined using a given relationship i.e.{F}=[K]*{d}.

Fundamental Concept of FEM


Domain with

degrees of freedom

Subdomain e

Domain divided with subdomains with degrees of freedom

1 2 3 5 4 6 x

Red line-Continuous field over the entire domain. Blue line-Finite number of linear approximations with the finite number of elements

General Steps
1) Discretize the domain
a) Divide domain into finite elements using appropriate element types (1-D, 2-D, 3-D, or Axisymmetric)

2) Select a Displacement Function

a) Define a function within each element using the nodal values

3) Define the Strain/Displacement and Stress/strain Relationships 4) Derive the Element Stiffness Matrix and Equations
a)Derive the equations within each element

General Steps
5) Assemble the Element Equations to Obtain the Global or Total Equations and Introduce Boundary Conditions
a)Add element equations by method of superposition to obtain global equation

6) Solve for the Unknown Degrees of Freedom (i.e primary unknowns) 7) Solve for the Element Strains and Stresses 8) Interpret the Results

Stress Analysis
Truss and frame analysis Stress concentration

Buckling Vibration analysis Heat transfer Fluid flow

Advantages of FEM
Model irregularly shaped bodies Compute General load conditions Model bodies composed of different materials Solve unlimited numbers and kinds of boundary conditions Able to use different element sizes in places where loads or stresses are concentrated Handle non-linear behavior using linear approximations Reduce System Cost

FEM Packages
Large Commercial Programs
Designed to solve many types of problems Can be upgraded fairly easily Initial Cost is high Less efficient Relatively short, low development costs Additions can be made quickly Efficient in solving their specific types of problems Cant solve different types of problems

Special-purpose programs

FEM Packages

Note on Stiffness matrix

For a 1-D bar, the stiffness matrix is derived from the stress/strain relationship in Hookes law and the definitions of stress and strain. x = Ex. ; x = P/A ; x = du/dx = (d2x d1x)/L

By substitution: -f1x = EA (d2x d1x) L E L A f2 f1 f1x = EA (d1x d2x) d1x d2x L Similarly for f2x: f2x = EA (d2x d1x) L Combining into matrix form, the stiffness matrix is defined as [k] = EA 1 -1 L -1 1

Note on the displacement function

For a given set of nodes there exists a function that approximates the displacement at any position along the bar. This function, called the displacement function, is derived from Pascals Triangle. A new constant is introduced into the function for every node in the discretized domain.

For 1-D

u(x) = a1 + a2x + a3x2 +

Note on the displacement function

If a 1-D bar is broken into 2 elements, the displacement function would be u(x) = a + a x + a x2.
1 2 3

Putting it into matrix notation: u(x) = [1 x x2] By knowing the distances to the nodes and the displacements at those nodes, the equation becomes: u1 1 0 0 2 u2 1 x x 2 2 = u3 1 x 3 x32

a1 a2 a3 a1 a2 a3

, where

x1 = 0, x2 and x3 are the distances to the nodes and u1, u2, and u3 are the displacements
The coefficients are found by solving the equation.

E a A b L


Determine displacements of materials a and b if the load P is applied to the end of the bar given the above information.

Example cont.
1) Discretize the domain with appropriate elements. Element a f1 1 u1 Element b 2 u2 3 u3 f22 2 u2 f3 = P


1 u1

2 f21


f3 = P

Example cont.
2) Select a displacement function There will be new term for each element, and the terms are 1 u1 derived from Pascals triangle. 2 u2 3 u3

u(x) = a1 + a2x + a3x2

Example cont.
3) Define stress/displacement and stress/strain relationships x = Ex x = du/dx 4) Derive the element stiffness matrix and element equations {F} = [k]{d} [k] = stiffness matrix {F} = Force {d} = displacement a f1 f21 [k] = EA 1 -1 L -1 1 b u1 u2 f22 f3 EA 2 -2 = L -2 2

EA 1 -1 = L -1 1

u2 u3

Example cont.
5) Construct Global equation and introduce boundary conditions and known variables. 1 -1 f1 EA = f21+f22 L -1 3 f3 0 -2 0


u1 u2 u3

Global Equation

B.C.: (x =0) u1 = 0 Known variables: f3 = P and f2 = f21+f22 = 0

Example cont.
6) Solve for unknowns. f1 0 P 1 -1 EA = L -1 3 0 -2 0 u2 u3 P = EA(2u3-2u2) L

0 f1 = -EAu2 L
u2 = PL EA


0 = EA(3u2-2u3) L
u3 = 3PL 2EA

f1 = -P

Example cont.
7) Solve for the element strains and stresses. a = P = u2 EA L a = Ea = P A a = 2E b = P 3 A

b = 3P = u3 2EA L
8) Interpret the Results

After solving for the displacements, the coefficients of the displacement function can be determined.

Logan, Daryl L. A First Course in the Finite Element Method Using Algor. Brooks/Cole, Pacific Grove, CA. 2001 ml4536/