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Finite Element Analysis

Introduction using MSC.Patran and MSC.Nastran

Patran basics
Model building process
Submitting the analysis
Results basics
Example problems

Patran basics
Patran is a general-purpose Pre- and Post processor. It can
create models for a large number of analysis codes

Pre-processing is the process of building a mesh, applying

material properties, loads and boundary conditions and writing it

out in the format that the finite element solver needs it.

Post-processing is simply looking at the results of an analysis

(Deformation plots, contour plots, graphs etc)

Patran basics
Menu bar

Main workflow icons

Form area

Model window

History window

Command line

Patran basics
After opening patran, create or open a DB file. This is the main
Patran model file and is a kind of database file.

When a new model is created, a form is shown where the solver /

analysis type is selected and a model sizing parameter is
chosen. The default of 10 is OK for typical models built in mm.
Use 0.01 for the same model in SI

Patran basics
The basic workflow in Patran is:


Create / Import geometry

Mesh the geometry
Apply loads / Boundary conditions
Create material properties and apply to the elements
Submit the analysis
Import the results and post-process

The main workflow icons are used to perform these steps.

Patran basics
Forms follows the same basic layout for all forms. For forms that need to
perform different tasks, a series of drop-down lists at the top is used to
change into the mode required.

The actions for these drop-down lists are Action/Object/Method or


Action: What do you want to do (Create / delete / transform / modify / renumber etc)

Object: On what do you want to perform this action (Curve / Surface / Solid /
Element / Node etc)

Method: What method do you want to use to perform this action (Extrude / revolve

Type: More details on the Object to be operated on (Element uniform / Element

variable etc)

This makes it easy to find a specific feature in Patran


Patran basics

Patran basics
Some comments about the interface:

No action is taken until the Apply button is selected

An Auto execute tick-box means that Patran automatically presses the
Apply button for you if you select something with the mouse

Cancel is usually used to close a form

When a new command is given to Patran, the model is first saved and the
command then executed. This means that you never lose more than one step
even with a power-failure. The downside is that only the last command can be
undone (because it is not yet saved)

Model building process

The first part in building a model is to get geometry available so that a mesh can
be generated. Most commonly the model comes from a CAD package. The
following types of CAD files are supported:
ACIS (Used by Autocad)
Parasolid (Used by Unigraphics, Solid Edge, Solid Words and a couple of others)
Pro Engineer

Patran has its own geometry engine as well as the Parasolid geometry engine
built in. Therefore, the geometry that gives the least amount of problems is
Parasolid, although ACIS, CATIA and Pro Engineer import interfaces also works
very well.

It is possible to completely build a model in Patran without the use of a CAD

package. However, Patran was never intended as a CAD tool. Creating geometry
in Patran invariably takes longer than in most CAD packages. Also remember that
Patran until recently was not parametric at all, and is only slowly getting
parametric geometry now.


Model building process

After geometry exists, the Finite Element model creation process can

start. The workflow mentioned earlier is not a fixed method of working:

As long as geometry exist the sequence can be changed at will

Patran can apply loads, boundary conditions and properties to either

Geometry or to FE entities (nodes / elements). Applying it to the
geometry means that Patran will map it to the elements at the time of
submitting the analysis

This means that you can re-mesh the model without having to update
every load, BC and material property.


Model building process

Creating a mesh depends on the class of element to be used and
the level of control over the mesh required. On the Elements
menu, set it to Create / Mesh / [Entity type] where [Entity type] can
be Curve, Surface or Solid.


Model building process

Create / Mesh / Surface gives two options for the meshing

Algorithm: Isomesh and Paver.
IsoMesh is only allowed on 3- or 4-sided surfaces (Green
surfaces). It transforms this surface onto a square or
triangular surface, subdivide this mesh to get elements
and transforms back to the original surface.
Paver is valid for all types of surfaces (Green and
Magenta). It starts Paving at the edges and then
continues paving towards the inside until the area is filled.

Both meshing methods can create Tri- or Quad elements.

To control a surface mesh, it is possible to create a Meshseed (Create/Mesh-seed). This is a constraint on the
meshing algorithm that forces it to place a certain number
of nodes along a certain edge with a certain spacing.
Uniform seeding is the most commonly used because it
makes meshing non-congruent surfaces easier.
A One way bias seed goes from coarse to fine or fine to
coarse. It is useful to force smaller elements at a stressconcentration.


Model building process

Create / Mesh / Solid also has two meshing options:

IsoMesh is similar to the one for surfaces. It can generate Tet,
Penta or Hex elements, but ONLY on blue solids (Solids that
have 6 4-sided faces)

Tetmesh as the name indicates is for creating Tet elements. It

can mesh any kind of solid geometry (Blue or white solids)

Controlling the mesh for a solid model is more complex. Mesh

seeds can still be used on edges, but that does not mean that
the face between the edges will get the same element length.
To force a certain mesh-size on a face, two methods exist:
a Mesh control can be applied to force a local mesh size. I
dont recommend it because it is easy to forget about them
and have difficulty trying to mesh the solid with different

Create a Tri-mesh of the same order as the Tet-mesh that you

plan to apply. When you then mesh with Tet-elements,
elements will be created with faces that match the surface
elements. Then delete the Tri-mesh.


Model building process

If two separate pieces of geometry next to each other is meshed, they may have
nodes at the same location in space but they are NOT connected by default. To
connect them, use the Equivalence option. It forces the elements to share the
boundary nodes instead of having duplicate nodes. Remember, if they dont
share nodes, the elements are not connected!

To check that the mesh is connected, use the Verify / Element / Boundaries

option. It will show where there are element edges that is not shared. In other
words it tells you where there are elements that are not connected to others. If
the model is correct, there should only be lines at the boundary of the model.




Model building process

Applying loads and boundary conditions is relatively

Choose the load-type
Give the load a unique name (without spaces)
Choose to what elements (1D / 2D / 3D) the load is
applied to if applicable
Go to Input data to fill in the load value. The value
may be a scalar or a vector (more on vectors later).
Select OK
Go to Select application region. Select whether you
want to apply the load to FEM or Geometry. Select the
entities to apply the load to and press the Add
button. Repeat this selection and Add until all the
entities are in the Application region. Press OK
Press Apply
Check that the Load / BC has been added to the
Existing sets. If not, either there was an error (an
error window would appear with some kind of
message), or you did not press apply.
To check what the properties was of a specific load /
BC, select it in the Existing sets (Typing its name is
NOT good enough). It will then fill in its data in the
name, Input data area and application region.


Model building process

Applying materials to a mesh is a two-step

First, create a material. Note that the materials do
not have an option to link them to any elements:
They are simply made available to be used on the
properties menu.
To create a Material:On the materials menu,
select Create / [Property type] / Manual input.
[Property type] is:

Isotropic for materials that do not exhibit varying properties

in different directions. Typically used for metals. Required

properties is two of Modulus of elasticity (E), Shear
modulus (G), or Poisson (). Density is needed if either
inertial loading (gravity / rotational velocity) is applied, or if
a type of dynamic analysis is to be performed
Orthotropic for materials that has properties that can be
defined be specifying a different stiffness in 3 orthogonal
directions. A layer of composites is typical of this.
Anisotropic has more terms for the material stiffness than
even Orthotropic and can have for example coupling
between membrane stress and bending. A complex
composite lay-up has this kind of behavior, although it will
more commonly be set up using the following option
Composite is used to define material properties for a
material that is built up in layers of materials that has
already defined
Fluid is used to specify material properties for acoustic

Select Input material properties and fill in the

required data. Press OK and Apply


Model building process

To apply the material properties to a mesh, go
to the properties menu:
Create / [Dimensionality] / [Type of element]
[Dimensionality] can be from 0D to 3D.
[Type of element] vary for each
dimensionality. Most commonly used is:

Mass element
Grounded spring - Has a stiffness in a specific


direction that is between one node and

ground. Used to model foundations that are
not perfectly stiff

Rod Truss element
Bush spring element that can define


different stiffness for each DOF as well as

Damping between two nodes.

Shell An element that acts in 3D space but

which is modeled without nodes in the

thickness direction. Have membrane, shear
and bending stiffness by default
2D solid: Options are Plane Strain or axisymmetric. They are defined in 2D but define
a thick component.
3D: Only option is Solid.


Model building process

Select the type of property to apply and go to input
properties, fill in the properties and press OK. The smaller
the dimensionality of the element is, the more properties is
3D: Only a material is needed
2D: A material and a thickness
1D: A material, Cross-sectional area, Inertia values, direction to
determine in which direction the normal direction for the
element is (i.e. what is the orientation of the beam)
0D: Mass properties (Mass and Inertia) or Stiffness for each

Select the geometry or elements to which to apply and press

Add to fill in the Application
region. Select Apply to
generate the properties


Model building process

Going to the Load Cases menu is only needed
if you plan to run multiple load-cases.

A Load Case is a collection of loads / BCs that is

to be applied to the model. In other words it is a

loading condition you want to analyze. By default,
a load case called default is created when you
create a new Patran DB, and all loads / BCs are
added to it when you create them.

Creating a load case is simple:

Give it a name
On Input data, select the loads and BCs that

should be used and OK then press Apply

Check that the load case name is displayed in the
Existing Load Cases data box.


Submitting the analysis

You are now ready to start the analysis. On the

analysis menu, select Analyze / Entire model / Full run.

The Job name is what the Nastran model will be
called (it defaults to the Patran model file-name) as
well as what the results-file is called.

On translation parameters:
Switch off Print. The print file is the .F06 file, and

having print on will write all results to this text file as

well as to the normal results file. This will then be a
HUGE file and make it difficult to scan it for errors.
More on the F06 later.

Choose either XDB or OP2 for output.

XDB is a database format file that is not

imported into Patran: When results are created,

it accesses this file.
OP2 is imported into Patran, so the file can be
deleted after importing results. The Patran DB
can become very large if multiple load cases are
read in in this fashion.
The rest of the settings are OK, so select OK
Use Solution type if you dont plan to run a linear
static analysis


Submitting the analysis

Make a Direct text input in the Bulk data section: Param, PRGPST, NO
to not print the grid-point singularity table to the F06 file, and select OK.
This will reduce the size of the F06 significantly.


Submitting the analysis

Go to Sub cases to change settings for any load

case to be run. This is needed to change the results

requested (default is stress, reaction force and
displacement). For non-linear analyses, load
increment info is set here. For Transient analysis
types, time steps or number of modes are set here.
[A sub case is a load case with extra info about
settings for the load case]
Select the sub cases to be run on the Sub case
select menu, OK and Apply to submit the analysis.
If all goes according to plan, a Command window
will open that shows that Nastran is running. This
window will stay open for at least a couple of
seconds (up to several hours depending on the
model size). When the analysis has completed,
check the F06 file for errors. Search for FATAL in
this file. If its there, the results file will contain NO
To Access the results:
On the Analysis menu, select Access results /
[Attach XDB or Read OP2] / Result
entities. Select the results file and press
Apply. The results should now be available on
the Results menu.


Results basics
The most common result plots used are:
Displacement - showing deformed shape)
Fringe - showing contours
Quick Plot - combines the a Fringe and Displacement plot. It has less options than
Fringe / Displacement plots, so is used to generate the first impressions of the
Other result types available are:
Marker Used mostly to generate vectors
Cursor Used to show a value at a specific node location
Contour Create contour lines
Graph Create a graph of Result vs. Location or time
Animation Seldom used: Can animate from Fringe / Displacement / Quick plot
Report Used to write results to a file
Results Create a new result that is either a scaled version of another, or a
summation of a series of load cases (valid only for linear analyses)
Freebody Generates free-body diagrams. Must request extra results information
during the analysis to be able to perform this step.