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Chapter Ten

Element Birth & Death


Element Birth and Death
Chapter Overview Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


In this chapter, we will discuss element birth and death
capabilities in ANSYS
Element birth and death is useful to (re)activate or deactivate
certain elements during the course of the analysis
Typical examples include manufacturing/assembly processes or
analyses involving failure/removal of material:
Excavation (as in tunneling or slurry wall excavation)
Staged construction (as in unshored bridge erection)
Sequential assembly (as in fabrication of layered computer
chips, epoxy curing)
Weld deposition
Annealing

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Element Birth and Death
... Chapter Overview Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


In this chapter, we will cover the following topics:
A. Background on Element Birth and Death
B. Element Birth and Death Procedure in ANSYS
C. Additional Considerations for Birth and Death
D. Postprocessing Analyses with Active and Deactivated Elements

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Element Birth and Death
A. Background on Birth and Death Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


Definition of Birth and Death:
Element birth and death allows the user to (re)activate or
deactivate specific elements during the course of an analysis.
Elements can be born in a later time during the load history.
This means that the elements are initially deactivated but are later
reactivated in the analysis.
Elements can be killed during the load history. This means that
the elements cease to provide any significant structural response.

These changes (activation status) occur at the beginning of a


load step and are maintained throughout that load step.
Element birth and death is a changing status nonlinearity (similar
to contact status). They provide a stepped, not ramped, change in
the element status (a sudden change in status).

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Element Birth and Death
... Background on Birth and Death Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


Implementation of Birth and Death:
When an element is killed, it is not removed from the
stiffness matrix, but its stiffness is dropped to a low value.
Deactivated/killed elements have their stiffness multiplied by a
severe reduction factor (default is 1e-6). The stiffness is not set
to zero in order to prevent a singular matrix.
Element load vectors (e.g., pressure, temperature) associated
with killed elements are zeroed out.
Mass, Damping, and stress-stiffness matrices are set to zero for
deactivated elements.
Element stresses and strains are reset to zero as soon as the
element is killed.
The stiffness matrix size is always preserved since the
deactivated elements are not removed.

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Element Birth and Death
... Background on Birth and Death Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


Implementation of Birth and Death (contd):
When an element is born, its stiffness reduction factor is
removed.
All elements, including those which are initial deactivated, must
be present before solution. This is because the size of the
stiffness matrix must not change during the course of the
analysis.
When an element is born, its stiffness, mass, and damping
matrices return to their original values. Element load vectors are
also returned to their original/actual values.
After an element becomes alive, they do not have any strain
history record. They are annealed by birth and death
operations, being born with all strains and all stresses equal to
zero.

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Element Birth and Death
B. Birth and Death Procedure Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


Although not all elements support birth and death, most of
the commonly-used elements do support this feature. A
listing of supported elements is provided in the ANSYS
Advanced Analysis Guide, Chapter 7. Some notable
elements are listed below:
18x elements: LINK180, SHELL181, PLANE182-183, SOLID185-
187, BEAM188-189
Core elements: PLANE42, SOLID45, PLANE82, SOLID92,
SOLID95
Surface contact elements: TARGE169-170, CONTA171-174
Other structural elements: all LINK, BEAM, PLANE, SURF, and
3D SHELL elements

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Element Birth and Death
... Birth and Death Procedure Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


When building the model, ensure that all elements are
generated before solution is performed.
Only supported elements, as noted in the previous slide, can be
used for birth and death
All elements need to be generated before solving the model
since the size of the matrices need to be preserved (restarts
cannot be performed if the matrices change dimensions). This
means that even elements which are activated later in the load
history need to be created before solution begins.
Do not use select/unselect logic to activate/deactivate elements.
We will use specific commands described later.

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Element Birth and Death
... Birth and Death Procedure Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


The solution of models containing birth and death is similar
to other nonlinear problems, but there are some additional
considerations which must be taken.
Main Menu > Solution > -Analysis Type- Soln Control
Solution Controls > -Basic Tab- Analysis Options
Specify large displacement solution (NLGEOM,ON); otherwise,
some element types will be reactivated in their originally
specified geometric configuration (i.e., large-deformation effects
should be included to obtain meaningful results).

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Element Birth and Death
... Birth and Death Procedure Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


If no other nonlinearities exist, then the Full Newton-Raphson
option should be explicitly specified.
Main Menu > Preprocessor > Loads > Analysis Options
Specify Full N-R for Newton-Raphson option (NROPT,FULL).
For all birth and death applications, if no other nonlinearities
exist, you must be sure to set the Newton-Raphson option
explicitly in the first load step, as the program cannot predict the
presence of an EKILL command in a subsequent load step.

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Element Birth and Death
... Birth and Death Procedure Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


The activation/deactivation of elements is done through
special commands.
Main Menu > Solution > -Load Step Opts- Other > -Birth & Death-
Activate Elem (EALIVE) allows you to select specific elements
to be reactivated for the current load step.
Kill Elements (EKILL) allows you to specify which elements
are to be deactivated for the current load step.
StiffnessMult (ESTIF) determines the reduction
factor to apply to killed elements stiffness terms.
By default, this value is 1e-6. If the default value is
inappropriate for your analysis, it can be specified
to a different value.
Note that if elements are to be added in later load
steps, they should be killed in the first load step.

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Element Birth and Death
C. Additional Considerations Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


Considerations for Applied Loads:
Element load vectors (pressure, temperature) are automatically
zeroed out for deactivated elements.
Mass is zeroed out, so acceleration loads also do not affect
deactivated elements.
Concentrated nodal forces are not automatically removed from
deactivated elements DOF. The user must manually delete
concentrated loads from inactive nodes. Similarly, these nodal
loads must be reapplied when elements are reactivated.
All element and inertial loads are restored for reactivated
elements (pressure, temperature, acceleration). Nodal forces, as
noted above, are not affected by element birth and death.

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Element Birth and Death
... Additional Considerations Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


Notes about boundary conditions:
Constraining nodes of deactivated elements may be important if
you want to preserve the shape of the elements when they will
be reactivated. Be sure to delete these artificial constriants
when reactivating elements.
Nodes that are not connected to any elements may float. In
some cases, you might want to constrain inactive DOFs to
reduce the number of equations to be solved or to avoid ill-
conditioning (recall that a reduction factor ESTIF generates
small terms in the stiffness matrix, which may cause ill-
conditioning).
Note that constraint equations (CE or CEINTF) cannot be applied
to inactive DOFs.

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Element Birth and Death
... Additional Considerations Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


Solution option tips:
The LSWRITE and LSSOLVE commands cannot be used with the
birth-death option. Multiple load steps need to be performed
using a series of explicit SOLVE commands.
Adaptive descent may be used with element birth and death,
often providing good results.
You can model stress-relieving operations (such as annealing)
by deactivating and then reactivating elements.

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Element Birth and Death
... Additional Considerations Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


Tips on obtaining convergence:
In nonlinear analyses, be careful not to deactivate or reactivate
elements in such a way as to create singularities (such as sharp
re-entrant corners in a structural analysis) or sudden large
changes in stiffness. Such situations are likely to cause
convergence difficulties.

Jagged edges (re-entrant


corners) should be avoided
when deactivating elements.

Deactivating and reactivating elements cause sudden changes in


the systems stiffness (a step change). Hence, if these changes
are too severe, convergence difficulties may arise. You may need
to limit the number of elements which are killed or made alive in
a given load step if convergence difficulties are met.

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Element Birth and Death
... Additional Considerations Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


Alternatives to element birth and death:
If the strain history of the killed elements needs to be
maintained, you can deactivate elements by changing their
material properties in solution:
Solution > Load Step Opts > Other > Change Mat Props
However, this option does not remove element forces, strains,
mass, specific heat, etc. Convergence problems can result from
careless use of changing material properties in solution. For
example if an elements stiffness was reduced to zero, but it
retained its mass, a singularity could result from an acceleration
load.

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Element Birth and Death
D. Reviewing Results Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


For the most part, postprocessing a birth and death analysis
follows standard procedures.
Realize that killed elements are still present in your model, and
will be included in element displays, output listings, etc. Use
selection logic to remove deactivated elements from element
displays and other postprocessing operations.
If deactivated elements are not unselected when post-
processing, they will appear with zero stress, strain, and
displacement. This may also tend to produce smeared results
when using nodal contour plots (element contour plots will not
smear results).

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Element Birth and Death
... Reviewing Results Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


Tips on postprocessing different load steps:
If your model has multiple load steps where different elements
are deactivated in each load step, one way to differentiate
between killed and alive elements is to use components
prior to solution. Keep killed elements in components to make
it easier to unselect these from view when postprocessing. The
workshop example for this chapter will use this technique.
Another alternative is to save the database with the birth and
death status for all elements that matches the birth and death
status for that load step. (Save a copy of the database for each
load step which changes the birth and death status.) Because
this may result in more work in file management, this may not be
the preferred method.

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Element Birth and Death
... Reviewing Results Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


Controlling element birth and death with ANSYS results:
In certain problems you will need to activate or deactivate
elements based on their results. For example if you wanted to
kill melted elements in a thermal analysis, the elements could be
identified on the basis of their calculated temperatures.
The elements can be identified by storing results in the element
table and selecting the critical elements via the element table
results. The solution can then be restarted with the critical
elements deactivated. Refer to the ANSYS Advanced Analysis
Techniques for more detail. A sample input file is shown below:
! Previous Solution Procedure
/POST1 ! Enter POST1
SET, ! Read in Results
ETABLE, ! Store criteria in ETABLE
ESEL,S, ! Select elements based on ETABLE item
FINISH
/SOLU ! Re-enter SOLUTION
ANTYPE,,REST ! Restart the solution
EKILL,ALL ! Deactivate selected elements
ESEL,ALL ! Restore full element set
... ! Continue with solution
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Element Birth and Death
... Workshop Exercise Training Manual

Advanced Structural Nonlinearities 6.0


Please refer to your Workshop Supplement:
Workshop 14: Element Birth and Death

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