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Lecture 1 The Basic Concept of the Finite Element Method

Yan Zhuge CIVE 3011 Structural Analysis and Computer Applications

19/07/2007 1

The finite element method (FEM) is a computer based procedure that can be used to analyse structures and continua. FEM is based on the idea of building a complicated object with simple blocks, or dividing a complicated object into small and manageable pieces. Common applications include static, dynamic and thermal behaviour of physical systems, and their components.

The results obtained with a finite element analysis are rarely "exact." Nevertheless, a very accurate solution can be obtained if a proper finite element model, based on principles of finite element analysis, is used. Example:
Approximation of the area of a circle
i h

Engineering Application
we are concerned with the effects of forcing functions (loads, fluid pressure etc.) on systems in several instances the problem addressed is too complicated to be solved satisfactorily by classical analytical methods (due to irregular geometry, non-homogeneous media and arbitrary loading conditions etc.) The finite element method, which is based on the concept of discretisation finds use here Finite element method is probably the most widely used form of computer-based engineering analysis.

Applications of FEM in Engineering

Mechanical/Aerospace/Civil Engineering Structure analysis (Static/dynamic, linear/nonlinear) Thermal/fluid flows Geomechanics Biomechanics ....


Curved Beam


Beach Chair

Picnic Table

Maximum Deflection: 17. 6513mm in y-direction


Wind Loads
Maximum Deflection: 1.5847mmin z-direction


Suspension Bridge


The Bus Shelter


Computer Simulation of 9/11 Attack g Structural engineers need to know from a scientific perspective what happened to the buildings during the terrorist attacks in order to prevent future failures. The search for answers continues with the help of a state-of-the-art animated visualization created by researchers at Purdue University. What is your comment?

A Brief History of the FEM

1943 - Courant (Variation methods) 1956 - Turner, Clough, Martin and Topp (Stiffness) 1960 - Clough ("Finite Element", plane problems) 1970s - Applications on mainframe computers 1980s - Microcomputers, pre- and postprocessors 1990s - Analysis of large structural systems

Steps of Finite Element Analysis

Define the type of analysis. Many programs provide modulus for different types of analysis, for instance, static or dynamic analysis. Define the type/types of elements to be used in the analysis. Typical element types are truss, beam, plane stress, plane strain, plate and shell element. Define the location of each node in a global coordinate. Connect the elements at the nodes to form an approximate system for the whole structure.

Steps of Finite Element Analysis

Define the boundary conditions of the problem. Apply the loads on the structures. A wide variety of loading conditions can be applied to a structure. Assign material properties. Again, more than one material property may be used in a finite element model. Execute the input file and to produce the results. Post-process results.

Objectives of the Course

Understand the basic theory of the FEM Know the behaviour and usage of each type of elements covered in this course Have some hand on experiences in solving various simple engineering problems by FEM Can interpret and evaluate the quality of the results

Elements and Nodes

Finite elements resemble fragments of the structures. Nodes appear on element boundaries and serve as connectors that fasten elements together. All Elements that share a node have the same displacement components at that node
for frame and truss structures, elements and nodes are more or less natural.

for elastic continuum, such as a deep beam or a plate /shell structure, such a natural subdivision does not exist and we have to artificially divide the continuum into a number of elements.


Additional Nodes
Additional nodes may be inserted:
when we require results at more locations or at locations in between the member ends
2 1 3 4 5 6

When members are not prismatic


Artificial Elements
These artificial elements, called finite element, are usually either triangular or rectangular in shape as shown below:

Superficially, it appears that a FE structure can be produced by sawing the actual structure apart and then pinning it back together at nodes.

Responsibility of the User

FE computer programs have become widely available, easier to use, and can display results with attractive graphics. It is hard to disbelieve FE results because of the effort needed to get them and the polish of their presentation. However, smooth and colourful stress contours can be produced by any model, good or bad.

Responsibility of the User

Responsibility for results produced is taken by the engineer who uses the software, not the software vendor, even if results are affected by errors in the software. FE modelling requires that the physical action of the problem be understood well enough to choose suitable kinds of elements, and enough of them, to represent the physical action adequately. When the computer has done the calculations, we must always check the results to see if they are reasonable. Modelling and errors will be further discussed in the following lectures.


An Example

FE calculates nodal displacements, then uses the displacement information to calculate strains and finally stresses

Examine the computed displacements first


A recent example - Arup

The problem - cracking and excessive deflection in a new 3 storey concrete-framed structure
The design was based on a 3D computer analysis package the causes of the problems
Torsion in Concrete were not considered Application of Loading the forces were not compatible with the behaviour of the actual structure Construction sequence Construction process must be considered Member properties - the effects of cracking and creep must be considered

The procedure for FE analysis:


Review of Matrix Algebra

Linear System of Algebraic Equations
a11 x1 + a12 x 2 + ... + a1n x n = b1

a21 x1 + a22 x2 + ... + a2 n xn = b2

an1 x1 + an 2 x2 + ... + ann xn = bn

where x1, x2,....., xn, are the unknows. In matrix form:

Ax = b

Review of Matrix Algebra

a11 a A = aij = 21 ... a n1

[ ]

a12 a 22 ... an2

... a1n ... a 2 n ... ... ... a nn

x1 x x = {xi } = 2 : xn

b1 b b = {bi } = 2 : bn

A is called a n x n (square) matrix, and x and b are (column) vectors of dimensions n.


Review of Matrix Algebra

Row and Column Vectors
v = [v1 v2 v3 ]
w1 w = w2 w 3

Matrix Addition and Subtraction

For two matrices A and B, both of the same size (m x n), the addition and subtraction are defined by C=A+B D=AB with cij = aij + bij with dij = aij bij

Review of Matrix Algebra

Scalar Multiplication Matrix Multiplication
For two matrices A (of size l x m) and B (of size m x n), the product of AB is defined by C = AB with

A = [a ij ]

cij = a ik bkj
k =1

where i = 1,2,...,l; j = 1,2,...,n. In general, AB BA, but (AB)C = A(BC)


Review of Matrix Algebra

Transpose of a Matrix If A = [aij], then the transpose of A is AT = [aji] Note that (AB)T = BTAT Symmetric Matrix A square (n x n) matrix A is called symmetric, if A = AT or aij = aji
0 ... 0 1 ... 0 ... ... ... 0 ... 1

Unit (Identity) Matrix

1 0 I = ... 0

Note that AI = A, Ix = x

Review of Matrix Algebra

Determinant of a Matrix The determinant of square matrix A is a scalar number denoted by det A or |A|. For 2 x 2 and 3 x 3 matrixes, their determinants are given by

a b det = ad bc c d
a11 det a 21 a31 a12 a 22 a32 a13 a 23 = a11 a 22 a33 + a12 a 23 a31 + a 21 a32 a13 a33

a13 a 22 a31 a12 a 21 a33 a 23 a32 a11


Review of Matrix Algebra

Singular Matrix A square matrix A is singular if det A = 0, which indicates problems in the systems Matrix Inversion For a square and nonsingular matrix A (det A 0), its inverse A-1 is constructed in such a way that AA-1 = A-1A = I We can show that (AB)-1 = B-1A-1

If det A = 0 (A is singular), then A-1 does not exist!


Review of Matrix Algebra

Positive Definite Matrix A square (n x n) matrix A is said to be positive definite, if for any nonzero vector x of dimension n, xTAx > 0 Note that positive definite matrixes are nonsingular Differentiation and Integration of a Matrix Let

A(t) = aij (t)


Review of Matrix Algebra

then the differentiation is defined by
daij (t ) d A(t ) = dt dt

and the integration by

A(t )dt = [ a


(t ) dt