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AAE 320 - Introduction to PATRAN and ABAQUS

Lab. 3 : Plate and wing bending under normal non-uniform pressure

1. Introduction and objectives

The objective of this lab is to combine ABAQUS and PATRAN to analyze the problem of a cantilever plate
under a spatially varying normal pressure. We will compare the response of a simple plate with that of a
reinforced plate. The new concepts introduced in this lab session are
- direct generation of rectangular surfaces with PATRAN
- applying normal pressure-type boundary condition
- 6-node triangular plate elements
- concept of spatial field and PCL programming language

Important preliminary note : the mesh of the reinforced plate will be used in the next lab session, so it is
important to save the session file.

2. Problem description

In this first example, we will examine the effect of adding ribs to a simple plate structure subjected to a non-
uniform pressure.
Consider the plate represented in Figure 1. Its thickness is 0.5 cm. It is made of Aluminum (E=70 GPa,
ν=0.3). It is subjected to a spatially varying normal pressure p(x,y) given by

p( x,y ) = 10 −7 *x *(x − 100)*y *(y − 50) (N/cm 2 )

where x and y are given in cm. The plate is clamped (i.e., zero deflection and zero slope) along the side x=0
and free along the other three edges.


100 cm

50 cm
Figure 1.

The second problem is similar to the first one (same dimensions, boundary conditions, material and plate
thickness). The only difference is the presence of 4 reinforcements (or “ribs”) placed along the bottom
surface in the x-direction (Figure 2). Each reinforcement has a thickness of 0.2 cm.


10 cm 10 cm
y 5 cm
Figure 2.

3. Finite element analysis

A) First problem.

The creation of the geometry and finite element mesh for the first problem is very simple. Most steps of
the pre-processing phase (such as the definition of the material properties, load cases, ...) are similar to those
of the previous lab, and will therefore not be detailed here. The only “tricky” part is the creation is the
application of the spatially varying pressure on the top surface. In PATRAN, non-uniform pressure (or
thickness or material properties, ...) are defined with the help of “fields”, which are usually spatially varying
functions introduced by the user.

u Geometry

Generate the rectangular surface directly with, for example, Create/Surface/XYZ with a Vector Coordinate
List of <100 50 0> and an origin [0 0 0].

u Fields

Before introducing the boundary conditions, we must define a spatial scalar field to describe the varying
pressure, using Create/Spatial/PCL Function. Enter a field name, and the scalar function with 1.e-7 * ‘X
* (100. - ‘X) * ‘Y * (50. - ‘Y) . Don’t forget to use upper case letters for the coordinates, and the single
(forward) quote (i.e., the same key as for the double quote character ) before X and Y. Check your input with
the Show option. Specify the range (0≤x<100 and 0≤y≤50).

u Load/BCs

Enter the displacement boundary conditions (no displacements and no rotations) along x=0.
Then Create/Pressure/Element Variable with Target Element Type=2D. In the Input Data, apply the
pre-defined spatial field to the upper surface (Top Surf Pressure) of the plate. Finally, select the whole
rectangular plate as the application region.

u Materials (watch for the units of the Young’s modulus!)

u Finite Elements

We will use 6-node triangular elements on the surface. Use uniform mesh seeds. Try to create a “well
balanced mesh”, i.e., avoid elongated triangles. After creating the mesh, don’t forget to optimize your mesh.

u Properties

Enter the type of element (2D shell) and the appropriate thickness.

u Load Cases (same as before)

u Analysis

Perform the whole analysis with ABAQUS from within PATRAN. While the program is running, check the
content of the ABAQUS input file (‘.inp’).
When the analysis is completed, read the results and move on to the post-processing phase. Write down the
maximum deflection and obtain the stress distribution in the plate.

Second problem.

We will keep the finite geometry of the first problem and the pre-defined spatial field. Delete the mesh
seeds and finite element mesh.

u Geometry

Add the 4 reinforcements by performing the following operations

1) Define the two points A [0 10 0] and B [0 10 -5]
2) Define a curve AB between these two points
3) Define the first reinforcement by extruding the curve AB in the x-direction by a vector <100 0 0>
4) Define the other curves with the Transform/Surface/Translate command (with a Translation
Vector of <0 10 0> and a Repeat Count=3).

u Load/BCs

Reapply the boundary conditions to the new geometrical model

u Finite Elements

We want to use 6-node triangles on the plate surface and 8-node quads on the 4 reinforcements. Define your
mesh seeds such that the elements and nodes match at the intersections between the plate and the
reinforcements (see suggested mesh attached to this hand-out). If the viewport becomes too crowded, remove
the hidden lines with Display/Entity Types... Render Style=Hidden Line.
Delete the redundant nodes and optimize your node numbering. To be sure that the mesh is fine, use the
Verify/Element/Boundaries command. Only the external boundaries should appear on the viewport.
The mesh should look similar to that shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Mesh for reinforced plate problem

u Properties

Enter the appropriate element thickness along the plate (0.5 cm) and on the reinforcements (0.2 cm).

After performing the analysis, check how much the maximum deflection has changed. Examine also how
the presence of the stiffeners affects the stress distribution in your structure.

4.- Application - Exercise.

The second problem also involves surface elements : but, in this case, we will examine 3D surfaces with the
aid of shell elements. The geometry of the problem to be analyzed is shown in Figure 4 and involves a
simple 3D wing structure subjected to a variable pressure load applied on its top surface to simulate flight load
(lift) conditions. Two new PATRAN tools will be used to create the geometry : we will use cubic splines to
define the cross-section profile and the extrude with scaling action to define the wing.

Figure 4. Geometry of the wing bending problem

u Geometry

Create the points 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 at locations (0,0,0), (6,3.5,0), (12.5,5,0), (15,5,0), (30,3.5,0), and
(50,0,0), respectively (Figure 5). These points will serve as the “anchor points” for the cubic splines.
The “tail” of the wing is assumed to be linear : therefore, just use Create/Curve/Point to make a line
between points 5 and 6.

Figure 5

Now, use the Create/Curve/Spline command to create two more curves.

End Point Tangent Vector = <1,0,0>

Start Point Tangent vector = <0,0,0>
Point List = Point 1:4

This will create a smooth curve through points 1,2,3 and 4 with the end of the curve tangent to the vector
<1,0,0>. Now do the same to create the last curve, except use End Point tangent vector = <-1,0,0>, and
Point List = Point 5:4.
Note: You could have created a single curve through all of the points rather than three separate curves. The
reason that this was not done will become evident later in the lab.

We will now create three surfaces using the Create/Surface/Extrude command. Use the following

Translation Vector = <0,0,-200>

Scale Factor = .7

These parameters define how the top half of the wing is created. The wing half span and sweep angle were
determined by the Translation Vector, and the taper ratio was determined by the Scale Factor. So for this
example the wing half span is 200 inches long with no leading edge sweep, and the taper ratio is .7.
Now go to the Quick pick tool bar and select the Iso1 View to get a better look at the current geometry
(Figure 6).

Figure 6

Since the wing uses a symmetrical airfoil, the lower wing surface can be created by making a mirror image of
the top surface using the X-Z plane for the mirror plane. To do this use Transform/Surface/Mirror and
define the mirror plane normal as the vector { [ 0 0 0 ] [ 0 1 0 ] } (or, more simply, select the y-axis). Your
geometry should be similar to that presented in Figure 4.

u Fields Create a spatial field p(x,z) = 0.04*x + 0.003* z + 2

u Load/BCs

Fix the translations and rotations on all of the curves at z=0, and then use Create/Pressure/Element
Uniform to apply a pressure defined by the spatial field above to the top surfaces of the wing. It is likely
that some areas have the pressure applied in the opposite direction. The reason for this has to do with the
normal vectors of the surface in question. We want all of the pressures acting upward (positive y direction).
The easiest way to accomplish this is to simply reverse the direction of the surface normal using u
Geometry Edit/Surface/Reverse.

u Materials Self explanatory. E=10 7 psi ν = 0.3

u Finite Elements

Place equally spaced mesh seeds as follows (see Figure 7)

20 along each spanwise curve
3 along chordwise curves at the leading edge
3 along the “middle” chordwise curves
2 along the chordwise curves at the trailing edge

Figure 7. Mesh used in wing problem

Before we mesh the geometry, we might want to create a few new groups to help us during the results phase.
Use Group/create to make two new groups. We will use one for the top of the wing, and the other for the
bottom. When this is completed, look at the text at the top of the viewport. The name of the “current”
group will be contained on this line. We want the group to be used for the bottom of the wing to be the
current group. If this is not the case, use Group/Set Current to make the proper group current.

Now that the group is set, mesh the three surfaces that comprise the bottom surface of the wing using Quad 8
elements. Repeat this for the top surface making sure to change the “current” group.

Finally “equivalence” and optimize the mesh.

u Properties Self explanatory. Thickness = 0.04 in.

u Load Cases Define an appropriate load case.

u Analysis Self explanatory. This one might take a little while…

u Results

Select the appropriate load case, fringe result and deformation result. You will note that it is difficult to see
the deformation and fringe results for the bottom surface. To view only the results for the bottom surface,
use Group/post and select only the group relating to the bottom surface, refresh the display using the button
in the upper right corner of the screen and then reapply the results selections. This can also be applied to
the top surface in the same manner.

Conclusion As can be seen from the deformation, this is not a good wing design for the given loading
condition, as the top part of the wing deforms too much. Try to improve this by adding two spars to the
model. Below is a summary of the steps necessary to add the spars.

1.) Create two lines one between points (15,5,0) and (15,-5,0), the other between points (30,3.5,0) and
2.) Extrude these curves using the same parameters as before.
3.) Mesh the new surfaces. (Don’t forget to put the spars in a separate group.)
4.) Equivalence and optimize the mesh
5.) Re-run the analysis.

This will improve the results, but they will still be unsatisfactory for the given load. When you view the
results you will see why actual wing structures have internal ribs. A geometry that contains skins, spars and
ribs would be too complex for the limited time available during these sessions.