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education & training

Units Units and and

Dynamics Dynamics

Jack Reijmers of Nevesbu, The Netherlands, discusses the ever-present problem of units and dimensions in dynamics.

n the BENCHmark magazine of October 2003 an article was published

regarding units in the analysis of natural frequencies. In January 2004 BENCHmark presented a follow up. This topic is quite important and as the

French say: “Frapper, frapper toujours”. Therefore the subject of dimensions

in dynamics is revisited in this article. Dynamics may simply be defined as

mechanics related to time and the time unit slips in through the backdoor. Even in the metric system one should be very careful.

I

In my younger years it was just kilogram. Put 1 [litre] of fresh water, contained in a nearly massless plastic bag, on a scale and you read a weight of 1 [kg]. Connect the plastic bag with water to a spring and measure the elongation. This gives the spring stiffness and together with the mass the natural frequency can be calculated. The question is where time comes in.

Of course in the ancient days it was well known that there is a difference in force and mass. This was solved by adding an “f” to kg, therefore spring stiffness is defined by

[kgf/m]. And this brings the dimension of frequency to

, which is

correct but still hides the dimension of time. The SI-system solved the problem very neatly by defining mass in [kg] and force in [N]. This was not really an invention, since in the early days it was already understood that a weight of 1 [kgf] was induced by the gravity, g = 9.81 [m/s 2 ]. So the plastic bag with 1 [litre] water had a mass of

. The difference between [kg] and [kgf] is very subtle,

but quite important and a source of errors. A mass of 1 [kg] raises a weight of 1 [kgf] and who will recognize a mass value of 0.102?

Although this looks a bit extraordinary the imperial units follow the same path, however in a manner which is even more confusing to some.

There are pounds [lb], pounds force [lbf], poundals [pdl] and slugs

The addition “f” indicates a force. In this respect it is obvious that the dimension

represents mass, so the pound and the slug are units for mass.

Following Newton’s second law a force is retrieved by multiplying the mass with an acceleration.

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However the question is: gravity,

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Conversion tables reveal that 1 slug equals a mass of 32.174 [lb], so although both units represent mass the gravity acceleration is already accounted for.

Therefore it is more or less obvious: 1 pound force [lbf] = 1 slug

The pound force could also follow from a mass subjected to gravity and as can be expected:

1 pound force [lbf] =

Only one force unit remains and that is the poundal

1 poundal [pdl] =

When the gravity acceleration is covered by the units then the system may be categorized as static and with a unity acceleration as dynamic. This is clarified in the next table.

The essence of this introduction is that the dimension of time is concealed by the acceleration applied. Returning to the “massless” plastic bag with 1 [litre] fresh water hanging on a spring it is clear how to retrieve the stiffness. The mass is 1 [kg], the acceleration 9.81 [m/s 2 ] and therefore the spring is subjected to a force 9.81 [N = kg*m/s 2 ]. The elongation in [m] delivers the spring stiffness, [N/m = kg/s 2 ]. With these values it is clear where time is coming from in the formula for natural frequency:

And this shall be kept in mind when beam bending is considered and the Young’s modulus comes in to define stiffness. Straightforward use of [mm] in Young’s modulus, moment of inertia, density, area and length, induces a wrong answer, since the unit [m] is hidden in the [N] of the Young’s modulus.

The Actual Struggle

This introduction is given to move on slowly to an actual real life problem. The Shadows’ hit 36-24-36 lies more than 40 years behind us and perhaps for the younger British this title is one slug of mystery. By that time it was for me, coming from the continent. Nowadays the British claim that they became metric, but across the ocean, we are still dealing with the Anglo-American system and conversion may have significant pitfalls, especially when it comes to dynamics.

This article is initiated by investigating the natural frequency of a vibrating ring. ANSYS has a verification problem on this subject (#67) and it is very wise to refer to the outcome of such an example. At least one is starting from a proven point.

The ring has a radius, R = 10 [in] and a square cross section with side, b = 0.05 [in]. The material is given by a Young’s modulus, E = 30 * 10 6 [psi] and a density, ρ = 0.00073 [lb*sec 2 /in 4 ].

Vibration theory gives a natural frequency,

The modes are defined by i and obviously the first mode, i = 1 gives zero frequency. This is a rigid body mode and the first flexural mode is given by i = 2.

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The reference result is: 12.496 [Hz] and the formula gives:

This reference problem is used to analyse a metric problem, so the ANSYS input will be in [m], [kg] and [s].

Figure 1: First Mode of Vibrating Ring

And indeed ANSYS matches this natural frequency: fn = 247.6 [Hz]. However, it is nowhere near the reference value (12.5 [Hz])

Two ways may be followed to tackle this problem. The first approach is to look at the physical properties. The Young’s modulus, E = 2.068*10 11 [Pa], indicates that the ring is made of steel and the density of steel is given by: 7850 [kg/m 3 ]. Conversion above leads to 20.206 [kg/m 3 ], so clearly the mass is not entered correctly.

A second way of solving is to look at the ratio between

result and reference value: 245.5 / 12.5 = 19.64. The

error is coming from within the square root, so the answer

is missing a factor: 19.642 = 385.7.

This factor follows from the density too and an experienced analyst with an Anglo-American background will probably

see the light by this figure. For less fortunate analysts it is worthwhile to remember that the acceleration by gravity amounts to: 9.81 [m/s 2 ] = 32.174 [ft/s 2 ] = 386.08 [in/s 2 ]. The pain arises from the density, ρ = 0.00073 [lb*sec 2 /in 4 ]. In the conversion a unit acceleration is used, 1 [in/s 2 ], since [lb]

already indicates mass. A closer look however shows an extraordinary dimension of the density being mass divided by an acceleration. In other words this kind of unit doesn’t fit in the system given above. The trick is that the presented [lb] should be seen as [lbf] and this is a force generated by a mass subjected to gravity:

1 pound force [lbf] = 1 [lb]* 386.08 [in/s 2 ].

This means that the correct way to present the density is:

The conclusion may be that unless a reference value is available, it costs a lot of time to get to the right answer. In case there

 is no reference value it is easily possible for the answer to be completely wrong, without even knowing it. This all may seem to be an attack on the imperial units, but also the metric system knows diehards that refer to [kgf/cm 2 ] if pressure is addressed.

Deep inside there is nothing wrong with other units as long as it is possible to convert them. This requires a clear distinction between mass and force and that means that 1 kilogram = 2.2046226 pound-force makes no sense.

In the Netherlands we refer to this as comparing apples with pears.

Contact

Jack Reijmers j.j.reijmers@iv-nevesbu.nl

10 April 2006

With acknowledgement to the website: http://www.onlineconversion.com/