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CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Introduction

Introduction ......................................................................................................2
About This Series ...........................................................................................2
About This Book .............................................................................................2
Supporting Material ........................................................................................3
Mechanics, Mechanisms and Machines ................................................................4
What is Multi-Body Dynamics? ........................................................................5
Learning MBD - Different Approaches ..............................................................6
Putting It All Together ....................................................................................6
Typical Design Issues.........................................................................................8
Product Liability..............................................................................................8
Some Application Areas ..................................................................................9
The MBD Modeling Philosophy ...................................................................... 13
Summary ..................................................................................................... 16
Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced.............................................................. 17
Theory … ..................................................................................................... 18
… and Practice ............................................................................................. 30
The Virtuous Circle ....................................................................................... 31
Working with MBD Models................................................................................ 33
Different Strokes for Different Folks............................................................... 33
Basic Building Blocks .................................................................................... 34
Solution Control ........................................................................................... 37
Results - Verification and Validation............................................................... 38
Optimization ................................................................................................ 39
MBD Simulation with HyperWorks ..................................................................... 41
The Simulation Process................................................................................. 41
The Anatomy of a Model............................................................................... 43
Solution and Results ..................................................................................... 45
Integration with HyperWorks ........................................................................ 47
Advanced Topics ............................................................................................. 48
Flexibility ..................................................................................................... 48
Contact........................................................................................................ 50
Control Systems ........................................................................................... 52
Cams, Gears and other Higher Pairs .............................................................. 54
Glossary And References.................................................................................. 58
References................................................................................................... 58
Other Resources........................................................................................... 58
Types of Analyses ........................................................................................ 58
Formulae for the Moments of Inertia ............................................................. 59
Common Coefficients of Friction .................................................................... 61

Introduction CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

About This Series
To make the most of this series you should be an engineering student, in
your third or final year of Mechanical Engineering. You should have access
to licenses of HyperWorks, to the Altair website, and to an instructor who
can guide you through your chosen projects or assignments.

Each book in this series is completely self-contained. References to other

volumes are only for your interest and further reading. You need not be
familiar with the Finite Element Method, with 3D Modeling or with Finite
Element Modeling. Depending on the volumes you choose to read, however,
you do need to be familiar with one or more of the relevant engineering
subjects: Design of Machine Elements, Strength of Materials, Kinematics of
Machinery, Dynamics of Machinery, Probability and Statistics, Manufacturing
Technology and Introduction to Programming. A course on Operations
Research or Linear Programming is useful but not essential.

About This Book

This volume introduces techniques to model and analyze mechanisms, which
lie at the heart of machines.

If product design is your area of interest, you will find the companion
volumes, CAE And Design Optimization – Basics and CAE And Design
Optimization – Advanced useful. The techniques outlined in this book are
usually applied at the very early stage in product design, to be followed up
at a later stage in the design cycle with detailed analyses and optimization,
both to improve peak performance and to introduce robustness.

While it’s not essential, a good grasp of the basic principles of vector
mathematics will help you tremendously. Several essential aspects are
covered in this book, although in a qualitative fashion. You may want to
treat the chapter titled Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced as a
reference. If you choose to adopt this approach, at least a cursory reading
of this chapter is strongly recommended.

CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Introduction

The various references cited in the book will probably be most useful after
you have worked through your project and are interpreting the results.

Supporting Material
Your instructor will have the Instructor’s Manual that accompanies these
volumes – it should certainly be made use of. Further reading and
references are indicated both in this book and in the Instructor’s Manual.

If you find the material interesting, you should also look up the HyperWorks
On-line Help System. The Altair website,, is also likely to be
of interest to you, both for an insight into the evolving technology and to
help you present your project better.

My robots were machines designed by engineers, not pseudo-men created by


Isaac Asimov

Mechanics, Mechanisms and Machines CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

Mechanics, Mechanisms and Machines

The study of mechanisms can be a joy, if done

The devil, unfortunately, lies in that “if”. Much of the

mathematics of the subject is tedious when done by
hand, and a beginner can be excused for feeling lost
in the headlong rush of vector notations and vector The South Pointing Chariot is widely
manipulations. Most engineers end up treating regarded as the most complex geared
mechanism of the ancient Chinese
mechanisms like poisonous snakes: worthy of a civilization. Invented sometime around
great deal of respect, and safe only when viewed 2600BC in China by the Yellow Emperor
from a distance. Huang Di, the first historical version was
created by Ma Jun (c. 200-265 AD). The
chariot is a two-wheeled vehicle, upon
Even more unfortunately for a core discipline in which is a pointing figure connected to
mechanical engineering, the study of mechanisms at the wheels by means of differential
the undergraduate level has probably benefited the gearing. Through careful selection of
least from the widespread developments in CAE1 wheel size, track and gear ratios, the
figure atop the chariot will always point
software and related technologies. In fact, a in the same direction, hence acting as a
mechanical engineer who uses an Internet-search non-magnetic compass vehicle.
engine to look for material on “mechanisms” is likely After being mocked that he could not
to give up the exercise as counterproductive. Most reproduce a non-historical and
search engines return references from economics nonsensical pursuit, Ma Jun retorted
and game theory, making a challenging subject "Empty arguments with words cannot
(in any way) compare with a test which
even more confusing! will show practical results". After
inventing the device and proving those
This is a shame. who were doubtful wrong, he was
praised by many.
The use of the word “mechanisms” in Game Theory The differential in the gear system
is a very good illustration of the power of the integrates the difference in wheel
various theories and approaches used in the design rotation between the two wheels and
thus detects the rotation of the base of
of machines. The methods used to construct the chariot. The mechanism
building blocks that allow the modeling of compensates this rotation by rotating
complicated machines are appealing in their the pointer in the opposite direction.
simplicity, and often stunning in their power. Hence
Adapted from The Wikipedia
their use in fields as far flung as Economics, where See Wikipedia, South Pointing Chariot
a mechanism is simply “the agency or means by

Short for Computer Aided Engineering – a term that usually covers design, analysis,
3D modeling, and testing in the course of product-design.
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Mechanics, Mechanisms and Machines

which an effect is produced or a purpose is achieved”.

What is Multi-Body Dynamics?

At first glance, there are few design issues common between a fighter plane
in supersonic flight, a car rolling over as it crashes, a ship pitching in the
stormy seas and the micro-precision movement of the read / write head of a
hard-disk drive. If we apply the wider definition of “mechanisms” that we
have just seen, the effects are different, the purposes are different and the
agencies used are different.

A little consideration, however, shows that all of these involve the

investigation of the movement of, and impact of, multiple bodies. The jet
plane shoots missiles at other targets, and may even be a target itself. The
car bounces off the road or crashes into other vehicles or obstacles. The
ship contains several bodies – machinery, passengers, cargo, etc. And, as
anyone who has mistimed a dive into a swimming pool knows, at high
velocity water can be “hard” enough that it can be treated as a single body,
rather than a collection of droplets. Every computer owner knows that
sooner or later the disk-drive will “crash” – one form of this is a literal crash,
when the head makes contact with the platters themselves, destroying the
disk and any data the unfortunate user has placed there.

While the scale of movements, the sizes of the bodies and the forces
involved vary widely between these applications, in all these cases designers
need to understand how the forces affect the movement of the body, and
vice versa. And, of course, there are multiple bodies involved.

This aspect, together with advances in software technology over the recent
past has, in fact, led to the widespread adoption of the title Multi-body
Dynamics2 in the place of phrases like “Rigid Body Mechanics” and
“Mechanism Design”.

MBD finds applications in almost any field where there are moving
mechanical components: machine tools, packaging equipment, conveyor
belts, engines, road vehicles, elevators, railways, stereos, washing
machines, aircraft, spacecraft, pumps, robotics – the list can go on almost
indefinitely. One application that’s sometimes dismissed as trivial but throws
up several exquisite applications of this remarkable science is the design of

Often abbreviated to “MBD”
Mechanics, Mechanisms and Machines CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

toys, as can be attested to by anyone who has puzzled over the internal
workings of Rubik’s Cube.

The problems that designers grapple with are introduced in the next
chapter, but common to all of them is the need to deal with one or more of
the forces, displacements, velocities and accelerations of different parts of
the system. Some designers analyze mechanisms: that is, they find out the
values of parameters of interest under different operating conditions. Still
others synthesize mechanisms: they come up with designs that will provide
required movement.

The subject is often multi-disciplinary. For instance, the source of motion –

the actuator – could be hydraulic. Study of the mechanical links or
components requires a strong hold on mechanics. The control system could
be electronic, while the sensors could be piezoelectric.

Learning MBD - Different Approaches

There are two ways, then, to gain a command over the capabilities of MBD
tools. One approach is to focus on the theory, drawing comfort from the fact
that a robust theory can be applied widely, provided the fine-print is
followed meticulously. Another approach is to pick a specific application and
pay attention to the assumptions and data specific to this application.

The use of general-purpose MBD software for CAE mirrors these

approaches. At the “theoretical” level, all bodies can be modeled using a few
basic building blocks. At the applied level, each of these building blocks is
adapted to the requirements of the specific field. For instance pneumatics
and hydraulics both use similar building blocks – valves, pistons, etc. – but
the specific behaviors of the fluids varies.

In several industries this “specific behavior” is treated as intellectual

property. It is fiercely guarded, since it is arrived at over the course of much
trial and error, and can make the critical difference between performance
that’s “just good enough” and performance that makes the product a
pleasure to use!

Putting It All Together

MBD, then, is about more than just machines and mechanisms, but
definitely involves mechanics. Unlike “simple” mechanism design, though, it
often involves a lot more. If the study of the approaches that MBD tools take

CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Mechanics, Mechanisms and Machines

seems overwhelming, it is useful to remember the old saying take care of

the pennies and the pounds take care of themselves.

Analysis problems are solved using the divide-and-rule approach: break

down complex objects into simpler blocks, and these into even simpler
blocks, and so on. The synthesis problems are solved by starting with known
blocks, and looking for ways to put them together to achieve complex

Our goal, then, is easy to state and vast in it’s coverage: we expect to be
able to design any mechanical system with moving parts!

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is
breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and
then starting on the first one.
Mark Twain

Typical Design Issues CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

Typical Design Issues

Practitioners in the engineering industry often complain that software tools
are used just for the sake of using the tools. All too often, these complaints
are justified. What is the point of spending time and effort, in addition to
money, on usage of tools if the results do not help the designer? To make
matters worse, the usage of the tools may even draw resources away from
the actual design goals!

Of course, this potential criticism of CAE tools applies to all the tools covered
in this series of books. What’s special about MBD? Why should we pay
special attention to this aspect when studying MBD?

As we have already seen, the spread of applications that MBD addresses is

extremely wide. And we will see later that the MBD modeling approach takes
a relatively abstract view of the behavior. It’s this abstraction that makes it
that much more important for you to keep track of what the design issues
are. Your entire model-building approach and results-interpretation should
be tailored to suit these.

Accordingly, before reviewing the underlying theory, it is useful to review

some areas of application and the related design issues as relevant to MBD
modeling and analysis.

Product Liability
The lot of a product designer is often stressful, and not just because of
pressures on time, cost and quality. Laws in several countries are extremely
demanding, and the trend is towards stronger legal safeguards against
faulty products. In a review of the impact of legislative reforms on product-
liability risks in the Asia-Pacific region3,

100% of insurers/brokers thought that there had been an increase

in the number of product liability claims in the Asia-Pacific region
since the Reforms. One hundred percent reported that there had
been an increase in settlements.

Kellam, J and Nottage, L: "Report on Clayton Utz Asia-Pacific Product Liability
Survey" (2006) 17 (9) APLR 121, published in the Australian Product Liability
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Typical Design Issues

Failures that can cause loss of life or grievous harm are often identified and
publicized voluntarily by the manufacturers themselves. Such product recalls
can be expensive both in terms of actual expenditure to fix the flaws and in
terms of the damage to the reputation of the company involved.

Legal protection for consumers mean that designers need to be alert even to
failures that are potentially less exacting, as illustrated in the extracts from
US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall notice reproduced below4:

In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

(CPSC), JB Research Inc., of Bellflower, Calif., had voluntarily
recalled about 15,000 back massagers sold under the Relaxor,
Deep Knead™ Shiatsu brand name. The motor for the massager's
Deep Knead™ mechanism can jam and overheat. This will cause
scorching to the foam and fabric on back of the unit, presenting a
potential fire hazard to consumers…JB Research Inc. has received
46 reports of units overheating. No fires or injuries have been

Consumers should stop using the recalled massagers immediately.

Since JB Research Inc. is no longer in business, recalled massagers
should be discarded or destroyed to prevent fires and injuries.”

Some Application Areas

Machine Tools
Machine tools are often thought of as “old” technology, which in a sense
they are: the growth in use of various types of machine tools dates back to
the 100 years between 1860 and 1960. But that does not mean the
technology is trivial or that design is easy. High-precision jig-boring
machines, even in the 1940s, were designed so as to account for the effects
of heat generated by human operators and even the slightest tremors of the

Common to all machine tools is the principal goal: a specified degree of


The complete recall notice can be found at
Typical Design Issues CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

To achieve this, the designer should produce variable movements, and

provide control over these movements. Conditions of operation can
usually be maintained within specified ranges, particularly if the designer
can demonstrate a link between the operating conditions and the
precision of the machine. Attendant design issues are the life of the
machine, and its cost.

From a designer’s point of view, models that can calculate and predict
forces, loci of various points, and times of motion are particularly critical.

Packaging Machinery
The term itself usually covers machines that can do one or more of
wrapping, palletizing, taping, capping, filling, labeling and printing. If you
consider that almost any goods – from toothpaste to automobiles – need to
be packed, the size of the industry is extremely large. Environmental
concerns are prompting changes in the materials used, prompting designers
to exercise their ingenuity.

From one point of view, packaging machinery is similar to machine tools.

Conditions of operation can usually be controlled, and the movement needs
to be controlled automatically. The differences stem mainly from the scale of
usage. Packaging machinery is usually critical for mass-produced items,
where the volume of production is extremely high.

This means the design approach can often afford to sacrifice versatility of
motion for economy and precision – in a sense, this is similar to the design
approach that underlies Special Purpose Machines. And since the scale of
production of the goods being packaged is very large, a lot of design focus is
on the time of motion. A design that can reduce the filling time by 1 second
can be much more attractive if the filling time per package is of the order of

An example of this approach is highlighted by a product manufacturer’s

brochure, which says “machine kinematics have been designed to allow a
very high speed, while at the same time leaving more time for the most
delicate phases of the filling process”. In the pharmaceutical industry,
speeds of 200,000 capsules per hour are not uncommon.

Most mechanical engineers are familiar with, if not extremely comfortable
with the working of, IC engines. What we sometimes fail to remember is

CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Typical Design Issues

that engines themselves can vary tremendously: from the enormous diesel
engines to the rotary-piston Wankel engine. The picture shows engineers
installing the thin-shell bearings for the Wartsila-Sulzer RTA96-C
turbocharged two-stroke diesel engine – an engine with a stroke of over 8
feet. The technicians shown in the picture show its size!

Engine design is a multi-disciplinary area, covering heat transfer, vibration,

combustion, etc. Conditions of operation are less predictable than for
machine tools, so designers often have to investigate and allow for harsh
operations. Recommended ranges of operation are usually provided, such as
the “red-line” speed limit for IC engines.

From an MBD perspective, the red-line speed is an interesting parameter. If

a 4-stroke engine is run at a higher-than-recommended speed, the force
exerted on the return-springs may be high enough that the valves “float”.
That is, the valve-lifters lose contact with the lobes of the cam. This, in turn,
leads to lost horse-power.

Unlike machine tools, the interest is not so much in providing variable

movement as in calculating component forces at various operating
conditions. These forces are then used to
perform stress and fatigue verifications.
Advanced engines also require quite The baseline science scenario [for the design
sophisticated forms of motion-control. of a Mars airplane mission architecture]
requires completion of a controlled aerial
High performance engines, for example, survey, spanning a flight range of 500 km at
alter the valve timings and lift as the an altitude below 2 km. These requirements
engine speed changes. drive selection of a powered airplane as well
as the airplane propulsion and navigation
systems and aerodynamic configuration. The
Vehicles entire sequence of events (including pullout)
Lumping cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, is approximately 5 minutes in duration.
Airplane extraction is initiated 7 seconds after
bicycles, ships, aircraft and spacecraft, heatshield release.
etc. into one group is obviously a
simplification, but one that is quite
effective from our current perspective. Six-degree of freedom multi-body simulations
have confirmed the 7-second delay is
The degrees of complexity vary – from a sufficient to mitigate the potential for re-
few dozen parts in a bicycle to several contact between the airplane and the
thousand parts in larger vehicles – but the heatshield.
vehicles themselves have fairly similar
requirements: stability, safety, comfort The Mars Airplane
and (in most, but not all, cases) economy IEEE, 2004
of operation.

Typical Design Issues CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

The first requirement, stability, is of particular interest. Since the operating

conditions tend to vary widely, a lot of design effort centers around issues of
providing proper control over the behavior of the motion, rather than the
motion itself. Remember that the motion is reasonably predictable. What is
unpredictable is the acceleration that the driver applies, the conditions that
the surface provides, and so on.

Car designers, for example, pay attention to the “toe curve”, since it is a
critical measure of drive quality of the vehicle. Modern designs have seen a
steady increase in the amount of “on board” electronics used to help steer
the vehicle safely. Many road vehicles, for instance, come with anti-lock
brakes, where a control system senses the motion and automatically adjusts
the brake pressure to prevent a skid.

Vehicle stability, in fact, is currently receiving the attention of lawmakers in

some countries. Electronics stability controls may soon be mandatory in
many vehicles5.

In his book “Inside the Robot Kingdom”, F.L.Schodt paints an impressive
picture of the Fanuc factory in Japan, where, under Mount Fiji, robots work
unattended at night – making other robots! The point, of course, is that
robots are not just inhabitants of Science-Fiction worlds. They are very much
here to stay.

Robotics, as a discipline, poses problems that are hard to categorize, since

robots themselves are so hard to categorize. Some work in controlled
environments, such as factories, while others are designed for harsh and
unpredictable environments such as the depths of the oceans. Some require
precision, such as those designed to help weak or ill humans, while others
are designed to work with more forgiving payloads.

The mechanical side of the robot is the classical mechanisms problem of

synthesis: how to assemble mechanical elements that can describe various
motions. In several cases, inspiration is drawn from biology, mimicking
human or animal joints.

See, for
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Typical Design Issues

A multi-body designer, then, needs to generate paths of motion, predict

velocity of different parts of the assembly, and to predict forces that will be
experienced and that can be generated by the robot. A large degree of
integration with electronic control systems is also essential, given the current
state of technology in robotics design. Issues of stability, which have to be
handled by the control systems, have recently been addressed well enough
for a two-legged robot to climb stairs or catch a ball thrown at it.

The MBD Modeling Philosophy

There are many other areas, of course, where designers seek to understand
the forces experienced by and caused by multiple bodies. There are also
many modeling and analysis techniques other than MBD, some of which are
covered in other books in this series. As the figure below6 emphasizes, any
model is a part of a larger system, and can in turn be broken into smaller
sub-systems – all the way down to quantum mechanics

MBD methods are reduced order models that are best applied at the
“Product” and “Assembly” stages7.

Courtesy of Prof. Bert Bras, George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering,
Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332-0405, USA.
The Finite Element Method, covered in A Designr’s Guide to FEA, is most relevant at
the “Component” and “Assembly” stages.
Typical Design Issues CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

From a product design perspective, just as product design follows a

sequence – starting with a concept, going on to a rough design, and finally
the detailed design – it is useful to group the design issues into system level
issues and component level issues.

Simulation of component behavior is often done using the Finite Element

method. Here, the analyst requires the forces on the component as data for
the model.

Simulation of system level behavior is best done using the MBD approach.
Obviously, one benefit is that the forces calculated from an MBD analysis
can be used to provide data for a Finite Element analysis. However, there
are other reasons that make this a natural way to address several complex
design issues.

For one, MBD models take a ”lumped” approach. That is, the behavior of an
arbitrarily complex component or assembly is abstracted as a single
element. The abstraction may represent a single rigid link, the suspension
assembly of an automobile, or the undercarriage of an aircraft. In all these
cases, some accuracy is traded for speed of analysis. Where a Finite Element
analysis frequently requires minutes, if not hours or days of CPU time, an
MBD analysis is often complete in seconds.

Next, simple MBD models are used to build more complex models. In an
approach that follows the engineering practice of using simple tools to build
more complex tools, this provides the capability to quickly build complex
models that yield useful results without taking an inordinate amount of time.

Take, for example, a bearing that supports a rotating shaft. Both theory and
practice tell us that there are losses within the shaft, but it is well near
impossible to get an accurate model that can predict the losses in a
production-quality bearing within reasonable times and at reasonable
expense. The MBD approach is quite practical, yielding a usable model while
taking into account the absence of detailed mechanics8:

The bearing module is used to determine the bearing moments due to

friction for all of the bearings in the transmission. The input signals to the
bearing module consist of the torque at each shaft location. The module
then calculates the torque loss due to friction with the relation:

From Design And Analysis Of A Modified Power Split Continuously Variable
Transmission, A.J.Fox, West Virginia University
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Typical Design Issues

Tloss,n = Fndµ

where Tloss,n is the torque loss in bearing n, Fn is the force on bearing n,

and µ is the bearing coefficient of friction. Fn is calculated from the force
analysis on the shaft due to tangential gear forces and component weight.
The bearing module solves this relation for each bearing location, and the
output signals consist of the torque loss at each bearing location.

Note how simple the equation is. The simplicity is justified because there is
no complete theory of the specific mechanics that also lends itself to quick
calculations. Actual usage of this bearing module would only require that the
coefficient of friction be fed in, since the forces are calculated using the
equations of equilibrium. The model is not only simple, it is effective, since
several of these bearing modules can be employed in the model of the
overall transmission.

Another example of this approach is the construction of computer models for

animated movies – such as the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and its sequels.
Designers concentrate on capturing an adequate behavior of selected joints,
not on the body as a whole. Once they have the individual joints behaving
the way they want them to, they can assemble these to get the complete
body – and can be sure that the assembly will move in a “realistic” fashion.
A publication from the Aalborg University9 puts it well:

Depending on the type of joint, kinematic pairs are either referred

to as force-closed or form-closed, where the fastening of the pair
in a form-closed pair is maintained by the shape of the bones
themselves, and the fastening of a force-closed pair is maintained
by a superficially applied forces, such as a tendon. […] To limit the
amount of joints, [… some] joints have been combined. Bone
structure of [the figure] refers to the bone controlling the belly of
the orc, which makes it possible to animate a “jumping” belly
whenever the orc moves, walks, runs or jumps.

This approach – complex models constructed from simpler models – lies at

the heart of multi-body dynamics. Once we look at the building blocks that
are commonly available, our study will be almost complete!

An Orc’s Tale – Animation of a Virtual World, Aalborg University, Copenhagen
Typical Design Issues CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

Engineers working on CAE have several sources of worry, ranging from
potential legal complications to essential product performance. To make
things worse, the expectations change almost continuously during any
product-design project. Almost invariably, the quality of results expected
from the designers tends to get raised as the project progresses.

One benefit, however, is that early in the design cycle the analyses need not
be very precise. Later, when the detailed-design phases is undertaken,
results need to be more accurate – but at the early stage, quick results are
often of more value than accurate results.

The MBD approach is tailor-made for this. And if it can be coupled with
detailed-design tools such as Finite Element Analysis and Design
Optimization, the design engineer really can’t ask for very much more.

The fact that the man who gave the world electric light, motion pictures,
talking machines, and the Edison storage battery was responsible for this
utterly useless device should encourage inventors whose first attempts have
George Lee Dowd Jr
in Popular Science Monthly,1930, on Edison’s unsuccessful Helicopter

CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced

Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced

The availability of easy-to-use and reliable simulation software, coupled with
high quality graphics, makes it easier to grasp the principles embodied in
much of engineering and engineering mathematics. A picture can be worth a
thousand lectures.

This does not mean, of course, that the software can be used without a
good grasp of the underlying theory. The previous chapter outlined the
importance of focusing on the requirements of design and on the
importance of proper abstraction of behavior. Using software without an
understanding of the fundamentals is an invitation to disaster, not to
mention being a waste of time, effort and money!

This chapter is intended to serve as a quick reference, not as a complete

discussion. Our emphasis is on providing definitions with a minimum of
equations or other mathematical notations. The references listed at the end
of this book are an excellent (and strongly recommended) source of
complete theory, and should be referred to if any of the intentionally brief
definitions presented below are ambiguous or incomplete.

A quick review of the adoption of 3D CAD tools by the industry is

illuminating. In the early years, users had to understand internal details like
the equations of splines or the algorithms used to calculate surface
intersections. As usage and software matured, a lot of this could be taken
for granted: just as the way you can today drive a car without
understanding how an IC engine works. Of course, if the engine breaks
down, you either need to call for an expert, or develop the expertise
yourself! In a similar fashion, if the software fails to achieve a particular
task, a grasp of the theory used always helps.

While MBD tools have not been adopted as widely by the industry as CAD
tools, for a variety of reasons, the fact is that MBD tools today are both
capable and robust. The benefits are clear, the applications are clear, and
the tools are available.

To use MBD tools effectively, of course, you should make sure that you pay
attention to detail. When you work through the assignments that accompany
this book, you may want to turn back either to this chapter or to the

Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

references listed at the end of this book to make sure that you are correctly
correlating the software’s features with the theoretical underpinnings.

Finally, classroom studies are often limited to problems that can be solved
using trigonometry and vector algebra. Usually, this means the coverage is
restricted to Cams, Gears and 4-bar linkages. Non-linear equations, complex
numbers and mechanisms with more links are often omitted simply because
they are not tractable enough for hand-calculations. MBD software makes
such problems tractable, thereby making it easy for meaningful problems to
be modeled and analyzed even at the learning level.

Theory …
Basic Definitions
Statics, Kinetics, Kinematics and Dynamics
Mechanics (or, more correctly, Solid Mechanics10) has three branches:
Statics, Kinetics and Kinematics. Statics covers the effects of forces on
bodies in the absence of motion. Kinetics is the study of the action of forces
on bodies in motion. Kinematics is the study of the relative motion between
bodies. Kinetics and kinematics together are often referred to as dynamics.

Often designers use kinematics to determine the initial design to achieve the
required motion. Kinetics is then applied to investigate and improve weight,
stability, cost, control, etc. Kinematics is sometimes called the geometry of
pure motion – because there is no reference to mass or forces. Most CAD
packages use this approach to animate assemblies. Kinematics, for example,
can be used to calculate the motion required for a robot to pick up an
object, while dynamics can tell you the forces required for this.

A kinematic diagram is used to represent a mechanism – the figure on the

right is the kinematic diagram of the folding steel chair on the left. The
procedure to derive a kinematic diagram from a mechanism can be
confusing, as can the process of visualizing a mechanism represented by a
given kinematic diagram. MBD software is very useful here, since it allows
you to add graphics to the kinematic diagram.

The kinematics of fluids is normally not called kinematics, and is considerably more
complicated than that of solids.
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced
Engineering Mechanics differentiates between a structure and a mechanism
by calculating the mobility of the assembly. If the assembly is such that no
movement is possible, it is a structure. A good example is a simple plane
truss, where the dimensions of the links define the only relative position that
can be achieved.

A mechanism is also sometimes defined as a device that transfers force /

motion from a source to a destination. From our point of view, a mechanism
consists of links and joints.

There is no clear-cut difference between a mechanism and a machine. Some
define a machine as a mechanism that does useful work, but that distinction
is not relevant to our study. One of the dictionary meanings for “machine”
is, not surprisingly, “mechanism”.

Conservation of Linear Momentum

In the absence of external forces, the momentum of a body or set of bodies
remains constant. When applied to linear motion, this results in the familiar
equation F = m • a . Another way of stating the same, of course, is to say
that force involved in a collision is equal to the rate of change of

Collisions can be either elastic or inelastic. Elastic collisions conserve kinetic

energy but inelastic collisions don’t. Both, of course, conserve momentum.

The coefficient of restitution is a measure of the elasticity of the collision. It

has no units, since it is the ratio of the differences in velocities before and
after collision. It is 1 for a perfectly elastic collision and 0 for a perfectly
inelastic collision – that is, one in which the bodies stick together after the

Conservation of Angular Momentum

If the law of conservation of momentum is applied to angular motion, it
leads the equation T = I • α , where T is the torque, I is the mass moment
of inertia about the axis of rotation, and α is the angular acceleration.

Calculation of the mass moments of inertia is often confusing, particularly to

beginners who often forget the reliance on the axes (or coordinate systems)
used, particularly if the values are calculated automatically by a CAD

Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

package. See the Glossary and References section for more details on
Moments of Inertia.

A link is a body that is a part of a mechanism. Some definitions of links
require that they be treated as rigid bodies (i.e. those that cannot deform
under the action of forces) but MBD removes this necessity.

Links are often classified as binary, ternary and quaternary, depending on

how many other links they’re attached to. A binary link is attached to two
other links, a ternary link to 3 other links, and a quaternary link to 4.

A node is the point at which one link is attached to another in a kinematic
drawing. (Do not confuse this with a node in a Finite Element model!). A
binary link has 2 nodes, a ternary link has 3, and a quaternary link has 4.

Degrees of Freedom
The DOFs (which is how the phrase degrees of freedom is usually
abbreviated) of a link is the number of independent inputs required to
determine its position with respect to the ground. The DOFs of a mechanism
are the number of independent inputs required to determine the positions of
all links (with respect to the ground) that make up the mechanism.

Note that a joint “eliminates” one or more degrees of freedom, as described


Calculating the DOFs of a mechanism is not a trivial task, as we will see

when we discuss Gruebler’s Equation. A rigid body in 3D space has 6 DOFs –
translations along the 3 axes, and rotations about the 3 axes. In 2D space
(textbooks often refer to planar mechanisms, which are mechanisms
restricted to 2D space) a rigid body has 3 degrees of freedom: translations
along the 2 axis and rotation about the third axis (which is the cross product
of the two axes of translation).

A constraint is a condition that removes one or more DOFs. In MBD, a
constraint is usually imposed by defining a joint.

For instance, if a system consists of 2 links that are not connected to each
other, the system has 12 dofs (6 for each link). If they are connected by a

CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced

joint, however, the dofs will be less than 12. Which dofs are eliminated by
the joint is often a source of confusion to a beginner.

If the number of constraints is more than the dofs of the system, the system
is described as over-constrained. An over-constrained system cannot be
analyzed using MBD. If presented with an over-constrained system, many
programs arbitrarily discard as many constraints as necessary. A designer
should beware of such situations! It is far better to correct the joint
definitions yourself than to leave it to the software.

From a mathematical perspective, a joint is just a constraint – it relates the
motion between one or more DOFs of one or more bodies. In the context of
MBD modeling, a joint is usually defined using a physical equivalent.

Most joints eliminate one or more DOFs. However if the joint is redundant, it
does not affect the dofs of the system. Redundant constraints are also called
passive constraints: their presence or absence does not make any difference
to the behavior of the mechanism11.

Pairs, Higher and Lower

Two links connected by a joint are called a pair. Pairs are classified as lower
pairs and higher pairs. A lower pair is one where interchanging the links does
not alter relative motion. For a higher pair, exchanging the links alters
relative motion.

There are only 6 lower pairs, while there are infinite types of higher pairs.
The 6 lower pairs are revolute (or pin-joint), prismatic (or slider joint), helical
(as in a nut-and-screw), cylindrical (as a shaft in a collar), spherical (or ball
joint) and planar12.

Cams, gears, belt-drives, etc. are higher pairs. Higher pairs normally need
additional equations, such as the gear-ratio, to fully-define them. Higher
pairs are also more susceptible to drawbacks such as backlash, slip, creep
and friction losses. Of course, manufacturing tolerances can introduce error
into lower pairs too.

Passive constraints can cause trouble when manufacturing tolerances are taken
into account.
Planar, Revolute and Prismatic pairs can be treated as special cases of helical
pairs. A zero lead makes it a revolute joint, an infinite lead makes it a prismatic joint.
Moving the center of the helical pair to infinity gives a planar joint.
Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced CAE and Multi Body Dynamics
Some joints ensure contacts between the links by means of the elements
themselves – a revolute joint is a good example. Such joints have form
closure. Other joints, such as cams, require external forces to maintain
contact, and have force closure. The external force can be supplied via a
spring, or by gravity, etc.

A chain is a series of pairs connected together, without a grounded link. A
chain is called a mechanism only if at least one link is grounded. This is
because force-transmission makes sense only if the “ground” provides the
support for the reactions that Newton’s Third Law guarantees. A chain can
be either closed or open. Two binary links connected by a joint are called a

The behavior of some mechanisms can change dramatically depending on
which links in the chain are fixed and which are left free to move. An
excellent example of this is the epicyclic gear train.

Gruebler’s Equation and the Kutzbach Criterion

Calculating the DOFs of an assembly is not easy. If movement is restricted
to a plane (that is, if we have a planar mechanism), we can use Gruebler’s

F = 3(n − 1) − 2l − h

where F is the total degrees of freedom of the mechanism, n is the number

of links (remember to include the ground or frame), l is the number of lower
pairs and h is the number of higher pairs.

Be careful when using the formula – it is not foolproof in the sense that it
cannot be applied blindly, but needs some judgment. The mechanism shown
below has 1 DOF although Gruebler’s equation would say it has none!13

n = 5 since there are 5 links including the ground, l = 6 since there are 6 lower
pairs. The formula fails due to redundancy: removal of the middle link has no affect
on the mechanism. The correct values of n and l should be 4 and 4, respectively,
which gives 1 dof.
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced

The DOFs of a mechanism are also called its mobility. This term is used
when we want to count the number of input parameters that must be
controlled independently to achieve a particular motion or position. The
Kutzbach Criterion, which is used to calculate the mobility allows for the
elimination of partial DOFs by a joint.

Also remember that there’s a difference between mechanisms an 3D space

and mechanisms in 2D space. The equation used in 3D has a slightly
different form14.

If the 2D equation is applied to a 3D mechanism, the answer can be

misleading. Take, for instance, the slider-crank mechanism. If restricted to
2D, there are 4 links in all, with 3 dof each, for a total of 12 dof for the
system. If link is grounded, that leaves 9 dofs. The three revolute joints
remove 2 dof each, since they only permit rotation about the axis. This
leaves 9 – 6 = 3 dof. The slider joint too removes 2 dofs, since it only
permits translation along one axis. The system, then, has 1 dof.

If the same calculation is conducted in 3D space, we start with 18 dofs (6

dofs for each of the free links). The 3 revolute joints and the 1 slider joint
remove 5 dof each. As a result, the mechanism is over-constrained!

For details on the 3D form, see page 551 of Advanced Mechanism Design, Volume
2, Erdman and Sandor.
Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

It is easy to see that a slider-crank mechanism in 3D should, of course, use

spherical joints to avoid this situation15.

Essential Theory
Analysis vs. Synthesis Computational complexity theory is
Analysis involves calculating items of interest for a the study of the complexity of
given mechanism or system. Synthesis, on the problems - that is, the difficulty of
other hand, involves finding a mechanism that solving them. Some problems are
provides a required behavior. difficult to solve, while others are
easy. Take the traveling salesman
Synthesis can be extremely challenging, since it problem, for example. If the network
of cities grows by 1, the time needed
means choosing both the types and dimensions of
to solve the problem - that is,
links and joints – called type synthesis and construct the shortest route that
dimensional synthesis. Type synthesis is visits every city exactly once - is
sometimes referred to as number synthesis since multiplied by a factor of c, hence the
it determines the number of links in the time needed to find the route grows
mechanism. exponentially.

There are infinite possible mechanisms that can

satisfy any given set of behaviors, so the chosen Even though a problem may be
computationally solvable in principle,
mechanism usually depends on the experience of
in actual practice it may not be that
the designer or the available links and joints. simple. These problems might require
Complexity of synthesis rises dramatically as the large amounts of time or an
number of links increases. Even for 4-bar inordinate amount of space.
mechanisms, Hrones and Nelson’s Atlas of Curves,
which presented several thousand coupler loci, is
often the starting point even today. The Atlas There exist a certain class of
itself was compiled in the 1950s! problems that require so much time
or space that it is not practical to
attempt to solve them although they
Depending on the specifications for synthesis, the
are solvable in principle. These
goal of the designer is one or more of function, problems are called Intractable.
path and motion. Function generation involves
synchronization of the motion of input and output From The Wikipedia
links, as in a Pantograph, for example. In path
generation, a point is required to trace a path
with respect to a reference frame. In some cases,
timings can also be a part of the specification. A
cricket-bowling machine is a good example of

See, for example, page 612 of Advanced Mechanism Design, Volume 2, Erdman
and Sandor.
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced

this. Motion generation involves guiding the entire body (or link) through a
prescribed sequence of motion. Consider the movement of the bucket of a
tipper machine. Not only must the bucket follow a particular path, the
rotation of the bucket must also be controlled.

Types of Analysis
Depending on the scenario being investigated, the analysis is classified as
one of the following:

• Static – usually used to find the equilibrium position of a


• Quasi-Static – used when the inertial forces are not important

• Kinematic – used if there are zero dofs in the system. That is,
all possible movements are specified either by joints or by
input motion.

• Dynamic (or Transient Dynamic)

• Linear – most MBD models are non-linear. Linear analyses are

used mainly to calculate eigenvalues16 or for design of control

The data required to construct the model, the methods used to solve the
problem, and the type of results that can be computed vary according to the
type of the analysis. The last chapter of this book, Glossary and References,
contains a table that summarizes these.

Forward and Inverse Kinematics

In forward kinematics, given the forces and positions of some links, we want
to estimate the location / velocity / acceleration of the bodies or points of
interest. In inverse kinematics, we want to know what forces to apply to
achieve a required position / velocity / acceleration. The latter is often
required in robotics.

Eigenvalues are not discussed in this book. See the companion volume A
Designer’s Guide To Finite Element Analysis for more details on how and why we
calculate eigenvalues.
Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced CAE and Multi Body Dynamics
Quaternions and Euler Angles
Any spatial movement can be expressed as a combination of rotations and
translations along 3 axes. Rotations, unfortunately, are not commutative –
that is, the final configuration depends on the order of the rotations about
different axes.

Rotations and translations are usually represented by 3x3 transformation

matrices, and Euler Angles are one convention used to specify angles of
rotation. A quaternion17 is an alternative representation of the

Instantaneous Center of Rotation

This is useful to determine the relative velocities between two bodies. The
instantaneous center of rotation for two bodies in plane motion is a point,
common to both bodies, which has the same instantaneous velocity in each
body. The point can be a “virtual” point, located off the two bodies.

Damping Coefficient
Vibrating bodies experience damping, a force that retards movement. While
this is sometimes an adverse affect, in other cases it can be useful – as in
the case of shock-absorbers on a car. Damping coefficients are hard to
characterize. Testing is frequently used to establish reliable values.

A damped system is non-conservative. This means that energy is “lost”

(from the mechanical system) – it is converted to other forms such as sound
or heat. Numerical calculations sometimes introduce numerical damping.
This is a loss of energy due to the finite precision of computer-arithmetic or
because of other truncation errors.

Numerical Integration
The differential equation of motion is

ma + cv + ku = p

where m is the mass, c is the damping coefficient, and k is the stiffness. a, v

and u are the acceleration, velocity and displacement, respectively, while p
is the external force.

Discovered, invented or defined by W.R.Hamilton in 1843. The utility of the
quaternion has been a subject of lively debate since then, but most engineers
encounter H, the set of all quaternions, named for the illustrious mathematician.
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced

A common form of the same equation is

m&x& + cx& + kx = f (t )

where x(t) is the displacement vector.

Given the initial state of the body or bodies, we need to calculate the
configuration of the bodies as we move forwards in time. The initial state is
called the initial condition.

This is normally done by numerically integrating the equation of motion.

That is, we use the finite difference equations to replace the derivatives with
differences. For instance, we can write

du ∆u u j − ui
v= = =
dt ∆t t j − ti

and a similar equation between a and u. To get started, i is at initial time.

That is, at t = 0. At the initial time, if we know the velocity vt=o, we can
solve the equation for uj. Then, substituting for in the equilibrium equation
we solve for acceleration. Now that the values at time tj are known, we
follow the same method to step forward.

There are many numerical integration schemes available to solve such

problems. The numerical integration methods are classified as explicit and
implicit, single-step and multi-step, and corrector-predictor methods. For a
complete discussion, see the references listed at the end of this book.

Related Topics
Most mechanical components are relatively easy to deal with. You can touch,
see and feel the components, and what you see is at least an indicator of
what you will get. Electricity is less tangible18.

Approximately ten separate things have the name "electricity."

There is no single stuff called "electricity." ELECTRICITY DOES
NOT EXIST. Franklin, Edison, Thompson, and millions of science
teachers should've had a long talk with Mrs.McCave before they
decided to give a variety of independent science concepts just one
single name.

From an article by William J. Beaty. See
Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

Mrs.McCave was invented by Dr.Seuss. She had twenty three

sons. She named them all "Dave."

Whenever we ask "WHAT IS ELECTRICITY," that's just like asking

Mrs.McCave "WHO IS DAVE?" How can she describe her son?
There can be no answer since the question itself is wrong. It's
wrong to ask "who is Dave?" because we are assuming that there
is only one Dave, when actually there are many different people.
They all just happen to be named Dave. Who is Dave? Mrs.McCave
cannot answer us until she first corrects our misunderstanding.

Understanding electrical systems is not essential for MBD, but can help when
working with the control of mechanisms. Electricity is a common means of
transmission of power, so in this section we’ll briefly review a few salient
aspects related to electrical actuation and control.

Transfer Function
A transfer function is simply an equation linking input and output of a
system. It is probably more common in electrical engineering than in
mechanical, but the principle is applicable to any system modeling.

For MBD systems, transfer functions are commonly used to represent the
effect of controllers – sensors and actuators, for example – which are often
electrical in nature.

AC, DC, Stepper and Servo Motors

In many mechanisms, the source of motion or force is an electrical motor.
Mechanical sources (hydraulic, pneumatic, etc.) are also used, but are often
less precise than electrical controllers.

The inner workings of motors are beyond the scope of our discussion, but it
is useful to be familiar with the characteristics of the most common types of
electrical motors. For example, you may need to calculate the time taken for
a motor to reach operating speed, to define the force-time variation in your
MBD model.

AC motors (the familiar three-phase induction motors, also called squirrel-

cage motors) typically run at 1500 rpm. They are simple, reliable and
relatively inexpensive. One drawback is that they need a transmission-
system to achieve different speeds. Speed and torque control are easier with
the more expensive DC motors, since the speed and torque are directly
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced

linked to the voltage and current. The disadvantage is that the brushes wear
out with usage. Brushless DC Motors (BLDCs) address this, but are even
more expensive.

Both these motors are less than ideal if position control is important. For
accurate position control, Servo or Stepper Motors are better choices. The
position of the armature of a servo motor is controlled by the electrical
input. They are widely used in robotics and radio-controlled toys. Stepper
motors are often used in open-loop systems.

Applications in which precision is important usually use closed-loop control
systems. That is, the output values of parameters of interest are used to
decide the input signal. A sensor is a device that monitors the parameters of

Sensors often, but not always, use electrical signals. Gyrocompasses, for
instance, are mechanical devises that provide visual feedback.

Sensors can also be used to detect events. An excellent example of an event

sensor is a limit switch: you can use it to shut off input when a particular
position has been achieved.

Sampling Frequency
Sensors measure the parameters of interest. If the parameters vary with
time, the Nyquist criterion dictates the minimum sampling rate that should
be used. That is, if the interval between measurements is not small enough,
the sensed values will be unreliable.

PID Control
After acquiring the signal from a sensor, how should the input signal be
corrected? If we define the error as the difference between the sensed value
of the parameter and the desired value, positive feedback means input
signal is increased in proportion to the error while negative feedback means
the input signal is decreased in proportion to the error. This is called
Proportional control.

In some cases, the cumulative value of the error and the rate of change of
the error are also important. In this case, simple proportional control is not
enough. We also use Integral and Derivative control – that is, the input
signal is modified based on the integral of the error (thereby taking into

Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

account the cumulative error) and the derivative of the error (which is
nothing but the rate of change of the error).

Closed loop systems often come with PID Controllers. These incorporate all
three elements – proportional, integral and derivative – and need to be
tuned. Depending on the actual situation, the gain for each measure of error
is chosen or adjusted.

… and Practice
Remember that MBD models are models of
physical systems. Their value lies in their ability
to represent the behavior of systems in the real “Conventional aerodynamics seemed to
suggest that the insect should not generate
world. The models, however, are built using
enough lift to fly. The bees stayed resolutely
theory, and as we know theory is always built airborne and the sums caused
on some assumptions19. As the bumble-bee consternation.
paradox illustrates, our knowledge of theory,
The underlying problem turned out to be
while powerful and useful, is far from complete.
treating a wing as if it was fixed, like in an
aeroplane and, thanks to studies over the
It’s important, therefore, to keep in mind the past few years, including the construction of
reasons that a model of the physical world can robotic bees, this "bumble-bee paradox" has
been solved: extra lift comes when flexible
differ from actual behavior.
insect wings slice through the air at a high
angle of attack, creating a large swirling
Precision Points vortex at their leading edge.

Consider, for instance, function generation. In this way, insect wings produce the
That is, you have to correlate the motion of vortices – spinning masses of air – which
input and output links. A 4-bar mechanism is generate lift and help them move. Today,
Prof Ismet Gursul of the University of Bath
often chosen because it can be synthesized
will describe another step on the way for
easily (relative to linkages with more links, that engineers to make air vehicles smaller than
is!), and is often easy to construct. a human hand that can be used for
Unfortunately, a 4-bar mechanism is not detecting chemicals leaks and
capable of error-free generation of arbitrary
curves. Roger Highfield,
Science Editor
As an acceptable solution, we settle for The Telegraph
correlation at a selected set of points. These
points are called the precision points. The
location and spacing of these points can be

See Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by D.R.Hofstadter for an
entertaining, challenging and comprehensive discussion of the Incompleteness
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced

calculated by a variety of methods, none of which can be addressed in this


Remember to keep this in mind when working with either the synthesis of a
mechanism or the verification of a proposed mechanism. Since a linkage
only has finite significant dimensions, there can only be a finite number of
precision points.

Engineering Data and Robust Design

Beginners have a tendency to take published data as the Gospel Truth. This
is, quite simply, wrong. At the other end of the spectrum is a stubborn and
unreasonable refusal to build a model unless all data is available at the
required precision.

Designers, like the rest of the human race, have to live in a world that is less
than perfect. Data is not always available at the right time. It may be
insufficient. It may be unreliable. And so on.

To deal with this, one approach is to look for robust designs. In this
approach, we look for a design that will produce the required output even if
the specified inputs vary. Obviously, this is not always possible. This is
particularly true if we are looking for an optimum design – one that provides
the best possible performance at the least possible cost.

Various techniques are available to verify the robustness of designs, as well

as to build robust and optimal designs. More details on these can be found
in the companion volumes in this series.

One approach in particular is very useful for MBD modeling: the method
called parameter identification21. This refers to the extraction of information
about a system using measured input-and-output data. It is particularly
useful when the transfer-function approach is used, or if a high degree of
abstraction is involved.

The Virtuous Circle

MBD tools are easier to use if the fundamentals are clear, and fundamentals
are easier to grasp if MBD tools can be used to demonstrate the

See Advanced Mechanism Design: Analysis and Synthesis by G.N.Sandor and
A.G.Erdman for an excellent discussion.
Covered in the companion volume CAE and Design Optimization - Advanced
Theory: Basic, Essential and Advanced CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

applications. It’s this aspect that makes it so enjoyable and so challenging to

study and use MBD tools for CAE!

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there

Yogi Berra

CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Working with MBD Models

Working with MBD Models

Based on the previous chapters, we now have an idea as to the design
issues involved in several different types of MBD scenarios, and are familiar
with the terminology and underlying theory. In this chapter, we’ll look at
how software helps us eliminate a lot of the tedium from the process of
applying the theory to design problems.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

A Machine-design Approach
MCAE, short for Mechanical Computer Aided Engineering, covers the various
tasks involved with design of mechanical components. Solid modeling, CNC
tool-path generation, creation of manufacturing drawings, Finite Element
Analysis, etc. For all of these, the 3D solid model usually serves as the basis.
That is, the 3D model is the central source of data on which all other
applications draw.

MBD too falls under the umbrella of MCAE, particularly when the approach
or goal is to design a mechanism.

It’s only natural, then, for a designer to expect to follow the same approach:
to expect to use the 3D model as the starting point for MBD modeling and

As we have seen in the previous chapter, solid models are indeed useful
when it comes to tasks like the calculation of the mass moments of inertia of
geometrically complex objects. But as we have also seen, a lot of
mechanisms-theory uses kinematic representations to perform various
calculations. In this approach, the detailed shape of the body is immaterial.
You only need to specify the locations of the nodes and the moments of
inertia of each of the links22.

This means the detailed 3D model is often a dispensable overhead.

There are situations where the 3D model is essential, as will see

subsequently when we study problems that involve contact. But MBD models

Those familiar with FEM will recognize the parallel with beam elements.
Working with MBD Models CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

for many scenarios can be built without using any 3D graphics (of the
“shaded” variety) whatsoever.

The use of 3D graphics, though, often helps interpretation dramatically.

Provided the tools support it, it is useful to include 3D graphics even if the
modeling does not require it, simply because it makes it so much easier to
visualize the performance and to catch modeling errors.

A Control-System Approach
There are some elements, however, particularly those representing electrical
systems such as motors, where 3D graphics hurts more than it helps. It
makes little sense to take the effort of building even a representative model
of a motor when the only data to be visualized is the rotation of a shaft!

Also, unlike mechanical power transmission which involves visible, tangible

conduits like links or pipes, electrical power transmission cables need no 3D
modeling. Electrical designers, in fact, often prefer to use symbolic tools for
design simulation.

And Ever The Twain Shall Meet

The thing to remember, then, is that there are two distinct parts to any MBD
model, and effective usage brings both together.

One is the equivalent of the kinematic model: locations of nodes, properties

of links or transfer functions, and constraints between them. This is
sufficient for all electrical components, and is often used by experienced
mechanical designers to quickly build MBD models of mechanical parts too.

The other is the 3D graphics, consisting of visually appealing images of the

bodies that are represented by the links. This is rarely, if ever, required for
an electrical component. The graphics are usually derived from a CAD
model, but the task of integrating these into the MBD model requires an
understanding of the abstractions involved in and represented by the various
elements of the model.

Basic Building Blocks

Just as CAD modelers give you the power to use simple construction
primitives to build intricate and accurate models of almost any geometry,
one of the best things about MBD tools for CAE is that we can start with

CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Working with MBD Models

simple systems and put these together to achieve remarkably useful

simulations of very complicated assemblies.

Once you understand the data required for the “primitives”, it is easy to
work forwards. Pay attention, therefore, not only to the building blocks
required, but also to the data that is required for these.

A body is the same as a link. Graphics can be associated with a body if
required, but it’s not essential. The mass properties of the body are
essential. These properties consist of the mass and the 6 mass moments of
inertia and the coordinates of the center of gravity of the body.

Further, for a dynamic analysis, the initial velocity of the body must be
specified. The initial position is defined by the joints, while the accelerations
are computed as a part of the solution.

In some cases, the body may have no appreciable moment of inertia. This
occurs when the mass is so closely concentrated at the center of gravity
compared to the overall dimensions involved in the model.

In conventional analyses, bodies are considered to be rigid, but current

technology includes the capability to define bodies as flexible23.

Constraints or Joints
A joint represents a constraint on the bodies that are connected to it. A
revolute joint, for example, only leaves 1 dof free – the bodies can only
rotate with respect to each other about the axis of rotation of the joint.

The 6 lower pairs are essential for modeling. Higher pairs are not essential,
since they do not form a finite set. In the absence of available elements,
they can sometimes be constructed using combinations of other building

A concentrated force, at its most basic, can de defined as a vector: the
magnitude, orientation and point of application are enough to completely
specify the force. Other forces, require more general definitions, since not all
forces can be modeled as point forces.

This aspect is covered in more detail subsequently.
Working with MBD Models CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

For modeling of physical systems, for instance, one force that is widely
required is gravity. In mechanics, gravity is called a body force since it acts
at all points in the body, and the force experienced by the body depends on
the distribution of mass within the body.

From a numerical-calculation point of view, the “smoother” the force is, the
easier it is to calculate the solution. The smoothness of a function is usually
measured by its continuity: a function with n derivates that exist is smoother
than one that has n-1 derivatives that exist.

This smoothness definition, of course, applies both to spatial derivatives and

time derivatives. Since MBD models take a lumped-approach by abstracting
the bodies as pairs (that is, links connected at nodes and constrained by
joints), for MBD the smoothness normally relates to the time-derivatives of
the prescribed forces. A force that has a sudden jump in time like a step-
function is less tractable than a ramp function, for example. The derivatives
of the step function, shown in red, are not defined24 at the time where the
force steps up.

A prescribed motion, strictly speaking, is a constraint: it removes the
necessity to calculate one or more dofs. Since the motion dictates how the
dofs move, the dofs are no longer “free”. Usually specified for a joint,
prescribed motion can be arbitrarily complex both in space and in time.

In several situations the forces acting on the body depend on how it
responds to the force applied initially. It is not always reasonable to expect
the statement of the problem to specify the values of forces against time:
what the statement should include is what forces will be applied if certain
events taken place.

Sensors, therefore, are required to detect events – such as the closing of a

gap that can trigger a change in one or more forces – or variables such as
the velocity, so that a control system can change state based on the value.

Strictly speaking, the derivative at these points is the Dirac Delta function, which
defines the integral of the derivative – not the derivative itself.
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Working with MBD Models

Control systems are usually defined by transfer functions. The transfer
function can be quite complex, but broadly fall into two categories: SISO
and MIMO. The former is short for Single-Input-Single-Output, while the
latter stands for Multiple-Input-Multiple-Output.

Reference Entities
Coordinate systems are critical in MBD analyses. Displacements of bodies
are almost always large, so bodies may change orientation during the period
of interest. We know that properties like the moments of inertia are strongly
dependent on the coordinate system used.

In such a situation specifying data with respect to an immutable “global”

coordinate system does not make sense. Local coordinate systems
associated with a joint or a body are usually used instead.

User routines
While not essential, user routines are often useful, particularly if the
behavior of a design-entity needs to be protected from external scrutiny. If a
user-routine is used, it is often saved as a Dynamic Link Library (or DLL)
that is called by the MBD solver at each time step.

Other Entities
Design-chains nowadays consist of an Original Equipment Manufacturer
(OEM) and several levels of suppliers, often called Tier-1 suppliers, Tier-2
suppliers, and so on in decreasing order of design complexity, with
component suppliers at the end of the chain.

The MBD approach encourages a build-and-reuse strategy. Specific industry

segments or applications tend to use standard definitions, and share these
definitions across several levels of the design-chain. Such data can be
“published” and shared as special purpose entities.

Solution Control
The first part of the MBD-Simulation cycle involves building the model. The
second part, which we have largely taken for granted in our discussion,
relates to the methods used to solve the equations of motion. A complete
discussion of the various methodologies employed is beyond the scope of
this book, but one aspect is worth discussing.

Working with MBD Models CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

The three measures of performance of a solution algorithm are stability,

accuracy and efficiency.

Efficiency is easy to understand and measure. It is the amount of CPU time

and disk space the solver requires to carry out the calculations.

Stability and accuracy are a little harder both to understand and to measure.
A stable method need not be accurate, while a method can be unstable and
still yield accurate results at particular combinations of circumstances. To
understand this, reflect for a moment on which you would rather have – a
watch that has stopped or a watch that loses 5 seconds a day? The former
is 100% accurate twice a day, but you have no idea when. The latter gets
more and more inaccurate as time passes, but you can always tell how
inaccurate it is, and therefore correct accordingly.

Stability25 of a method allows us to refine the parameters safe in the

knowledge that we can predict the effect on accuracy. Accuracy without
stability is meaningless.

In MBD simulation, stability relates to performance of the algorithm used for

numerical integration. Apart from the choice of the algorithm itself, the time
step (∆t) used for the integration also matters.

Since MBD models involve a fairly high level of abstraction, numerical

solution algorithms tend to be “tuned” for specific applications.

Results - Verification and Validation

MBD analysis is a fairly simple in the types of outputs generated: animations
of movement and plots of forces, accelerations, velocities, displacements
against time are the main data generated.

What’s challenging, though, is to check whether the data is realistic. It can

be very tempting to accept the results as “right”, when it is usually more
correct to use them to gain an insight. Accepting the results of an MBD
simulation without some correlation with other sources of information like
physical tests is rarely a good idea.

As in all other forms of engineering analysis, verification and validation are

distinct, though they go hand in hand.

Monotonic convergence of series is a related topic.
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Working with MBD Models

Validation consists of asking whether the right equations have been solved.

Verification involves checking whether the equations have been solved


Data like the coefficient of restitution or the coefficients of friction should not
be taken for granted. It is always sensible to check the design for
performance over a range of values, rather than for single values of data.

A question raised by a user of simulation software serves to drive the point


My simulation results aren't matching up with test results. My

model contains springs which naturally have some damping. How
would I go about determining the damping coefficient?

The answer, of course, lies in a judicious mix of theory and practice. A test
can suggest values, but tests are rarely repeatable. A wise designer would
first check the theory underlying the model used in the solver, then “tune”
the model by selecting a value that does a good job of reproducing the test
results without violating the assumptions implicit in the theory. System
Identification and Design Of Experiment are techniques well suited to this

The Monaco Grand Prix, an annual event that is one of
the more celebrated races on the Formula 1 circuit, puts
drivers and their racers on the streets of Monaco. Normal
traffic is off the roads, of course, while the drivers attain
speeds that are breathtaking even to the casual observer.
For engineers on the design teams, they represent a
formidable challenge.

MBD tools help calculate critical parameters such as the lateral forces on the
tires, of course, but it’s not enough to just predict the values. What the
Formula 1 driver, who’s pitting his or her life against equally skilled and
competitive drivers, needs is an optimum design. Stories of losing drivers

Both are discussed in the companion volume CAE and Design Optimization -
Working with MBD Models CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

showing their ire on the vehicle and its designers are

a part of the folklore of Formula 1 racing!

The task that the design engineers face, then, is not

only to analyze the forces, but to calculate how much
which parameters need to be changed to give the
driver that edge that can make the difference
between winning and losing. And, in some cases,
between life and death.

Spacecraft are similarly challenging to design. Even if unmanned craft do not

raise the scepter of life-and-death, the loss of a craft can mean a huge loss
in terms of money and time.

Fortunately for the health of design engineers, not all MBD designs are so
demanding. But in a competitive marketplace, the struggle to design better
products cheaper and faster is never ending. Techniques to achieve such
designs are discussed in the other books27 in this series.

Explanations should never multiply assumptions without necessity. When two

explanations are offered for a phenomenon, the simplest full explanation is
Occam’s Razor, a principle popularized by William of Ockham

See CAE and Design Optimization – Basics and CAE and Design Optimization –
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics MBD Simulation with HyperWorks

MBD Simulation with HyperWorks

We now have a fair understanding of both the design issues and the
theoretical basis for MBD simulation. We also know that MBD problems
originate from 3D CAD in several, but not all, cases. We have seen the 3
distinct phases involved in the process. We start by creating the model, go
on to solve it in the second step, and then move on to the third stage,
results-interpretation. Finally, we have seen that it would be nice to have the
ability to optimize a design and to check how robust it is in terms of
tolerance to deviations in operating conditions or data.

With this background, let’s look at the problem from a HyperWorks point of

The Simulation Process

The various modules of HyperWorks can be used in a variety of ways for
MBD Simulation, depending on the problem specification and complexity.
We’ll review the different approaches, and correlate these with our
understanding of how MBD is used in the Product Design cycle.

Model Preparation – MotionView and HyperMesh

The first stage, model preparation, can be done using either HyperMesh or
MotionView. HyperMesh is perhaps better used if the components are
mechanical in nature and are flexible. That is, if stresses in the components
are to be calculated in addition to the forces and velocities. MotionView is
more of a “traditional” MBD preprocessor. It is less 3D-graphics-intensive
than HyperMesh, since it allows the definition of models using MDL – the
Model Definition Language – in which graphical representations of the
surfaces and volumes of the bodies are an option, not a necessity. This
capability, which is similar to using kinematic diagrams, is not available in
HyperMesh. Since MotionView also allows us to simulate the behavior of
flexible bodies and add graphics, our focus in this book and in the
accompanying exercises is on MotionView, not on HyperMesh28.

See A Designer’s Guide to Finite Element Analysis – Student Project Summaries for
an example of how HyperMesh can be used for the analysis of flexible MBD systems.
MBD Simulation with HyperWorks CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

Solving the Equations – MotionSolve and OptiStruct

Once the model has been built, the center of attention shifts to the solver.
This is where the equations of motion are drawn up, parameters chosen for
the numerical algorithms, and the numbers are crunched.

This is done by MotionSolve. It is usually invoked from within MotionView

but can also be used as a standalone application that reads an input file and
generates output data.

OptiStruct, as detailed in other books in this series, is intended for

optimization of linear problems and for linear finite element analysis.
However if a problem statement requires the kinds of analyses that are a
part of MBD, OptiStruct can call MotionSolve. The process by which
OptiStruct invokes MotionSolve and interacts with it is transparent to the
user: except for records in the log file, there is nothing you need to do to
manage this process.

Since our goal is to see how MBD theory and MBD practice come together,
we will restrict our attention to MotionSolve. If you’re comfortable with Finite
Element Analysis, the companion volumes in this series discuss the use of
OptiStruct for MBD problems.

Results – HyperView and HyperGraph

The data generated by the solver depends not just on the statement of the
problem, but also on what you have asked to review. For a dynamics
problem for example, you may choose to generate printed results at specific
time steps.

Both HyperView and HyperGraph are useful in this respect. HyperView

provides a variety of facilities for 3D viewing: animation, vector plots, and so
on. HyperGraph comes in handy to generate plots. For cam design for
instance, you need to plot the velocity-vs. time.

Optimization – OptiStruct and HyperStudy

As we have seen above, OptiStruct can invoke MotionSolve transparently, as
needed. This is useful not only to when the MBD model contains flexible
links, but also to run optimization. Look up the online documentation for a
discussion on techniques like the Equivalent Static Load Method for the
optimization of problems involving dynamic stresses.

CAE and Multi Body Dynamics MBD Simulation with HyperWorks

Optimization of MBD models, of course, is not always related to stress or

mass. In the case of synthesis of mechanisms, position control may be a
more important objective. HyperStudy, which supports DOE and other
techniques for non-linear optimization and robust design, can be used with
MotionSolve to address these requirements. A discussion of this approach is
contained in CAE and Design Optimization – Advanced.

The Anatomy of a Model

MotionView provides all the building blocks we listed as essential and
desirable for MBD modeling. Remember that one of the recommended
approaches in MBD is to build validated libraries of systems, and to use
these as sub-systems in the construction of more complex assemblies. To
promote this approach, MotionView stores model-definitions in files.
Statements 1 to8 are definition-statements. Every entity is defined by at
What the Files least a name and a label. Entities such as joints require additional data.
Contain 1. *BeginMDL (pendulum, "Pendulum Model")
2. *point (p_pendu_pivot, "Pivot Point")
The principle storage 3. *point ( p_pendu_cm, "Pendulum CM")
structure for MBD models 4. *Body (b_link, "Ball", p_pendu_cm)
follows the MDL (Model The joint connects the ground (default name is B_Ground) and the body
defined on line 4. The axis of rotation is the X axis, centered at the point
Definition Language) format. defined on line 2
An MDL file, which usually 5. *RevJoint (j_joint, "New Joint", B_Ground,
carries the suffix mdl is an b_link, p_pendu_pivot, V_Global_X)
ASCII file that can be Graphics are purely for visual appeal. The sphere’s radius is set to 1, and
the cylinder’s radius to 0.5.
opened using any text 6. *Graphic (gr_sphere, "pendulum sphere
editor29. These files can be graphic", SPHERE, b_link,
created without using p_pendu_cm, 1 )
7. *Graphic (gr_link, "pendulum link graphic",
MotionView at all. This
CYLINDER, b_link, p_pendu_pivot,
approach requires that you p_pendu_cm, 0.5, CAPBOTH )
be familiar with the syntax This is where we specify the output: we want the displacement history of
of the MDL statements. the link defined on line 4
8. *Output (o_pendu, "Disp Output", DISP,
For instance, a revolute joint Here we assign coordinates to the points, and mass and moments of
is defined using the inertia to the link
statement *RevJoint(…) 9. *setsystem (MODEL)
10. *setpoint (p_pendu_pivot, 0, 5, 5)
where the items in brackets 11. *setpoint (p_pendu_cm, 0, 10, 10)
should be replaced with the 12. *setbody ( b_link, 1, 1000, 1000, 1000, 0, 0, 0)
relevant values, as shown in With this, we have finished defining our model
the annotated file displayed 13. *EndMDL ()

MDL files can be encrypted, to protect their contents.
MBD Simulation with HyperWorks CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

In the MDL syntax, the name is used by other MDL statements, while the
label is used in the interactive-editor. For example, in the annotated MDL
file, the name of the point defined on line 3 (p_pendu_cm) is used in the
link definition on line 4. In MotionView, you would see it referred to by its
label (that is, as Pendulum CM).

You will see that there are two types of statements for each entity. The first
names it, the second assigns data to it. The definition statement must
always precede the assignation statement, of course. It is customary, but
not essential, to group all definition statements followed by all assignment
statements. It is also customary, but not essential, that names follow a
pattern. This makes it easier to read an MDL file, as you will have to from
time to time. In the annotated example, the first letter of the variable name
indicates its type – p for points, b for bodies, and so on.

Note that the “ball” of the pendulum is not modeled as a link at all from a
kinematic point of view. To make the graphic display realistic, however,
graphic primitives are assigned to the link. In general, graphics can be
assigned either from predefined primitives (such as the cylinder and sphere
used in the example) or by importing graphics from files. The latter is
common for complex geometry, and ways to do this are covered in the
accompanying projects.

Since MotionView is an interactive graphics editor, and since model

construction may well take more than one session, it is often useful to save
the definition of the “desktop” – the windows, their contents, the last view
of the model, and so on. These items are relevant only to the interactive
graphics environment. They are of no use to the construction of hierarchical
systems (systems that are built using other systems).

So MotionView uses a different structure, the Session File format, to save

this data. Session files usually have the suffix mvw, and contain the
complete MDL definition of the model in addition to the state of the desktop.
The MDL statements can be saved either in the MVW file or as a separate
MDL file that is referenced by the MVW file.

Summary of Modeling Entities

MotionView and MotionSolve together provide several building blocks, some
of which are more than the “basic” blocks we discussed in the earlier
chapter. Some of these are essential for the modeling of higher pairs. For

CAE and Multi Body Dynamics MBD Simulation with HyperWorks

example, you need point-to-surface or point-to-curve constraints30 to model

a cam and its follower.

A complete list of the entities and their properties is contained in the online
documentation. The table below summarizes some of the more commonly
used entities.

Entity Data Required# Notes

Point Coordinates Usually used to define nodes
Body Mass, Moments of Inertia Local Coordinate Systems can be
defined if the moment of inertia’s
origin is not the same as the center-
Spring Stiffness, Damping, Preload, Springs can be either helical or
Free length / angle torsional
Revolute Joint Names of the two bodies Leaves only 1 free dof – rotation
connected by the joint, and about the axis
the axis of revolution
Translational Joint Names of the two bodies Leaves only 1 dof free – translation
connected by the joint, and along the axis
the axis of sliding
Ball Joint Names of the two bodies Leaves 3 dofs free – rotations about
connected by the joint, and the 3 axes
the center of rotation
Marker Body it is connected to, A marker is a Local Coordinate
origin and orientation System, but is treated as a distinct
entity. You can attach a marker to a
point on a link, and request output
for that marker!
System Points of attachment, These are roughly similar to
orientation and initial subroutines in a programming
conditions. language. A system can be saved in
a separate MDL file

# - All entities require a name and label

Several more entities – joints, bodies, forces, etc. – are supported. See the
online documentation for details.

Solution and Results

MotionSolve can solve several different classes of problems. The most
general class consists of problems in dynamic analysis, where the system
can have more than one uncontrolled dof.

These are called PTSF and PTCV constraints, respectively.
MBD Simulation with HyperWorks CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

Static analysis is most often used to compute the equilibrium configuration

of a mechanism. Kinematic analysis, used for systems that have no
uncontrolled dofs, is typically used early in the design cycle, at the concept
stage. Quasi-static analysis is applicable when the forces change with time,
but do so slowly. This means inertial forces can be ignored, and the static-
equilibrium equations can be solved at each instant of time. Stability analysis
is a good example of its usage.

MotionSolve does not read MDL or MVW files. Instead, MotionView creates
an XML file that is used as input by MotionSolve. Several different output
files can be generated. The important ones are:

• Log files (<filename>.log) contain the history of the solution. It’s a

good practice to review the log files after every analysis, checking
for errors or warnings.

• Altair binary files (<filename>.abf) are used to generated

animations in MotionView

• HyperView 3D Player files (<filename>.h3d) can be viewed without

HyperWorks, using the free player

• Plot files (<filename>.h3d) are used to generate graphs with


Remember that MotionSolve has to solve non-linear equations, and has to

numerically integrate the differential equations of motion. The numerical
solution of the non-linear equations is iterative. That is, the solver first
guesses at a set of values and checks whether these form the solution at
that instant of time or not. If there’s an error, the software corrects the
guess and repeats the cycle until the error is within an acceptable tolerance.
Once this happens, the software concludes that the iteration has converged,
and moves onto the next time step. If the error does not fall within the
specified tolerance within a specified set of iterations, the software
concludes that the solution has diverged (i.e. not converged) and gives up
the hunt for the answer.

MotionSolve’s default settings for the numerical algorithms are usually

adequate, but in advanced situations, you will need to choose between the
Maximum Kinetic Energy Attrition method and the Force Imbalance method,
between the Adams-Bashforth-Adams-Moulton and VSTIFF / MSTIFF
integrators, the integration-time-step size, the iteration tolerance etc.
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics MBD Simulation with HyperWorks

Familiarity with the mathematics is, of course, essential for proper choice of
these settings. The online documentation and the references listed at the
end of this book are a good place to cover these topics.

One warning, however, is that the default settings work well for a wide
range of physically realistic problems. That is, for problems where the
properties of various entities in the system are realistic. Entering
meaningless values, or neglecting to check for consistency in units are the
first things to check for if MotionSolve fails to converge.

Integration with HyperWorks

MotionView and MotionSolve are quite closely integrated with the other
HyperWorks applications. For instance, it is possible to use MotionView,
together with HyperForm, to construct extremely realistic and useful
simulations of stamping transfer presses.

Such examples of integration are presented at technical conferences the

world over. Several samples can be found on the website listed at the end of
this book.

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make
Mahatma Gandhi

Advanced Topics CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

Advanced Topics
Modeling physical systems can be extremely satisfying, but it is quite a
challenging task. As Tom Clancy put it31, “The difference between fiction and
reality? Fiction has to make sense.”

All simulation models are, of course, fiction. Their proximity to reality is

limited by several things: the assumptions inherent in the model that
generates the equations to be solved, the algorithms used to solve the
equations, the precision of the computer if numerical methods are used, and
so on.

Since MBD models involve a high level of abstraction, several complications

can be swept under the carpet. That is, the errors introduced by the
abstraction can be compensated for by tuning the model, as outlined earlier.
However there are some situations in which more detail has to be included,
for the simulation to be realistic and useful. Some of these are discussed
briefly in the pages that follow.

When asked “Is light a particle or a wave?”, Einstein is supposed to have
answered, wholly seriously, “Yes”. Wondering whether a body is rigid or
flexible is a similar question, and deserves the same answer.

The sheer complexity of including the effects of the elasticity of links has led
to the widely used assumption of rigid links but that is not always accurate

Compliant Joints
The pin-joint in a link can be a major source of error, as any designer who
has analyzed tolerance stackup can attest. As we have seen, designers
usually try to reduce the number of links in a chain. In some applications
such as the “scissor linkage” or in several open loop mechanisms, however,
the number of links is deliberately large. In cases like these, or in case
where precision is extremely important, including the compliance of a joint
in the model can make a significant difference.

In a similar vein, Mark Twain observed that “It's no wonder that truth is stranger
than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.”
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Advanced Topics

High Speed Mechanisms

At high speeds, the effects of inertial forces are large enough that the
deformation of the links may be significant. Neglecting these may well lead
to failure of the mechanism: it may jam, vibrate too much, generate too
much noise, and so on.

Compliant Links
An interest in high precision makes it preferable that the deflection of the
links because of elastic deformation be included in the model. In
mechanisms that involve bodies of different materials, some materials may
be much less stiff than others – which means the stiffer ones can be
considered rigid, while the more flexible ones should, preferably, be


Finite Element Analysis is widely used to calculate stresses and deformations
due to elastic effects, and it is only natural that an interface between FEA
and MBD is the preferred way to include the effect of link-compliance in MD

One challenge, of course, is that the very approaches of FEM and MBD are
different. One uses a distributed model while the other uses a lumped
model. The first results in partial differential equations while the latter yields
ordinary differential equations.

But there is one approach, used even in “pure” FEA to reduce the size of the
problem, that allows us to elegantly mix the two methods. Called
Component Mode Synthesis (CMS), it involves representing a set of
elements as a black-box. That is, the set of elements is reduced to a matrix,
the size of which is defined by the number of modes that are employed in
the abstraction. A complete discussion of the theory of the method is
beyond the scope of this book. An excellent description that is both
complete and very comprehensible can be found in Structural Dynamics, by

The Craig-Bampton and Craig-Chang methods, the most widely used CMS
methods, both bear his name.
Advanced Topics CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

The very nature of MBD means that in many cases bodies move through
large distances during the periods of interest. The movement may cause
contact to occur between different bodies, or between different surfaces of
the same body. In turn, the contacts give rise to forces.

Examples of contact abound, of course. Electric switches, for instance, are

designed to make and break contact. The duration of contact is a critical
parameter, particularly for high-voltage equipment.

The problem, then, is for the simulation tool to figure out whether contact
has been made or contact has been broken. This necessarily complicates the
MBD modeling approach, since such a calculation is based on a knowledge
of where one body ends and another begins. In other words, the definitions
of the surfaces that make up the outer volumes of the bodies are essential.
This is quite a departure from the approach we have seen so far, where the
surface definitions of the body are dispensable for the calculations. In the
absence of contact, the inclusion of the surfaces is mainly to aid

If contact has to be included in the analysis, however, the boundary

surfaces are no longer optional. They are an essential part of the problem

One common mistake is to use contact where a constraint would suffice. If

you are sure that two links are always going to be in contact, then it is more
efficient to use a constraint such as a point-to-curve or a point-to-surface
constraint. It is when you are unsure of whether the bodies will be in
contact with each other or not that a full modeling of contact becomes

The coefficient of restitution (COR) is an important property in any collision.

And since the establishment of contact is a collision, the COR must be
specified whenever contact is used.

There’s another bit of data that makes a larger difference to the solution
than the COR. And unfortunately, is even harder to characterize. This is the
coefficient of friction.

CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Advanced Topics

Slip and No-Slip

When one object rolls against another, it is important to establish whether
slip is involved or the motion is pure rolling. For involute gears, for instance,
slip is involved at all points of contact except at the pitch point. If slip is
involved, the coefficient of friction is different than if the motion is pure

Friction: Static, Dynamic and Stiction

The “Laws” of solid friction are probably better referred to as “Theories” of
solid friction. The study of the mechanics of friction dates back at least to
Leonardo da Vinci’s times, but the accepted “Law” of friction is not as useful
as we would like it to be. David Kessler put it quite clearly when he wrote33

“It is one of the dirty little secrets of physics that while we

physicists can tell you a lot about quarks, quasars and other
exotica, there is still no universally accepted explanation of the
basic laws of friction."

Coulomb’s Law of friction is simple, and widely used. In this, friction is of

two types: static and dynamic. Static Friction occurs when there is no
relative motion between the surfaces in contact with each other, while
Dynamic Friction applies if there is relative motion. What of the transition
zone between static and dynamic friction? This is sometimes referred to as
Stiction, probably derived from “sticky friction”, which is seen when a body
is just beginning to move: it is also sometimes called the Limiting Friction.

In any case, we calculate the frictional force using the formula

F = µ • RN
where µ is the coefficient of friction, and RN is the normal reaction at the
point or surface of contact.

In the journal Nature (413, 285-288, 20 September 2001)
Advanced Topics CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

The approach used by MotionSolve to model friction is shown in the figure,

where µs is the static coefficient of friction, µd is the dynamic coefficient of
friction, vs is the stiction transition velocity, and vd is the friction transition

Control Systems
In 196os, several spacecraft, the Ranger series, were
dispatched to explore the surface of the moon. The craft
were supposed to rough-land on the moon, so needed some
way to stabilize and control their descent from second-stage
ejection till the lunar landing. Signals from Earth were used to
control the system, but one of the problems34 in particular is
relevant to our discussion.

The craft was designed with a gyro as the control system.

Given the gyro’s time constant and inertia, the designer’s
problem is to estimate the gain so that the response of the
Ranger to a step input (sent from earth) would overshoot by
less than 5%.

For more down to earth (literally!) applications, consider the “automated

manual transmission” systems used in high-performance cars. This is of a
manual transmission, but without a clutch pedal. When the driver shifts
gears, a control system manages the clutch – the actuation force is usually
provided using either electronic or hydraulic actuators. This approach
reduces the time it takes to change gears.

Problems such as these make it essential for us to include control systems in

the MBD model. Including the control system and supplying input to the
system is more realistic than omitting it from the model and applying the
motion or forces directly to the mechanical component.

For an effective use of control systems, a quick revision of two essential

concepts in Control Theory is in order.

Described here in simplified terms
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Advanced Topics

State Space Models

If the behavior of a system is represented by an nth order differential
equation, the State Space approach involves reducing this to a set of n
coupled first order differential equations. The forms are entirely equivalent,
but the latter is better suited for computer simulation.

For instance, the equilibrium equation for a damped spring-mass system is

m&x& + cx& + kx = f (t )

which is a second order differential equation.

The state-space model for this is the equations

x& = v
( m)x − (b m)v
v& = f (t ) − k

Here, x and v are the state variables, and the set of equations involves only
first derivatives of the state variables. (The second equation is obtained from
the equilibrium equation by simple substitution for x& and &x& , followed by
rearrangement of terms to leave only v& on the left hand side).

Typical calculations performed using the state variables include evaluating

the response to specified inputs, and calculation of the transfer-function. It
is particularly convenient when the system has multiple inputs and multiple
outputs – a MIMO control system.

The state-space model, when written in a standard (or canonical) matrix

form, uses 4 matrices named A, B, C and D. This nomenclature is used by
MotionSolve for the definition of MIMO systems.

Laplace Transforms
The Laplace transform of a function is defined by the equation

Y ( s ) = L( y (t )) = ∫ y (τ )e − sτ dτ

Advanced Topics CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

Transfer functions are often represented using Laplace transforms, which

have several advantages including the fact that they are distributive, which

L[r (t ) + s (t )] = L[r (t )] + L( s (t )}

Laplace transforms are particularly useful for control systems since

differentiation of a signal is equivalent to multiplication of its Laplace
transform by s, while its integration is equivalent to multiplying its transform
by s.

Block Diagrams
The Laplace transform of the transfer functions of the various elements of a
control-loop are usually represented by a block diagram, such as that shown

Block diagrams are commonly used for modeling process-plants and

electrical-systems. They are less common in modeling of mechanical

With MotionView and MotionSolve, you can include control systems in your
model, though not as a block diagram. Look up the online documentation for
MotionSolve for details on how to build MBD models that include Single-
Input-Single-Output (SISO) and Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO)
systems using the Laplace transform and state-space representations.

Cams, Gears and other Higher Pairs

There are only 6 lower pairs, but any number of higher pairs can be
constructed. Several higher pairs are fairly esoteric, which means their
applications are restricted to specific domains. Modeling elements for tires,
for instance, are called for almost exclusively by vehicle-dynamics designers.

Some higher pairs can be constructed using simpler modeling elements, if

the modeling tool supports programmatic control. For instance, a one-way
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Advanced Topics

clutch can be modeled using a bush together with an “if” statement to

change properties based on the direction of rotation35.

Two higher-pairs that are extremely common are cams and gears.

A cam rotates about an axis and pushes a follower. The cam usually rotates
at a uniform speed, and the profile of the cam is chosen so as to deliver the
required motion to the follower. There are various classifications of both
cams and followers, most of which reflect the topology or shape of the
respective elements36. The follower is usually spring loaded to ensure that it
stays in contact with the cam all through the rotation cycle.

Design interest centers principally around two things:

1. the profile the cam should have to achieve a required motion – the rise,
dwell and return

2. the velocities and accelerations of the follower, and the resulting forces
on the various components in the assembly

The first is usually the more interesting problem, but the second is no less
challenging. Sometimes the cam profile is determined to match a specified
follower-motion, but such cams can be expensive to manufacture. Often a
predetermined cam profile is chosen and the follower of the motion is to be
determined so that the design of the rest of the assembly can be tailored
accordingly. In 4-stroke IC engines, for instance, designers need to
determine the forces on the tappet.
Positive Return Cam,
from the KMODDL
The joint between the cam and its follower is maintained by contact. General
contact can be used, but this approach is subject to the difficulties discussed
above, in the section on Contact. It is usually more computationally efficient
to use point-to-curve (PTCV) or point-to-surface (PTSF) constraints. This
approach does sacrifice some of the generality offered by a full-fledged
contact model. For instance, the PTCV constraint does not allow for contact
to be broken. But at the concept design stage, the analysis is usually a
kinematic analysis, since the goal is to derive the required profile of the cam.
Once this is done constraints like the PTCV can be used to verify that there

MotionView provides support both for bushes and for programmatic control. See
the companion volume Managing the CAE Process – Basics.
Details can be found in any undergraduate-text on Machine Design.
Advanced Topics CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

has been no loss of contact. If there is indeed loss of contact, full fledged
contact modeling is essential.

Contact between the cam and follower can break if the spring-load is not
enough to compensate for the inertial forces (that is, forces due to the
accelerations the bodies experience). In engine-design this commonly called
valve float, because cams are mainly used in the engine to control the valve-
timing of four-stroke engines. The term lift-off is also used in several

There are two distinct problems posed by gears, which serve to transmit
torque between different axes of rotation.

The transmission of torque is by positive engagement of the teeth.

Accordingly, the tooth itself needs to be designed for strength. The design of
gear teeth is a subject that is normally not covered by MBD simulation. MBD
analysis can help calculate the tooth-loads, and these loads can then be
used as input for a stress analysis program – usually using Finite Element

The other main class of problems deals with the design of the gear train
itself. Gear trains range from the aptly named simple gear trains to the
amazingly complex epicyclic gear trains. In these cases, analyzing the
motion of the output shaft and calculating the ratio of input and output
torques are the main areas of interest. An excellent range of models and
animations at the KMODDL shows how complex the motion of gear trains
can be. The images of a 4-bar mechanism with two gears, taken from an
animation at the KMODDL, illustrate how complex the motion can be.

Designers of planetary gear trains need to calculate the loads on each gear.
Several gearboxes allow for multiple inversions of the gear train – that is,
different gears are held “fixed” to generate different motion. MBD models go
a long way towards eliminating the tedium and error in this demanding task.

MBD models also make it easier to estimate the efficiency of the gear train.
A detailed discussion of this aspect is beyond the scope of this book37.

See, for instance, Gear Handbook: The Design, Manufacture, and Application of
Gears by Dudley, D
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Advanced Topics

Epicyclic gears are over 300 years old, and are widely used today in a
variety of applications, ranging from almost all propeller and turbine driven
aircraft to lawn-mowers. While they are more challenging to design, the
present a host of advantages, principally a lower weight and volume.

Calculating the efficiency of the gear train is an important but tedious task
even for gears whose axes of rotation are fixed, like the worm-driven helical-
rack-and-pinion shown alongside38.

Gear models in MBD are relatively easy to build.

Revolute joints define the axes of rotation of the
shafts, while the gear joint represents the constraint
between the two revolute joints.

If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough
Mario Andretti

This image too, is from a model at the KMODDL.
Glossary and References CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

Glossary And References

Applied Kinematics, Kurt Hain

Modern Control Engineering, Katsuhiko Ogata

Mechanism Design: Analysis and Synthesis, Volume 1, A.G.Sandor,


Advanced Mechanism Design: Analysis and Synthesis, Volume 2,

A.G.Sandor, G.N.Erdman

Design of Machinery, An Introduction to the Synthesis and Analysis

of Machines and Mechanisms , Robert L. Norton

Handbook of Numerical Applications, Jaroslav Pachner

Other Resources, which is periodically updated, contains case
studies of actual usage. It also carries tips on software usage.

The Kinematic Models for Design - Digital Library

( is an excellent resource both for a
historical coverage of mechanisms, animations of models and for several e-
books, including da Vinci’s Codex Madrid I and Hartenburg’s Kinematic
Synthesis of Linkages.

Types of Analyses
The table below39, is a convenient way to summarize the types of analyses,
the data required for each, the principles involved in finding the solutions,
and the types of results that can be calculated.

Statics Kinetostatics Dynamics

From Advanced Mechanism Design, Erdman and Sandor
CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Glossary and References
Weight of links
Masses / may be required
Required Required
Inertias but the inertia is
Specified in
terms of
Information Specified at
Loading Specified position,
and each position
velocity, and /
or time
Positions velocity and
Motion Unknown
specified acceleration
Force required to Force required velocity and
balance load, to sustain acceleration of
mechanical assumed each member
Output Information
advantage at motion, as a function
each position, reactions in of time – that
reactions in joints joints is, the actual
Statics, Linear principle,
Required analytical tools equations of
Algebra statics, linear

Formulae for the Moments of Inertia

In these days of 3D CAD, we often pay little attention to the geometric and
mass properties of the bodies we’re working with. Most CAD packages can
quickly and accurately give you these properties even for complicated

However this reliance on CAD calculations often leads to mistakes which can
critically affect the analysis. The most common mistake is to forget that the
Moments of Inertia are strongly orientation dependent. A moment’s
reflection will remind you that this is only to be expected, since Mass
Moments of Inertia are related to angular acceleration by40

T = Iα

Similar to F = ma for linear acceleration. Look up Euler’s Equations of Motion for a
more complete treatment of the variables involved.
Glossary and References CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

where T is the torque, I is the moment of inertia and α is the angular

acceleration. Which Moment of Inertia should be chosen depends on the
axis of rotation.

The equations for the mass Moments of Inertia are

I xx = ∫∫∫ ( y 2 + z 2 )dm
I yy = ∫∫∫ ( x 2 + z 2 )dm
I zz = ∫∫∫ ( y 2 + x 2 )dm
I xy = ∫∫∫ z 2 dm
I xz = ∫∫∫ y 2 dm
I yz = ∫∫∫ x 2 dm

Ixx = Izx + Ixy, Iyy = Iyz + Ixy, Izz = Iyz + Izx

The radius of gyration is given by

rx =

When you build a model, it’s useful to run a first analysis with approximate
bodies – cylinders, boxes, etc. – both to reduce computation time and to
verify that the range that the properties lie in is acceptable to the Solver’s
default settings.

The Moments of Inertia of some “primitives” are listed below. All the values
are about the center of gravity. Refer to any text on Statics for details – see,
for example, Theoretical Mechanics by P.F.Smith and W.R.Longley. Note that
the units are mass*length2. In SI units, therefore, the mass moment of
inertia would be in kg-m2.

Mass moments of inertia should not be confused with the area moments of
inertia, used for example in the formulae for beam bending. The area
moment of inertia uses a different formula, and has the units m4.

CAE and Multi Body Dynamics Glossary and References
Cylinder with open ends
The z axis is along the axis of the cylinder. The x and y axes are any

Iz = m(r1 + r2 )
2 2

I x = I y = m(3r1 + 3r2 + h 2 )
2 2


where m is the mass, r1 is the inner diameter, r2 is the outer diameter, and h
is the height.

Solid Sphere
2mr 2

where m is the mass and r is the radius.

Ih = m( w 2 + d 2 )
I d = m( w 2 + h 2 )
I w = m( h 2 + d 2 )

where m is the mass, and h, d and w are the dimensions along the 3
principal directions. The origin of the 3 axes is at the center of mass of the

Common Coefficients of Friction

Friction coefficients are extremely sensitive to the presence / absence of
lubrication, as well as to other factors like the pressure between the
surfaces, surface finish, etc. The values in this table should be treated with
corresponding care. Several websites provide similar information (see, for
which are useful for preliminary design. For further analyses, nothing beats
lab tests.
Glossary and References CAE and Multi Body Dynamics

Coefficient Of Friction
Material 1 Material 2 Dry Greasy
Static Sliding St at ic Sliding
Aluminum Aluminum 1.05- 1.4 0.3
Aluminum Mild Steel 0.61 0.47
Brake Material Cast Iron 0.4
Brake Material Cast Iron (Wet) 0.2
Bronze Cast Iron 0.22
Bronze Steel 0.16
Cadmium Cadmium 0.5 0.05
Cadmium Mild Steel 0.46
Cast Iron Cast Iron 1.1 0.15 0.07
Chromium Chromium 0.41 0.34
Copper Cast Iron 1.05 0.29
Copper Copper 1.0 0.08
Copper Mild Steel 0.53 0.36 0.18
Copper Steel 0.8
Copper Steel (304 stainless) 0.23 0.21
Copper-Lead Alloy Steel 0.22 -
Glass Glass 0.9 - 1.0 0.4 0.1 - 0.09-
Glass Metal 0.5 - 0.7 0.2 -
Glass Nickel 0.78 0.56
Graphite Steel 0.1 0.1
Plexiglas Plexiglas 0.8 0.8
Plexiglas Steel 0.4 - 0.5 0.4 -
Polystyrene Polystyrene 0.5 0.5
Steel Brass 0.35 0.19
Steel Cast Iron 0.4 0.21
Steel Phos Bros 0.35
Steel(Hard) Polystyrene 0.3-0.35 0.3-
Steel (Mild) Steel (Mild) 0.74 0.57 0.09-
Steel(Hard) Steel (Hard) 0.78 0.42 0.05 - 0.029-
Teflon Steel 0.04 0.04 0.04
Teflon Teflon 0.04 0.04 0.04