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Finite Element Analysis

of
Nonlinear Problems

M.E.D., NIT Calicut
Ref.: Zienkiewicz, O. C., The Finite Element Method, Tata
McGraw Hill Edition.

Department of Mechanical Engineering, National Institute of Technology Calicut

Introduction
The vast majority of the problems we face in engineering are
nonlinear.
The basic characteristic of the non-linear problem is that
Super-position theorem is not valid. For example the
displacement at a point in a body under the action 100 N force
is 5 mm, does not guarantee that displacement at the same
point will be 10 mm, under the action 200 N, if the forcedeformation relation is non-linear.
However, many of the problems can be approximated to be
linear, since the errors, introduced by assuming linearity, are
insignificant in these cases.
When this cannot be done, we have to perform a non-linear
analysis, which will be computationally much more costly (as
explained in the subsequent slides).

Lecture - 01

Nonlinearity in Heat Transfer

Consider the governing differential equation of steady-state
heat conduction in 2D:

k k Q 0
x x
y y
How can this equation become nonlinear?
A case of non-linearity occurs, when the conductivity is a
function of temperature.
Another possibility is that the heat generation is a non-linear
function of temperature.
Also, there could be nonlinearities introduced due to
boundary conditions for example, in a case where the value
of coefficient of convection depends on temperature.
More complicated nonlinear problems can arise due to the
coupling of different fields; say, temperature & displacement.
Lecture - 01

Nonlinearity in Solid Mechanics

If a similar analysis is performed on solid mechanics
problems, we can arrive at the various cases of nonlinearity.
A common type of non-linearity is called the Geometric Nonlinearity (This happens when the displacements cannot be
assumed to be small):
Nonlinear strain-displacement relations.
Material nonlinearity indicates a non-linear stress-strain
relation. Examples include the nonlinear elasticity, creep,
plasticity etc.
Similar to the heat transfer case, nonlinearities could be
introduced due to boundary conditions. A standard case is the
analysis of contact problems, where the loading depends on
the deformation.
Lecture - 01

Department of Mechanical Engineering, National Institute of Technology Calicut

Nonlinear FEA
A general characteristic of the nonlinear analysis is that we
will not be able to solve it in a single step. We will have to
resort to an iterative procedure.
Let us consider the algebraic system obtained by the FE
formulation of a nonlinear problem:

K f
Any non-linearity will have to manifest itself as:
1. A stiffness matrix dependent on the solution vector.
2. A right-side vector dependent on the solution vector.
How to solve such an algebraic system of equations?

Lecture - 01

Nonlinear FEA contd.

A commonly adopted procedure for solving such problems is
to assume an initial solution vector, which is used to evaluate
the stiffness matrix and the right-side vector.
Using this a better approximation for the solution vector is
obtained and this new solution vector is used to evaluate the
stiffness matrix and force vector.
This iterative procedure is repeated, till we have the change in
solution vector the convergence criterion.
Such a procedure can be adopted in problems like non-linear
heat transfer, for example, in case where conductivity depends
on temperature (the final steady state value).
A slightly different procedure is adopted in problems like nonlinear elasticity.

Lecture - 01

Department of Mechanical Engineering, National Institute of Technology Calicut

Newton-Raphson Method
One commonly adopted method is the N-R method (as shown
in figure below):

[K]1

[K]2

[K]3

{f}
[K]0

Error (within
the tolerance)

{u}
Some improvements over this basic procedure like Modified
N-R method also is commonly used.
Lecture - 01