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Spatial discretisation by finite elements.

Stiffness Matrices. Spring Element. Bar Element.

The stiffness matrix contains geometric & material data it

represents resistance of element to deformation
A linear spring can be regarded as the fundamental/simplest element
The bar element is the next most basic
We will use these 2 elements to investigate interpolation functions

Interpolation functions describe the variation of the field variable

(displacement) across/ within the element and along element
The Linear Spring as an Element
From which we get the required field variable i.e. displacements

Note that the stiffness matrix is a 2x2 matrix corresponding to


The inverse of the matrix in this case does not exist i.e. matrix is
singular- physically this means that there are no constraints

Global Stiffness Matrix for an System of Springs

Example 2
Reduced matrix


Reaction force

General solution procedure

The Bar Element

Used to model 2D & 3D trusses and frames


Axial displacement varies linearly with respect to x i.e. u(x)

Let us assume interpolation/ shape functions N1(x) and N2(x) such

How do we determine the shape functions?

First we enforce in the above

i.e. Basically we make u(x=0) = u1 by forcing N1

to be 1 at x=0 and by forcing N2 to be 0 at

These are nodal conditions*

Now we need to come up with the equation/ expression for the
shape functions. These are normally polynomials. Since we have 2
reference points (i.e. 2 end nodes) we can assume a linear
relationships of the form......

By substituting in the nodal conditions* we get the constants:


And becomes

Or in matrix form...
Going back to the bar and assuming material and geometric properties
E, A, L we have the following relationships: