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INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL FOR NUMERICAL METHODS IN BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING

Int. J. Numer. Meth. Biomed. Engng. 2010; 26:587596


Published online 22 July 2008 in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI: 10.1002/cnm.1152
COMMUNICATIONS IN NUMERICAL METHODS IN ENGINEERING
Exact solution of vibration problems of frame structures
Haitao Ma
,
State Key Laboratory of Subtropical Building Science, Department of Civil Engineering, South China
University of Technology, Guangzhou 510641, China
SUMMARY
Although exact solutions for linear static analysis of most frame structures can be obtained by the nite
element method, it is very difcult to get exact solutions for free vibration and harmonic analyses for non-
trivial cases. This paper extends an earlier study on exact solutions of axial vibration problems of elastic
bars to dynamic analyses of elastic frame structures. New shape functions for the transverse displacement
eld are constructed by using the homogeneous governing equations and then a novel beam element is
formulated. Combining the new (bending) beam element and the one developed earlier for elastic bars
yields a new element for general frame structures. The new frame element can be used to get exact
solutions for both natural frequency and undamped harmonic analyses of frame structures. Illustrative
examples are presented to demonstrate the effectiveness of the new element and the algorithm. Copyright
q 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Received 26 January 2008; Revised 1 May 2008; Accepted 27 May 2008
KEY WORDS: finite element method; structural dynamics; exact solution; natural frequency; harmonic
response
1. INTRODUCTION
It is well known that, even with a coarse mesh, exact solutions for linear static analysis of frame
structures can be obtained by the nite element method. Theoretical proofs have been made for
both problem with single variable [1] and that with multiple variables [2]. Elements that can be used
to produce exact solutions for linear static analysis have also been developed based on different
formulations; see, for example, [25]. For dynamic analysis, on the other hand, performance of
these elements is not as good as desired. Quite often, meshes good for linear static solution are
too coarse and require substantial renement to model structural dynamic behaviours, and usually
further renement is required to get accurate results for high-order modes.
Various algorithms have been proposed for dynamic analysis of frame structures, including those
based on continuous mass method of Ovunc [6], the integral method of Antes and co-workers [7],
and the solution of transcendental eigenvalue problem of Williams and co-workers [811].
Recently, this author presented a new approach for developing elements for dynamic analysis
[12]. By constructing shape functions based on solutions to the homogeneous governing equations
of the motion, he developed a new element for axial vibration of elastic bars, which can give
exact solutions when employed together with the proposed algorithms for natural frequency and
harmonic response analyses. Compared with other algorithms, one of the major advantages of the

Correspondence to: Haitao Ma, State Key Laboratory of Subtropical Building Science, Department of Civil
Engineering, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou 510641, China.

E-mail: maht@scut.edu.cn
Contract/grant sponsor: South China University of Technology
Copyright q 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
588 H. MA
proposed algorithm for natural frequency analysis is that no special numerical method is required,
and as a result it is simple to integrate this algorithm into conventional nite element analysis
programs.
In this paper, the study reported in [12] is extended to the analysis of bending beam and a new
element for frame structures is formulated by including the axial, torsional and transverse bending
components. We start by summarizing the governing equation for transverse vibration of thin
elastic beams. Based on general solutions to the homogeneous governing equation, new element
shape functions are constructed for a predened vibration frequency. Then element stiffness matrix,
mass matrix and dynamic stiffness matrix are formulated. Combining the new formulation with
the one for axial vibration in [12], the new element for frame structures is derived. Illustrative
examples are presented to show the effectiveness of the new element and algorithms from [12].
Finally, concluding remarks are made.
2. ELEMENT FORMULATION
2.1. Governing equation
The motion of transverse vibration of an elastic beam can be described by the following equation
(see, e.g. [13]):
*
2
*x
2
_
E(x)I (x)
*
2
W(x, t )
*x
2
_
+(x)A(x)
*
2
W(x, t )
*t
2
=Q(x, t ) (1)
where x is the coordinate of an arbitrary point, t is the time, E(x) and (x) are material modulus
and mass density, respectively, I (x) is the second moment of inertia, A(x) is the area of cross
section, W(x, t ) is the transverse displacement and Q(x, t ) is the distributed force in the transverse
direction (Figure 1).
Considering a uniform bar and denoting
E(x) E =Constant
I (x) I =Constant
A(x) A=Constant
(x) =Constant
we may write Equation (1) as follows:
EI
*
4
W(x, t )
*x
4
+A
*
2
W(x, t )
*t
2
=Q(x, t ) (2)
Limiting the loading to be harmonic and letting
Q(x, t )=q(x)cos(t +) (3)
where is the loading frequency, is the phase angle, and q(x) is the magnitude of the distributed
load, the displacement can be expressed assumed to be in the following form:
W(x, t )=w(x)cos(t +) (4)
Figure 1. Transverse vibration of a beam.
Copyright q 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Biomed. Engng. 2010; 26:587596
DOI: 10.1002/cnm
EXACT SOLUTION OF VIBRATION PROBLEMS OF FRAME STRUCTURES 589
Substituting Equations (3) and (4) into Equation (2) yields the following governing equation for
the steady-state harmonic response:
EI
d
4
w(x)
dx
4
A
2
w(x)=q(x) (5)
Note that both the variables q(x) and w(x) are now functions of coordinate only, and the equation
is time-independent except for the presence of frequency .
2.2. General solutions to the homogeneous governing equation
For undamped free vibration, Equation (5) can be written as
d
4
w(x)
dx
4

4
w(x)=0 (6)
where is a parameter dened as
=
4
_

2
A
EI
(7)
The general solutions to Equation (6) can be expressed as
w(x) = ax
3
+bx
2
+cx
2
+d, =0
w(x) = a sinx +bcosx +csinhx +d coshx, >0
(8)
where a, b, c and d are arbitrary constants. When =0 (i.e. static case or dynamic case with
massless beam), the general solution is a cubic function of the coordinate; otherwise, it is a
combination of harmonic and hyperbolic functions of the coordinate.
2.3. Shape functions satisfying homogeneous governing equation
The cubic shape functions for conventional thin-beam element satisfy the governing equation for
static analysis when =0 and should be kept. Therefore, is assumed to be greater than zero
in the following discussion. We choose to describe the displacement within an element using
the expression for the general solutions given in Equation (8b). Let the transverse deection be
expressed as
w=

i =1,2
(N
0i
(x)w
i
+N
1i
(x)
i
)
where i (i =1, 2) denotes element node, w
i
and
i
nodal deection and rotation, respectively, and
N
0i
and N
1i
are shape functions for nodal deection and rotation, respectively.
Introducing the shape function matrix N as
N=[N
01
(x) N
11
(x) N
02
(x) N
12
(x)] (9)
and the nodal displacement vector d as
d=

w
1

1
w
2

(10)
the transverse deection eld can be expressed as
w=Nd (11)
Copyright q 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Biomed. Engng. 2010; 26:587596
DOI: 10.1002/cnm
590 H. MA
Let the shape functions be a linear combination of the homogeneous solutions
N
T
=CV (12)
where C is a constant coefcient matrix
C=

c
11
c
12
c
13
c
14
c
21
c
22
c
23
c
24
c
31
c
32
c
33
c
34
c
41
c
42
c
43
c
44

(13)
and V is a vector with the four harmonic and hyperbolic functions in the homogeneous solutions
as its components:
V=

V
1
(x)
V
2
(x)
V
3
(x)
V
4
(x)

sinx
cosx
sinhx
coshx

(14)
Using the conditions that the shape functions must satisfy at the two ends and letting the length
of the element be l, we have

N|
x=0
N

|
x=0
N|
x=l
N

|
x=l

1 0 0 0
0 1 0 0
0 0 1 0
0 0 0 1

(15)
Substituting the expression of shape function matrix into the above expression, we can get the
following equation:
CP=I
4
(16)
where I
4
is an identity matrix of order 4 and matrix P is dened as
P=[V|
x=0
V

|
x=0
V|
x=l
V

|
x=l
] =

0 s c
1 0 c s
0 sh ch
1 0 ch sh

(17)
in which
s = sinl
c = cosl
sh = sinhl
ch = coshl
(18)
Thus, C=P
1
and the inversion of matrix P yields
C=
1
a

s ch+csh s sh+cch1 s chcsh s sh+cch1


(s sh+cch1)/ (s ch+csh)/ (s sh+cch1)/ (s chcsh)/
s sh c+ch s +sh cch
(c+ch)/ (s sh)/ (cch)/ (s +sh)

(19)
Copyright q 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Biomed. Engng. 2010; 26:587596
DOI: 10.1002/cnm
EXACT SOLUTION OF VIBRATION PROBLEMS OF FRAME STRUCTURES 591
where
a =2(cch1)=2(cosl coshl 1) (20)
Generally speaking, once values of and l are given, the shape function coefcient matrix C can
be formed and shape functions constructed. However, when the parameter a is exactly or nearly
zero, matrix P is singular or nearly singular and matrix C cannot be accurately calculated. In this
case, the solution can still proceed after the element length (l) is modied by a small fraction.
The curvature at any point within the element can be expressed as
=
d
2
w
dx
2
=N

d=(CV

)
T
d=(V

)
T
C
T
d (21)
where V

are shape function derivatives


V

1
(x)
V

2
(x)
V

3
(x)
V

4
(x)

=
2

sinx
cosx
sinhx
coshx

(22)
2.4. Element stiffness and mass matrices
By following the standard nite element procedure, the element stiffness matrix can now be
expressed as
K
e
=
_
l
0
(N

)
T
EI N

dx =
_
l
0
CV

EI (V

)
T
C
T
dx =(EI )CHC
T
(23)
where H is the following integration:
H=
_
l
0
V

(V

)
T
dx =
_
l
0

1
(x)
V

2
(x)
V

3
(x)
V

4
(x)

{V

1
(x) V

2
(x) V

2
(x) V

4
(x)}dx (24)
Noting that

1
(x)
V

2
(x)
V

2
(x)
V

2
(x)

=
2

V
1
(x)
V
2
(x)
V
3
(x)
V
4
(x)

(25)
matrix H can be expressed as
H=
4

S
11
S
12
S
13
S
14
S
21
S
22
S
23
S
24
S
31
S
32
S
33
S
34
S
41
S
42
S
43
S
44

(26)
in which S
i j
(i, j =1, 4) are entries in matrix S, which is dened as
S=
_
l
0
VV
T
dx (27)
Copyright q 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Biomed. Engng. 2010; 26:587596
DOI: 10.1002/cnm
592 H. MA
Substituting Equation (14) into the above equation and integrating all the elements in the matrix
give the following expression:
S=
1
2

l s c s
2
s chcsh s shcch+1
s
2
l +s c s sh+cch1 s ch+csh
s chcsh s sh+cch1 sh chl sh
2
s shcch+1 s ch+csh sh
2
sh ch+l

(28)
The element mass matrix can be expressed as
M
e
()=
_
l
0
AN
T
Ndx
Substituting the expression of shape functions and then making use of Equation (27), we have
M
e
()=
_
l
0
ACVV
T
C
T
dx =(A)CSC
T
(29)
2.5. Discussions
First let us compare the new shape functions with the conventional shape functions for the conven-
tional 2-node thin-beam element, which can be expressed as

N
01
(x) = 13
_
x
l
_
2
+2
_
x
l
_
3

N
11
(x) = l
_
_
x
l
_
2
_
x
l
_
2
+
_
x
l
_
3
_

N
02
(x) = 3
_
x
l
_
2
2
_
x
l
_
3

N
12
(x) = l
_

_
x
l
_
2
+
_
x
l
_
3
_
(30)
In the extreme case of 0, we have 0. Let =l and when 0, matrix C can be
approximated as
C=
3

4
15

3
6
2+

4
15

_
1

2
6

4
90
_

_
1

2
6

4
90
_

2

2
3
+

2
315
_

_
1

2
6
+

4
90
_

2

_
2
3


4
315
_
2

4
60

_
1+

4
360
_
2+

4
60

_
1+

4
360
_

_
1+

4
360
_

2
3
_
1+

4
8400
_

_
1+

4
360
_

2
3
_
1+

4
840
_

+O(
4
)
(31)
Copyright q 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Biomed. Engng. 2010; 26:587596
DOI: 10.1002/cnm
EXACT SOLUTION OF VIBRATION PROBLEMS OF FRAME STRUCTURES 593
As for vector V, let y =x (0xl) and when 0, we have y 0. In this case, vector V can
be approximated as
V=

sin y
cos y
sinh y
cosh y

y
_
1
y
2
6
+
y
4
120

y
6
5040
_
1
y
2
2
+
y
4
24

y
6
720
y
_
1+
y
2
6
+
y
4
120
+
y
6
5040
_
1+
y
2
2
+
y
4
24
+
y
6
720

+O(y
8
) (32)
Based on Equations (31) and (32), the following expression for shape functions can be derived:
lim
0
N
T
= lim
0
1

3
3y
2
+2y
3
(
3
y 2
2
y
2
+y
3
)/
3y
2
2y
3
(
2
y
2
+y
3
)/

13
_
x
l
_
2
+2
_
x
l
_
3
l
_
x
l
2
_
x
l
_
2
+
_
x
l
_
3
_
3
_
x
l
_
2
2
_
x
l
_
3
l
_

_
x
l
_
2
+
_
x
l
_
3
_

(33)
Thus, it is shown that the new shape functions given in Equation (12) approach the conventional
shape functions given in Equation (30), i.e.
lim
0
N
pi
(x)= lim
0
N
pi
=

N
pi
( p=0, 1, i =1, 2) (34)
indicating that the conventional shape functions are good approximations of the new shape functions
when l 1. It is obvious that the differences between the new and the conventional shape functions
vanish when =0 and become signicant when l increases. In other words, when is a xed
non-zero value, the difference is smaller for shorter elements; and when the element length l is
xed, the difference is smaller for lower frequency (or equivalently smaller value).
Now turn to the element stiffness and mass matrices. As the new shape functions approach the
conventional ones when approaches zero, it can be shown that the element matrices given in
Equations (23) and (29) will also approach those for the conventional beam element.
When the element in under harmonic motion, its contribution to the dynamic equilibrium can
be expressed as
f =K
d
()u (35)
where f is the element node force vector, u is the displacement vector and K
d
() is the dynamic
stiffness matrix dened as
K
d
()=K
e
()
2
M
e
() (36)
which can be derived by substituting expressions for element stiffness and mass matrices into the
above equation.
2.6. New beam element
The governing equation for the torsional vibration of a beam is similar to that for the axial vibration;
therefore, exact stiffness and mass matrices for torsion can be easily formulated as in [12].
With the available formulations for axial, torsional and bending vibration, a new beam element
can be developed by combining deformation in axial, torsional and two transverse directions.
Copyright q 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Biomed. Engng. 2010; 26:587596
DOI: 10.1002/cnm
594 H. MA
Further, the iterative algorithm proposed for natural frequency analysis and that for the harmonic
response analysis can be used together with this new element. The algorithms are described in
detail in [12] and will not be presented here. In the following section, numerical results will be
presented using the new element and the iterative algorithm to calculate natural frequencies of
frame structures.
3. EXAMPLES
3.1. Natural frequency analysis of cantilever beam
Consider the simply supported beam shown in Figure 2. The natural frequencies of transverse
vibration of the beam are [13]

n
=
n
2

2
L
2
_
EI
A
, n =1, 2, 3, . . . (37)
The beam is modelled with two elements of equal length (0.5) and the mesh has four degrees
of freedom (DOFs). Start with initial frequency
0
=0; the rst natural frequency converges to
the exact solution in four iterations. Using the result for
2
at the fourth iteration as the initial
value, the solution proceeds for the second mode shape and converges to the exact solution in four
iterations. The solution history is summarized in Table I.
Using the proposed algorithm, the FEM solutions with two elements are identical to the analytical
solutions with nine signicant digits. In contrast to this, a much more rened mesh is needed
to get a solution of similar accuracy when the conventional element is used. Solutions with
different numbers of conventional elements of equal length are summarized in Table II. It can
be seen that with the mesh consisting of 256 elements of equal length, the results converge to
the exact solutions. Note that with the new algorithm, eigenvalue problem with four DOFs is
solved 8 times and with the conventional beam element, eigenvalue problems with hundreds of
DOFs must be solved to get results of similar accuracy for the rst two modes. As the number
of numerical operations in eigenvalue solution is proportional to the number of DOFS cubed, the
saving in computational cost achieved with the new algorithm is considerable and can be much
more signicant for larger models.
Figure 2. A simply supported beam.
Table I. Solution history for simply supported beam with two elementsnew element.
Iteration
0

1

2
Difference (%) Note
1 0.00000000 9.90855871 43.8178046 Start iteration for
1
2 9.90855871 9.86960686 43.3150902 3.93E01
3 9.86960686 9.86960440 43.3189325 2.49E05
4 9.86960440 9.86960440 43.3189328 0.00E+00
1
converged
5 43.3189328 19.8757435 39.6716615 8.42E+00 Start iteration for
2
6 39.6716615 17.2607382 39.4788647 4.86E01
7 39.4788647 17.1344262 39.4784176 1.13E03
8 39.4784176 17.1338772 39.4784176 0.00E+00
2
converged
Exact 9.86960440 39.4784176
Copyright q 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Biomed. Engng. 2010; 26:587596
DOI: 10.1002/cnm
EXACT SOLUTION OF VIBRATION PROBLEMS OF FRAME STRUCTURES 595
Table II. Solutions with different meshes for simply
supported beamconventional element.
Mode

2
2 9.90855871 43.8178046
4 9.87216716 (3.673E01) 39.6342348 (9.548E+00)
8 9.86976668 (2.432E02) 39.4886687 (3.673E01)
16 9.86961458 (1.541E03) 39.4790667 (2.432E02)
32 9.86960504 (9.666E05) 39.4784583 (1.541E03)
64 9.86960444 (6.079E06) 39.4784202 (9.651E05)
128 9.86960440 (4.053E07) 39.4784178 (6.079E06)
256 9.86960430 (1.013E06) 39.4784176 (5.066E07)

Values in brackets are percentage changes from coarse mesh result.


Figure 3. A plane frame of pin-ended cross: (a) mesh with seven
DOFs and (b) NAFEMS benchmark mesh.
Table III. Frequency analysis results for pin-ended cross.
New algorithm
Frequency (Hz)
Mode Starting value Converged value
Number of
iterations
Target frequency
in [14] (Hz)
1 0.0 11.33626 5 11.336
2 and 3 19.99231 17.68079 5 17.709
4 17.70948 17.70940 2 17.709
5 54.57786 45.34504 5 45.345
6 and 7 59.71113 57.07463 4 57.390
8 57.39541 57.38980 3 57.390
3.2. Natural frequency of in-plane vibration of pin-ended cross
The in-plane vibration frequencies of the frame structure shown in Figure 3 are calculated. The
material Youngs modulus and mass density are
E = 20010
9
Pa
= 8000kg/m
3
This test problem of pin-ended cross is one of NAFEMS benchmarks for natural frequency
analysis [14]. The results are summarized in Table III.
The mesh used for the new algorithm (Figure 3(a)) consists of four elements and has just seven
DOFs. Not more than ve iterations are needed for each mode or pair of modes to get natural
Copyright q 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Biomed. Engng. 2010; 26:587596
DOI: 10.1002/cnm
596 H. MA
frequency results with seven signicant digits. The target value from Reference [14] is for the
mesh with 16 elements and 43 DOFs (Figure 3(b)), each member of the frame being modelled
with four elements of equal length. It should be noted that, using the new algorithm, both element
rotational inertia and transverse shear deformation are ignored.
4. CONCLUSIONS
Based on general solutions to the homogeneous dynamic equilibrium equation for undamped
vibration, new element shape functions are derived for transverse displacement eld and a new
beam element is formulated for undamped vibration analysis of elastic frame structures. This study
illustrates, once again, that the element performance in dynamic analysis can be improved by
including the effect of element inertial force on shape functions. The proposed approach to the exact
solution of vibration problems is also applicable to other types of analyses for the improvement of
nite element performance. For example, this research work has already been extended to linear
buckling analysis of frame structures and related results will be reported in a separate paper.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Financial support under Xinghua Talents Project from South China University of Technology is gratefully
acknowledged.
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Copyright q 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Biomed. Engng. 2010; 26:587596
DOI: 10.1002/cnm