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Moving into the Nonlinear World with FEA by Desktop Engineering

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TechnologyforDesign
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MovingintotheNonlinearWorldwithFEA
Aprimeronthemaintypesofnonlinearity,whenandhowtousethem.

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byTonyAbbey|PublishedNovember1,2012

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Mostengineerstraditionallymigratedfromthelinearfiniteelementanalysis(FEA)worldintothe
nonlinearworldwhenfacedwithstresslevelsabovetheelasticlimitinotherwords,plasticity.These
days,itismorelikelythatcomponentsinanassemblymakecontactwhenloadedorunloaded,and
youneedtomodelthatsituation.Nowyouareoffdownthenonlinearpath!
Ihadacolleaguewhosteadfastlydeclared,Theworldisnonlinear.Hewasquiteright,butwewould
muchpreferwhendoingFEAtokeepthingsassimpleaspossibleandignorethatfact.Alotofthetime
wecangetawaywiththis,butsometimeswecant.
AfteraquickdabbleinnonlinearFEA,alotofengineersunderstandthereasonforthecoyness:
Nonlinearanalysisistoughtodoeffectivelyandefficientlyitisasteeplearningcurve.
TheNonlinearStrategy
Whenwecarryoutanonlinearanalysis,wearetakingajourneyintotheunknown.Fig.1showsa
typicalnonlinearhistory.Noticehowtheloadisnowbrokendownintosmallersteps.Wecantjust
applythetotalandhopewegetagoodresult.Wehavetotiptoeuptheloadscale.
Hereweseetwoloadincrements:upto10%andupto20%.Inpractice,thesemaybeaslowas1%
incrementsforahighlynonlinearproblem.
Ateachloadincrement,thesolverhastoiteratewithinthesolutiontofindaloadbalance.Thefirst
approximationisalinearanalysis,soitwillnotbeinbalanceiftheresponseisnonlinear.Thesolver
transformsthesolutionintoaonedimensionalsearchpath,lookingforthisbalancepoint.

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Fig.1:Nonlinearstrategy.
Oncethefirstbalancepointisfound,wehavethefirstknownpointinourjourney.Wecanthencarry
outanotherexploratorylinearanalysisandseewherethattakesus.Again,itisanapproximationand
wehavetoiteratetofindthenonlinearbalancepoint.Thejourneycontinues,findingeachbalance
pointuptothefull100%loading.Wehavethenestablishedthenonlinearresponseateachpointinthe
structure.
Thecostofdoingthesesuccessiveiterationscanbequitesignificant.Ifittakes10steps,witheachone
needingafullstiffnessmatrixupdateandsolution,thatmeanstheanalysisis10timesmoreexpensive

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needingafullstiffnessmatrixupdateandsolution,thatmeanstheanalysisis10timesmoreexpensive
thananequivalentsizedstaticsolution.Therearemanystrategiestomakethisupdatingas
parsimoniousaspossible,soitisnotquitesosavageascalingeffectoncost.Butforahighlynonlinear
structure,thereisoftennootheroptionthantoacceptthecost.
Theconvergencetoabalanceateachstepcanbethecauseofmuchheartache.Ifweusetoolargea
step,orhavehighlynonlineareventssuchaslargecontactchanges,bigchangesinthematerialslope
orabruptcollapseduetononlinearbucklingorsnapthrough,thesolvercanhaveatoughtimeseeking
abalance.Wemayevenfindthatthereisnophysicallyrealizablesolutionasinthecasewitha
collapseload.
Thisleadsustooneofthemostimportanttips:Simplifythenonlinearityasmuchaspossible.Ifyou
havecontact,friction,geometricnonlinearityandplasticityallgoingonatonce,takeastepbackward
andintroducetheseeffectsoneatatime.Youmaybondthecontactsurfacestogetherforsimplicity,
andmakethemateriallinear.Nowyoucanshakedownthegeometricnonlinearityandgetthatto
work.Evenhere,youmaywanttostartwithasimplermodeltoestablishthephysicsofthestructural
behaviorandworkupfromthere.
MaterialNonlinearity
Whenthestresslevelinacomponentexceedstheyieldpoint,thematerialintheaffectedzonestarts
togoplastic.Thepresenceofplasticitymeansthematerialisfollowinganonlinearstressstraincurve,
typifiedbytestresultsshowninFig.2.Somematerialsshowadistincttransitionfromlinearelasticto
nonlinearplasticataclearlydefinedyieldpointothersshowaslowdriftoffthelinearcurve.Fig.3
showshowtodealwiththedriftanarbitrarylineat0.1%or0.2%strainisdrawnparalleltotheinitial
slope,andtheyieldpointistakentobewherethiscrossesthematerialcurve.

Fig.2:Variousmetalstressstraincurves.
WeusuallyhavetosimplifytheactualstressstraincurveinanFEAmaterialmodel.TheinputtoFEA
canberationalizedbyanelasticlinearsection,whoseslopematchesthelinearmaterialstiffnessE,
andaplasticnonlinearpart,whichcanbeaconstantslope(thetwoslopesaredescribedasabilinear
fit),oravaryingslopedefinedbyadatatable.BothtypesareshowninFig.3.

Fig.3:FEAmaterialfittodata.
TheFig.3insetshowstheloadingandunloadingalongtheelasticandplasticcurves.Theunloading
occursparalleltotheelasticcurve,andleavesalockedinstrainwhenfullyunloaded.Thisisthe
residualplasticstrainleftinthestructure,withassociatedpermanentset.
Ifanonlinearsolutionisused,allelementsinthemodelaremonitoredtocheckforvaluesaboveyield.
Ifthisoccurs,theelementsintheaffectedregionshaveamodifiedmaterialstiffnessterminvoked,
whichusesthenewslopeoftheelasticplasticcurve.
Ingeneral,weneedtotiptoealongthiscurvesothatstiffnessupdatesarecarriedoutslowly,and
equilibriumenforcedaswego.

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equilibriumenforcedaswego.

Fig.4:Progressiveaxialstressdistribution.
Ifweadoptthisgradualincrementapproach,wecancapturethegrowthofaplasticzone.Itis
importanttorealize,however,thatastheplasticzonegrows,thestressflowinthecomponentand
aroundtheplasticzonewillchange.Often,aplasticlobetypeshapeappears,andthengrows.Fig.4
showsasequenceyieldstressfrontgrowtharoundaholeinaplateasloadisincreased.Fig.5shows
thecorrespondingplasticstraingrowth.

Fig.5:Progressiveplasticstrains.
Wemayhaveasituationwhereonlyverylocalplasticityisseen,suchasatalocalnotchorother
stressraiser,orattheextremefiberpositionsofabeaminbending.Theanalysistendstobestableas
theoverallstiffnesschangesaresmall.Conversely,astheplasticzonesspread,suchasinthefinal
stagesoftheloadedholeinFig.5,largesectionsofthemodelareaffectedandtheoverallstiffness
changescanbesignificant.Thismakesitdifficultforthenonlinearsolvertohandlethesolution.
GeometricNonlinearity
LookingatthetentinFig.6,wecanseethewallshavebeendeflectedinwardunderthewind
pressure.Internalbalancingloadsinthetentwalldevelopasitmovesintothisshape,andthe
correspondinginternalstressesaredominatedbymembraneorinplanestresses.Itwouldntmake
sensetothinkofthetentinitsundeformed,flat,initialstate,tryingtoresistthewindpressure.Whena
structurehastodeformandtheloadscanonlybebalancedinthatconfiguration,thephenomenais
calledgeometricnonlinearity.Noticethereisnomaterialnonlinearityhereitisalldowntotheloading
anddeflection.

Fig.6:Nonlineardeflections.
Contrastthiswithastiffbridgedeck,carryingitsownweightplustraffic,windloading,etc.Theloads
willbebeamedfromthebridgedecktothefoundationstructure,withverylittledeformationofthe
bridgedeck.Wecanignoretheinfluenceofdeformationstogetaloadbalancethisisalinearsolution.
Manyyearsago,Ihadaclientwhotriedtoanalyzeatentwallwithalinearsolution.Itcantwork
becauseitneedstodeflecttotransmittheloads.
Ofteninpractice,wegettoamiddlegroundwhenwecometodeflectionsofthinwalledstructures,
likeplates.ThelineartheoryweuseinFEAassumesthedeflectionsnormaltotheplateare,atmost,

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likeplates.ThelineartheoryweuseinFEAassumesthedeflectionsnormaltotheplateare,atmost,
around25%to50%oftheplatethickness.Underthatassumption,pressureloadisbeamedfromthe
centertotheedges,likethebridge.Ifdeflectiongoesbeyondthis,theloadtransferstartstopickup
thetentlikemembraneorinplaneloading.Thestresssystemchangesfromallbendingandshearto
bending,shearandmembrane.WeneedtomovetoanonlinearFEAtopickthisup.
Wecanseethegeometricnonlineartermcomingintoplayinasimpleexample.Fig.7showsarigid
barconnectedtoapivotatoneend.Alinearrotationalspringresistsmotionatthatend.Weapplya
smallforceatthefreeendofthebar,anditrotatesslightlyaboutthepivot.Themovementappliedto
thebarbalancesthetorqueproducedintherotaryspring.Thebarmovement(forcetimeslength)
equalsthetorquereactioninthespring.Wecanalsoestimatetherotationofthebaraboutthepivotby
knowingthetorqueandthespringrate.

Fig.7:Rigidrodandtorsionalspring.
Theimportantpointhereisthatwecarryouttheforcebalanceintheundeformedpositionasalinear
approximation.Thisisthebasisoflinearanalysis.
Asthebarrotates,themovementgetssmaller,becausethelineofactionoftheforcecreepscloserto
thepivot.Ifweincludethiseffect,wearebalancingtherodandspringinthedeformedposition.Thisis
anonlinearsolution.
Thelinearsolution...juststayslinear!Itdoesntcarehowabsurdthesolutiongets.Thinkaboutaforce
of2E5Nappliedatthetip.Therotationisofftheclock.Wecouldextrapolateandcalculatearotation
thatimpliestheroddoesfourorfivecompletepirouettesaroundthepivot.Itisanabsurdanswer,but
weoftenseeexactlythatinalinearanalysisthatistryingtohandlenonlineargeometricresponse.We
cantmapthisbacktoaphysicallymeaningfulsituation.Wehaveovershotthelimitsofalinear
analysis,andneedtomovetononlinearanalysis.
Thenonlinearsolutionshowsadivergenceawayfromthelinearataround30ofrotation.Ifweapply
2E5Nnow,wegetarotationofaround82clearlybalancedonlyinanearlyverticaldeformedstate.
Sometimes,analysiswithgeometricnonlinearityiscalledalargedisplacementanalysis.Idontlike
thistermbecauseitbegsthequestionhowlargeislarge?Everyanalysisismaterial,loadingand
configurationdependent,sothereisnorealanswer.
GeometricNonlinearLoadTypes
Thepressureforceinatentwallwillalwaysfollowthetentwalldeformation.Aninflatingtoyballoon
changesshapedramatically,butpressureisalwaysnormaltothesurface.Therodforcewasapplied
andstayedintheverticalsense,whatevertherodrotation.Thisisanonfollowerload.
Itisimportanttoestablishwhattypeofloadingispresent.Gravityloadswillalwaysbenonfollower,but
abearingloadfromanadjacentstructurecanbeeither.
Thesetupofafollowerforceisstraightforwardifitispressureloading.AllFEAsolversshouldbeable
toautomaticallyadjustthenormaldirectionunderdeformation.
Aloadappliedasapointforceistrickier.Thevectorassociatedwiththeforcedirectionhastobe
updated.Typically,asetofanchornodesisused.Asthesedeform,theywillupdatetheforcevector.
However,ifnodesarebadlychosen,theforcevectorisslavedtotheseandcanresultinbizarre
changes.Itisbettertoconvertanypointforcestoapressuredistributedoverasmallpadofsurface
area.Thisisgoodpractice,eveninalinearanalysis,toavoidspuriouslocalizedstresses.
ContactImplementation
Theearlyimplementationsofcontactwerenothingmorethanasetofnonlinearsprings,asshownin
Fig.8.Thesewerereferredtoasgapelements.Theyarelittleusedthesedays,butillustratesomeof
theprinciplesstillused.Whenthegapisopen,thespringstiffnessisweak,likechewinggum.When
thegapisshut,thestiffnessisthesameasthesurroundingmaterial.

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Fig.8:Originalgapelement.
Tocreateaclosedgap,thenodesAandBmustpassthroughoneanother.Thiscreatesaproblem
inthatwearenotnowmodelingtherealsituation,bothnodesjusttouchingandthenmovingtogether.
Onlybyhavingpenetrationcanwegetaresistingforce.Thisisbasicallythepenaltystiffnessmethod
usedinmanycontactalgorithms.
Tomodelreality,itisreallyrequiredtomakecontactsbejusttouching,anddevelopthecorresponding
reactionforcesinamorenaturalway.Thisisdonebyanauxiliarysetofforcesintroducedtomakethe
contactandformthereactionforces.ThismethodisknownastheLagrangianmethod,andisalater
development.
Manysolversactuallyuseamixofthesetwomethods.Thesearchforgoodstablemethodsstill
continues,andwecanexpectnewsolverdevelopmentsoverthenextfewyears.
Thetechnologyhasmovedbeyondsimplegapsandnowcoverswholeregionsofcontactmesh.Now
arbitraryzonesofamodelcanbeassessedtoseewhethertheywillmoveintocontactorseparateas
theloadingisapplied.Theterminologyofamastersurfaceandslavesurfaceisoftenusedto
differentiatethetwosurfacesthatcomeintocontact.AtypicalsetupisshowninFig.9.Insinglesided
contact,theregionsformedbythemasterelementssearchforslavenodesthatwillpassthroughthe
netandwillformconnections.Theregioncanbeshellelementsorthefacesofsolidelements.

Fig.9:Generalsurfacecontact.
Thecomputationalcostofthissearchcanbequitehighratherlikeraytracing,somethodsareused
tocutdownwhoseeswhominageneralsolution.Costequatestosolutiontimeandmemory
requirements.Still,techniquesaregettingmoreefficientastechnologyimproves,sowecanexpectto
seethecostgoingdownandversatilityincreasing.Oneexampleisthatdoublesidedcontactwhere
slavesurfaceslookformasternodesisnowverycommon.
ControllingJaggies
Otherissuesincludegettingridofthejaggies.TheFEAmeshisusuallyadiscontinuous
discretization,andtheslaveregionintroducesintomasterregions,asshowninFig.10.Thisresultsin
asetofartificialpointloads,whichdestroytheattempttohavecontinuousbearingforces,forexample.
Thisisverydifficulttoavoid,evenbycarefulmeshing.

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Fig.10:Avoidingthejaggies.
Techniquesareavailablethatfitacommoninterpolatedsurfacetowhichthenodesmove,oreven
inherittheactualCADgeometrysurface.Asmoothbearingloaddistributioncanthenbeachieved.
Anothercommonissuewithcontactsisthatofloosecomponentsnotproperlyabuttingeachother.A
typicalCADmodelwillplacecomponentsatnominalpositionsforexample,apinandlugdefined
concentrically.InFEA,werequirethepintostartoffbeinginbearingcontactwiththelugtoestablisha
loadpath.IfwecanmodifytheCADmodel,thatsagreathelp.However,itcanbedifficulttoestablish
astableinitialloadpathatsmallinitialloadsteps.
Othermethodsincludeputtinginveryweakspringstohelpstabilizeorinanextremecase,runninga
timebasedanalysis.Thetimescaledoesnotmatter,butwhatreallyhelpsisthateachnewloadstep
convergenceisnotjustworkingwithanupdatedstiffnesswearepassingforwardthedynamiceffects
andthekeyhereisinertia.
Therearemanytypesofnonlinearitywehavelookedatthemainareas.Itisimportanttoassesswhat
levelofnonlinearityisneededtoadequatelymodeltheproblem,thentakesmallbitesofthecherryand
explorethenatureofthenonlinearitycarefully.Wewanttostartsimplyandexploreandfarweneed
togo!
TonyAbbeyisaconsultantanalystwithhisowncompany,FETraining.Healsoworksastraining
managerforNAFEMS,responsiblefordevelopingandimplementingtrainingclasses,includingawide
rangeofelearningclasses.SendemailaboutthisarticletoDEEditors@deskeng.com.
MOREINFO
FETraining
NAFEMS

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