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ABAQUS / Answers

Answers to Common ABAQUS QuestionsSummer 1994

Beam Elements: Bending and Shear

This is the first of two articles on beam elements. Here we
discuss bending and shear. The follow-up article will deal
with torsion.
ABAQUS has a variety of beam elements available for
stress analysis. The table below provides a summary of
the basic formulations available.
2-node linear

3-node parabolic

These are shear-deformable

(Timoshenko) beams and are
useful for modelling thin or
thick members. As the beam
becomes slender, EulerBernoulli theory is

2-node cubic
interpolation (in
B34 1

These elements do not account

for shear flexibility (they use
Euler-Bernoulli beam theory).
They are most effective for
modeling frame structures
with relatively slender
members, since each member
can usually be modeled with
only one element for static
analysis, or a small number of
elements for dynamic analysis.

Beam theory is a one-dimensional approximation of a

three-dimensional continuum. The reduction in
dimensionality is based on the slenderness assumption:
Dimensions in the cross section of the beam are very
small compared to the typical dimensions along the
length of the beam.
For typical engineering accuracy, the cross-sectional
dimensions should be less than 1/20 of the axial
dimension. The axial dimension must be interpreted in
terms of global structural dimensions, such as:

Beam Elements: Bending and Shear

Linear Perturbations with Thermal Loads

Adding Unstressed Elements

Tension Stiffening in Concrete

The distance between supports.

The distance between gross changes in cross-section.
The wavelength of the highest vibration mode of
Section dimensions should not be compared with
element length to judge the applicability of beam theory.
In ABAQUS/Standard it is perfectly valid to have beam
elements which are deeper than they are long, provided
the structure being discretized satisfies the beam theory
assumptions. Time step stability considerations require
beam elements to be longer than their cross-sectional
dimensions in ABAQUS/Explicit.
All beam elements come in normal or hybrid form. The
hybrid elements have extra, internal variables related to
the axial force in the beam and should be used for two
classes of structures:
Mechanisms with stiff members and soft joints, such
as suspension systems or robots.
Extremely flexible beams, such as offshore risers,
where the ratio of length to cross-sectional dimension
is large (greater than 1000).
Both of these cases involve a large difference between the
rotational and axial stiffness. The standard elements have
ill-conditioned stiffness matrices for such problems and
do not perform as well as the hybrid elements. Consider,
for example, ABAQUS/Standard Example Problem
length/thickness = 2000

Slender beam subjected to drag loading

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( ) is the coefficient of thermal expansion, which may be


a function of the current temperature, , is the initial


temperature, and is the reference temperature for the

thermal expansion coefficient.
During a perturbation step we expand the above in a

Taylor series about the base temperature, :


This problem was run with ABAQUS Version 5.3-1

using B21H elements and B21 elements.The analysis using
B21 elements completed in 26 increments, using a total of
140 iterations. The analysis using B21H elements required
only 12 increments and a total of 50 iterations, and took
about half the cpu time of the B21 analysis. With a larger
slenderness ratio (say 10000) it is unlikely that the B21
model would converge at all.


Linear perturbation steps provide the linearized behavior of

the system subject to small perturbations about a base state.
The base state is defined by subjecting the system to a
sequence of general, nonlinear analysis steps. This
ABAQUS/Standard capability provides a powerful
generalization of the traditional concept of linear analysis.
To understand how ABAQUS handles thermal loading in
linear perturbation steps, recall the fundamental difference
in the way ABAQUS handles loads in general analysis steps
and perturbation steps:
During general analysis steps ABAQUS treats the
loading as the total load, measured from the beginning
of the analysis.
During perturbation steps ABAQUS assumes that the
loading is the change in load from the base state.
In a general step the total thermal strain (from the
beginning of the analysis) is defined as






is the thermal strain (output variable THE),


( lin ) = B + d

( B 0 ) .

This is the thermal strain due to the perturbation

temperature (again identified with the variable.THE).
In contrast, we can write the increment of total thermal
strain in a general, nonlinear analysis step in which the

temperature goes from to as

Linear Perturbations With Thermal



+ -------- + .

We therefore define the linearized perturbation of thermal
strain in the perturbation step from the original, general
definition of thermal strain as


= (

+ ) + ( B 0 ) ,

where is the total change in the thermal expansion

coefficient over the increment.
If the thermal expansion coefficient is not temperature
dependent, so that
= d d = 0 ,
both expressions provide the same thermal strain in the



= ( lin ) = .
Suppose the thermal expansion coefficient varies linearly
with temperature:
= a0 + a1 ( 0) ,
where a 0 and a 1 are constants. Then

( lin ) = B + a 1 ( ) ,
= B + a ( B 0 ) + a 1 .

That is, in the general step the thermal strain includes a

term which depends on the square of the temperature
increment, while this quadratic term is not considered in a
linear perturbation step.



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Adding Unstressed Elements

A frequent requirement in complex ABAQUS analyses is to
add elements to a model partway through a simulation.
These may represent strengthening material added to an
offshore platform, lining in an underground tunnel, the
layers of a gravity dam, or additional bolts in a small
mechanical assembly. In all of these cases the newly
included elements must be stress and strain free when they
are first introduced into the model.
This is achieved by the use of MODEL CHANGE with
the parameters REMOVE and INCLUDE and involves the
following stages.
Create a mesh which consists of the initial part of the
model and all elements to be included. At each nodal point
on the interface between any two parts of the model (the
existing mesh and the new elements) there should be three
nodesone on the existing mesh, (A), one on the elements
to be included, (B), and a dummy node, (C).
existing mesh

elements to be

Components shown
separated for clarity

Create a set of EQUATIONs for all active degrees of

freedom such that, for each point, these three nodes are
constrained together. For example:
A,1,1.0, B,1,-1.0, C,1,-1.0
A,2,1.0, B,2,-1.0, C,2,-1.0
A,3,1.0, B,3,-1.0, C,3,-1.0

It is this constraint equation that enables the two parts of

the mesh to be joined when the new elements are

In the first analysis step, use BOUNDARY to fix the

nodes on the elements being included (B), and use
MODEL CHANGE,REMOVE to remove all these new
elements from the model.
In the next series of analysis steps apply loads and
constraints to the main model as required. The
EQUATIONs, and the BOUNDARY on the included
nodes, (B), mean that the dummy nodes, (C), will be tied to
the nodes on the existing model, (A).
When the new elements are to be included, create a step
using MODEL CHANGE,INCLUDE to bring the new
elements into the model. Use BOUNDARY,OP=NEW to
release the constraint on the new nodes, (B), and use
BOUNDARY,FIXED,OP=NEW, to fix the dummy nodes,
(C), in their current positions. This means that, from now
on, the nodes on the existing model, (A), and the new nodes,
(B), will be constrained to move together as if the two parts
have been joined. However, all the deformation on the
interface has been taken up by the dummy nodes, (C), so the
new elements are added in an undeformed, unstressed
Any subsequent steps can be used to deform the
complete structure, or to add other new elements using the
same technique.
The important points of this approach are that all
elements that might be included during the analysis must be
defined at the beginning and removed in the first step, and
that three-way EQUATIONs must be used to allow new
elements to be added in an unstressed state. Since the new
elements are added to the model in their initial position, the
approach assumes that the deformation of the interface is
relatively small (unless the user knows what coordinates to
give to nodes (B) to make them coincide with the positions
of nodes (A) when the new material is added to the model).
For more details of adding unstressed elements see
ABAQUS/Standard Example Problem 3.2.15.

Tension Stiffening in Concrete

Concrete is a brittle material, and cracks under tension. This
weakness in tension means that concrete is usually used
with steel reinforcement, giving a highly anisotropic
response. Brittle failure is a highly discontinuous,
sometimes unstable, phenomenon and is not well suited to
the incremental Newton-Raphson solution method used in
ABAQUS/Standard. The concrete model in ABAQUS
therefore sacrifices some modeling details for numerical
tractability. Even so, analyses involving the nonlinear
response of concrete are challenging and should not be

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undertaken lightly.
The CONCRETE model is intended for modeling
plain and reinforced concrete subjected to essentially
monotonic straining at low confining pressures. Cracking
is assumed to be the most important aspect of the material
behavior. This model should not be used if the confining
pressure is more than 34 times the maximum
compressive stress of the material. Nor should it be used
for problems involving significant cyclic inelastic
response, like severe seismic loading.
The CAP PLASTICITY model may sometimes be
suitable for modelling concrete under high containing
pressures, particularly when crushing dominants the
behavior. This model is applicable to both monotonic and
cyclic loading, but concrete cracking is not included.
The CONCRETE material model can be used with
most of the structural elements in ABAQUS, including
beams, shells and two- and three-dimensional solid
elements. Reinforcement is introduced using the
REBAR option. Single rebars as well as layers of
reinforcement with arbitrary spacing and orientation can
be specified.
The behavior of the concrete and reinforcement are
considered independently. The interaction between the
reinforcement and the concrete, such as bond slip and
dowel action, are modeled approximately by introducing
some tension stiffening into the concrete model.
Tension stiffening means that the direct stress across a
crack does not immediately fall to zero as soon as the
crack occurs. Instead, it gradually reduces to zero as the
crack opens. The TENSION STIFFENING option is
used to specify this gradual reduction in the direct stress.

Failure point
stiffening curve

Concrete in tension



The choice of tension stiffening is often critical for a

successful analysis. The amount of tension stiffening
depends on factors such as the density of reinforcement,
the quality of the bond, the relative size of the aggregate
compared to the rebar diameter, and the mesh. Choosing
appropriate values is not easy. As a starting point we
suggest, for heavily reinforced sections, reducing the
stress across the crack to zero at a total strain about ten
times the strain at failure.
Tension stiffening can be defined in two ways: as
stress-strain data or as stress-displacement data. The
former is appropriate for heavily reinforced structures
where there is significant reinforcement in most elements.
However, with lightly reinforced structures or plain
concrete models, this approach can lead to the results
being mesh sensitive. In such cases a stress-displacement
tension stiffening characteristic is usually more
appropriate. Even so, care should be taken with the mesh
design to ensure that elements are all close to rectangular
and aspect ratios are low. Triangles, wedges and
tetrahedra should not be used.
The larger the value of tension stiffening, the easier it is
for ABAQUS to find a converged solution. In some cases
the choice of tension stiffening is governed by such
convergence requirements. If the value is significantly
greater than that suggested by the actual interaction of the
concrete and reinforcement, the results should be
interpreted carefully.
When the concrete cracks it is no longer capable of
carrying tensile loading normal to the crack direction.
There must be another way of carrying the load if the
structure is to remain stable. Normally the load is
transferred to the reinforcement. The analysis of the
cracking of unreinforced, or lightly reinforced, concrete is
normally more difficult than the analysis of heavily
reinforced sections.
should normally be specified for analyses including
concrete, since the response of the concrete is highly
discontinuous. Large amounts of cracking can also lead to
local instabilities. The RIKS algorithm should be used for
such cases.


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