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Modeling Cable and Ropes

1 © 2015 ANSYS, Inc. March 3, 2017

• Cables and ropes can be found in many structures
• Examples: Hoists, bridges, winches, anchors, stays, etc.
• In biomedical, a tendon acts much like a rope
• This Meet your KM will showcase several solutions that will help
guide the user to implementing a cable like structure into their

2 © 2015 ANSYS, Inc. March 3, 2017

Attributes of a cable or rope
• Cable and ropes are multi stranded.
• Cables and ropes typically have small bending stiffness compared
to axial stiffness so common to neglect i.e. use a link element.
• Modeling them as a beam element will typically be unconservative,
i.e. taking moment loads when should not. George Washington Bridge Cable Cross section

• Thick cables are actually somewhat stiff in bending so a beam can

still be used, but the Moments of Inertia can be modified to tailor
as needed.

Rope Exploded View

3 © 2015 ANSYS, Inc. March 3, 2017

How to model in ANSYS Mechanical
• Element type Link180 typically used – not supported directly
• 3 DOFs at each end – Axial force only
• Option for tension or compression only
• Stability
– In static structural, using multiple links requires initial/stress or
strain to pretension the cable
– No need to pretension in transient structural, but run time will Seccontrol
• Use the Beam to Link ACT App
• Use commands (as detailed in these following KMs)
– Version independent and works when customer can not use ACT
• Use secdata & seccontrol to replace real constants (legacy)

4 © 2015 ANSYS, Inc. March 3, 2017

1 Link Element vs Multiple
1 Element Multiple Elements
Advantages • No stability issue if single element • Model Sag, conforms to curvature
• Few elements, less complicated

Disadvantages • Can not model cable sag and • Unstable in Static Structural – needs initial
proper loading as accurately tension (inistate)
• Can not model complex curvature • Longer more complicated runs –
of rope around spool, guide, etc. convergence issues

Tips • Use Tension Only option to prevent • Tension only option is not always necessary
from taking compression since a pinned cable inherently can not take Tension only option showing collapse of link element –
compression as links buckle, but can be This can be reason for convergence issues
turned on to assure no tension forces.
• Use transient structural for cables that will or
can go slack

Best uses • Straight cables in line with loading, • Cables or ropes that sag, will have sliding
i.e. no sagging cables over complex guides, etc.
• Pinned Truss (think truss bridge)

Transient Dynamic shows behavior of pinned links

(contact not included)

Cable used to articulate – discussed in later KM

5 © 2015 ANSYS, Inc. March 3, 2017
ACT Extension
• ACT Extension available for 16 and 17 releases
• Supports Initial strain (inistate command)
• May need to use commands for prior releases and customers who
can not use ACT extensions (company policy restrictions)

6 © 2015 ANSYS, Inc. March 3, 2017

How to implement tension only cable in ANSYS Mechanical?

Search Keywords: tension cable mechanical

Customer Portal KM ID: 2044558

Use Line Body to model cable. Insert a Command Snippet under Line Body to define tension only element.
Example of Command Snippet:
ET,matid,LINK180 ! material number for this body is "matid"
SECDATA,0.01 ! set section area
SECCONTROL,0,1 ! set section to be tension only

7 © 2015 ANSYS, Inc. March 3, 2017

Why does rigid body motion often occur with LINK180 elements?

Search Keywords: rigid motion link180

Customer Portal KM ID: 2045375

LINK180 elements do not have any rotational DOFs. It is a 'truss' element. It does not have any bending
stiffness. If you only constrain one node, it can rotate/pivot about that point. Some ideas to consider:

1. Apply sufficient restraints to prevent rigid body rotation.

2. When meshing lines with link elements only use 1 element per edge. Without bending stiffness, multiple
links in series may have stability issues.

3. If a series of link elements are required, you may need to apply an initial tension to provide stability.

8 © 2015 ANSYS, Inc. March 3, 2017

Can I use the tension or compression only options of Link180's without using large
Search Keywords: tension only large deflection

Customer Portal KM ID: 2038832

The documentation currently says:

To simulate the tension-/compression-only options, a nonlinear iterative solution approach is necessary; therefore, large-deflection
effects must be activated (NLGEOM,ON) prior to the solution phase of the analysis.

However, if you have small deflection but other non-linear features such as contact then an iterative solution will be triggered and the
element will be tension or compression only as specified.

However, the calculated force will only be based on small deflections. Therefore, large rotations are expected then the results will be

The attached input file will run a single model and compare the forces against expected values. By commenting out the nlgeom,on the
predicted forces from the strain and the length change will not match.

9 © 2015 ANSYS, Inc. March 3, 2017

When did LINK180 change to using section properties and also using a KEYOPT for
the tension/compression behavior?
Search Keywords: link180 tension properties

Customer Portal KM ID: 2026543

LINK180 had used real constants of AREA, ADDMASS, and TENSKEY (0 tens and comp, 1
tens. only, -1 comp. only) in Release 14.0 and earlier releases. At Release 14.5 it was
changed to use sections and the keyopt but it was not noted in the release notes.

Note: At 17 release, TENSKEY is now in seccontrol, not in keyopt

10 © 2015 ANSYS, Inc. March 3, 2017

How to apply an initial stress state to link elements (LINK180 or LINK10)?

Search Keywords: initial stress link180

Customer Portal KM ID: 2040086

APDL Input files (Not Mechanical).

11 © 2015 ANSYS, Inc. March 3, 2017

How can we simulate tension-only truss members?

Search Keywords: tension only truss

Customer Portal KM ID: 2039634

12 © 2015 ANSYS, Inc. March 3, 2017

How can we simulate truss (i.e. axial behavior only) elements?

Search Keywords: truss axial elements

Customer Portal KM ID: 2039635

13 © 2015 ANSYS, Inc. March 3, 2017

How can I simulate a cable or rope articulating a body while it is sliding through a
guide or sleeve?
Search Keywords: cable sliding guide

Customer Portal KM ID: 2046912

Context: User looking for detailed explanation of

implementing capability in Mechanical via
Solution: See pdf and wbpz files

14 © 2015 ANSYS, Inc. March 3, 2017