# Introduction to the Finite Element Method (FEM)

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1 Introduction to the Finite Element Method (FEM) Lecture 1 The Direct Stiffness Method and the Global StiffnessMatrix Dr. J. Dean

2 1

3 Introduction The finite element method (FEM) is a numerical technique for solving a wide range of complex physical phenomena, particularly those exhibiting geometrical and material nonlinearities (such as those that are often encountered in the physical and engineering sciences). These problems can be structural in nature, thermal (or thermo-mechanical), electrical, magnetic, acoustic etc. plus any combination of. It is used most frequently to tackle problems that aren t readily amenable to analytical treatments. Figure 1: Governing equations for various physical phenomena The premise is very simple; continuous domains (geometries) are decomposed into discrete, connected regions (or finite elements). An assembly of element-level equations is subsequently solved, in order to establish the response of the complete domain to a particular set of boundary conditions. The Direct Stiffness Method and the Stiffness Matrix There are several finite element methods. These are the Direct Approach, which is the simplest method for solving discrete problems in 1 and 2 dimensions; the Weighted Residuals method which uses the governing differential equations directly (e.g. the Galerkin method), and the Variational Approach, which uses the calculus of variation and the minimisation of potential energy (e.g. the Rayleigh-Ritz method). 2

4 We analyse the Direct Stiffness Method here, since it is a good starting point for understanding the finite element formulation. We consider first the simplest possible element a 1-dimensional elastic spring which can accommodate only tensile and compressive forces. For the spring system shown in Fig.2, we accept the following conditions: Condition of Compatibility connected ends (nodes) of adjacent springs have the same displacements Condition of Static Equilibrium the resultant force at each node is zero Constitutive Relation that describes how the material (spring) responds to the applied loads Figure 6: Model spring system The constitutive relation can be obtained from the governing equation for an elastic bar loaded axially along its length: d du l AE l l 0 + k = 0 (1) l 0 = ε (2) d du d du df du df du (AEε) + k = 0 (3) (Aσ) + k = 0 (4) + k = 0 (5) = k (6) df = kdu (7) The spring stiffness equation relates the nodal displacements to the applied forces via the spring (element) stiffness. From here on in we use the scalar version of Eqn.7. 3

5 Derivation of the Stiffness Matrix for a Single Spring (Element From inspection, we can see that there are two degrees of freedom in this model, u i and u j. We can write the force equilibrium equations: k (e) u i k (e) u j = F i (e) k (e) u i + k (e) u j = F j (e) (8) (9) In matrix form ke k e k e k e u i = F (e) i (10) j F j (e) The order of the matrix is [2 2] because there are 2 degrees of freedom. Note also that the matrix is symmetrical. The element stiffness relation is: K (e) u (e) = F (e) (11) Where K (e) is the element stiffness matrix, u (e) the nodal displacement vector and F (e) the nodal force vector. (The element stiffness relation is important because it can be used as a building block for more complex systems. An example of this is provided later.) Derivation of a Global Stiffness Matrix For a more complex spring system, a global stiffness matrix is required i.e. one that describes the behaviour of the complete system, and not just the individual springs. From inspection, we can see that there are two springs (elements) and three degrees of freedom in this model, u 1, u 2 and u 3. As with the single spring model above, we can write the force equilibrium equations: 4

6 k 1 u 1 k 1 u 2 = F 1 (12) k 1 u 1 + (k 1 + k 2 )u 2 k 2 u 3 = F 2 (13) k 2 u 3 k 2 u 2 = F 3 (14) In matrix form k 1 k 1 0 u 1 F 1 k 1 k 1 + k 2 k 2 u 2 = F 2 (15) 0 k 2 k 2 u 3 F 3 The global stiffness relation is written in Eqn.16, which we distinguish from the element stiffness relation in Eqn.11. [K]{u} = {F} (16) Note the shared k 1 and k 2 at k22 because of the compatibility condition at u 2. We return to this important feature later on. Assembling the Global Stiffness Matrix from the Element Stiffness Matrices Although it isn t apparent for the simple two-spring model above, generating the global stiffness matrix (directly) for a complex system of springs is impractical. A more efficient method involves the assembly of the individual element stiffness matrices. For instance, if you take the 2-element spring system shown, split it into its component parts in the following way and derive the force equilibrium equations k 1 u 1 k 1 u 2 = F 1 (17) k 1 u 2 k 1 u 1 = k 2 u 2 k 2 u 3 = F 2 (18) 5

7 k 2 u 3 k 2 u 2 = F 3 (19) then the individual element stiffness matrices are: k1 k 1 k 1 k 1 u 1 u 2 = F 1 F 2 and k2 k 2 k 2 k 2 u 2 u 3 = F 2 F 3 (20) such that the global stiffness matrix is the same as that derived directly in Eqn.15: k 1 k 1 0 u 1 F 1 k 1 k 1 + k 2 k 2 u 2 = F 2 (21) 0 k 2 k 2 u 3 F 3 (Note that, to create the global stiffness matrix by assembling the element stiffness matrices, k22 is given by the sum of the direct stiffnesses acting on node 2 which is the compatibility criterion. Note also that the indirect cells k ij are either zero (no load transfer between nodes i and j), or negative to indicate a reaction force.) For this simple case the benefits of assembling the element stiffness matrices (as opposed to deriving the global stiffness matrix directly) aren t immediately obvious. We consider therefore the following (complex) system which contains 5 springs (elements) and 5 degrees of freedom (problems of practical interest can have tens or hundreds of thousands of degrees of freedom (and more!)). Since there are 5 degrees of freedom we know the matrix order is 5 5. We also know that it s symmetrical, so it takes the form shown below: 6

8 We want to populate the cells to generate the global stiffness matrix. From our observation of simpler systems, e.g. the two spring system above, the following rules emerge: The term in location ii consists of the sum of the direct stiffnesses of all the elements meeting at node i The term in location ij consists of the sum of the indirect stiffnesses relating to nodes i and j of all the elements joining node i to j Add a negative for reaction terms ( k ij ) Add a zero for node combinations that don t interact By following these rules, we can generate the global stiffness matrix: This type of assembly process is handled automatically by commercial FEM codes Solving for (u) The unknowns (degrees of freedom) in the spring systems presented are the displacements u ij. Our global system of equations takes the following form: To find {u} solve {u} = {F}[K] 1 (22) Recall that [k][k] 1 = I = Identitiy Matrix =

9 Recall also that, in order for a matrix to have an inverse, its determinant must be non-zero. If the determinant is zero, the matrix is said to be singular and no unique solution for Eqn.22 exists. For instance, consider once more the following spring system: We know that the global stiffness matrix takes the following form k 1 k 1 0 u 1 F 1 k 1 k 1 + k 2 k 2 u 2 = F 2 (23) 0 k 2 k 2 u 3 F 3 The determinant of [K] can be found from: a b c det d e f = (aei + bfg + cdh) (ceg + bdi + afh) (24) g h i Such that: (k 1 (k 1 + k 2 )k ) 0 + ( k 1 k 1 k 2 ) + (k 1 k 2 k 2 ) (25) det[k] = k 12 k 2 + k 1 k 22 k 12 k 2 + k 1 k 22 = 0 (26) Since the determinant of [K] is zero it is not invertible, but singular. There are no unique solutions and {u} cannot be found. 8

10 Enforcing Boundary Conditions By enforcing boundary conditions, such as those depicted in the system below, [K] becomes invertible (non-singular) and we can solve for the reaction force F 1 and the unknown displacements {u 2 } and {u 3 }, for known (applied) F 2 and F 3. [K] = k1 + k 2 k 2 b k 2 2 = a (27) k c d det[k] = ab cd (28) det[k] = (k 1 + k 2 )k 2 k 22 = k 1 k 2 0 (29) Unique solutions for F 1, {u 2 } and {u 3 } can now be found k 1 u 2 = F 1 (k 1 + k 2 )u 2 k 2 u 3 = F 2 = k 1 u 2 + k 2 u 2 k 2 u 3 k 2 u 2 + k 2 u 3 = F 3 In this instance we solved three equations for three unknowns. In problems of practical interest the order of [K] is often very large and we can have thousands of unknowns. It then becomes impractical to solve for {u} by inverting the global stiffness matrix. We can instead use Gauss elimination which is more suitable for solving systems of linear equations with thousands of unknowns. 9

11 Gauss Elimination We have a system of equations x 3y + z = 4 (30) 2x 8y + 8z = 2 (31) 6x + 3y 15z = 9 (32) when expressed in augmented matrix form (33) 9 We wish to create a matrix of the following form (34) Where the terms below the direct terms are zero We need to eliminate some of the unknowns by solving the system of simultaneous equations To eliminate x from row 2 (where R denotes the row) -2(R1) + R2 (35) 2(x 3y + z) + (2x 8y + 8z) = 10 (36) 2y + 6z = 10 (37) So that To eliminate x from row 3 (38) 6(R1) + R3 (39) 6(x 3y + z) + ( 6x + 3y 15z) = 33 (40) 15y 9z = 33 (41) (42)

12 To eliminate y from row 2 R2/2 y + 3z = 5 (43) (44) To eliminate y from row 3 R3/3 5y 3z = 11 (45) (46) And then -5(R2) + R3 (47) 5( y + 3z) + ( 5y 3z) = 36 (48) 18z = 36 (49) (50) = z (51) Substituting z = -2 back in to R2 gives y = -1 Substituting y = -1 and z = -2 back in to R1 gives x = 3 This process of progressively solving for the unknowns is called back substitution. 11

13 Basic Steps in FEM Modelling Consider a wall mounted bracket loaded uniformly along its length as in Fig.2 Figure 2: Wall mounted bracket The geometry is defined for us and is (relatively) complex. The boundary conditions are also defined and are: A uniform force per unit length along the upper edge Fixed x and y displacements along the clamped edge It is apparent that the bracket will respond mechanically under the action of the applied load and a system of internal stresses will develop (to balance the applied load). To calculate the stresses that develop we must first discretise the domain, assemble the global stiffness matrix [K], and then determine the nodal displacements {u} and resultant forces {F} using some iterative numerical technique (Gauss elimination, for instance). It is then a relatively trivial exercise to compute the stresses from the displacements (particularly for systems that remain elastic). 12

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