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ANSYS Tips and ANSYS Tricks

ANSYS Tips and ANSYS Tricks
Peter Budgell
Burlington, Ontario, Canada

© 1998, 1999 by Peter C. Budgell -- You are welcome to print and photocopy these pages.

These tips and comments are intended for user education purposes only. They are to be used
at your own risk. The contents are based on my experience with ANSYS 5.3 -- more recent
versions may change things. The contents do not attempt to discuss all the concepts of the
finite element method that are required to obtain successful solutions. It is your responsibility to
determine if you have sufficient knowlege and understanding of finite element theory to apply
the software appropriately. I have attempted to give accurate information, but cannot accept
liability for any consequences or damages which may result from errors in this discussion.
Accordingly, I disclaim any liability for any damages including, but not limited to, injury to
person or property, lost profit, data recovery charges, attorney's fees, or any other costs or

As one writer put it, This information is free, and may be well worth the price.

Return to Home Page

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The ANSYS manuals explain many things and give some examples, but they do not give many tips to the user.
Here is a collection of things I have noted or learned. (Use at your own risk...) Necessity is the mother of
invention, and I learned virtually everything here as a result of need, or as a result of trial and lots of error. I'm
also thankful to my local ANSYS distributor for many helpful conversations. The comments in these pages are
based on my experience with ANSYS 5.0 through ANSYS 5.3. I hope these tips will shorten your learning curve.
An analyst frequently does not have a mentor for guidance, so considerable effort can be needed to deduce how
to accomplish some tasks. ANSYS users need to spend a generous amount of time reading the manuals and
training materials, and returning to read them again as the user's knowledge of the program increases. Don't use
anything here verbatim... understand why it works, and whether my comments are in error or inappropriate for
your situation, before employing any of these suggestions.

The teaching of FEA at the academic level is intended to educate the mind, teach how FEA methods are derived
from first principles, and to develop students who can invent and code new elements, test their behavior, write
research or industrial quality software, and apply it to difficult academic or research problems. Some professors
feel strongly that the purpose of an undergrad course in FEA is further education in how applied math,
engineering, continuum mechanics, energy methods, and analysis of structures come together, building on the
Strength of Materials courses already taken -- I have no argument with that. A user with a comprehension of
what underlies FEA work will know when to apply and how to evaluate FEA work, have more creativity, learn
quickly, problem solve better, be more innovative, and make fewer serious modeling errors. The professors do
not feel that the course is intended to concentrate on modeling details or learning the interface to a commercial
FEA program. (Students, on the other hand, want to graduate having used an FEA package to do something
significant. Assignments and projects with ANSYS/ED are a good way to get there.) I've heard the opinion
expressed that with FEA technology maturing, there is less research grant money for FEA work in universities,
and the supply of advanced FEA graduate students may be shrinking. The teaching of commercial FEA program
use is principally focused on training people to use the interface to and commands of the particular software
package, and how to perform basic analysis types. Some instructors pepper their presentations with tips, but the
attendees may be drowning from information overload. Little is available to lead the user through the techniques
that can be used in modeling complex structures, and around the traps that exist, except help from good vendor
support people, co-workers, or other users, and substantial reading, thought, trying examples, and testing
techniques on the part of the analyst. I hope that these pages will provide some helpful details.


Tip 1: Use Annotations

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Tip 2: Making Room for Annotations

Tip 3: Using Parameters in Annotations
Tip 4: Use Small Annotations
Tip 5: Mathematical Functions Available
Tip 6: Start 16-Bit Applications before Starting ANSYS under Windows NT
Tip 7: Running ANSYS at Low Priority under Windows NT 4.0
Tip 8: Operating on (Scaling) Loads
Tip 9: Ramping Loads Down to Zero
Tip 10: Starting ANSYS Graphs at t=0
Tip 11: Pressure on Lines
Tip 12: Ramping Some Loads, Not Others
Tip 13: Force and Pressure on Flat Plates or Flat Shells
Tip 14: Linear and Nonlinear Buckling
Tip 15: Nonlinear Analysis and the Arc-Length Method
Tip 16: Animating Results from a Nonlinear or Other Analysis
Tip 17: Getting the Mass or Weight of a Model
Tip 18: Using Fnc Calls from Macros
Tip 19: Use ENSYM and ENORM to Turn Over Shell Elements
Tip 20: Shell Types to Try
Tip 21: Moving a Model from ANSYS Mechanical to ANSYS Linear/Plus
Tip 22: Deleting Nodes with Nodal Coupling
Tip 23: Convergence with Shell Finite Element Models in Nonlinear Analysis under ANSYS
Tip 24: Working with Load Step Files in ANSYS
Tip 25: Plotting Shell Stress -- Surface, Mid-Plane Stress, Load Paths, ESYS and RSYS
Tip 26: Nodal Coupling (CP) versus Rigid Region (CERIG)
Tip 27: Vibration Modes with Pre-stress
Tip 28: Creating New Elements by Copying or Reflecting Existing Structure
Tip 29: Adding to a Model Comprised of Elements and Nodes Only
Tip 30: Zero Mass Beam Elements Form Rigid Region
Tip 31: Turn off Symbols When Changing a Model after Solution
Tip 32: Are the "Free-Free" Vibration Modes Relevant?
Tip 33: Selecting a CAD or FEA System -- Cover Yourself
Tip 34: Creating Lines Perpendicular to, or at Angle to Existing Lines
Tip 35: Use the /UI command in Your ANSYS Toolbar to Bring up GUI Dialog Boxes
Tip 36: Reaction Force, Nodal Force, and Load Paths
Tip 37: Inputting Temperatures with BF, BFE, and TUNIF in Structural Analysis
Tip 38: ANSYS Toolbar Use
Tip 39: ANSYS Piping Element Lengths
Tip 40: Graphical Output from ANSYS
Tip 41: Check Nodal Loads at Bolts, Rivets, Spot Welds and Links
Tip 42: Use QUERY to Check Results with Picking
Tip 43: Loads on Geometric Entities Overwrite Loads on Nodes and Elements -- Easy Error to Make
Tip 44: Use Components for Load Input, and for Results Review
Tip 45: Simple Substructuring Examples -- Bottom Up and Top Down
Tip 46: Plot Applied Temperatures
Tip 47: Skipping Over Statements in an Input File
Tip 48: Static Analysis Followed by Transient Analysis
Tip 49: File Compression for Model Storage
Tip 50: Organizing Large FEA Models
Tip 51: Selecting Nodes in a Stress or Strain Range
Tip 52: Selecting Nodes that are Subjected to Nodal Coupling
Tip 53: /NOPR and /GOPR Speed Up Input Files and Macros
Tip 54: Using Commands IMMED and /UIS and /SHOW,OFF
Tip 55: What's the Bauschinger Effect? Comments on Material Yield
Tip 56: Thought Experiments
Tip 57: Control of Meshing
Tip 58: Four View Plot
Tip 59: Quick Review of Mode Shapes
Tip 60: Using ANSYS Help
Tip 61: The FEA Job Hunt
Tip 62: *VPUT and DESOL
Tip 63: How to Divide One Element Table Column by Another
Tip 64: Element Tables (ETABLE) and Arrays -- An Example
Tip 65: Error Estimation, PowerGraphics, and ERNORM
Tip 66: Concatenate and Mesh Last
Tip 67: ANSYS Output of Data to Files for Use by Other Programs
Tip 68: Writing Array Columns to Output or to Files

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Tip 69: Synthesizing Parameter Names and Manipulating Jobnames and Long Strings in APDL
Tip 70: Solid Elements 95 and 92 -- Efficiency and Interconnection

Tip 1: Use Annotations:

Only a one-line title is possible on the ANSYS screen or plot. Considerably more information can be included in
annotations on the screen. The annotations are kept through all plots until they are deleted with the command:
/ANNOT,DELE or via picking with the graphical user interface (GUI).

At the top of the Annotation dialog box, there is a list box from which the user can choose Text, Lines, etc., on
down to Controls. These selections bring up different menus. The Controls selection offers a SNAP setting that
makes it much easier to get the text aligned nicely. (Hint: ANSYS, Inc. should put this SNAP selection up front
under Text, or even on every menu.) Activate the Snap setting, then go back to Text to enter the annotations.

Tip 2: Making Room for Annotations:

The /PLOPTS command controls what goes into the legend at the right (by default) side of the ANSYS screen
and plot. If you turn off LEG2 (the relatively useless "view" information), you will get extra room at the bottom
of the legend. This area can be used for annotations if the number of contour levels in stress plots is not too great
(the default is fine).

Tip 3: Using Parameters in Annotations:

Just as in a title created with the command /TITLE, ANSYS permits the use of a parameter in an annotation, as
discussed in the Commands Manual description of the /TLABLE command. When typing the annotation using
the GUI, include the parameter in percent signs like this: %pname% where pname is the parameter name. The
parameter can contain either numbers or text. The value of the parameter will be plotted in the annotation string.
The ANSYS function NINT can be used to round a number the nearest integer, sometimes improving the
appearance of the annotation for large numbers in which the fractional part is irrelevant (e.g. NINT(123.456789)
= 123 ). For this, the parametric expression should be enclosed in percent signs. Annotations are usually created
in the GUI, but can be entered with code like that shown below. Entering a single annotation line containing
Result = %pname% generates log file contents such as:
! The following commands place an annotation on the screen.
! For information only. Use at your own risk.
! In this example, "pname" is a parameter with a numerical value such as 123.456789
/ANUM ,0, 1, 1.2303, -.74699
/TSPEC, 15, .600, 1, 0, 0
/TLAB, 1.010, -.747,Result = %pname%

The last line in the above example contains the string that the user types manually. The other data set up the
string positioning on the screen, and the properties of the characters. To apply the NINT function to the
parameter, manually enter Result = %NINT(pname)% as the annotation:
! For information only. Use at your own risk.
! Type the annotation in one line, so the log file contains:
/ANUM ,0, 1, 1.2303, -.74699
/TSPEC, 15, .600, 1, 0, 0
/TLAB, 1.010, -.747,Result = %NINT(pname)%

The beauty of doing this is that if the value of the parameter pname should change, then when the next plot
command is executed, the annotation will automatically update to reflect the new value! Try it: after creating
an annotation on the screen that includes a parameter, change the parameter's value, then do a /REPLOT.
Running a macro could get information that goes into the parameter that a /REPLOT will automatically put it on
the screen. This makes it possible to automatically include far more information than can go into the title, and to
do it for a series of automatically generated plots or graphs.

Tip 4: Use Small Annotations:

The default character size setting for an annotation is 1. The size of an annotation can be decreased using the
GUI. A size of 0.6 is quite readable and permits far more information to be packed into a plot. Note that there is
a limit to the number of characters possible on an annotation line – this is character size independent.

Tip 5: Mathematical Functions Available:

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Under the Help listing for the *SET command there appears lists of mathematical functions available in ANSYS.
Another list is in the ANSYS User's Guide on APDL, Chapter 14 of the Modeling and Meshing Guide. The
commands are usable anywhere. They include:

ABS(X) Absolute value

ACOS(X) ArcCosine

ASIN(X) ArcSin

ATAN(X) ArcTangent

ATAN2(X,Y) ArcTangent of (Y/X) with the sign of each component considered (see a
FORTRAN manual if you don't know what this means.)

COS(X) Cosine

COSH(X) Hyperbolic cosine

EXP(X) Exponential

GDIS(X,Y) Random sample of Gaussian distributions where X is the mean, and Y is the
standard deviation. Might be used in a Monte Carlo Simulation to explore the
distribution of outputs based on randomized loadings and material properties.
For an explanation, see a good modern engineering design textbook.

LOG(X) Natural log (to base e)

LOG10(X) Log (to base 10)

MOD(X,Y) Modulus (X/Y), it returns the remainder of X/Y. If Y=0, returns zero (0)

NINT(X) Nearest integer (nice for outputs of stresses to /TITLE or annotations (see Tip
3 above))

RAND(X,Y) Random number, where X is the lower bound, and Y is the upper bound.
(Useful for Monte Carlo Simulation, etc.)

SIGN(X,Y) Absolute value of X with sign of Y. Y=0 results in positive sign.

SIN(X) Sine

SINH(X) Hyperbolic sine

SQRT(X) Square root.

TAN(X) Tangent

TANH(X) Hyperbolic Tangent


The function form of the *GET commands can also be used to get information from the model -- see the
APDL guide mentioned above for a listing of available functions. The APDL guide also gives functions to
retrieve the values of parameters, both numerical and character. The *VFUN command has a list of
functions that act on an array entry. The Commands manual lists functions that act on Element Tables in
the section "POST1 Command for Element Table". Creatively used, the array and ETABLE algebra
commands can be surprisingly powerful.

Tip 6: Start 16-Bit Applications before Starting ANSYS under Windows NT:

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It has been my experience that some large commercial 16-bit applications will not start properly when ANSYS is
already running. If you start them before launching ANSYS, there will be no problem. If you intend to work with
those 16 bit applications in the foreground while the ANSYS SOLVE is running in the background, this will be a
useful tip. I have seen other applications start up very slowly (e.g. Internet Explorer) or wait until ANSYS was
done before proceeding (setup.exe for many Windows install programs).

Tip 7: Running ANSYS at Low Priority under Windows NT 4.0:

Setting Process Priority in NT

Under Windows NT 4.0 the
priority level of individual
processes can be user-adjusted. To
do this, bring up the Task Manager
(right click on the Windows NT
taskbar), and click the tab for
"Processes". Right click on the
process titled "ANSYS.EXE", and
"Set Priority >" comes up. Set the
priority to "Low" to help make
foreground applications run more
smoothly while ANSYS is running
SOLVE in the background. This
may help more if you have a large
RAM in the computer.

When ANSYS has completed the

SOLVE process, return the priority
to "Normal" so that ANSYS is not
slowed down when you start doing
plots through the GUI.

Tip 8: Operating on (Scaling)


You can operate on loads on nodes and elements in order to scale them up or down. Unfortunately, scaling loads
on geometric entities (keypoints, lines, areas and volumes) seems not to be available. If any load on your
structure has been applied to a geometric entity, rather than directly to elements or nodes, that load will be
transferred to the elements and nodes at solution time. The transfer will overwrite any scaling of loads that you
have applied. (Guess how I figured this out!)

So what can you do about this? Method 1 : Transfer the loading from geometric entities to the elements and
nodes, then write a load step file. This records loading on elements and nodes. Delete the loading on geometric
entities, then read the load step file that was just written. Now the loading can be scaled up or down freely.
Method 2: For a faster method, see the "LSCLEAR,SOLID" command, which will not require writing a load step
file. Method 3: Transfer the loading from geometric entities to the elements and nodes, then delete the
relationship between geometry and the FEA mesh with the MODMSH,DETA command. Method 4 : Transfer
loading from geometric entities to the elements and nodes, then un-select the geometric entities, before executing
SOLVE. The element and node loading can be scaled after it has been transferred from geometric entities. An
un-selected geometric entity will not transfer its loading to elements or nodes when SOLVE is executed.
Warnings: Method 3 ruins the relationship between geometry and the mesh. Save the model under an appropriate
file name before executing MODMSH,DETA. Method 4 is fine, as long as you do not forget and re-select the
geometric entities -- ALLSEL will do this.

Scaling displacements (nodal constraint values) is also possible. One thing that has not worked for me is an
attempt to reduce applied displacements to zero by using 0.0 as the scaling factor. What did work for me was to
use "_TINY" as a value, which multiplied displacements by a factor of roughly 10^(-31) and reduced loads to
virtually zero. Attempts to use 0.0 as the factor resulted in NO change to the applied displacements.

Tip 9: Ramping Loads Down to Zero:

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If you are ramping force, pressure, and acceleration loads up and down as part of an analysis, you may want to
return loads to zero. I do this when I want to inspect permanent deformation that results from plastic yielding. If
you delete the applied load, the loading will drop immediately to zero, even if you have load ramping turned on.
The thing to do is to set the loading to virtually zero or the scaling factor to virtually zero, not delete the load. It
is important to appreciate that to ANSYS, reducing a load to nearly zero is not the same thing as deleting it
(zeroing it), for the purposes of ramping loads. The time substep sizes to use will depend on your model.

Setting displacements to zero or near zero is, of course, very different from deleting constraints.

Tip 10: Starting ANSYS Graphs at t=0

Graphs start at the first data point, which means that if you do a time-history trace, you don't get a t=0 data point.
If you leave time as 0.0 on the TIME command, you get the default 1.0 in your output. The only way to get a
graph from zero that I have found is to do a first load step with "t" extremely small, in comparison to other times
in the analysis, e.g. t=0.0000001. The load at this time must be appropriate so that the response ramps up
correctly. (If your intent was to ramp up from zero load, just leave the loads as zero.) The next load step
continues as usual.

Tip 11: Pressure on Lines:

Applying pressure on a line results in loads being applied to the nodes associated with that line. The loads on the
nodes that the FEA program applies will be appropriate given the formulation of the elements. If you want to
apply a total force to the line, you can use a *GET command to find the length of the line, then divide the force
by the length and use the result as the pressure.

Note that pressure on a line acts in the plane of the area that is attached to the line. If two areas are attached at 90
degrees or another angle, two loads are set up, acting in each of the area plane directions. You can use select
logic on the areas to get some interesting effects as to the direction in which the applied forces act, but only if
both areas are meshed, and the elements are selected. If you un-select one of the areas, pressure on the line will
only be exerted in the direction of the area that is selected. The select logic must still be in place when you
SOLVE, or else your carefully crafted load case can be overwritten. As above, transferring loads from geometric
entities to nodes and elements, writing them as a load step, deleting all the loads on geometric entities, and
reading in the load step will protect your load case, and make scaling the loads possible. Alternatively, consider
the "LSCLEAR,SOLID" command.

NOTE: Pressures on surfaces follow the deformed shape during a Large Displacement (geometrically nonlinear)
analysis. Forces on nodes maintain their orientation in space, even under Large Displacement. This difference
will govern how loads should be applied in some models.

Tip 12: Ramping Some Loads, Not Others:

To hold some loads constant and ramp up or down others, run a first load step with all the loads at their starting
values, ramping from zero only if appropriate.

If you want, use an extremely small value on the TIME command, e.g. 0.0000001, and run this as a first load
step. Then set up a second load step, with ramping activated. Change those loads to be ramped from their starting
values to new values. Hold the other loads constant. The TIME command can be used with a new value, such as

An example is the application of a gravity load before other loads are to be ramped up from zero. In some cases,
this could give a more realistic assessment of nonlinear buckling caused by applied forces other than gravity
loading. (You will want to check the codes that regulate your design work before deciding on this. Codes that I
have seen were generally started before FEA was widely available, and do not address this concept. Find out
what is considered good practice in your industry.) Applying gravity first can give much better convergence
when assessing the effect of thermal expansion moving structures across friction contact elements, where the
normal load on the contact elements is caused by gravity.

I suspect that this is not possible with the Arc-Length method. I have not experimented with it, but do not see
how controlled ramping of only some loads could be implemented under Arc-Length control of applied loading
-- any opinions?

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Tip 13: Force and Pressure on Flat Plates or Flat Shells

There is a rule of thumb, that if the out-of-plane deflection of a flat plate or shell is greater than half the
thickness, then membrane forces start to become significant in resisting the applied load. In ANSYS, this calls
for activating a Large Displacement solution (a.k.a. geometric nonlinearity). Ignoring this can result in your
design missing out on inherent strength, OR in grossly inadequate underdesign. Know what you are doing.

Tip 14: Linear and Nonlinear Buckling:

Linear eigenvalue (classical Euler) buckling is a "quick" check on a structure, but the ANSYS manuals go to
considerable pains to point out that in many situations, a Large Displacement solution (geometric nonlinearity)
needs to be run also as a check on the buckling adequacy of a design. As with linear buckling, nonlinear buckling
may need to be assessed with respect to a number of load cases. In some structures, a diagonal tension field is
developed in a web, and elastic buckling failure does not develop at the first eigenvalues predicted. In other
structures, buckling failure may occur before the first eigenvalue, and only nonlinear analysis will predict this.

Linear eigenvalue buckling has to assume that gap and contact elements are either closed and active, or open and
inactive. Nonlinear analysis will follow the effects of these elements as they go in and out of contact, when the
loading is applied.

After any Large Displacement nonlinear elastic buckling analysis (if it doesn't diverge), see whether the elastic
stress limits have been exceeded (this includes the surfaces of shell elements, and be careful that nodal averaging
does not hide anything). If significantly overstressed, the structure may not be adequate.

Combined bending and axial compression in a beam is a classic place where inadequacy in strength can be
predicted in FEA only by Large Displacement nonlinear analysis (i.e. a linear analysis says it is OK, but a
nonlinear analysis shows it is NOT). For some structures undergoing elastic Large Displacement analysis without
contact and gap elements, the user may want to consider a Southwell plot.

If elastic stress limits are exceeded in the Large Displacement model, it may be desirable to do a combined Large
Displacement and Plastic Deformation model. If the structure is overloaded, it may begin to collapse (perhaps
only locally), and the Arc-Length method may be needed for convergence control. A need to strengthen the
structure may be predicted or identified. The material properties to use are application domain and industry
specific -- start by talking to your co-workers, supervisor, and suppliers.

Tip 15: Nonlinear Analysis and the

Arc-Length Method:

The basic way to do nonlinear

analysis in ANSYS is to use NR
iteration and many default settings.
At times, convergence will become a
problem; I've encountered this with
shell structures under compressive
stresses. The arc-length method can
sometimes cope better with
nonlinear solutions, because of its
ability to follow force-deflection
curves that rise and fall. Be prepared
for long run times if your model is

My experience with the arc-length

method is that in its default settings
for step size multipliers, it does not
give satisfactory results when compressing some shell-based models. What may work is to set a number of time
substeps, such as 10, so that each substep is 1/10 of the load step. Set the Arc-Length maximum multiplier
MAXARC to 1.0 so that no substeps larger than 1/10 of the load step are taken. Set the Arc-Length minimum
multiplier MINARC to 0.1, so that the smallest load substep is 1/100 of the full load step. I found this to help

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considerably. You may want to user a larger or smaller MINARC setting, but my experience to date suggests that
one should not get greedy with MAXARC. Obviously, you may want to play with the number of time substeps.

The solution may still diverge but it is likely that you will get more information than without arc-length analysis.
You will want to set a termination condition for the analysis if buckling is expected to result.

I find it desirable to save the

results at every time substep
when doing this type of
analysis (it helps to have a
large hard drive) in order to
review the process. When you
review the results of a single
load case run under Arc-length
control, the TIME value on the
ANSYS plots shows the
decimal fraction of the full load
being applied to the model. As
you move forward through the
plots, if the load/displacement
curve for the structure is
falling, the decimal fraction
will fall, even though some
displacements are visibly
getting larger.

As mentioned above,
something I have not tried is to
get the Arc-length solution
control to ramp some loads and
not others, by having run a
preliminary load step. Is this even possible? If not, then the user may face the prospect of gravity being ramped
up and down, in addition to other applied loads, and the physical realism of the model may be affected.

Tip 16: Animating Results from a Nonlinear or Other Analysis:

It can be helpful to watch the increasing stress levels that result as a nonlinear analysis loading is ramped up. To
create an animation, first run your analysis with loads ramped up, and a number of substeps. Have all substeps
written to the results file. Do a stress plot of interest to set the type of stress plot to be animated by the macro that
will be run. Make the ANSYS Graphics window as small as you want the animation window to appear (most
screens will have lower resolution than a CAD workstation), keeping the aspect ratio correct. Smaller graphics
windows result in smaller animation files, if size matters. Animation files under Windows NT (AVI files) from
ANSYS often compress very well for storage purposes. Use the PlotCtrls menu selection on the Utility Menu,
and choose Animate to get a sub-menu of choices. Choose "Dynamic Results" to create an animation of your
saved load substep results with the time shown in the legend. This seems to work only for the last load step (read
the ANSYS macro). The resulting AVI file can be viewed with the media player, distributed, put on a web site,
and so on. The media player can be stepped manually for slow viewing. It makes it easier to watch the changing
stress pattern or deformation as nonlinear effects take over the model.

In animating a changing stress or other contour plot, you may wish to specify the contour levels before
generating the animation file. View the load step or substep with the worst results as part of deciding where to set
the contour levels.

I have not found that any of the ANSYS supplied animation macros do the one simplest thing I want. Usually I
want to animate every substep of every load step stored in the results file. The following simple macro does this
for me under Windows NT. There is virtually no error checking in this macro. Note that this simple macro does
not update element table data at each frame. Consequently it will not work properly for plots of element table
data. If stresses, strains, or other data with amplitude information are to be plotted, the user may want to fix the
contour map levels ahead of time. The user will want to set the displacement amplitude scaling with /DSCALE in
advance--automatic scaling will not be satisfactory. In general, it may not be satisfactory to have /ZOOM,OFF

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active, since the view will change if plots of significant deflection are included in the animation. Manually
setting a view may yield a better animation. Modify this macro as you wish.

This macro must be called from within /POST1. The file that contains the results must have already been
selected, and a prototype plot command executed so that calling /REPLOT will generate the type of plot the user
! --------------------------------------------------------------------
! MY_ANIM.MAC A quick-and-dirty animation of all of the substeps
! --------------------------------------------------------------------
! For information only. Use at your own risk.
! User must indicate how many frames are to be animated
! This macro starts with the first substep in the results file
! by using the SET,FIRST command internally
! User implicitly indicates how many times to use the SET,NEXT command.
! The number of frames needed must exist in the RST file, else errors.
! NOTE: This does NOT work for plots of data in an element table.
! Plotting element table results would require a macro in which
! the element table results are updated at each substep.
! Virtually NO Error Checking Is Performed ! ! ! ! !
! What will be plotted is based on /REPLOT therefore, on the last user plot executed
! before this macro is called.
! Scaling, etc. are all based on the last user plot. Only the SET value is updated.
! Call with:
! my_anim, time_delay_for_frame, number_of_frames_including_first
*if,arg2,ne,0, then

An alternative to this macro could step through all substeps on the RST file by using a *GET command of the
type *GET,NTOTAL,ACTIVE,0,SOLU,NCMSS to check the number of substeps as the SET,NEXT command is
issued. The parameter NTOTAL will be re-set to 1 when the animation is complete, and the *IF and *EXIT
commands can check this and break out of a do loop -- see Tip 59 below for the example of automatically
plotting all mode shapes. The user would then not need to specify the number of substeps to plot, improving the
automation, and letting the solver use variable substep sizes without the user having to check on the number of
substeps that resulted.

Tip 17: Getting the Mass or Weight of a Model:

A reader has been helpful by pointing point out that mass (or weight, depending on your units) of keypoints,
lines, areas, or volumes in a model can be retrieved, when attributes have been assigned to these entities, by
using commands available in /PREP7. Using the graphical user interface, enter into "PreprocessorOperateCalc
Geometric Items" to see the choices: "Of Keypoints, Of Lines, Of Areas, Of Volumes, Of Geometry". These
items execute the "sum" commands: "KSUM, LSUM, ASUM, VSUM, GSUM" respectively. If no attributes have
been assigned to the geometric entities, unit densities are assumed in reporting mass and center of gravity
information. After the execution of these commands, the *GET command can be used to assign to a variable the
implied volume of an area (based on the thickness associated with its attributes) or the volume of a "volume".
The volume of a series of areas or "volumes" can also be retrieved with the *GET command after a "sum"
command is used. The *VGET command can also be used, where appropriate, in retrieving information made

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available after one of the "sum" commands is executed.

For some unstated reason, ANSYS will not directly give the total weight or mass of a model (retrieved from the
mass matrices of the elements), except to print it to output during the solution of a problem. The user can run a
partial solve in order to get this weight or mass printed reasonably quickly. In Imperial units, it may be desirable
to convert between pounds mass and pounds weight. There is no *GET command that directly returns the weight
of selected elements. However, the volume of an element can be returned, and the volume of a set of elements
can be put into an element table, and summed.

You can get the weight of many models into a parameter by: step through all material types, selecting elements
for each material type. Get the volume of those elements, and multiply by the density of that material type. Sum
the masses or weights of all the material types. This will not include added mass and mass elements at nodes
(check this carefully against the output mass in the solve module) or other things that I may not have thought of.

Of course, you can get the weight (assuming you gave densities in the material definitions) by removing all loads
(don't let thermal expansion, nodal rigid region, nodal coupling, various gap and contact elements, or loads on
constrained nodes trip you up -- use the minimal constraints needed to stabilize all bodies in 3-D), applying 1 g
vertical, having constraints on vertical motion, running SOLVE in a linear analysis, and finding the vertical
reaction force. In such a run, a combination of the FSUM (select vertically restrained nodes only, with all
attached elements) and *GET commands in /POST1 might help you to get the weight into a variable. However, a
partial solve will give the answer more quickly (but not put it into a variable). Depending on your system of
units, remember, you may want to convert between weight and mass .

I base my comment, about the inability of ANSYS to directly return the weight of the model with *GET, on
comments in the manuals on Optimization. The optimization examples work to reduce model volume, not

Tip 18: Using Fnc Calls from Macros:

Before using macros for the first time, read about the *USE command in the ANSYS Help manual, in addition to
other relevant parts of the ANSYS manuals. The *USE command help discusses the macro calling parameters
and their local scope. Note a slight difference in calling parameters AR19 and AR20 when the *USE form of a
macro call is used, versus the "unknown command" form.

There are times when calls from macros directly to the Function form of an ANSYS command will be the only
way to get the function called with picking. It may be desirable to sent the user a message that explains why the
picking has been requested. The function must be called with the exact use of upper case and lower case
characters. An example: Fnc_ENSYM will work, whereas fnc_ENSYM will not, because the capital F is

Tip 19: Use ENSYM and ENORM to Turn Over Shell Elements:

ANSYS has two commands, ENSYM and ENORM, for re-orienting shell elements so that a set of shell elements
can all have their "top" surface face the same way. This makes application of pressure, contact elements, and
review of results more feasible. This orientation should be done before running SOLVE ; the results are not
re-oriented in the database when these commands are applied, nor in the results file, so if the elements are
re-oriented after SOLVE, the stress results will no longer apply to the correct shell surfaces and a meaningless
mess will result. These commands work with shell elements that are attached to areas, as well as with
independent shell elements. Note: If you clear the elements attached to an area, then re-mesh, the new elements
will have the same orientation as the area. (Hint: ANSYS ought to do this re-orientation for Areas, making it
easier to pressurize the interiors of containers defined with shell elements.)

See HELP,ENSYM for information on what this command will do. ENSYM can be used to "flip over" a shell
element so that the opposite side (Top or Bottom) is showing. To do this would require reversing the node order
in the database so that Face 1 (Bottom) and Face2 (Top) get switched.

For more powerful capabilities in re-orienting shell elements, see HELP,ENORM. This command will search
outward from a chosen element that the user considers "correct", re-orienting a connected set of shell elements so
that they face the "same way" (this takes some interpretation), even working around corners. It searches elements
from the selected set of elements, until it hits the edge of the model, or until two or more elements are attached to
one element edge. The user should experiment with this command in order to understand exactly what it does,

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and inspect the model thoroughly after ENORM is applied, to verify that the results are as desired. The correct
use of ENORM can make the application of pressure or contact elements to a complex model substantially

It would be very helpful if ANSYS had a special command that would plot shell elements with the sides colored
according to whether they were FACE1 or FACE2 of the element. This command could be extended to color the
(up to) six sides of solid elements, according to their face number. A similar command for plotting areas would
help, too. It could even be done for beams displayed with /ESHAPE showing the outer envelope. At present, with
ANSYS 5.3 running on Windows NT, I get different colors for Face 1 and Face 2 of shell elements when
PowerGraphics is ON, and "No Numbering" plus "Colors" or "Colors and Numbers" has been chosen under
PlotCtrls,Numbering. I have not seen this documented. This does not happen for areas, or for solid elements.

Tip 20: Shell Types to Try:

I have used Shell 63 (for Elastic), Shell 43 (for Plastic), Shell 93 (8-Node, for Elastic & Plastic), Shell 143 (for
Plastic), and Shell 181 (for Plastic). The Revision 5.4 for ANSYS will include a bug fix for a Shell 181 problem.
Shell 143 is no longer supported, but is still embedded (hidden) in Revision 5.3 of ANSYS for compatibility

I have recently found Shell 93 to be useful in modeling some curved structures, because of its ability to follow
curved surfaces. (Shell 63 elements are flat, and can make a mess of a general curved surface under free
meshing.) Shell 93 gave me good convergence for both elastic and plastic Large Displacement (nonlinear
geometric) analysis. It does not like to follow too large an angle of curvature with one element, so the number of
elements on an area fillet can be large. Set the angle subtended by Shell 93 elements during meshing to a value
that is small enough to avoid warning messages. Watch out for aspect ratio warnings. (Lack of warnings is not a
complete guarantee of acceptable element shapes.) If the structure has pressurized flat surfaces, Shell 93 often
converges better when stress stiffening is activated for Large Displacement analysis. Stress stiffening for Shell 93
is activated at the solution phase of the analysis, whereas Shell 63 is (apparently) only stress-stiffened by setting
one of the KEYOPT values. (I have obtained different Large Displacement convergences with Shell 63 with no
stress-stiffening set, with the KEYOPT stress-stiffening set, with stress-stiffening set in /SOLU, and with
stress-stiffening set in both places.) Like Shell 63, Shell 93 also has the virtue of being supported by the
Linear/Plus version of ANSYS for Large Displacement elastic analysis, so models can be moved back and forth.

When forcing mapped meshing of curve-sided Shell 93 elements on a plane area by concatenating perimeter
lines, I have occasionally had mid-side nodes created, in the interior of the area, such that there was too much
element curvature distortion in the plane of the element. One fix is to have the elements created with the sides
straight, which is tolerable if the elements are flat, and if it does not cause trouble on the perimeter of the plane
area being meshed. "Trouble" here means poor representation of curved boundaries--other elements on these
boundaries may need to curve to follow curved surfaces, or it may be desired to have a curved fit to an outside
edge. If flat element sides cause trouble on the perimeter, then start by meshing areas on the other side of the
perimeter with elements that have curved sides--these elements could even be triangular. Next, mesh the area of
interest with the elements sides set straight, then clear the surrounding areas, if the surrounding areas are not
intended to be meshed, or need better element shape control. This will leave the plane area of interest meshed
with elements that have straight edges in the interior, and curved edges on the perimeter. This is illustrated by the
following images of an intentionally extreme example. In the first image, a line plot of element edges shows
extreme distortion in the plane. An intended hole is meshed with triangles. All these elements are Shell 93,
having mid-side nodes.

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In the second image, meshing with mid-side nodes positioned on straight lines is being chosen.

In the third image, the consequence of meshing the part with straight-sided elements is shown. The elements at
the hole have a curved side, because the hole is already meshed with curved-sided elements.

In the fourth image, the elements bordering the hole are shown, after the hole has been cleared of elements. The
element curvature at the hole is visible. The interior of the plane area is meshed with straight-sided elements. The
same problem and a similar fix can be encountered with mid-side noded SOLID95 brick elements that have 20
nodes. The surface areas of a volume can be meshed with 8-node SHELL93 elements with curvature, then the
volume meshed with SOLID95 elements with the sides straight, then the shell elements on the areas removed
with the ACLEAR command. This will leave the volume meshed with SOLID95 elements that are curved on the
surface areas, but with straight sides in the interior. There are rare occasions when this will eliminate element
distortion warning messages.

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Tip 21: Moving a Model from ANSYS Mechanical to ANSYS Linear/Plus:

Because versions of ANSYS sell for different prices, a company may own one version to be used for nonlinear
models, and several licenses for linear work, or just for model creation and results review. Occasionally, a model
will be moved "down" from a fuller version of ANSYS to the Linear/Plus version.

A user can run into difficulty moving a model from ANSYS Mechanical (or ANSYS Structural, etc.) to the less
expensive ANSYS Linear/Plus. The Linear/Plus version limits the number of nodes allowed. Unfortunately, it
implements this control by not allowing node numbers that exceed a limiting value. This means that compression
of node numbers (and element numbers) may be required in order to get larger models to be accepted by ANSYS
Linear/Plus. Otherwise, the program quits without an opportunity to compress the numbering (more recent
ANSYS versions may be more tolerant, but the numbering will have to be compressed at some point).

When the node and element numbers are compressed, coordination of loading with the numbering expressed in
load step files is lost. The way around this that I have used is to read in the original database, read in a load step
file, compress the numbering, and write the load step file. The process, reading in the original database, must be
repeated for every load case (a macro could be written to automate this.) Finally, the original database is read in,
numbering is compressed, and the new database is written.

Unsupported element types cannot be used in ANSYS Linear/Plus; neither can too large a wavefront (can the
PCG solver get around this?). The unsupported elements need to be deleted or changed before moving the model
(e.g. change SHELL181 to SHELL63). Then, if the number of entities does not exceed ANSYS Linear/Plus
limitations, the database can be moved to the other program.

The next problem in moving models to ANSYS Linear/Plus, is that nonlinear material models must be deleted in
ANSYS Mechanical (Structural, etc...) before moving the database to ANSYS Linear/Plus. This is because the
ANSYS Linear/Plus program will complain that the material nonlinearity is included, but not accept the
commands to delete it (Hint: ANSYS should add this delete function to Linear/Plus.) Of course, I found all this
out the hard way.

On rare occasions, a model from a more recent version of ANSYS may be moved back to an earlier ANSYS
version. If IGES is not satisfactory, a user could use CDWRITE to write out the element and node model and
other model data to a file (the DB option), then manually clean up the file so that the earlier version of ANSYS
could accept it. This includes modifying commands for element creation, after deducing what format is needed.
Writing the element data with EWRITE then cutting and pasting with the CDWRITE file may be easier -- I
haven't tried it. A user-written program can expedite cleanup for a large model.

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Tip 22: Deleting Nodes that have Nodal Coupling:

When deleting a set of nodes for which some were members of coupled node sets, delete the coupling equations
BEFORE deleting the nodes. Otherwise, unwanted coupling equations may be active if you create more nodes.
The coupling equations are not automatically deleted when the nodes are deleted--is this a bug? Select the nodes
to be deleted, then delete node coupling equations for which any nodes are selected, then delete the nodes. (You
will have had to first delete the elements.) Clearing solid model entities is the same as deleting the elements and
nodes simultaneously.

I find it very helpful to turn on the symbols for nodal coupling when checking for proper use of these details.

Tip 23: Convergence with Shell FEA Models in Nonlinear Analysis under ANSYS:

First, remember that there are three basic kinds of nonlinearity: (1) Large Displacement (geometrically nonlinear)
analysis, and (2) Plastic Material properties are the obvious types. In addition, nonlinear solutions occur (3) when
nonlinear elements such as gap elements, hook elements, and surface contact elements are used. Because of (3) it
is clearer to refer to a "linear" analysis as "small displacement elastic", since "linear" may be perceived as
meaning that there are no nonlinear elements present. A nonlinear analysis will take longer, usually considerably
longer, than a linear analysis. For a large finite element model, it helps to have a computer with an extremely fast
CPU, large RAM, large hard drive, and fast hard drive data transfer (high-speed SCSI may help on PC's) for
nonlinear analysis.

In ANSYS, the Shell 63 element will do Large Displacement, but is NOT capable of material nonlinearity
(plasticity). Shell 43, Shell 143, and Shell 181 are capable of both Large Displacement and material nonlinearity.
These four elements are 4-node quad elements. ANSYS also has an 8-node shell element, Shell 93. The Shell 93
element is capable of both Large Displacement and material nonlinearity. Shell 93 has the advantage that it can
follow a curved surface. There are also shell elements for composite materials and for P-element solutions. I will
restrict my comments to the basic shell elements: 63, 43, 143, 181, and 93.

The elements should have acceptable aspect ratios, not be ridiculously large or small, not be pathologically
deformed, and not generate warnings about being warped. If warped quad elements are unavoidable during
meshing, it may be desirable to use either small triangles, or the Shell 93 element. Note that within the ANSYS
manuals, high order elements are not considered to be ideal for nonlinear work. However, I seem to have had
some success with the Shell 93 element (can't say if the results were ideally accurate). You can evaluate the
model quickly by doing a partial solve (Partial Solu in the GUI), only generating the element matrices, and
getting warnings (if any) and other information in the ANSYS Output window.

If a Large Displacement solution is chosen, some solutions are improved by setting Stress Stiffening before
running the solve process. Stress stiffening for elements 63, 43, 143, and 181 can (apparently) only be set with
one of the KEYOPT values (Keyopt(2)) for the element (see Options when using Add/Edit/Delete to add element
types with the GUI). Some beam elements are like this, too. It apparently (I find the manuals difficult to interpret
on this) can NOT be set within the Solve module, even though the GUI has a selection box for Stress Stiffening.
However, I seem to have had convergence differences with Shell 63 with stress-stiffening set and not set in the
solve module. For Shell 93, stress stiffening IS set within the Solve module, by choosing it under Analysis
Options in the GUI (SSTIF). The use of stress stiffening for convergence improvement is contraindicated by
some conditions such as the substantial use of nodal coupling or nodal constraint equations... see the ANSYS
manuals on this. Note that SSTIF is NOT the same thing as the command PSTRES.

A second thing that helps many nonlinear solutions (both Large Displacement and plastic) to converge when
substeps are being used is to activate the Predictor (PRED) in the Solve module. (This may be more of a
hindrance than a help when gap and other nonlinear elements will be changing status frequently.)

There are other settings that can be tried when attempts at convergence are not working. I usually stick to letting
the program decide how to use Newton-Raphson iteration and adaptive descent in the Solve module. Under the
Nonlinear settings of the GUI, the user can modify the Convergence Criteria. I often use only convergence on
forces (not moments) when analyzing shells if I am not inputting any moments directly. I usually reduce the
number of Equilibrium Iterations to 15 when doing shell models, preferring to use smaller substeps instead.
However, in a model with gap or contact elements it may be desirable to have a much larger number of
Equilibrium Iterations. I rarely try Line Search.

Making a good choice of time substep sizes is critically important in getting models to converge. If shell models

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of flat plates subjected to pressure or perpendicular forces are included in the analysis, the shell will at first act as
a flat plate in bending. Once the shell has curved, by movement as small as half its thickness, the shell will start
to carry the applied load with membrane forces. In a model of this type, starting with very small substeps (e.g.
1/100 of the full load) may be needed to achieve convergence. I would start with a very small first substep, but
allow the largest substep to be as large a fraction as 1/4 of the applied load. If there are no perpendicular loads
but the loading is causing Large Displacement, or if buckling is to be considered, it is likely that small timesteps
will be needed toward the end of the force application ramp. Where there is no pressure or perpendicular force
on flat shells, I would start with a substep such as 1/10 or 1/4 of the applied load, but allow a minimum substep
as small as 1/100 of the full load. If these approaches will not work, it is likely that convergence control
commands in addition to time substep size will need consideration.

If the structure is buckling or undergoing plastic failure, or "simply will not converge" it may help to use the
Arc-Length method. As I have noted elsewhere, I don't use the default Arc-Length settings. I usually start with a
number of substeps (NSUBST), and don't let the Arc-Length solver increase the size of a step beyond my
maximum substep size. I let the Arc-Length solver use a minimum step size that is 1/10 or 1/100 of my substep
size. I let the Arc-Length solver use a maximum step size multiplier of one. The Arc-Length method can follow a
rising and falling force-displacement relationship. I find PlotCtrls/Animate/Dynamic_Results to be useful in
reviewing the behavior during an Arc-Length analysis, and other nonlinear analyses. I prefer to save the results at
every substep when doing this (Output Ctrls). When using Arc-Length analysis, it is usually desirable to set a
criterion to stop an analysis (NCNV). I usually use maximum displacement as the criterion for shell work.

Remember to ramp up your loads, permit automatic time stepping, and in the NSUBST command, allow the
program to bisection by setting the maximum number of substeps greater than the minimum number of substeps.

If you are having trouble with convergence , save the results at intermediate substeps so you can review the stress
and displacements. If you are doing combined Large Displacement and plastic deformation, and having trouble
with convergence, consider a study in which you do (1) an elastic small displacement analysis as a check on
element shape, loading, and constraints, (2) a Large Displacement elastic solution, and possibly (3) a plastic
small displacement solution. If these work without significant warning messages, you should be making some
progress. If gap or contact elements are being used, consider (4) softening the normal and tangential stiffness
values in a preliminary analysis (KN and KS). You can also (5) try relaxing the convergence criteria on force
and/or moment error. If desperate, a coarsely meshed model may improve speed enough for you to study what
helps get an answer. These preliminary studies may help you to find what settings help you to get convergence or
discover modeling problems before you do more time-consuming accurate analysis. If you are trying a new
technique, consider testing it on a toy-sized problem, before applying it to a large industrial-sized problem that
runs for hours or days, in order to learn the peculiarities and pitfalls of a particular time-consuming method.

If gap or contact elements are the only nonlinearities in a model, consider substructuring the linear regions of the
model. This can result in a tremendous increase in solution speed. If only a sub-region of a model will behave in
a nonlinear manner, it may reduce solution time to substructure the region that can be regarded as acting in a
linear manner. This speedup effect or may not occur with large displacement modeling, when the substructure
itself will be undergoing large displacement -- I have done only limited testing of this technique. See below for a
brief discussion and for simple examples of substructuring.

Tip 24: Working with Load Step Files in ANSYS:

Load step files can be used to automate the application of a number of different load cases on a structure. A load
step file contains loads on elements and nodes. It does NOT contain loads on geometric entities. Consequently, a
load step file can be generated after all loads from geometric entities have been transferred to a model. After all
loading on geometric entities has been deleted , the load step file can be read back in, recovering all applied
loads. Alternatively, consider the "LSCLEAR,SOLID" command. These loads can then be scaled.

The user needs to be careful when manipulating load step files. The load step files may contain the KUSE
instruction telling ANSYS to re-use the TRI file if the constraints have not changed. If the user deletes a load
step file, changes the order of their execution, or manually modifies their contents, invalid analysis might result.

If the model is re-numbered after load step files are generated, the node and element numbers in the load step file
will no longer be synchronized with the model, and will be invalid. A way around this is mentioned elsewhere in
these notes (See Tip 21).

The reader should take note of the ANSYS user guides comments on the LSCLEAR command. This deletes all

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loads and resets all load step options to their defaults. This can "clean up" the load step data before using
LSREAD to read a load step file for modification. What this implies is that the load step execution process does
NOT execute an LSCLEAR command when a load step file is read in. If it did, then ANSYS would have to
implement substantial checking to see whether a TRI file was safe to re-use, under the frontal solver (TRI file
re-use saves considerable time). Load step implementation can cause havoc when the user employs load step
files in a manner for which the method was not designed. It may help to read the contents of the LSSOLVE.MAC
macro in predicting what will happen, and to see what LSSOLVE does to avoid trouble. The LSSOLVE.MAC
macro at ANSYS 5.3 includes some undocumented commands including DMARK, FMARD, SMARK,
BMARK, and a *GET command that retrieves the error number in the /SOLU process. It also uses an
"LSCLEAR,SOLID" command that removes loads on geometric entities before reading in load step files. It
selects all DOF labels, sets xCUM labels to "replace", and does a few other things. I do not consider the manuals
to pursue this topic adequately -- a user ought to read the macro.

The ANSYS manual comments on the LSREAD command. The command does NOT clear ALL current loads on
the model when it reads in a new load step file (it does clear some... read the manual).

When using load step files: If loads on nodes and elements are set with BF and BFE commands (for example
applying temperatures for a thermal deformation stress analysis), then if you set up a subsequent load step, if
these temperatures are to be returned to ambient it may be necessary to use the BF and BFE command to set the
nodes and elements to the reference temperature (by default 0) rather than just deleting the loads using BFDELE
and BFEDELE and using BFUNIF to input the uniform temperature. It may help to use commands such as
"nsel,s,bf,temp,-999,99999" and "esel,s,bfe,temp,-999,99999" to select all of the nodes or elements to which
temperatures have been applied, if you are going to change them. Be very careful with the BFE command. If you
set the value of the temperature at, for example, four locations on an element with BFE, and in a later load step
set the value at only two locations within an element, the temperature at the other two locations will still be
"hanging around" at the previous value. It is very easy to make this mistake when running a series of load step
files. (Another thing I found out the hard way, in a model where both piping creation commands and beam
elements were used.)

If the user is deleting displacement constraints using DDELE, and then writing an additional load step file, the
old constraint may still be present when the series of load step files is read in under LSREAD; check for this in
your results. Be careful with this. It may compromise the use of load step files, or require some intervention like
writing an input file that calls load step files in using LSREAD, implementing fix-up commands as needed -- be
careful that a TRI file is not re-used because a load step file contains "KUSE,1" when your changes to constraints
mean that a new TRI file should be generated. Statements in the LSSOLVE.MAC macro can provide guidance
on using LSREAD effectively. You may need to look inside the load step files with a text editor. Be warned that
changing the contents of load step files with a text editor can be tricky because of unintended side-effects.

In general the user will have to be careful that the "residue" from the loads and displacements from one load step
do not appear inappropriately in later load steps. This is true when generating the load step files in the first place,
and may apply when reading in load step files with LSREAD. As noted, LSSOLVE.MAC uses cleanup

The user will have to be careful to change loads between load steps in a manner consistent with getting smooth
ramping of loads and displacements, for those cases when this is desired, either for transient analysis, or for good
nonlinear analysis convergence, or when intermediate results are desired at in-between loads.

Before reading in load step files to solve with LSREAD, ensure that loads on geometric entities and elements and
nodes have been deleted, unless you are keeping them intentionally (as noted, loads on geometric entities
overwrite loads on elements and nodes). As noted, LSSOLVE.MAC in ANSYS 5.3 contains the command
"LSCLEAR,SOLID" to remove the solid model loads on the model before proceeding.

If Large Displacement analysis is going to be used in analyses run by load step files, the NLGEOM flag must be
set in the first load step file. There will be no NLGEOM command generated in subsequent load step files.
Because ANSYS does not permit the kind of analysis to be changed when applying a series of load steps, error
messages will be result if the user changes the value of NLGEOM in the middle of a set of load step files.

Tip 25: Plotting Shell Stresses -- Surface, Mid-Plane Stress, Load Paths, ESYS and RSYS:

In the ANSYS database, shell

stresses (and strains) for the basic

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shell elements (63, 43, 143, 181,

and 93) are reported at the top and
bottom surfaces of the shell
element. The user can has four
options in ANSYS 5.3 for plotting
shell stresses (and strains). Three of
them are selected with the
commands: "SHELL,TOP" , "SHELL,MID" or "SHELL,BOT". These will cause plotting of shell stresses (and
strains) to be based on the values at the top surface, mid-plane, or bottom surface of each shell element. This is a
bit misleading. The mid-plane stress is based on the average of the stresses at the top and bottom ( this may not be
correct, at least for some elements, considering Section 2.3.4 of the Theory manual, which refers to stress on the
mid-plane of a shell element separately from the top and bottom, and forms the force per linear unit from a
weighted average of top surface, mid-plane, and bottom surface stress -- what's going on here? ). What
constitutes the top and bottom of a shell element depends on the element's orientation when it was defined (see
elsewhere in these pages). It is possible to have adjacent elements, one with a "top" surface pointing upward, and
its neighbour with the "top" surface pointing downward. In complex structures it happens all the time. If nodal
averaged plots are done, for example with "PLNSOL,S,EQV", when either top surface or bottom surface plotting
is chosen, then with such adjacent elements, the plotted top surface and bottom surface results will get blended,
causing a misleading mess to be displayed. (See Tip 19 for commands that can re-orient shell elements.)

More insight into the flow of stress in a model can be gained by plotting the stress vectors, using the
"PLVECT,S" command. With shells, these vectors will be plotted for the mid-plane principle stress components.
At times you will want to use vector graphics with no hidden surface removal, to give the best view of these
vectors. If there is local compression, the vectors point inward. These vectors can give insight into load paths in a

Where there are intersections of planes of shell elements, e.g. corners or "Tee" intersections, or where elements
of differing thickness meet, the averaging of node stresses can render local stress plot information meaningless at
the intersection. This is true of both surface and mid-plane stress plots. This is one way in which excessive
stresses will be unintentionally missed.

Any time that nodal averaged plotting is done, it is possible for the averaging to "wash out" local stresses that
may be important, yet it is common to do nodal averaged plots because of their much cleaner appearance (I do
them myself). The fourth option in plotting shell stresses is to switch on the ANSYS Powergraphics feature. This
causes shell results to be displayed, even averaged, for the visible surface. Options activated with the AVRES
and /EFACET commands can refine the way the results are plotted under Powergraphics (look them up).
Powergraphics has the options to discontinue the averaging of stress contours where there are certain
discontinuities in the material or geometry in the model. I'm going into this detail, because a high stress that is
washed out by nodal averaging could be a stress that causes serious fatigue or other damage, such as cracking, or
a weld being torn apart.

The only shortcoming is that Powergraphics will not work with mid-plane stress. The user has few options here.
Sometimes it is important to select only regions of a model when doing nodal averaged mid-plane stress plots
(using "SHELL,MID", without Powergraphics) so that the averaging does not wash anything out. A mid-plane
stress plot without Powergraphics can be done for element stresses, using a command like "PLESOL,S,EQV".
This will look messy, but at least it doesn't hide an extreme stress. An alternative I used is discussed elsewhere in
these pages: I wrote a macro to get the mid-plane averaged stress (all components) at every node of every
element (a given node has different results with reference to each of the elements to which it is attached, so a
given node will be looked up as many times as the number of elements to which it is attached), and transfer it to
the top and bottom surfaces, so that Powergraphics would plot mid-plane averaged stress neatly, with
discontinuities. CAUTION: This ruins the results database. The macro is extremely slow to run. The method
(under Powergraphics) does, however, give far better looking plots than using the "PLESOL,S,EQV" command
to plot mid-plane element stresses without nodal averaging (without Powergraphics).

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LOAD PATHS: The macro I mention above could be modified to multiply the mid-plane averaged stress
components by the local shell element thickness at each node. The resulting values would yield a contour plot of
force per linear inch (or other dimensional unit) "averaged" at the mid-plane of the shell -- this could help to
make load paths visible in a complex shell structure. "PLVECT,S" plots that would now show arrows
corresponding to the load-per-unit-length on the mid-plane and show the principal directions in which it points,
helping to illustrate the load paths. This macro would also ruin the database for any other use. Before plotting
"load-per-unit-length" data, the user needs to decide how to orient the results data coordinate systems with RSYS
for information such as Sx or Sy that contains direction information (stress and strain with EQV does not contain
direction information).

Note: The Output Data section on Shell63, Shell43, and Shell93 includes In-plane element X, Y, and XY forces
called TX, TY, and TXY. Consequently, shell "force per unit length" data can be obtained directly in an Element
Table very quickly, though with a resolution of one value per element. (For Shell63, 43, and 93, use SMISC
setting 1, 2, or 3 when generating the element table data.) The Theory Manual uses the term In-plane forces per
unit length while the elements manual refers to just forces as above -- a simple test I ran shows the data to be
force per unit length. The elements manual ought to clarify this. The Element Table data can be contour plotted,
but there are no principal stress style vector plots of table data. (Clarification: PLVECT can plot vector arrows
based on 3 ETABLE columns, but not the double-headed arrows for an ETABLE as in a principal stress vector
plot.) The Elements manual shows the TX, TY, and TXY values not being available under "Miscellaneous
Element Output" at every node, only at the centroid. The Elements manual does not explicitly show that S,EQV
or S,INT stress information can be extracted at the mid-plane. Their value is extracted with the component name
method. Brief experimentation shows that if the command "SHELL,MID" is followed by
"ETABLE,SEQVMID,S,EQV" that the column called SEQVMID will contain an average SEQV value for the
mid-plane. If "SHELL,TOP" or "SHELL,BOT" is called, the ETABLE value of SEQV will change if the update
command "ETABLE,REFL" is executed. Warning: When plotting ETABLE shell element element table data
with PLETAB the plot information legend will read TOP, MID, or BOT according to the current setting of the
SHELL command. This bit of information DOES NOT reflect the SHELL surface setting conditions in effect
when the ETABLE data was stored, and could be misleading. For this reason, the label used for the column
should indicate the shell layer setting in use when the element table data was loaded, as with "SEQVMID" above.
Doing an element table update with ETABLE,REFL will re-fill columns with results data. A change of the
SHELL layer setting can change stress results that are loaded in an update. Consequently, loading shell element
data must be handled very carefully in order that the layer choice is controlled. Element table data from the
CALC module (adding columns etc.) is NOT updated and has to be explicitly re-calculated.

NOTE Also: The direction of the element table load-per-unit-length TX, TY, and TXY is as taken from the
element in Element Coordinates. Unlike SX or SY, the values of TX, TY, and TXY appear to be insensitive to
the RSYS setting. The Element Coordinate System will vary orientation from element to element, particularly
under free meshing, and affects the usefulness of TX, TY, and TXY data. The element table data can be
processed by the user to yield a new table column containing the "load-per-unit-length intensity" in the sense of a
Mohr's circle, giving rapid if somewhat coarse plots of load path information along the shell mid-plane. The plots

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will usually be more informative without nodal averaging. Section 2.3.4 of the ANSYS Theory manual discusses
Forces and Moments per unit length on shell elements -- the suggestion is that internally, at least for some shell
elements, the mid-plane stress is NOT simply the average of the top and bottom stresses. The way around the
problem of element coordinate systems being arbitrarily oriented is to define local coordinate systems before
meshing areas (or otherwise generating shell elements) and use ESYS to get all shell elements oriented with the
local coordinate systems. ESYS assigned to elements can be modified after the fact but before SOLVE, by using
the EMODIF command in /PREP7. It may be desirable to have a local coordinate system aligned with each flat
area to be meshed with shell elements so that all shell element coordinate systems can be aligned in the plane of
the area -- a time consuming process unless a macro is used. Curved surfaces would be difficult.

The problem of orienting coordinate systems in the plotting of results is illustrated by the images below. The first
shows 3 elements that were created during free meshing. The elements are plotted using vector graphics, with the
element coordinate systems shown. Each element has its coordinate system oriented differently. The image
below it lists the elements and their node numbers. Look at the sequence of node numbers for the three elements
to see why the element coordinate systems point in such different directions.

The next two images show a plot of TX done from an element table. The element table was filled by the TX
values for the elements (this is the load-per-unit-length in the element coordinate system X direction). The values
differ so much from element to element because of the difference in the element coordinate systems. The plot
consequently tells us too little. The following element plot of Sx shows the stress in the X direction. The results
are shown in the global coordinate system.

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The final images in this section show a group of Shell63 elements that have had their element coordinate systems
aligned with local coordinate systems at the time of the creation of the elements, by the use of the ESYS
command. This will permit element table results TX, TY, and TXY to be aligned in a known manner. This also
permits Sx, Sy, and Sxy to be aligned in the plane of the elements creation if RSYS,SOLU is active when
plotting stress results. Knowlege of the alignment of the loads and stresses can make plots more useful in
understanding load paths, reduce the total number of plots required in model assessment, and help facilitate an
evaluation of loading on welds. The first plot with vector graphics shows the elements with their element
coordinate systems. Note that they are aligned. There are two local coordinate systems at work in this example --
they are numbered 11 and 12 and their symbols are plotted. Elements have been created aligned with number 11
in one plane, and aligned with number 12 in the other plane of elements. A line pressure has been applied in the
global -Y direction. The second plot with raster graphics is of Sx at the shell mid-plane. Because RSYS,SOLU
was active when the Sx plot was generated, there are Sx values shown in all elements. If RSYS,0 were active
when the Sx plot was done, the plane of elements that is perpendicular to the global X axis would show zero
stress in the X direction in this example.

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There is an alternative to using ESYS and RSYS,SOLU to align element coordinate systems for the purposes of

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stress plots like Sx, Sy, and Sxy. During postprocessing in /POST1, a local coordinate system can be aligned with
the plane of shell elements of interest, and RSYS set to that local coordinate system, before plotting Sx, Sy, or
Sxy. However, this would do nothing for TX, TY, and TXY which depend on the element coordinate system and
are generated in an Element Table.

I leave the topic of whether to plot surface or mid-plane shell stresses to the reader to determine. Too much is
industry or application domain specific. Hint: Check mid-plane plus both shell surface stresses. Surface stresses
and strains can cause local bending, cracking, breaking of protective coatings, fatigue, and imply possible
overload or prying of welds and fasteners, and can highlight other troubles.

Tip 26: Nodal Coupling (CP) versus Rigid Region (CERIG):

I have seen analysts mistakenly use nodal coupling where rigid region constraint equations should have been
employed. (The nodes concerned were not at the same location in space.) Rigid region constraint locks together a
selected set of nodes so that they translate AND rotate in space as if they were locked together by an infinitely
stiff structure. Nodal coupling locks together selected degrees of freedom (translation and/or rotation)
individually, so that the same degree of freedom value will result for the nodes in the coupled set. Nodal
coupling will not combine the rotations and translations that are necessary to imply rotation as a rigid body in

Note that rigid region constraint may not be appropriate for Large Displacement, when the displacement rotations
are significant (sin(theta) differing from theta, etc.). This is because ANSYS uses a linear approximation to the
rigid body rotation matrix. A rigid region grouping can be implied by tying nodes together with extremely stiff
beam elements (zero-mass beam elements a few orders of magnitude stiffer than the structure to which they are
attached.) The beam elements should have the advantage that they work under Large Displacement. The beam
elements should not be too stiff, or ill-conditioned matrices could result. If the beams are of very widely varying
lengths, then some may be too stiff, others too flexible -- remember that flexibility is proportional to length

I ran a model in which about one thousand beam elements were used to position gap elements. These beam
elements would ideally have been infinitely stiff. I needed elements, instead of nodal coupling or constraint
equations, because of thermal expansion considerations. The beam elements were widely varying in length. This
created solver trouble, until I wrote a macro that assigned each beam element a unique REAL value, which set
values for each BEAM4's Ixx, Iyy, Izz, and Area as a function of the element's length. I found it sufficient to set
their stiffness a couple of orders of magnitude stiffer that contact stiffness for the gap elements.

Turning on the symbols for nodal coupling and for nodal constraint equations is very helpful in reviewing the
correctness of a model.

Tip 27: Vibration Modes with Pre-stress:

Calculation of natural frequencies and modes of vibration CAN be done with pre-stressing of the structure under
ANSYS. There is a "PRESTRESS" flag to set under modal analysis. This is available in the dialog box for Modal
Analysis Options. First, do a static analysis with the prestress flag set. Exit Solution (click Finish or enter "/fini").
Re-enter Solution, and do a modal analysis with the prestress flag set again. This does not seem to work when
the stress run is done with Large Displacement activated.

I leave the question of how a performer plays music with a hand saw and a violin bow as an "exercise for the
reader" :-)

Tip 28: Creating New Elements by Copying or Reflecting Existing Structure:

In order to create new elements by reflecting or copying existing elements, there are a few things to do. First,
select the elements to be copied and get their nodes with NSLE. Copy or reflect the nodes, noting the nodal
number offset that will be used -- write it down. Copy or reflect the elements, using the nodal offset number that
you wrote down. ANSYS should default to a nodal offset number equal to your highest numbered node. If you
make it smaller, you run the risk of changing the location of nodes that already exist, resulting in a lovely mess. If
you are running something like ANSYS/ED you may want to compress your node numbers first, for if a node
number results that exceeds the ANSYS/ED limit, the program will terminate immediately (the more recent
ANSYS revisions may give a non-fatal warning message and quit some time later if you don't clean up). You
could compress the node numbers, and then make the offset number equal one plus the difference between the

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maximum node number of the whole model and the lowest node number of those nodes to be copied or reflected.
You can find these node numbers with *GET commands. (Remember that compressing node or element numbers
will destroy synchronization with Load Step files.)

The same nodal offset number will need to be used if nodal coupling is to be copied as well. In order to copy
nodal coupling, use "Generate Coupled DOF Sets with same DOF" for which you will need the same nodal offset
number. Do a replot to see the newly created nodal coupling. Caution: Be sure that if nodes were deleted earlier,
that nodal coupling equations that in the past included those deleted nodes were also deleted. If you forget, you
may get a pretty mess.

Remember that if there are nodes on the plane of reflection, new nodes will overlay them. Merge commands may
be wanted for the nodes on the reflection plane. Now the tricky part: elements lying in the reflection plane (shell
elements will do this) get generated with the node order reversed, because of the mirror imaging. They Will Not
Merge with the element from which they were reflected. They may have to be deleted, depending on what you
are trying to accomplish. Alternatively, do not select elements that lie in the plane of reflection when reflecting
the structure. You still need to reflect the nodes on the plane of reflection, in order to reflect the elements that
will join them to the remainder of the reflected structure, so the nodal merge will still be needed.

Tip 29: Adding to a Model Comprised of Elements and Nodes Only:

It may happen that a model that consists of nodes and elements only has to have a section replaced, or requires
the addition of more structure. The way to attach new geometry onto existing nodes and elements is to: (1) Place
keypoints on the nodes onto which new geometry is to be built (i.e. grafted). (2) Join these keypoints with lines.
(3) Set mesh density along these lines to only one element. (4) Build new geometry outward from these keypoints
and lines. This gets messy if you are building solids. (5) Mesh the new geometry. (6) Select the nodes (new and
old) along the interface between the old nodes and the nodes of the new geometry. (7) Merge ONLY these nodes
along the interface using the NUMMRG,NODE command. Alternatively (much more work unless a macro is
written or the CPINTF command is used correctly), fully couple the PAIRS of nodes with the CP command. In
the event of elements with mid-side nodes, lines will have to be created curved so that a single line spans three
keypoints placed on the three nodes along the edge of an element. It is probably advisable to connect elements
with mid-side nodes to other elements with mid-side nodes.

This attaches the new geometry and mesh to the old elements and nodes. Be sure to double check that the
merging has been done correctly and according to your intentions -- I have found this to be a surprisingly
error-prone operation.

Tip 30: Zero Mass Beam Elements Form Rigid Region:

An analyst could use very stiff beam elements (a few orders of magnitude stiffer than the surrounding structure)
in order imply a rigid region grouping of nodes, which works under Large Displacement (a CERIG group does
not work with large displacement). This is an old FEA trick -- it is not perfect. A separate material should be
created for these beams, and be given zero mass (set the material density to zero) so that no gravitational or other
inertial load acts on the material. A thermal expansion coefficient should be input if appropriate -- it would
usually be identical to the coefficient value for the structure that it approximates.

I wrote a macro to create a rigid region using beam elements. It is called after the set of nodes to be connected is
selected. The lowest numbered of the set of nodes is attached to each of the other nodes in the set by a beam
element. The beam element to use has to be set up in advance, and the appropriate MAT, REAL, and TYPE set
by the user. A macro like this is very fast to run. Caution: Such a macro would become complex if it checked for
duplicate nodes at the first node location (ANSYS can't use zero length beams), and checked for widely varying
beam lengths. This is not a guaranteed method.

Tip 31: Turn off Symbols When Changing a Model after Solution:

If you have run SOLVE, the results database will be full of data. If you then change a model, and create anything
that plots a symbol, all symbols become active, and plots become extremely slow. Turn off symbols with
/PBC,ALL,,0 to speed things up. I put this command in the Toolbox for convenience. I have found that plotting
can become slow with very large models when loads have been applied, and even when applied and deleted.
Presumably ANSYS is checking to see if any symbols should be shown. The plotting speeded up considerably
when symbols were turned off with "/PBC,ALL,,0" even though there were, in fact, no symbols to be plotted.

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Tip 32: Are the "Free-Free" Vibration Modes Relevant?:

Simple supports on a structure may be appropriate for static analysis and gravity loading, since the structure will
"sink" until the simple support reacts enough to withstand the applied load. If a modal vibration is excited, small
amplitude vibrations may result in very little response from the support, and vibration similar to a structure that is
free in space may result (this is obviously very problem dependent). If so, it may be desirable to run a modal
vibration analysis with no constraints. More than six modes must be requested, since the first 6 represent the free
translation and rotation, and give Zero eigenvalues. A better approach would be to characterize the flexibility of
the constraint points. With some structures, you may get a few surprises, as torsional and other vibration modes

Tip 33: Selecting a CAD or FEA System -- Cover Yourself

It is common to evaluate a few CAD or FEA packages when trying to make the right choice for a purchase.
Watch out for this stunt: (I've seen it done, and been threatened with it once (I laughed at her).) A losing
vendor writes a letter to your boss, or even to the head of your company, claiming that the engineers are
incompetent (stupid, uninformed, can't spell, and so on) and making a huge mistake. If the boss is not an engineer
and cannot understand the issues, this could get awkward. (Certain Dilbert cartoons come to mind.) Warn your
boss(es) in advance that a few vendors pull this move and that you and your group will evaluate the products in a
thorough manner. Write down some criteria and your assessments. Also, be careful that you cannot be accused of
leaking information unfairly from one vendor to another -- date your correspondence carefully, and work through
your purchasing department if that is appropriate at your firm. Some sales-types are very greedy for their
commissions, and petulant when they lose. (Names will not be mentioned, to protect the guilty. If you've been
around the block a couple of times, perhaps you can make a few guesses.)

(The ANSYS vendor I've dealt with has been very professional.)

Tip 34: Creating Lines Perpendicular to, or at Angle to Existing Lines

When creating structures in the /PREP7 portion of ANSYS, I find that the
commands that create lines that are perpendicular to existing lines, or at an angle to
existing lines, are extremely useful. Look at the commands LANG, LTAN, L2ANG,
as well as the others. These commands break lines where new lines intersect, even
though the original lines are already attached to areas. Since I often model shells
that are to act as if they are welded together, I need the lines to be shared where
areas contact each other. These commands give the connectivity I need.

The command that meets another line at an angle may do better if it is entered manually, with the first guess of
the contact point set at 0.0, 0.5, or 1.0, depending on your intention. This often succeeds when the interface
command fails.

Tip 35: Use the /UI command in Your ANSYS Toolbar to Bring up GUI Dialog Boxes

Take a look at the /UI command in ANSYS. You can use it in your Toolbar to activate certain GUI dialog boxes
with one-click simplicity, instead of finding your way though the menu system. I sometimes get odd results from
the Hard Copy command when I do this -- I have no idea why.

Tip 36: Reaction Force, Nodal Force, and Load Paths

I worked on a model subject to aerodynamic pressure and gravity load. We needed to know the load that the
structure would apply to its foundations. Printing the Reaction Force would give this value, however the +/- sign
is in the direction of the force that the constrained node (or nodes) applies TO the structure. If nodes are selected
with the three commands NSEL,S,D,UX $ NSEL,A,D,UY $ NSEL,A,D,UZ the Nodal Force at the constrained
nodes can be printed. This is the force with which the nodes press on the supports. (NOTE: You may need to
include nodes where there are constraints on rotation, depending on what you are modeling.)

WARNING: A number of things can go wrong with this approach.

1. If you ask for nodal forces without limiting the node selection to nodes where there are constraints, you

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will get nodal forces wherever forces and pressures have been applied to your structure. (For the curious,
printing nodal forces when only pressure has been applied to shell and high order elements will illustrate
that FEA software inputs a complex set of forces and moments because of how the elements are derived
from first principles. What is being printed is the force with which the nodes react to the forces input from
outside -- if a moment is input, a nodal "force" moment is output in reaction.)
2. If an input force has been applied to a constrained node, the nodal force and the reaction force magnitudes
will differ. When I tested this, the reaction force that ANSYS listed was modified by the presence of a
force applied directly to a constrained node, whereas the nodal force (that is based only on element
deformation) was not affected.
3. IMPORTANT: All the elements to which the selected node is attached must be selected in order to get the
total force with which the node pushes on the outside world (use ESLN after selecting the nodes). The
generation of Nodal Force (and Reaction Force, if I remember correctly) is determined from the
deformation and stiffness of attached elements. If elements attached to a node of interest are not selected,
then the contribution of those elements to the force at the node is not included and will be missing.
4. Caution: If you have used a rigid region with the node of interest, the lack of element deformation means
that you will NOT get the Nodal Force or Reaction correctly -- you may need to work from the set of nodes
where the rigid region attaches to the flexible part of the structure. I'm not sure what kind of effects nodal
coupling would have.

There are various other uses to which you can put Nodal Force. You can plot the Nodal Force vectors along with
your model (see the /PBC command), after SOLVE, giving visual cues during your review. You can use NODAL
FORCE to find out about the load being carried in certain Load Paths:

Determine where to position a "cut" in the model. Locate it where you want to determine the force carried
across the cut. The "cut" should follow a path along the edge of a set of adjoining elements. Select all the
elements on ONE side of the "cut".
Select the nodes on the "cut" side of those elements.
Printing the Nodal Force (forces only) will tell you about the forces that your selected elements apply to
those nodes. The sum that is printed tells you the total force carried across the "cut" in the X, Y, Z
directions, based on the selected elements.
Caution: Getting the moment across the cut is not so easy, because moment is determined with respect to
an axis. You would have to do extra work to pursue moment across a cut, determining your "neutral" axis,
and using other commands. See, for example, ANSYS manuals information on the SPOINT command.

Note my earlier comment Tip 25 on making load paths visible in shell models. For further information, read the
ANSYS manuals on the FSUM and NFORCE commands.

Tip 37: Inputting Temperatures with BF, BFE, and TUNIF in Structural Analysis

As discussed by ANSYS in Chapter 2.6 of the Elements Manual, Body Loads (temperatures for structural
analysis that cause thermal strains and affect temperature dependent material properties) may be input in a nodal
format or an element format. "Either the nodal or the element loading format may be used for an element, with
the element format taking precedence. Body Loads are designated in the "Input Summary" of each element. "
This means that if both BFE and BF are applied to an element and its nodes, and the inputs differ, the BFE
setting will govern. If temperature is input on a nodal basis, the temperature input at a node will influence all the
attached elements. If temperature is input on an element basis, the temperature(s) input will influence only the
element to which it was applied. The commands TUNIF and BFUNIF can be used to set all nodes to one default
temperature that differs from the reference temperature. Then, BF or BFE commands can to used on specific
regions of the model to put in other temperatures.

If you use piping commands to create pipe elements, and have applied temperatures, ANSYS will apply the
temperatures on an element basis (to check this, generate a Load Step file and inspect its contents, or use the
BFLIST and BFELIST commands). For the user applying temperatures directly, it can be a little simpler to apply
temperatures on a nodal basis with BF, since the nodes can be selected by location. Inputting temperatures on an
element basis with BFE permits control of things such as temperature differences between the inside and outside
of pipe elements, or between the top and bottom of beam elements. The element listing in the Elements Manual
should be consulted before applying temperatures with BFE. As I discussed elsewhere, if you change
temperatures that were previously set with BFE, the temperatures have to be changed at all the locations within
each element to which temperatures were applied. Otherwise, the old temperatures will still be there. You may
want to clean up with a BFEDELE or other cleanup command before starting. The BFDELE and BFEDELE

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commands only act on selected nodes and elements -- if you want to remove all temperature application, select
the full model first. Be wary of what happens when you use Load Step files.

Tip 38: ANSYS Toolbar Use

The ANSYS Toolbar can be very helpful in giving "one click" access to frequently used commands. Toolbar
buttons can also call macros, or the function form of commands, for example Fnc_Pl_Symbols to bring up the
dialog box for setting symbols. If you want to get fancy, a toolbar button could be used to activate an alternative

In the toolbar shown here, a variety of buttons have been enabled. Some of the captions
are a little cryptic; this is because the captions are limited to only 8 characters. The
command that gets executed cannot include the $ sign. Consequently, only one
command can be executed, however, a macro can be called in order to perform a
complex set of instructions. The toolbar editing is brought up from the menu item
"MenuCtrls". In the example toolbar shown here, the buttons are not in a highly logical
order. In order to modify the button sequence, save the toolbar (I suggest the
unimaginative file name "toolbar") and re-order the lines in that file with a text editor.
Keep the eventual sizing of your toolbar in mind. The example here is sized for six rows
deep, and seven columns wide. Use the "Save Menu Layout" menu selection to save the
layout of all of your ANSYS windows including the toolbar shape. (This setting is
destroyed if you modify the "GUI configuration" under your ANSYS Interactive startup
dialog box.) When you are happy with the layout of your toolbar, you can append the
toolbar file's contents to the end of the "Start.ans" file located in the ANSYS "DOCU"

Tip 39: ANSYS Piping Elements

The use of ANSYS piping elements, Pipe16 and Pipe18, can simplify the work required to create models of
piping systems that will satisfy certain code requirements. Piping commands can be used in /PREP7 to directly
create models of piping. In using piping creation commands, a user works out the intersection points of the runs
of piping as if there are sharp angle bends. Each run of pipe is entered as dx, dy, dz, creating Pipe16 elements,
and then a radius of curvature at the previous intersection can be applied, creating Pipe18 elements. The Pipe18
elements are taken out of the two Pipe16 elements that met at the last corner intersection. If these two Pipe16
elements are too small to encompass the Pipe18 bend elements, difficulties will result. If the user is defining
U-bends, it is easy to have zero-length Pipe16 elements generated. My approach to this is to inspect the model
for zero-length Pipe16 elements, and delete them, after I make sure that all pipe nodes are merged. I use a macro
to inspect the model and do the deletions. Checks are included in the macro, because Pipe18 elements always
return a zero length. I have also seen users do a U-bend with a small extra space so that a very small Pipe16
element will remain between the two 90 degree bends that make up the 180 degree U-bend, avoiding a
zero-length element problem.

To list or plot useful stress information from the piping model usually requires putting selected results data into
element data tables, and the use of appropriate PLLS commands. Fortunately, ANSYS includes many output
possibilities for the two piping element types, so typical piping code requirements can be met. See the element
manual for these elements for information on the available output data.

For obvious reasons, I leave proper use of design codes within piping analysis as an "exercise for the reader." :-)

Piping creation in ANSYS includes the possibility of added mass due to fluid in the pipes, and from insulation
added to the piping. The insulation addition is simple -- the user can input thickness and density. This lets the
added mass presence of heat exchanger fins be easily faked by inputting the product of fin_thickness x

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fins_per_inch x fin_material_density as the "insulation" density, and fin height as the "insulation" thickness.
(Substitute the appropriate dimension for fins_per_inch, etc. for your system of units.)

The deflection behavior of pipe elements is based on ANSYS beam elements. If accurate vibration behavior is to
be modeled, at least several pipe elements will be needed between supports. If accurate gravity-induced
deflections and stress are wanted, better results will come from the use of a consistent mass matrix, if element
density between supports is low.

Developing an understanding of the function of the ANSYS element creation commands (BRANCH, RUN,
BEND, and so on) will require creating some elements with material and dimensional information, then
reviewing what element TYPE and REAL data has been created in the model database. Model review is
enhanced by plotting the elements with the /ESHAPE option active.

Where piping is connected with sliding supports to the outside world, the use of gap elements may be needed if
sliding friction is to be included in the model. ANSYS does not differentiate between static friction and sliding
friction coefficients, so a reasonable and conservative value for coefficient of friction (as well as contact stiffness
of the gap element) will have to be determined by the analyst. If there are thermal expansions in the piping,
stresses predicted by the model will usually be reduced if the gaps in the support structure are included in the
model (depending on the nature of the structure) rather than having "tight" fits at the sliding connections.

Tip 40: Graphical Output from ANSYS

If you start up ANSYS under Windows NT with "win32" selected for graphics, the stress plots will be shaded. If
you select "win32c" for the graphics, the stress plots will not be shaded, and will usually look better when plotted
to paper, especially when plotted from ANSYS with HardCopy to ink jet printers. They can be selected with the
commands /SHOW,WIN32 and /SHOW,WIN32C when using the GUI.

Plotting to the screen window with Z-buffering as the hidden surface control can give very satisfactory and often
quicker results. Hard copies of these Z-buffer plots, however, will look "pixelated", being limited to a coarse
resolution. Better looking hard copies to paper will usually result if the screen is set to "Precise Hidden" or even
to Centroidal hidden surface control. This is usually true of plots sent to a file, for subsequent processing with the

Plots can be redirected to files by using the /SHOW command. This permits the DISPLAY program to do various
things with the results, including the generation of animations. Under Windows NT, an animation can be
generated as an AVI file.

I occasionally find it helpful to generate an animation file based on a single stress plot of a load step, in which I
spin the model about the screen X or Y axis. You can use the /ANGLE command and the /REPLOT command to
accomplish this. A simple macro does /REPLOT calls with the model set at a series of angles from 0 to 360
degrees. You can even execute this command on one line using the "$" symbol to separate the commands. The
command "*DO,III,0,355,5$/ANGLE,ALL,III,YS,0$/REPLOT$*ENDDO" will achieve this for you. The scaling
of the display should NOT be set with /ZOOM,OFF or else the image will "move in and out" in order to fill the
screen as the view is rotated -- set the zoom level manually with picking; you may want to move out so that the
model fits in all views. You may need to experiment. Node plots without symbols are a quick way to assess the
behavior while testing. If the plots have been re-directed to a file when this command is executed, the plots in the
file can be animated by the ANSYS DISPLAY program.

AT the ANSYS 5.3 level, and presumably above, you can do a /SHOW,VRML plot to get a 3-D VRML file
produced of a 3-D model plot. This could be a stress contour plot of a 3-D model. With the right options
activated for a good VRML viewer plugged into a Web browser, the stresses on the 3-D model can be reviewed
at any viewing angle with the positioning control a VRML viewer. This ought to be particularly interesting on a
computer with a fast 3-D graphics accelerator.

There are utilities that can convert a Postscript output file from the ANSYS DISPLAY program into a bitmap
image file. A free conversion program is Ghostscript, once you figure out how to use it. The user should get a
front end for the Ghostscript program, for ease of use.

Under Windows NT, the Alt/PrintScreen key combination will copy a window to the Clipboard. This can be used
to capture an ANSYS graphics window for pasting into a word processor document, or into an image processing
program for conversion to a GIF or other bitmap file. GIF files can be used in WEB pages to show the results of

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ANSYS work. I recommend GIF over JPEG files for images from ANSYS, because GIF files precisely reproduce
256, 16, and 2 color images (you have to reduce the colors to 256 or fewer levels in the image processing
program, or accept the default color reduction used when the GIF file is generated.) Before capturing the
Graphics window of ANSYS, set its size to your satisfaction. Bitmap image size changes in an image processing
program are not satisfactory with this type of graphical output. If you want to get really fancy, generate a GIF file
that contains an animation of a ANSYS model. (Animated GIF files can be generated from individual images
with software that you can find on the Web or purchase.)

Re-sizing of the ANSYS graphics window under Windows NT is painful if a model has been plotted, because
ANSYS wants to keep re-plotting the image as the window edge or corner is dragged. This problem goes away if
you set the Windows NT Display Properties to NOT show window contents while dragging. I keep my PC
permanently set this way for this reason.

Tip 41: Check Nodal Loads at Bolts, Rivets, Spot Welds and Links

Wherever connection by bolts, rivets, or spot welds has been represented by various simplifications or
representations in an ANSYS model, the load on those connections should be checked, and compared with
allowables. Spot weld review may require assessment of moments (especially about an axis perpendicular to the
sheets that are spot welded together), as well as assessment of forces. One way to do this is to select the
appropriate node(s) at the connection, select elements on "one side" of the node(s), and check nodal loads. The
connection devices should not be overloaded. The hole in which a bolt or rivet is placed must not be overloaded
or too near an outside edge of a sheet or plate, either. Additionally, building codes usually forbid or substantially
limit "prying" loads on bolted and riveted connections. If the FEA model has good detail, including gap or
contact elements, a high prying load can be demonstrated in some models (never assume your FEA model will
automatically show you all trouble spots).

Similarly, links or "spars" that are loaded should be checked for stress, and be checked for buckling. Since a link
will be represented by one element that is pin connected at the ends, and only cross section area is entered,
ANSYS will not generate buckling information about the link, not even in a Large Displacement analysis. The
user must do some work to compare compressive load with critical buckling load (use a good margin of safety).
A user could write a macro to step through all link elements, identifying the compressive stress and force, and
calculating buckling information. The ANSYS Link10 element supports a tension-only and a compression-only
capability. Where it is not known in advance whether all links will remain in tension, and the links are slender,
this element could be used to imply that no link can support compression for what may be a "worst case"
evaluation of some models. An example would be the stays that support the mast on a sailboat, with
pre-tensioning implied with initial strain. (If the stays are woven rope or steel cable, getting a representative
crossection for the link elements will require some extra work.)

Spot weld representation in large structures is usually an inexact science in FEA modeling. Spot welds will be
found, for example, in many automobile body structures. Plug welds are a stronger alternative, applicable to
thicker steel sheets and plates. The crudest and quickest representation of spot welds is to merge coincident
nodes from the two joined layers where nodes have been intentionally created coincident at the spot weld.
Alternatively, the nodes can be fully coupled with the CP command if they are coincident. They can be joined as
a rigid region with CERIG if the nodes are close but not touching as when shell elements are kept at the
mid-plane position of two sheets that are spot welded together. (Remember that CERIG is valid only in small
displacement analysis -- coupling with zero-mass stiff beam elements could be substituted if large displacements
were needed.) The shell nodes can be joined with a beam element that has properties that reflect the diameter of
the spot weld. The roughest approximation will merge or couple just one node pair. If nodal coupling is used,
rotations should be coupled as well as translations, for spot weld representation. NOTE : With shell elements,
read the "drilling mode" comments in the ANSYS Elements Manual -- it may be necessary to set a KEYOPT
value to transmit rotation and torque about an axis perpendicular to the shell elements when a spot weld is
crudely represented by single node pair coupling, merging, CERIG, or beam elements. Contact elements between
the joined shells or materials may want consideration. Exactly what to do for spot weld representation is very
problem, industry, and material dependent. These very approximate techniques tell us little or nothing about
stress, fatigue, or fracture possibilities near or at the weld. More elaborate modeling (more nodes and elements,
and special element types) of each spot weld could give more information about local stresses, when local
stresses matter. Studying the "crack" that is hidden between the sheet metal layers in a spot weld is an "advanced
topic" -- discuss this with an expert or consultant. I doubt that you would find many spot welds used with
aluminum, not only because of the difficulty of welding aluminum, but also because of the fatigue considerations
-- consider how commonly aircraft use rivets and modern adhesives.

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There is a document on spot weld fatigue and FEA on the MSC/Nastran website. (There is a variety of other
good reading at the site, too.) Take a look at the paper in PDF format by Heyes and Fermer, which, although it is
MSC/Nastran related, is interesting and includes the following references:
Rupp, A., Stö rzel, K. and Grubisic, V. "Computer Aided Dimensioning of Spot-Welded Automotive Structures". SAE Technical
Paper 950711, 1995.
Smith, R. A. and Cooper, J. F. "Theoretical predictions of the fatigue life of shear spot welds." Fatigue of Welded Structures, Ed. S.
J. Maddox, pp. 287 - 293, The Welding Institute, 1988.
British Standards Institution. Code of Practice for Fatigue Design and Assessment of Steel Structures. BS 7608, 1993.
Radaj, D. "Local Fatigue Strength Characteristic Values for Spot Welded Joints." Engineering Fracture Mechanics, Vol. 37, No. 1,
pp. 245 - 250, 1990.
Sheppard, S. D. and Strange, M. E. "Fatigue Life Estimation in Resistance Spot Welds: Initiation and Early Growth Phase." Fatigue
and Fracture of Engineering Materials and Structures, Vol. 15, No. 6, pp. 531 - 549, 1992.
Sheppard, S. D. "Estimation of Fatigue Propagation Life in Resistance Spot Welds." ASTM STP 1211, Advances in Fatigue Life
Prediction Techniques, M. R. Mitchell and R. W. Landgraf, Eds., pp. 169 - 185, ASTM Philadelphia, 1993.
Heyes, P., Dakin, J. and StJohn, C. "The Assessment and Use of Linear Static FE Stress Analyses for Durability Calculations."
SAE Technical Paper 951101, 1995.

I have never worked in aerospace, but I recently had a look inside a old helicopter that was on public display. In
addition to rivets, what was either a caulking or an adhesive appeared to have been used between some ribs and
the outer shell. This may prevent corrosion in the gap, and help reduce vibration and fretting or galling. If it is
purely a soft caulking, it might be ignored in FEA, but if it functions as an adhesive, the load on the rivets is
probably reduced. Presumably the manufacturer has standards for this type of design.

Tip 42: Use QUERY to Check Results with Picking

In /POST1 the "Query Results" capability applied to nodes makes it easy to check on results (stresses, strains,
deflections, etc.) by picking nodes. To see an image of this in action Click to See Image and use your browser's
Back button to return. For the shell element illustrated, the result will be reported for the Top, Middle, or Bottom,
according to how the SHELL command was issued (the usual rules as to what constitutes the Top and Bottom of
a shell element apply). It will do this even if PowerGraphics is active for the plot on the screen. Note that the
nodal stresses are based on averages if more than one element that is connected to a node is selected. You can
inspect the consequence of element selection on nodal stress easily with this feature. The element query returns
only data on energy and error estimation.

Tip 43: Loads on Geometric Entities Overwrite Loads on Nodes and Elements -- Easy Error to Make

My "dumb move of the week" was to retrieve an old model of a beam with redundant supports, change the load
on a node, and re-run the model. I then updated the element table results, and used PLLS to plot the result, as
shown below. This is a plot of top surface bending stress, with gravity loading included. Both applied point loads
and reactions are shown as colored arrows. Stress colors have been gray scaled for printing to a black and white
laser printer. Upon inspection by a co-worker, he noticed that the results were the same as the results the last time
the model was run, under different loading, a month before. What was wrong?

The model database file had been saved with the original loading and results. The original model had the load
applied to the keypoints. I changed the load on a node. When I ran SOLVE, the load on the keypoint
OVERWROTE the load on the node, and I got the old result. When I listed the applied forces with FLIST before
running SOLVE, I saw my modified loads. When I listed the applied forces with FLIST after running SOLVE, I
got the OLD loads on the nodes. The same principle applies to loads on lines, areas, and volumes. Presumably, it
happens with applied displacements, also. Since loads on geometric entities cannot be scaled, there may be little
reason to keep the loads on geometric entities after these loads have been transferred to nodes and elements,
EXCEPT when meshing may be changed in the future. The use of components is an alternative way to select
parts of the model for loading.

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Suggestion: The user should add a warning annotation stating that loading is on geometric entities, before
archiving a model. Should ANSYS add a warning message about SOLVE transferring loads from geometric
entities, which requires user acknowledgment?

A potentially dangerous mistake -- watch for it!

Tip 44: Use Components for Load Input, and for Results Review

A user-written input file could be used to apply loads to components that the user has defined. An even more
convenient use for components is for reviewing stresses due to a load. The components can be called up and
stresses plotted without the need to do manual selection over and over for each load case. I wrote a macro that
automatically steps through all components, plotting the stresses for each component from a couple of
viewpoints, for each load case. When the plots were diverted to a plot file, the file could be used in ANSYS
DISPLAY to plot stresses for all components for all load cases. Statements in the macro would put the
component name and weight (based on volume only) in an annotation; the title already contained the load case

Tip 45: Simple Substructuring Examples-- Bottom Up and Top Down

ANSYS/ED is capable of only a small number of Master Degrees of Freedom (50 the last time I looked), so any
use of substructuring in ANSYS/ED will have to be done with a very small number of nodes for master degree of
freedom use. A 2-D element such as PLANE42 may be best for many substructure experiments with
ANSYS/ED. In Large Displacement substructuring, rotational degrees of freedom are needed at the nodes, and
ANSYS/ED will only handle very small numbers of nodes -- 2-D beams may be best for learning experiments
with Large Displacement. The problem with using beams elements for learning is that review of stresses is more
complex; element tables must be used to hold and display beam stress information. For an alternative, consider
SHELL63 elements with very few MDOF nodes (8 nodes x 6 DOF/node = 48 DOF), in Large Displacement
substructuring studies.

Substructuring has become more rare in FEA work, because of the capacity of modern computers for large
models. There are still times when it is desirable, such as when gap elements or contact elements are employed in
large models, or when extremely large models are in use. The user will have to employ some insight to select
substructures in a way that minimizes the resulting number of degrees of freedom and wavefront size.
Substructuring is a relatively tricky procedure, particularly with multiple substeps or multiple substructures. For
serious use, the ANSYS manuals on substructuring should be purchased and studied in detail.

The reader is reminded that the elements inside a substructure are treated as linear. Any nonlinear elements
grouped inside the substructure will be treated as if they were in their initial condition, without material
nonlinearity. The two simple examples below do not address use of multiple substructures, multiple load cases,
g-loading, vibrations, and other complications. Nonlinearity (Large Displacement) is mentioned only briefly. If
you do not turn to expert help for substructure work, I recommend substantial testing of any techniques on small
models before doing any real work.

Warning: Read the ANSYS Elements Manual section on MATRIX50 the superelement. Note its warning that if
gravity is applied during the "gen" pass when the superelement is created, and gravity is applied during the "use"
pass, it will be applied TWICE to the superelement substructure DOUBLING the gravity load on the
superelement region of the model. For this reason, gravity load would have to be introduced "carefully".
Unfortunately, a detailed desctiption of this careful application is not included in the base ANSYS manuals. In
the "Top Down" example below, I set "ACEL" for the model to ZERO in all three global coordinate directions
during the "gen" part that generates the superelement. If the user has applied gravity to the model file that is read
in, it will be applied during the "use" part of the analysis, and so only applied once to the superelement. This may
affect the accuracy of the solution -- I have not yet done comparison runs to test this. The example does not
address centrifugal loading or other complications. Unfortunately, linear acceleration loading (e.g. gravity
loading) is more accurately represented when applied as a load vector. This presents a problem when there are
elements with mass that are not included in substructures. I have not yet determined whether gravity could be
applied to a superelement in the GEN pass, without having a superelement mass matrix generated -- if it could be
done, then the "accurate" application of gravity loading to the superelement could be accomplished without
counting gravity load twice. Using rotated superelements introduces another set of problems with the direction in
which loads are applied -- read the manuals.

Note that non-zero applied DOF displacements are not to be applied by a load vector, so MDOF should be

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applied to nodes where non-zero DOF values are to be applied during the analysis. Loads and constraints created
in the GEN pass (i.e. in a load vector) cannot be changed in the "USE" pass, except by uniform scaling. Brief
testing I did suggests that load ramping DOES work for load vectors -- the user should check this independently.
The exception to uniform scaling is with respect to angular motion -- read the ANSYS tutorial and user's guide
manuals on substructuring.

The substructuring examples given in Chapter 4 of the ANSYS Advanced Analysis Techniques manual leaves
out the routine steps -- leave out too many, in my opinion. The user should purchase an ANSYS manual and
tutorial manual on substructuring before doing serious work. (ANSYS 5.5 has added some helpful comments to
its Advanced User's Guide on Substructuring.) The command EXPSOL has to be added in the expansion pass of
the bottom-up example in order to get any results in the expansion results file. The SFE command is needed only
if loads were applied to the superelement -- if SFE is used, it has to point to the element number of the
superelement that was read in with the SE command as well as the appropriate load step number. A *GET
command could find the element number of the superelement right after the SE command. The commands
manual does not explain this adequately in ANSYS 5.3. The following examples are fairly brief. In the bottom up
example, the coupling command CPINTF is used to join the superelement with the non-superelement portion of
the model. The example shows the stresses in the superelement after the expansion pass completes. The results of
the use pass are saved in the file "use.db" for later review by the user.

Bottom Up Substructuring Example:

! Substructuring demonstration *************************************
! For information only. Use at your own risk.
fini ! finish whatever was active previously
/clear ! clear the database
/title,Substructure Technique Test

/filname,gen ! filename for the generation pass

/prep7 !
et,1,shell63 ! element type 1 set to SHELL63
r,1,.05 ! shell is 0.05 thick
mp,ex,1,30000000 ! set value of E
blc4,-.5,0.5,1.0,-1.0 ! create a rectangular area
lesize,all, , ,3,1,1 ! 3 elements per line -- user can change this
amesh,1 ! mesh the rectangle
antype,subst ! substructure analysis
seopt,gen ! generation pass
lsel,s,line,,2 ! line at right side
nsll,s,1 ! select all nodes on line
m,all,all ! make these nodes Master Degrees of Freedom
lsel,s,line,,4 ! line at left side
nsll,s,1 ! select all nodes on line
d,all,all ! constrain nodes against all motion
save ! save this part of model as gen.db for expansion pass
! the save need not follow "solve"
solve ! generates the gen.sub file

/title,Shell elements are attached to a superelement
/filname,use ! filename for the use pass
et,1,50 ! element type 1 set to superelement MATRIX50
type,1 ! set type 1
se,gen ! read in the superelement matrix from generation pass
! after reading superelement, create remainder of model:
et,2,shell63 ! element type 2 set to SHELL63
r,2,.05 ! shell is 0.05 thick
mp,ex,2,30000000 ! set value of E
blc4,.5,.5,1.0,-1.0 ! create a new rectangular area
lesize,all, , ,3,1,1 ! 3 elements per line -- user can change this
aatt,2,2,2 ! assign mat=2, real=2, type=2 to the unmeshed area
amesh,1 ! mesh the area -- note superelement node numbers are not used
cpintf,all ! automatically couple coincident nodes at interface
ksel,s,kp,,3 ! keypoint at upper right corner
nslk ! select node at this keypoint
f,all,fy,-1 ! put a load on node at upper right corner

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nsel,all ! select all nodes

! SFE,1,1,SELV, ,1 ! no load applied in generation pass, this statement not needed
solve ! results go in the file use.rst
save ! save use.db to review results in the non-superelements
/pbc,f,,1 ! show applied force symbols
/pbc,cp,,1 ! show nodal coupling symbols
plnsol,s,eqv ! plot the stresses in the non-superlements

/filname,gen ! filename for the expansion pass
resume ! brings up gen.db saved above
expass,on ! activate expansion pass
seexp,gen,use ! options for the substructure expansion pass
expsol,1,1 ! THIS IS NEEDED ! (read about NUMEXP also) **************
! OUTRES,ALL,ALL ! not required for one load step solution
/title,Stress in the Substructure
/pbc,mast,,1 ! show master degrees of freedom symbols
/pbc,u,,1 ! show displacement constraints
/pbc,rot,,1 ! show rotation constraints
plnsol,s,eqv ! look at the stress in the superelement

In the above example, the user can change the mesh density. The numbers and positions of nodes along the
common interface between the superelement and the normal portion of the model have to be the same for
CPINTF to successfully connect the two parts of the model.

The model is created with the "bottom-up" approach. In the "use" part of this example, the superelement is read
in with SE before the remainder of the model is created. If the remainder of the model was created before the
superelement was read in, then the user would have to add statements to control the node numbering, so that
none of the master nodes coming in with the superelement would replicate the node numbers of the existing
elements. If the superelement has master nodes that have the same node numbers as the existing model, the
model nodes will be redefined, and a mess will result. Check the manual, and look at the SETRAN command to
act on the superelement, or at the NUMOFF command to act on the existing model, to prevent node replication
problems. The PARSAV and PARRES commands can be used to put model parameter information into a coded
file, and retrieve it after the /CLEAR command has been issued. The maximum node number can be put into a
parameter by *GET and put into a file with PARSAV during the generation pass. It can be retrieved during the
use pass by PARRES, and used to guide the offset of node numbers in either the already generated superelement
with SETRAN, or in the remainder of the model with NUMOFF.

Top Down Substructuring Example

The following example is NOT a substitute for a detailed understanding of ANSYS substructuring. It is for
demonstration purposes only. Get the ANSYS Substructuring Tutorial guide and the Substructuring Guide for
serious work.

The top down substructuring technique makes it possible to take an existing model, and have a portion of it
changed into a substructure. This can boost efficiency in a number of ways, such as dealing with contact surfaces
and gap elements, and handling very large models that have already been generated. In the example presented
below, a model database is read in from a user-prepared file named "model.db". This model in "model.db" must
have had a portion of the elements grouped into a component called "super" using the command
CM,SUPER,ELEM. This component will be rendered into a substructure. The intended substructure should, in
general, consist of linear elements. The model must have had constraints and loads applied. The SFE command
used in this example expects loads to exist inside the superelement, but should work without them. Some nodes
can have been declared by the user to be master degrees of freedom. In order to create master degrees of freedom
through the GUI, the analysis type has to be Substructure. In order to use the example below, the analysis type
will have to be changed back to the type desired after creating extra master degrees of freedom -- usually to static
analysis. Note that for dynamic analysis, master degrees of freedom are needed throughout the substructure --
they are not created by the example below. In the example presented, master degrees of freedom are
automatically generated for the nodes on the interface between the component "super" and the remainder of the
model. (There is no check for redundancy with user-declared master degrees of freedom.) The full model is used
-- the analysis is not limited to the selected set of elements in the file "model.db" when it is loaded. The example

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will automatically perform the substructure generation and the subsequent analysis, and will plot results to plot
files. I have added a plot of the results for the full model, with results files for both the substructure and the
non-substructure being read. There is no error checking in the example. This example has had limited testing--let
me know about errors.

When dealing with gap elements and/or contact surfaces, the usual procedure would be to select all the linear
elements in the model (not the gap or the contact elements), and in this example, call them the component
"super" for substructuring. Because the substructure matrix is usually much smaller than the full model matrix,
the iterations required for convergence with gap and contact elements will usually run far faster than iterations
involving the full model, once the substructure matrix is generated. This makes otherwise infeasible modeling
into a possibility.

In dealing with extremely large models, where the objective is simply to deal with the size, not nonlinear
elements like gap elements, there may little advantage in turning the entire large model into a substructure -- it
could take as long to generate the superelement as to solve the model for one load case. It would be more
common to turn portions of the model into one or more substructures. The connecting regions between the
substructures would be chosen to involve as small a number of nodes as possible, to minimize substructure
matrix size, and model wavefront size.

Although a MATRIX50 substructure superelement can undergo Large Displacement, it will act internally as a
linear elastic structure. Methods to use MATRIX50 in nonlinear applications should be thoroughly tested by the
user before application, including plots of displacement and stress to look for compatibility in results among the
substructure regions and the remainder of the model, and checks that reaction forces equal the total applied
forces. I have encountered difficulties combining Large Displacement with Substructuring -- see the image

To use the following example: (1) Create a model, and (2) select a portion of the elements to become the
substructure. Give this selection set of elements the component name "super" with the command
"CM,SUPER,ELEM". (3) The model should have loads and constraints applied, and the analysis type defined.
The analysis type must be acceptable for substructure use. (4) Save the model with the database name
"model.db". (5) Call the routine below with the /INPUT command. Graphical results for the last load substep in
the results files will be plotted to disk files. If run interactively, the user will have to click the "OK" button a few
times, and a plot to the screen should result when done. Expect warning messages related to partial element
selection, and to reading from results files. NOTE: This example sets gravity load to ZERO in the "gen" portion
of the analysis; otherwise, gravity would be DOUBLED on the superelement if the user's model includes gravity
-- see the Elements Manual for MATRIX50. (If gravity is applied, be sure a density was applied to the materials
in the model. If there is no gravity, the example can have the "seopt" command changed to NOT generate the
mass matrix for the superelement.)

The loading on MDOF nodes would also be DOUBLED if it was used in the superelement load vector, and used
in the "USE" pass. For this reason, corrections to this routine have been added (Nov.2, Nov.4 1998). A
complication for substructuring: Only a master node from a coupled node set or a constraint equation node group
can be used as an MDOF for substructuring. This complication is NOT addressed in the present example. The
example is for stress analysis. It does not address centrifugal loading. To address other types of analyis, start with
a look at the ANSYS Advanced User's Guide, and look at the table of loads applicable in a substructure analysis.

Automating a substructure analysis is somewhat tricky -- this file will NOT be applicable to all types of analyses.
I have been testing it with simple stress examples. The "POSTPROCESS" pass seems to work in loading stresses
from the two different sources for viewing, "USE.RST" and "GEN.RST", although I haven't seen this
documented. I tried the SUBSET command, but was getting warning messages about the nodal force and other
results not necessarily being correct. I haven't thoroughly investigated this. Have a close look at how the substeps
are output with OUTRES and selected for expansion:
! "Top-Down" Substructuring Example -- In Development
! - For information only. Use at your own risk.
! - There is no error checking in this example.
! - Warning messages will be generated.
! - ANSYS/ED supports very few master degrees of freedom.
! WARNING: Gravity would be applied TWICE to the superelement if ACEL
! were not zeroed in the "gen" pass. For models that do not
! include inertial loads, change the "seopt" command to generate

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! STIFFNESS only. See the Elements manual for MATRIX50.

! This example NOT designed for other inertial loads.
! WARNING: In the "use" pass, nodal loads on superelement MDOF nodes
! are deleted so loads on MDOF nodes are not counted TWICE.
! FDELE and DDELE are used.
! The model to be processed is in the file "model.db". The user must
! have identified the region to be substructured as the component "super"
! with the command "CM,SUPER,ELEM" and saved the model as "model.db".
! Anything nonlinear in the component "super" will be treated as linear.
! Analysis type is defined by the file "model.db" -- must be acceptable type.
! The "USE" pass has OUTRES set to write ALL substeps to the RST file.
! The "EXPAND" pass has a *DO loop that expands solutions at ALL substeps.
! The model must have had its loading and constraints applied.
! This example is for one load case only. Some Master Degrees of Freedom
! can have been applied by the user -- needed for dynamic analysis.
! Master Degrees of Freedom Nodes will be generated between the substructure
! and the remainder of the model. No check for redundancy is performed.
! Unless this file is run BATCH, the user will have to click the "OK" button
! whenever the CLEAR command is executed, and if error messages appear.

fini ! finish whatever was active previously

/clear ! clear the database

/COM,############ GEN ############

/COM,############ GEN ############
/COM,############ GEN ############

/show,part1,grp ! file for storing plots

resume,model,db ! read the model to be processed
! - all loads and constraints must already be applied
! - the SFE command is employed in the "use" pass to
! apply loads to the substructure
! - only one substructure generated in this example
/filname,gen ! filename for the generation pass
*get,nmx,node,,num,max ! get the highest node number
*get,nmn,node,,num,min ! get the lowest node number
cmsel,s,super ! select the elements identified as the component "super"
nsle ! select nodes of these elements
esel,invert ! select the elements that are not part of "super"
nsle,r ! reselect nodes connecting "super" to remainder of model
m,all,all ! make these nodes Master Degrees of Freedom (MDOF)
cmsel,s,super ! select the "super" elements again
nsle ! select their associated nodes
nsel,r,m,,nmn,nmx ! reselect all of these nodes that are MDOF (don't want nodes
! outside the "super" that the user called MDOF)
fdele,all,all ! delete loads on these MDOF nodes for "gen"
ddele,all,all ! delete displacement loads on these MDOF nodes for "gen"
nsle ! select nodes of the component "super"
/title,Elements of the to-be-substructure
eplo ! plot the elements of the to-be-substructure
antype,subst ! substructure analysis
seopt,gen,2 ! generation pass -- generate STIFFNESS and MASS matrices
! - if no inertial load, change setting to STIFFNESS only
save ! save this part of model as "gen.db" for expansion pass
! - SAVE need not follow the command "solve"
! - component "super" and its nodes currently selected
acel,0,0,0 ! set gravity to Zero AFTER "save" but BEFORE "solve"
solve ! generates the "gen.sub" file

/COM,############ USE ############

/COM,############ USE ############
/COM,############ USE ############

resume,model,db ! bring the model in again. restores "acel" if any.
! "model.db" has to define the analysis type -- it should not

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! be a substructure generation
/filname,use ! filename for the use pass
cmsel,s,super ! select the portion intended for the substructure
esel,invert ! select the remainder of the model
nsle ! select nodes of the remainder of the model
nsel,a,m,,nmn,nmx ! add MDOF nodes for visibility (not needed for solve)
*get,ntp,etyp,,num,max ! get max element type number in the model in parameter ntp
et,ntp+1,50 ! new element type ntp+1 set to superelement MATRIX50
type,ntp+1 ! set type ntp+1 before reading "creating" superelement with SE
se,gen ! read in the superelement matrix from generation pass
! - master D.O.F. nodes already are at the interface
! - no need to couple coincident interface nodes this example
! - new element number assigned should be above maximum
*get,snm,elem,,num,max ! get the element number of the superelement just loaded
! - needed for SFE loading the superelement below
! - extra work needed if more than one superelement
/title,Remainder of model attached to substructure
eplo ! plot the elements in the non-substructure plus "outline" view
! of the substructure
/solu ! "model.db" analysis type for substructure is needed
SFE,snm,1,SELV, ,1 ! load applied in generation pass was in "model.db"
! - apply load to to superelement number "snm" found above
! - extra work needed if more than one superelement
outres,all,all ! save results for the all substeps of load step
! - change here and "EXPAND" below if desired to change
solve ! results go in the file "use.rst"
save ! save "use.db" to optionally review non-substructure results
fini ! "use.db" and "use.rst" now contain non-substructure results
set,last ! plot results at the end of the load step
/title,Stress in the non-substructure elements
plnsol,s,eqv ! show nodal stress in the non-substructure
*get,lastlstp,active,,set,lstp ! get the last load step number
*get,lastsbst,active,,set,sbst ! get the last substep number
parsav,scalar,parameterstore,parm ! store them in file for retrieval below

/COM,############ EXPAND ############

/COM,############ EXPAND ############
/COM,############ EXPAND ############

/filname,gen ! filename for the expansion pass
resume ! brings up "gen.db" saved above, "super" is selected
parres,new,parameterstore,parm ! retrieve data on last load step/substep
! parres must follow resume statement
expass,on ! activate expansion pass
seexp,gen,use ! options for the substructure expansion pass
expsol,lastlstp,iii,,yes ! expand result at last load step/substep
! - (read about NUMEXP also)
outres,all,all ! all data written
fini ! "gen.rst" now contains substructure results, last step
/title,Stress in the Substructure
plnsol,s,eqv ! show nodal stress in the substructure

/COM,############ POSTPROCESS ############

/COM,############ POSTPROCESS ############
/COM,############ POSTPROCESS ############
! WARNING: The following is my own invention; use at your own risk.
! Warning messages will be generated by ANSYS.

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esel,invert ! Select the elements NOT in substructure component "super"
nsle ! Select the nodes of these elements
file,use,rst ! Point to file "use.rst" that contains the rest of the results
set,last ! Read in load step data for selected elements, last substep
esel,all ! Select all elements
nsle ! Select the nodes of the elements
/title,Stress in the Full Structure
plnsol,s,eqv ! Show nodal stress for the full model.
! Because of averaging, PLNSOL stresses on the interface of the
! substructure and non-substructure regions cannot exactly
! match values for these locations plotted separately, above.
! Element stress and displacement should exactly match in
! a small displacement linear analysis.
save,stress_allelem,db ! Save the model with all stresses on elements
/show,term ! Back to screen -- only works if used interactively
plnsol,s,eqv ! Show the stress results for all elements if interactive ANSYS

The "top down" example saves the results of the "use" pass and the "expansion" pass in database files. These can
be loaded to inspect results in the non-substructure and in the substructure parts of the model, respectively. If the
file is run interactively, the user will have to click the "OK" button each time the /CLEAR command executes,
and for a variety of warning messages that can appear. It may be preferred to run the file under Batch control,
and to later review the results in the plot files, and in the resulting database files. Remember to check for error
and warning messages. Because of the complexity of substructure analysis, the user should run checks on
balance of forces, and do other typical checking of results.

Large Displacement Nonlinearity and Substructure: The ANSYS 5.5 Advanced User's Guide, Chapter 5 gives
more help on large rotation (large displacement, geometrically nonlinear) substructured analysis than at the 5.3
level. Note the comment that constraints should be applied in the "use" pass, not in the "gen" pass, for large
rotation analysis.

If the file "model.db", used in the above example, has had Large Displacement activated with "NLGEOM,ON"
then a nonlinear solution will be sought. Convergence criteria, ramping of loading, substeps, and other nonlinear
controls may be desired. Because the substructure will act linearly internally, convergence may not be as easy as
the user would wish. When the run does converge, the results will not be an exact match for the result without
substructuring. The output plots should be examined to see if they read "Substep 999999", indicating failure to
converge. If you test the above example with Large Displacement, use a Large Displacement model that
converges easily without a substructure approach. An attempt has been made in the above example to cope with
a model that develops the Large Displacement solution in a load step containing a set of substeps. This is the
reason for statements that record the last loadstep and substep numbers. However, the example does NOT
reserve application of all DOF constraints for the "USE" pass, as recommended in the ANSYS 5.5 guide, so it
will NOT be appropriate for models with constraints applied to non-MDOF nodes in the substructure region. The
user can get around this by manually assigning MDOF to all the nodes to which constraints are applied in the
component "super", in "model.db".

The master degrees of freedom for the superelement must have rotational degrees of freedom for Large
Displacement work. The user can try assigning MASS21 elements to the master degree of freedom nodes if the
elements in the model do not have rotational degrees of freedom. The MASS21 elements can have a REAL value
that contains zero values for the masses and mass moments of inertia. This will introduce the requisite rotational
degrees of freedom.

When using elements like SHELL63, which have rotational degrees of freedom, I have encountered a rather odd
result: The Large Displacement solution for the elements in the superelement (stored in "gen.rst" in the example)
is for the displacement of the substructure nodes with respect to a coordinate system embedded in the
superelement, not with respect to the global axes. This is not the case for small displacement solutions, which
appear displaced correctly. Since the superelement can undergo large rotation, the displacement that is reported
and plotted for the nodes inside the superelement will be far smaller than the displacement reported and plotted
for the remainder of the model, in a Large Displacement solution. This is because the coordinate system

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embedded in the superelement moves with the superelement. In limited testing, the SEQV stress plots appear to
be OK, if the load step that is to be expanded is identified properly. I have not investigated what happens to
stress components in the Global and Element Coordinate Systems. Rotational transormation of the stress and
strain tensors could be very complex. See the image below for a result combining SHELL63 elements,
substructuring, and Large Displacement.

A possible visual displacement fix (for the displacement plot problem of 6 DOF elements in Large Displacement
substructures) is to transform the displaced position coordinates of the non-MDOF nodes in the superelement on
the basis of the rotations and translations of the origin of the superelement in Global Coordinates. The origin of
the superelement will be the MDOF node that reports no displacements or rotations inside the superelement (in
superelement coordinates); it appears to be the MDOF node with the lowest node number. Applying a
transformation properly will require deducing or looking up the order of the sequence of rotations that ANSYS
uses in Large Displacement work, or that ANSYS uses to report node rotations. A reading of the Theory Manual
suggests that ANSYS internally uses quaternions for large displacement rotations in space. This would be for the
usual reason that quaternions do not have a singularity in any orientation, in contrast to Euler angles. It appears
that the rotations reported at a node represent 3-D components of a single rotation vector, rather than Euler or
other angles, so the transformation will need to be based on rotation about a vector that starts at a known point in
space (the origin of the superelement), plus translations. I will be working on this as my next project for this web
page. The reported rotation may be complicated by rotated nodal coordinate systems (NROTAT) or
superelements that the user has employed... this will require checking. Reader feedback would be appreciated. If
I get anywhere with this, I will limit myself to displacements only. Transforming stress tensors would be a bit

The above plot was generated using the above sample /INPUT file on a Large Displacement model of a
cantilever beam created with SHELL63 elements. A similar displacement discontinuity results with BEAM4
elements in a similar application, as shown in the images below:

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Tip 46: Plot Applied Temperatures

In a thermal stress analysis, temperatures will be applied as a "load". Temperatures can be applied to nodes with
the BF command, to elements with the BFE command, or implied using other commands. (Check the BFE
command and the element type in the ANSYS documentation for details on using BFE.) A colored element plot
of applied temperatures can be generated by using the commands /PBF,TEMP,,1 and EPLO, which Shows body
force loads as contours on displays , per the ANSYS Commands manual.

When using beam, link, and pipe elements, if the element thickness is shown with the /ESHAPE command
before executing EPLO, temperatures can be made visible with contour coloring for these line elements. It may
be desired to exaggerate their displayed thickness with /ESHAPE in order to make the temperature information
more visible.

Tip 47: Skipping Over Statements in an ANSYS Input File

ANSYS commands can be developed in a file that is executed with the /INPUT command. This can permit very
flexible and sophisticated use of the program. Here is a well known programming trick that can be used to
temporarily skip over part of an ANSYS input file. Set a parameter ("SKIP" in this example) to a value that tells
an *IF statement to jump over a section of code that you want to skip. This is much quicker than commenting out
a block of code, or cutting and pasting as an input file is developed and modified. *IF statements that use this
parameter could be located in a number of positions in the input file -- this permits changing the value of one
parameter at the beginning of the input file to cause skipping of input code in a variety of locations.
! Input code to ANSYS...
! ...
SKIP=1 ! Set to 1 to skip, 0 to run the code inside the *IF...*ENDIF commands
! ANSYS commands that are optionally executed...
! ... more code follows

Since there is no compilation of the input file, the "skip" technique uses little time in choosing to execute or
bypass the blocked off commands (ANSYS still has to read the blocked out code in order to check off the
number of *IF and *ENDIF commands).

Tip 48: Static Analysis Followed by Transient Analysis

Transient analysis by ANSYS can model transient vibrations, or the dynamics of a flexible mechanism in motion,
in addition to more complex effects. Initial conditions can be applied, followed by transient analysis. One type of
initial condition is a zero velocity initial position with stored energy. The stored energy can be potential energy of
position, elastic energy, or both. Another initial condition is an initial velocity. A model can have both initial
velocity and stored energy. A static analysis may be desired to develop the stored elastic energy, before starting a
transient analysis. Remember that for transient analysis, the mass of the model must be input in the appropriate
mass units, not as weight.

The following ANSYS input file illustrates the execution of a linear elastic static analysis that sets an initial
condition, followed by a transient analysis. The model is of a cantilevered beam that has a force applied to the
free end in a static analysis. The transient vibration that results when the force on the free end is removed is
obtained. No gravity is used. No damping has been applied, and ANSYS defaults for the numerical integration
are implicit. This is a linear elastic solution, so the numerical integration should be stable, given the ANSYS
algorithm used. The time substep size for the transient analysis should be smaller than 1/20 of the period of the
first few modes of vibration. (The user could tweak the ANSYS numerical integration parameters so that very
high frequency response modes are numerically damped. Stability in Large Displacement nonlinear transient

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analysis is probably not guaranteed, although damping and small time substep size should help.) The use of a
consistent mass matrix (default) should in general yield more accurate results than a reduced mass matrix if the
element density is coarse, however the use of a reduced mass matrix may shorten the solution time in large
models. The movement of the tip of the beam is plotted -- it is not a perfect sinusoid because the initial deflected
shape of the beam is not an exact match to a mode of vibration.
! Transient vibration, cantilever beam, "plucking" the tip.
! For illustration purposes only. Use at your own risk.
/clear ! Start fresh
/title,Transient Vibration of Cantilever Beam
ET,1,BEAM3 ! 2-D model of beam
R,1,1,1,1 ! beam crossection properties
MP,EX, 1, 30000000 ! Young's modulus, BIN units
MP,DENS,1, 7.34E-04 ! beam mass density, BIN units
K, , 0.0 ! keypoints
K, , 10. ! 10" long
L, 1, 2 ! line
LESIZE,ALL,,,8,1,1 ! 8 element divisions
LMESH, 1 ! mesh with beam elements

ANTYPE,4 ! Select transient analysis
F,2,FY,-50000 ! apply down force on RHS node (unrealistically high)
d,1,ux ! constrain first node at LHS, in X direction
d,1,uy ! in Y direction
d,1,rotz ! and constrain rotation

time,0.0005 ! small time increment, static

OUTRES,ALL,ALL ! save all substep results
timint,off,all ! no time integration -- treat as Steady State
nsubst,2 ! two substeps to imply zero initial velocity for transient
kbc,1 ! step change load
solve ! find the static deformed shape

TIME,.002 ! time at end of transient (pre-determined to show oscillation)

NSUBST,100 ! time steps small enough to show vibration
KBC,1 ! step change load
fdele,all,all ! delete force -- show vibration after force is released
OUTRES,ALL,ALL, ! save all substep results
timint,on,all ! activate transient analysis
solve ! find the transient vibration of the beam

/dscale,1 ! automatic scaling, to easily view final result
pldisp,1 ! show final deformed shape

NSOL,2,2,U,Y,UY ! results variable for plotting
/title,Transient Vibration of Cantilever Beam: Motion of Tip
PLVAR,2 ! graph oscillation of the tip of the beam

NOTE: The use of the TIMINT command controls activation of the static and transient portions of the solution.
The static solution is obtained at two time substeps so that an initial velocity of zero is implied. An animation of
the transient solution can be generated for the full beam in /POST1, showing the transient vibration in action. For
an animation, the user will have to set a satisfactory displacement scaling value with the command /DSCALE,
not use automatic scaling. In the animation of the Large Displacement motions of a mechanism, a /DSCALE
setting of 1.0 will generally be wanted, so that angles of rotation look correct. A zoom setting other than
/ZOOM,OFF will usually yield a better animation.

Tip 49: File Compression for Model Storage

If no restart is to be executed on an ANSYS model, it will often be sufficient to save only the model database file
(*.DB) and the results file (*.RST) when archiving an ANSYS model. If the model was generated from command
input files, these will require storage. If only one load step was written to the results file, the results file may not
require archival if the results are also contained in the database file. Load case, graphics output, and other files
may be wanted for archival. The database, graphics, and results files can be extremely large. They often
compress well using data compression programs such as the UNIX compress and gzip utilities (gzip is more

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powerful than compress). On Windows computers, gzip is also available for NT (it handles long file names), in
addition to the shareware ZIP utilities, though you will need to dig on the Internet to find gzip for Windows NT --
have a look at GZIP on the web and look for instructions and the version for your computer (test before use). In
FEA work, I find the advantage of the gzip utility to be that the compressed file name is simply the original file
name with .gz appended, and the uncompressed file is removed. The data storage requirement may be reduced by
roughly 25% to 80%, both on the hard drive, and on tape or removable disk. The data compression is
significantly more effective, though much slower, than with the disk compression scheme that can be used by
Windows NT 4.0, which also does not keep the files compressed when they are sent over a network, or otherwise
moved around. Hint: Make sure that those who will decompress the files in future will know how to do it!

Tip 50: Organizing Large FEA Models

Examining the results of an FEA model, selecting and modifying portions of the model, and keeping a record of
what MAT (material) and REAL (shell thickness, beam size, etc.) values were used for various parts of a model
becomes very difficult with large FEA models. A very large structure represented with hundreds or thousands of
individual beam elements or areas meshed with shell elements, will require that the identities, materials and
REAL settings for large numbers of parts be organized and recorded.

There is no one way to do this. Individual parts, or groups of parts, can be defined to be components that are
accessed by names of up to 8 characters. These parts can be geometric entities, elements, or nodes. Macros can
step through all the components using *GET commands. Collections of components can be grouped into
component assemblies. An individual assembly could be created for those components that are to be selected
under certain circumstances, for analysis or for results review. The use of components makes it possible to refer
to either a part or a subassembly by one name, and easy to select it. The creation of a component can save a set
of entities that were selected with a certain sequence of select logic, and be used in the enhancement of the
ANSYS select logic process. The database component commands are: CM, CMDELE, CMEDIT, CMGRP,
CMLIST, and CMSEL. A macro can be written that will step through all components, plotting them, including
the component name and information on it in the plot title, or an annotation.

Either REAL values for elements and entities, or MAT values, can be used to identify parts in a model with
numbers. (The element type will have to support a REAL value if a REAL is to be created for that element type.
However, a REAL value can be forced on an element even if the element type does not admit assignment of a
REAL. This can be done when creating an element, applied to the geometric entity that is to be meshed with the
element, or forced after the fact with EMODIF. When EMODIF is used, be cautioned that in a re-meshing the
REAL assigned to the geometric entity will be used. When the element type does not accept a REAL setting, the
R setting can simply be left blank. In that case, the commands NUMMRG,ALL and NUMCMP,ALL can make a
mess and should not be used in this all-inclusive form -- stick to specific forms such as NUMMRG,KP.) In a
model made of shell elements or beam elements, for example, each plate or beam could be described with its
own REAL value, even though there may be many plates or beams of a given thickness or size within the model.
Where a group of parts will always be chosen with the same REAL value, they could share one REAL setting.
This makes changing the shell thickness or the beam characteristics very simple, and provides easy part selection
with commands like ESEL, ASEL, or LSEL, as appropriate, according to their REAL value, or a range of REAL
values. An array (see the *DIM command) could correlate REAL values with other information, such as part
names (with an 8 character limit). The same approach can be taken with the setting of MAT values for describing
the material properties. Using material numbers for part identification, however, could get cumbersome, because
there are such a large number of individual material property settings, and they may be temperature dependent in
some models, or include material nonlinearity.

I find it helpful NOT to set any of the geometric entities or elements in a large model to a MAT or REAL value
of one. One is a default value that is sometimes assigned when no value has been assigned by the user.
Geometric entities may have a value of zero when nothing has been assigned. I can then select things that have a
MAT or REAL of zero or one to check on whether I have forgotten to assign a value to any part of the model.
Plots with coloring assigned according to REAL or MAT will help in checking a model.

When REAL or MAT values have been used to differentiate between different parts of a model, the user must be
careful not to use a NUMCMP,ALL or NUMMRG,ALL command on entity numbering, because it will compress
or merge out REAL and MAT values. This will destroy the identification scheme. The NUMCMP command will
have to be called with the specific quantities to be compressed individually identified, such as NODE, as in the

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When the parts have been identified by different REAL or MAT numbers, a coloring scheme based on REAL or
MAT can be used during element or geometric entity plots, to improve identification of the parts of a model, and
the appearance of the FEA plot. Caution: ANSYS does not use a "4 color map theorem" when plotting (can't do
this in 3-D anyway) so parts of differing REAL or MAT may be adjacent and have the same color.

Arrays could be used to assign numbers to component names, and to keep track of what REAL values were used
by the elements within components. Arrays could assign 8-character names to the parts described by different
REAL values. Arrays could be used to set several values of a number of shell thicknesses or beam sizes to be
examined in a series of analyses that are to be run automatically. As discussed above, this parameter information
can be included in annotations during model and results plotting, making model review easier and less

Tip 51: Selecting Nodes in a Stress or Strain Range

The selection of nodes in a certain stress range can be effected with, for example, the command
NSEL,S,S,EQV,40000,9999999 in order to get nodes with EQV (Von Mises equivalent) stresses from 40000 to
9999999. This and similar commands can be used to get at only the portions of a full model that are significantly

The effectiveness of this command can be compromised somewhat by nodal stress averaging, shell stress surface
selection (TOP, MID, or BOT), and other complications. The command would typically be followed by the two
commands ESLN and NSLE to be able to plot the associated elements and their stresses.

If the above part identification scheme using REAL values has been employed, the stress level selection
command could be followed by a macro that selects all parts that match the REAL types of the selected elements.
This would make it possible to see all highly stressed parts. This approach is helpful with complex models with
parts visually hidden by other parts.

Tip 52: Selecting Nodes that are Subjected to Nodal Coupling

Nodes that are coupled can be selected with commands such as NSEL,S,CP,,1,999999 in order to show only the
coupled nodes, and to have the option of using picking to delete nodal coupling, or for other purposes. Once
coupled nodes have been selected, work to evaluate the forces resulting from the coupling can begin. Similarly,
nodes can be selected according to their presence in constraint equations (CE), their applied displacement (D),
forces applied, and other criteria -- see the NSEL command for further information.

Tip 53: /NOPR and /GOPR Speed Up Input Files and Macros

When a long input file or macro is read while running ANSYS interactively, text information is written to the
output screen and optionally to an output file. If a significant number of *GET and similar operations are being
executed, a large quantity of text information will be written to output. If the input files and macros are known to
be fully debugged, they may execute faster if they start with /NOPR and end with /GOPR in order to switch off
text output while they are running. If their execution is causing geometry, nodes, or elements to be generated, a
speedup may result from temporarily switching off the generation of graphics with IMMED,0 and /SHOW,OFF.
They can be re-activated with IMMED,1 and /SHOW,TERM. You may want to consider the /UIS command also.

Tip 54: Using Commands IMMED and /UIS and /SHOW,OFF to Suppress Plotting

I sometimes develop a model interactively, setting up some dimensions as parameters, then manually modify and
add to the log file that is generated. The resulting log file becomes an input file that I can use for parametric
generation of a model. When I run this input log file, I don't want all of my various plot commands to be
executed, only those for finished model display and results review. This can be implemented with the IMMED,0
(for interactive execution), /UIS,REPLOT,0 and /SHOW,OFF commands. They can be re-activated with
IMMED,1 and /UIS/REPLOT,1 and /SHOW,TERM. If the graphics output is intended to be sent to a graphics
file, the command /SHOW,FILE can be used for re-activation of writing to a file previously designated by a
/SHOW,filename command. If writing to a file, the immediate mode plotting is off by default. Be warned that if
you change to another output graphics filename with the /SHOW command, then come back to the first filename,
the first file will be overwritten.

When re-running a log file using /INPUT the messages that required clicking "OK" will be generated and
execution will pause. This means that the /INPUT command will not re-run all log files unattended.I have not

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found the /UIS command to completely stop this, such as when the /CLEAR command is issued. Running batch
is sometimes desirable.

Tip 55: What's the Bauschinger Effect? Comments on Material Yield

I first wanted to do elastic/plastic analysis in ANSYS to get a feel for the onset of failure in an automotive part. It
was of value to show that one proposed crossection shape was significantly better than another. This required me
to use plastic material properties for steel, in nonlinear large deflection analysis in ANSYS. Unfortunately, I had
taken neither an academic course in metal forming, nor attended an ANSYS course in nonlinear analysis.
Digging into the ANSYS manuals, the first thing one has to decide on is whether to use Kinematic Hardening or
Isotropic Hardening for the material model. Fortunately, high precision was not needed for what I was doing, so
the exact stress/strain curve and the choice of material yield rules were not a big concern. Still, I wanted to know
what I was doing, within reason. The manual mentions the relationship between kinematic hardening and the
Bauschinger effect. After some poking around, I finally found a basic description of the Bauschinger effect in
Timoshenko's Strength of Materials Part II: Advanced Theory and Problems Third Edition, Krieger, Florida,

Essentially, a tension test causing slight yielding permanently deforms (causes slip in) unfavorably oriented
crystals before other crystals in a specimen. Consequently, upon unloading, the permanently deformed crystals
are in some compression. After re-loading with tension, the onset of yield is raised because the deformed crystals
do not reach their new slip stress until the load is higher than the first time. If the material is compressed after
tension loading, the deformed crystals reach their compression slip stress before the rest of the crystals, with the
result that compression yielding starts sooner than in a fresh unstrained specimen. Quoting Timoshenko, "Thus
the tensile test cycle raises the elastic limit in tension, but lowers the elastic limit in compression." This is the
Bauschinger effect.

One thing that may affect the choice of a yield model in ANSYS will be what is supported by an element type.
Shell 63 does not support nonlinear material properties at all. Shell 181 supports isotropic hardening but not
kinematic hardening. Shell 43 apparently supports both, but it is suggested that Shell 181 is more capable.

It should be remembered that ANSYS requires a true strain curve in material characterization, not the
engineering strain curve, when multilinear curves are entered. In quick-and-dirty checks on the possibility of
failure of a structure, I sometimes consider it sufficient just to use a bilinear model, with the yield portion of the
curve fairly flat. This wouldn't do for models of metal forming in manufacturing, but can sometimes be used to
assess whether structure failure is a concern when some portions of an elastic model are exceeding yield. It may
be desirable to load the structure beyond the design load in order to observe where significant failure starts, in
order to get a feel for margin of safety. This may require arc-length analysis. (My use of the word "quick" in
"quick-and-dirty" is overly optimistic.)

Some design codes have rules for elastic-plastic or for fully plastic analysis that would have to be used, if such an
analysis was needed to justify or qualify a design legally or to fulfill a contract.

Tip 56: Thought Experiments

Nothing so focuses the mind on the design details of a product as hearing that it failed in testing or in service.
You don't have to be Einstein to perform the following thought experiment: Suppose that you heard that some
aspect of a design had failed in service. The failure could be yielding, buckling, crack growth, fracture, vibrating
to death, unacceptable deformation, wear or binding, or whatever is appropriate. Brainstorm as to whether it
could happen, what could have caused it, and how analysis could highlight what is or could be wrong. Do this
thought experiment for as many characteristics of the product as you can. You may substantially extend the
number of things that you consider in the design, and in the FEA work. It may save someone's neck, either
figuratively or literally.

Possibilities and "What If's":

What could cause yielding -- are fasteners or welds overloaded? Were their loads even checked -- and for all
load cases, or the bounding load cases? Are the bounding load cases complete? Are stresses above yield
over a significant region? Are surface stresses of shell elements doing something unusual? Were
nonlinearities considered? Were all possible combinations of loading considered? Is there a high load
situation that was not considered? Were all components evaluated in FEA? Is there an unusual boundary
condition arrangement that has not been considered? Was the FEA mesh too coarse? Were relevant details
that cause stress concentrations left out of the model? Can what was discounted as a local stress

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concentration lead to progressive collapse or crack growth?

Can buckling arise? Have both linear and nonlinear approaches to buckling possibilities been considered?
Has a portion of the model been represented so simplified that buckling possibility is not detected? Has
nonlinear buckling been considered at loads greater than the design loads, so that some sense of the margin
of safety is obtained? Can restraint of thermal expansion cause stress and buckling?
Crack Growth -- what details exist that could possibly be sites for crack growth? Do surface stresses give any
warnings? Where could details be included to reduce crack growth possibilities? Are regions that have
geometry that could lead to crack growth highly stressed and/or cyclically stressed? Is direct tension on welds
causing Type I fracture loading? Is shear, bending or torsional loading (applied forces and moments, and/or
applied displacements and rotations) on structural details causing Type II or Type III fracture loading on
welds? Is the loading significant? Is fatigue an issue? Is fracture analysis warranted? Is there a reliable
shortcut guide to what is tolerable? Is such a guide even possible? Could crack growth be so rapid that it
happens between inspections and causes sudden fracture? Are cracks detectable at a size that does not
immediately cause fracture? Should inspection intervals be more frequent when the product is new?
Vibration -- what loading could stimulate vibration? What frequencies could drive vibration? Is there adequate
structural damping or are there other mechanisms to suppress trouble? Where are the natural frequencies of
vibration? Do steady state responses or random vibration responses need to be evaluated? Is flow induced
vibration a possibility? Will sound and noise cause destructive vibrations? Have all possible boundary
condition arrangements been included in assessing vibration?
Will large deformations go outside of what is acceptable? Is the structure stiffness high enough for the product
use? Will deformation cause loss of function, contact with the surroundings, binding, interference, collision, or
excessive wear of moving parts?
Is the design something that can be manufactured with the quality and uniformity required to avoid structural

The analyst should extend the above items to everything that needs to be considered, or that could go wrong.

Tip 57: Control of Meshing

Since I am using ANSYS 5.3, I can't comment on the latest in ANSYS automatic meshing capabilities, but a
couple of suggestions about the basics may be helpful. You can select the lines that have not yet had mesh
density applied, with the command "LSEL,S,NDIV,,0" as a check that all lines have had mesh density applied, or
for convenience. The same type of command can be used to find the lines with other mesh densities.

Basic ANSYS training should have taught you that line and area concatenation can help you get mapped
meshing, which gives relatively neat regular meshes such as all four-sided area elements, or all six-sided solid
elements. This can make a big difference in some models.

Tip 58: Four View Plot

When assessing modes of vibration or deflection of a 3-D structure, I have found it convenient (though slower) to
generate ANSYS plots showing my model in four views on one sheet of paper or screen plot. The traditional
views: Front Elevation (front), Plan (top), Side Elevation (right), and Isometric (iso), can be positioned in four
windows that are located in the lower left quarter, upper left quarter, lower right quarter, and upper right quarter
of the plot, respectively. (Other standard view layouts can be substituted). A displacement plot of a mode shape
with PLDISP or PLDISP,1 with these four views active will leave fewer ambiguities about what is happening
with mode shapes than a single-view plot. The only shortcoming is that the images are small -- I prefer to use 11"
x 17" paper in landscape mode for these plots.

An annecdote I heard from a guy I knew: A U.S. ship entered a foreign shipyard needing a new propeller. The
ship's engineer supplied a drawing, and a propeller was cast and installed. The ship was launched and powered
up. When set to go forward, the ship went backward -- the shipyard used the European standard view
interpretation of an American drawing, and the propeller was mirror imaged!

The following code can be put into a macro to generate a four-view screen. Customize it as you wish -- I include
commands to turn off PowerGraphics and to use Centroidal sort. This permits clean plots on paper with large
models. NOTE: Users may want to set the /DSCALE value to the same level in all four windows with
! For information only. Use at your own risk.
! Put these lines in a macro
! Set screen to show four standard views:
! User may want to set /DSCALE to the same value in all windows
/WIN,1,LTOP ! Window 1 left top
/WIN,2,RTOP ! Window 2 right top

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/WIN,3,LBOT ! Window 3 left bottom

/WIN,4,RBOT ! Window 4 right bottom
/WIN,5,OFF ! Turn off Window 5
/VIEW,1,0,1,0 ! Window 1 top (plan) view
/VUP,1,Y ! Reference orientation
/VIEW,2,1,1,1 ! Window 2 ISO (isometric projection) view
/VUP,2,Y ! Reference orientation
/VIEW,3,0,0,1 ! Window 3 front (front elevation) view
/VUP,3,Y ! Reference orientation
/VIEW,4,1,0,0 ! Window 4 right (side elevation) view
/VUP,4,Y ! Reference orientation
/AUTO,ALL ! Fit all windows
/PLOPTS,INFO,1 ! Include information column
/PLOPTS,LEG2,0 ! Don't include view information
/TYPE,ALL,2 ! Centroid sort, better print that Z-buffer
/CPLANE,0 ! Cutting plane
/graphics,full ! NOT PowerGraphics (fewer facets?)
! User has to issue the plot command

The next code can be used in a macro to return to a front view in one window. Again, the user may want to
customize some of the lines:
! For information only. Use at your own risk.
! Set screen to show one front view in Window 1
/WIN,1,SQUA ! Full square Window 1
/WIN,1,ON ! Turn on Window 1
/WIN,2,OFF ! Turn off Window 2
/WIN,3,OFF ! Turn off Window 3
/WIN,4,OFF ! Turn off Window 4
/WIN,5,OFF ! Turn off Window 5
/PLOPTS,INFO,1 ! Info on for right column
/PLOPTS,LEG2,0 ! Don't show the view information
/VIEW,1,0,0,1 ! Front (front elevation) view
/VUP,1,Y ! Reference orientation
/TYPE,ALL,2 ! Centroidal sort, better print than Z-buffer
/CPLANE,0 ! Cutting plane
/graphics,full ! Not PowerGraphics (fewer facets?)
! User has to issue the plot command

After running one of the above view-generating macros, the user has to issue a plot command to see the result.

Tip 59: Quick Review of Mode Shapes

To start printing plots of mode shapes directly from ANSYS mode shape results, having the hardcopy window
pop up automatically, type in an input line such as:

The dollar sign separates the commands that are grouped on one input line. Click the hardcopy OK button to kick
off the hardcopy. You may want to set the print to landscape mode, first. Then, to print plots of the rest of the
mode shapes, type:

Simply keep repeating the second line (to avoid re-typing, double-click it in the ANSYS Input window), and
clicking the hardcopy OK button, to get the rest of the modes printed. Note that the SET,NEXT command will
loop back to the first mode shape after the number of modes stored in the RST file has been exhausted.

You may see the somewhat odd message:

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This comes up because of the /UI,COPY command, and has something to do with the /ZOOM command.
Consequently, this method may not work satisfactorily if your zoom is not off . In viewing mode shapes, it will be
typical to have zooming off.

The following code fragment read from an input or macro file can automatically plot a set of mode shapes. *GET
commands are used to detect information on what substep and frequency are read. The user does not need to
know how many modes were generated, so automated plotting to a file is simpler. The displacement plots will
contain substep and frequency information. This code should cope with degenerate eigenvalues or rigid body
displacements. Execute this from within /POST1 after a mode case analysis was run, or after the database and
RST file for a mode case analysis are loaded. There is no error check, so this must be used properly. The user
will want to test and customize these commands:
! For information only. Use at your own risk.
set,1,1 ! set to the first mode
pldisp ! plot the first mode
*do,iii,1,9999999 ! use a very large number
set,next ! set to the next mode
*get,ntotal,active,0,solu,ncmss ! cumulative substeps -- cycles to 1 if all modes in RST done
*get,thefreq,mode,iii,freq ! use this line if desired to get frequency into a parameter
*exit ! exit do loop if done
pldisp ! plot the displaced shape

Tip 60: Using ANSYS Help

When using ANSYS interactively, help on any command can be accessed immediately by typing
HELP,commandname into the input window. If the HELP application has been launched independently, the
quick way to get help on a particular command is to use the "Navigate" and "Help On..." menu choice. Type the
command name into the "Help On" text box that pops up, then click the Apply button.

This will send the help program to the Commands manual for the command name typed. If you click the "Apply"
button, the "Help On" dialog box remains visible, and can be used to type in other command names.

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The online ANSYS help system makes the need for trips to hard-copy documentation much less frequent. The
Help application can be launched while ANSYS is running in the background, so ANSYS documentation can be
studied while a large model is solving.

Tip 61: The FEA Job Hunt

Not strictly an ANSYS issue, I want to put in my own two cent's worth on this topic, which is of interest to all of
us. Some time back when I was job hunting during a recession, I was given a pre-screening interview over the
phone. The interviewer owned a consulting firm. It rapidly became apparent that he had been lied to, many times
and by many people, about their FEA experience. I had been using a company's proprietary FEA code and was
not experienced with the major commercial programs, so was immediately suspect. Another time, I heard of an
applicant using another guy's FEA model images to present in a job interview as "evidence" of his own
experience. I interviewed a guy who claimed experience with "a locally available product I wouldn't know." It
became apparent that he had been coached and knew only the buzz words. When job hunting it is challenge
enough to compete with other experienced people -- misrepresentation we don't need.

The FEA job applicant should be able to present evidence of academic and/or post-academic training. The
applicant should have a portfolio of previous work. The applicant should be instructed to bring these to the
interview. The portfolio information can be a little awkward when the products are proprietary. If it would be
illegal to present any images of work done, then I suggest a keen applicant independently develop a set of small
models using ANSYS/ED that illustrate the FEA techniques with which the applicant is familiar. The applicant
should be able to describe the modeling considerations, techniques, compromises, pitfalls, and post-processing
possibilities of the examples.

Of course, with good references and personal networking, the above situations are less of a concern. Still, as with
computer programming, the productivity of individuals can vary surprisingly. Consequently, the applicant should
be able to describe what makes FEA productivity possible, some of the modeling shortcuts possible, and give an
energetic, articulate and confident presentation of self.

Questions of the "how would you model this" and "how would you handle this" type are just as relevant as they
are in other professional interviews.

I have had both excellent and very poor interviewers assessing me. With some, I've had to politely direct the
interview just to be able to point out my range of skills. On the basis of my own small set of experiences I would

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say that first impressions are very telling -- if you get a bad feeling about a place during the interview, it may be
for a good reason. If you see a place as being a welcoming workplace with a healthy environment, and the people
you meet behave well and are socially skilled, the odds are that as long as you function as a valuable employee,
life there will be OK. I've had an interviewer keep me waiting for an hour and a half past the appointment time. I
got the job, and found that things were frequently out of control, and the guy was impossible to see. I had an
unpleasant "stress interview", and sure enough, the place was cheap, had an unhealthy work life, and poorly
structured leadership. Another interviewer struck me as highly manipulative, trying to goad me into making
negative comments about employers and ethnic groups (of all things--talk about playing with fire--a personnel
manager who apparently fancied himself a psychologist), and giving me inaccurate data on hiring intentions. A
friend of mine got the job and detested it, saying the place was poisoned with political games. I've had a
thoroughly positive interview, got the job, and found I was with great people. Ignore their hype: What you see is
(most likely) what you get.

To end this on a few positive notes: Employers want to hire someone who will be a success for them. Your boss
will be very happy if you make everyone's life easier through your contributions. Prepare yourself to give a
picture of your range of skills, energy, confidence, communication skill, ability to work with others, range of past
experience, and ability to time-manage a set of responsibilities. Some employers begrudge every penny, but
others are pleased to compensate you attractively if you produce well. Size up the potential employer carefully,
for your time is valuable. Best of luck.

Tip 62: *VPUT and DESOL

I have no idea why the commands manual entry for *VPUT describes the parameter ParR as "The name of the
resulting vector array parameter." The parameter ParR is the source of data, NOT what is changed by *VPUT.
Note that *VPUT can write to node results, and to an element ETABLE. There is a difference between writing to
"nodal degree of freedom results", and what the manual calls "element nodal results" with *VPUT.

The *VPUT command can write information to the node results which can then be plotted as if it was the nodal
results, using the PLNSOL command. The command manual tells us that the effect is permanent for degree of
freedom results (changing the database), but temporary for all others (derived results, not changing the
underlying database). Writing stress data with *VPUT does not affect element plots with PLESOL,S, option. If
you use *VPUT to write to "element nodal stress results", immediately do a PLNSOL plot to see the effect, do a
PLDISP plot (seeing unaffected degree of freedom data), and then do another PLNSOL stress plot, the latter
PLNSOL plot shows original data that is unaffected by *VPUT. The temporary modified PLNSOL stress plot
effect does not cooperate with PowerGraphics to give a plot with contour discontinuities. Before using the
*VPUT temporary effect in plotting nodal stress (or other derived) results, test the method carefully for errors,
and for any errors in what I have just said! Warning: In a shell model, the plot of temporary *VPUT derived data
may make the plot legend indicator for the TOP, MID or BOT surface of the shell elements meaningless --
annotate the plot to inform the reviewer.

The DESOL command does write derived information into the database to the nodes of elements, on a permanent
basis. The command is powerful, and potentially dangerous. Annotate plots and change titles to inform the
reviewer. It can be painfully slow to apply DESOL to every node of every element, element by element, in a
large model.

Tip 63: How to Divide One Element Table Column by Another

To divide one column of an element table (ETABLE) by another column, use the SEXP command. Make sure
the denominator is nonzero! Per the commands manual, SEXP "forms an element table item by exponentiating
and multiplying." The result of SEXP is formed from (ABS(Lab1)**EXP1)*(ABS(Lab2)**EXP2). Because of
the absolute value operations that protect ANSYS from complex numbers being generated, you will get the
absolute value of the answer you want. To divide with SEXP, use a positive exponent EXP1=+1 for the
numerator Lab1, and a negative exponent EXP2=-1 for the denominator Lab2.

If you must have the ETABLE column answer with its positive or negative sign, one way to get it would be to
use a blend of SEXP and SMULT. Given ETABLE columns A and B, you want a column of A/B values with
their signs. Use SMULT to form C=A*B which has the same sign as A/B. Use SEXP to form D=1/(ABS(B)**2)
which is positive. Use SMULT to form E=C*D. Now the column E=A/B with its correct sign .

Tip 64: Element Tables (ETABLE) and Array Data Exchange -- An Example

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Note that *VGET and *VPUT can communicate with an ETABLE and with an Array. In this way, information
that can only be obtained in either an ETABLE or an Array can be moved back and forth for manipulation,
evaluation, and display. You have to be inside /POST1 to use ETABLE. SOLVE has to have been executed in
order for ETABLE data to be available. In brief testing, I found partial solve execution not to be sufficient to
make any data available for an element table, for example, element volume. In order to use *VPUT on an
ETABLE, the array and ETABLE column will have to already exist. Create the ETABLE column by making a
copy of an existing ETABLE column (you can use the SADD command, for example), or by creating a new
dummy column from model information. Give the new column an appropriate name for the data that will come
from the array. If selection of only a subset of your elements is in place, or if there are gaps in the element
numbering, it may be preferable to use a *VMASK during the *VGET and *VPUT calls to avoid warning
messages. The *VMASK array contents can be based on a test of element selection. Array size can be based on
MIN and MAX values for selected element numbering, if you use an offset during data movement. Minimizing
array size is a good reason for compressing node and element numbers when developing a large model, before
load cases, solutions and array dimensions are prepared.

An example with shell elements: put shell element volume in an ETABLE, shell element area in an array, move
the area array into an ETABLE column, divide volume by area to get shell element thickness for each element in
a new ETABLE column, and do a colored ETABLE contour plot of your model's shell element thicknesses (do
not average the values in the ETABLE plot). If the shell element is of varying thickness, this process generates an
average for the element. Print a colored picture of this plot. Augment this with an element plot using /ESHAPE,1
and coloring based on REAL constant values. This should help with "pesky visitors" who are always wondering
how thick certain parts of a complex shell model are. It may help you catch some modeling errors. Here is a
macro to generate the ETABLE thickness column and plot the model colored by element thickness. This macro is
written to process Shell63 elements in the selected set of elements. It is a basic macro with no testing to prevent
error conditions, or "cleanup" after execution. It illustrates movement of an array column into an element table
column, use of masks, offset of the transferred data to minimize array and element table size, and division of one
ETABLE column by another using the SEXP command. The macro has to be re-executed if the model is changed
-- an ETABLE update would not be sufficient. The denominator that contains element area in the divide
operation should automatically be nonzero because all shell elements have areas.
! ETABLE and Array usage and interaction example.
! For illustration only. Use at your own risk.
! This example is used on SHELL63 elements.
! An array is created called "aaa", element selection may be reduced,
! and element tables are used. A plot results.
! Run from within /POST1
! Put element volume in an ETABLE, and element area in an array.
! Move the area array data into the ETABLE
! Divide element volume by element area to get an element thickness column.
! Element thickness value should be the average for variable thickness elements.
! Plot the ETABLE thickness data for a view of the Shell 63 elements
! that are contour colored according to the element thickness.
esel,r,ename,,63 ! re-select only the SHELL63 elements
aaa= ! kill the array to be used
*get,xmax,elem,,num,max ! what is the highest element number selected?
! element number compression will be desirable
*get,xmin,elem,,num,min ! minimum element number
*dim,aaa,array,xmax-xmin+1 ! array to hold areas has to be this big
*vget,aaa(1),elem,xmin,esel ! fill array with info on whether element is selected
! -1=not selected, 0=undefined, 1=selected
! offset with xmin (see the manual)
*vmask,aaa(1) ! use element selection info as a mask
*vget,aaa(1),elem,xmin,geom ! fill the array with geom info on the elements
! for shell elements this is AREA. Offset with xmin
etable,volu,volu ! create element table column with element volume
sadd,geom,volu, ,0,1 ! create dummy column to contain other data
*vmask,aaa(1) ! use array as a mask (geom data is positive or zero)
*vput,aaa(1),elem,xmin,etab,geom ! put data into ETABLE "geom" column. Offset with xmin
sexp,thick,volu,geom,1,-1 ! divide volume by area, get avg. shell element thick.
/title,ETABLE Plot of Shell 63 Element Thickness Values

You can then select a few elements of interest, and list the element table for the column containing the thickness,
to get a numerical thickness value for those elements. You could use *VGET to put the REAL values for the
shell elements into an array, and transfer that data into an ETABLE column. Then when you list ETABLE
information for a selected element, you could see the REAL and the thickness value side-by-side. Contour colors
could be explicitly assigned to the different thicknesses found in the ETABLE column, if the number of

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thicknesses was not too great. You could place a button on the toolbar that calls a macro that (1) checks that the
user is in /POST1, (2) checks that there is results data in the database, (3) asks you to pick elements with the
mouse, then (4) generates and prints the ETABLE values for the REAL, thickness, and stress values of those
elements, and (5) finally cleans up and restores the original element selection.

Another use: Put shell element mid-plane Sx, Sy, and Sxy into columns, and multiply them by the element
thickness column. The resulting data would be similar to TX, TY, and TXY data that can be obtained directly,
but now would be in the direction defined by the active coordinate system. A macro could (1) have the user pick
nodes or keypoints to define a local coordinate system, (2) make it active, (3) develop this ETABLE data and
generate plots colored by load-per-unit-length in the known directions, then (4) clean up. This could be done for
SINT or SEQV if desired.

The possibilities are endless.

Tip 65: Error Estimation, PowerGraphics, and ERNORM

Error Estimation will not be available when you enter /POST1 if PowerGraphics is active. If you turn off
PowerGraphics, then the "Options for Output" in the GUI will offer the ERNORM setting that activates error
estimation. If PowerGraphics is not active, then the "Options for Output" in the GUI will not offer the AVRES
setting that controls discontinuity of contours at changes of material and REAL value for elements. The first time
I encountered this was when I couldn't get an error report, and couldn't imagine why, until I had poked around for
a while. I had entered /POST1 with /PowerGraphics active. ERNORM is ON by default when you enter /POST1,
but only if PowerGraphics is OFF with /GRAPHICS,FULL.

Tip 66: Concatenate and Mesh Last

One of the things I have seen go wrong in model development is: I have concatenated lines and/or areas, then
performed a boolean operation on them. Model problems resulted and I had to start from scratch (I re-ran most of
the log file); I suggest that boolean operations happen first -- concatenate and mesh last. (This was with ANSYS
5.3; solid modeling problems are reduced with each version.)

I have found that when three or more areas are concatenated, the lines that are implicitly concatenated have to be
concatenated manually before successful mapped meshing will proceed. When only two areas are concatenated,
the lines concatenate automatically.

When concatenated areas are used to map mesh a volume, it may happen that an adjacent volume defined by an
area that is part of the concatenated set will not mesh until the "pseudo-area" that results from the concatenation
is deleted. I've had occasions when this did and did not happen. The concatenated lines may need cleanup, also.
It is possible that if the volumes that do not require concatenated areas in order to be meshed, are meshed first,
that the remaining volumes can have area and line concatenation created after, and then be meshed themselves,
without error messages. This consideration may compromise easy mesh refinement and adaptive meshing. It may
be necessary to go to tetrahedral elements for easy meshing, unless ANSYS revisions have fixed up mapped
meshing concatenation.

Trivia: I first encountered the word "contatenate" when using an IBM 370 a long time back. A neighbour told me
that "concatenate" is based on the Latin word for "chain".

Tip 67: ANSYS Output of Data to Files for Use by Other Programs

Numerical data contained in parameters can be output into ASCII files using the *CFOPEN, the *VWRITE, and
the *CFCLOS commands. The *VWRITE command only works when called from an input file that includes a
format statement similar to FORTRAN. The following simple macro makes the *VWRITE command easy to use:
! Put this code into a macro file called "writer.mac"
! call with: writer,data
! write data in arg1 to a file previously opened with *CFOPEN
! later on, close the file with *CFCLOSE

The following ANSYS /INPUT data test will demonstrate the use of the above macro. In this test, the macro has
been called "writer.mac" and it is in the current directory. Either numbers or parameters that evaluate to numbers
can be used in the following commands:

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! Example of data output to file from ANSYS


Executing the above commands from within ANSYS generates the following data in the file "myoutput.dat", and
demonstrates that the output file remains open in spite of the /CLEAR command. The following is the content of
the file "myoutput.dat":

The filename used in the demo ended in ".dat" so that the data would be accessible to the MathCad program from
MathSoft, Inc. The above procedure makes it possible to get ANSYS information out into another program
without errors in manual transcription. If you can get the ANSYS information into a parameter, it can be moved
to an external file. Data can be read back into ANSYS with the *VREAD command. Similar methods can be
used to move arrays full of data. Note that the *VGET and *VPUT commands can move data between element
tables and arrays, and the arrays can be used to put data into external text files, so significant automated data
movement is possible. This approach can help to reduce data errors in reports.

Here is an example of temporarily switching the ANSYS /OUTPUT information from the default, to a file. Note
that certain list information will not go to the file when the GUI is in use (read the manual).
! The following code switches /OUTPUT to a file,
! writes two comments, writes PRSECT information on
! linearized stresses along a previously defined path,
! then returns /OUTPUT to the default.
/COM,Linearized Path Results from PRSECT
/COM,Compare Results with Code Allowables

This gives a permanent record that is independent of plotted results.

Tip 68: Writing Array Columns to Output or to Files

The *VWRITE command can be used to output an array column, in addition to scalar parameters. The array
position from which the printing will start must be indicated when executing the *VWRITE command. As
mentioned above, the *VWRITE command cannot be executed inside the GUI, it has to be executed from an
input file or macro. The *VWRITE command prints the data from the starting position on down to the end of the
column. The output that results can be re-directed with the /OUTPUT or with the *CFOPEN and *CFCLOS
commands. The following two macros can be used to make calling the *VWRITE command easy. The array
must exist, having been created with a *DIM command. The first macro works on a 1-dimensional array
parameter. Note the instruction on how to call the macro, with the array parameter name surrounded by single
quotes in order to delay the evaluation.
! This macro will print a 1-dimensional array
! according to the starting position indicated.
! If this macro is called WRITEAR1.MAC and an
! array called COL1DATA is to be printed from
! position COL1DATA(1) to the end of the array
! then call this macro with the statement:
! setting the name of the array in single quotes.
! The user may wish to change the FORMAT statement.


The second works on a 2-dimensional array parameter. The macro call will include the row and column position
from which to start. The *VWRITE statement will cause printing of a column of the 2-dimensional array. When
calling the macro, the array parameter name is, as above, enclosed with single quotes to delay evaluation.

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! This macro will print a column of a 2-dimensional array

! according to the starting position indicated.
! If this macro is called WRITEAR2.MAC and an
! array called MYDATA2D is to be printed from
! position MYDATA2D(1,2) to the end of column 2 then call
! this macro with the statement:
! setting the name of the array in single quotes.
! The user may wish to change the FORMAT statement.


Given that all ANSYS arrays are implicitly 3-dimensional, the second macro above could be used to print out a
1-dimensional array if the second calling parameter is set to one. A similar macro can be written to print a
"column" of a 3-dimensional array. If a term in the array is MYARRAY(III,JJJ,KKK) then the *VWRITE
command will cycle through the values of the III index when printing out data. The macro for a 3-dimensional
array could be written so that it tests ARG2, ARG3, and ARG4 to see if they are zero. If they are zero, then they
presumably were not entered, and the correct form of a *VWRITE command could be used to print a scalar, 1-D
array, 2-D array, or 3-D array, as appropriate. Such a macro is illustrated below. Its use would be very error
prone without error checking code. A scalar need not have its name enclosed in single quotes in calling this
macro, but an array would have to be enclosed in single quotes as in the above examples. A user may want to
customize this macro to change the FORMAT statements, or to remove the /NOPR and /GOPR commands.
! Macro to write a scalar or an array column, as appropriate.
! Indicate the starting position for *VWRITE if an array is used.
! Enclose an array parameter name in single quotes. #################
! Examples, if this macro is called WRITER.MAC:
! writer,aaa ! if aaa is a scalar
! writer,'bbb',1,3,2 ! if bbb is a 3-D array parameter
! Note the /NOPR and /GOPR commands. They will overwrite user settings.

/nopr ! reduce the amount printed to /OUTPUT

*if,arg2,ne,0,then ! if nonzero an array is used
*if,arg3,eq,0,then ! if not a 2-D array
*if,arg4,eq,0,then ! if not a 3-D array
*else ! if a scalar
/gopr ! switch on /OUTPUT

Test these macros thoroughly before use. Note that they contain no error handling code. Warning: It is
particularly difficult to remember to surround the name of the array parameter with single quotes.

Tip 69: Synthesizing Parameter Names and Manipulating Jobnames and Long Strings in APDL

Although I haven't found documentation reference to the following tricks, they work in ANSYS 5.3, and
presumably will in future. The ability to synthesize parameter names, and to do other text manipulation, could
lead to some very creative activities in "programming" ANSYS methods and in macro writing. Parameter names
themselves can be synthesized by chaining text strings together. Remember that there is a limit on the number of
parameters in a model -- arrays must be used to get around this, if it is a problem. Try these statements in
ANSYS -- manually enter these lines one at a time in the ANSYS Input window, and check what turns up when
the *STATUS command is issued (scroll down to the bottom of the STATUS text window that pops up):

For what it's worth, you can even store ANSYS commands in parameters, and execute them. I encountered some

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trouble executing commands with commas embedded inside the character parameters, but the following worked.
Give them a try:
/title,%a%,%b%,%c%,%d%,%e%,%f% yields %thetime%

Parameters that hold text data are limited to 8 characters. Several text variables can be chained together
(concatenated) using the "percent" sign. The user should experiment to see how blanks are truncated. The
following example illustrates chaining. The strings are concatenated in the /TITLE command, and the /REPL
command shows the result in the plot title.
xxx='The 1st'
yyy=' & 2nd'

Situations when this trick might be used could be to save and employ long title strings, annotation strings, or job
names for the /FILNAME command. The method can use several parameters, or several terms of an array
parameter. A jobname can be up to 32 characters long, so up to four parameters, or 4 terms in an array parameter,
would be needed. Note that the *GET command can read in a jobname, with the *GET statement pointing to the
character in the jobname where the parameter will begin to read the string. An example of array use is:
aaa(1)='First te'
aaa(2)='rm & 2nd'

A database could be saved with statements such as these, in which parameter "aaa" is text and "num" is an
integer. The contents of "num" could be the results of a load step "num" and the file name would identify the
load step number:

Another use is with a parameter inside percent signs grouped with text with all inside single quotes. Consider this
example, which was used to delete load step files in a complex application:
! Parameter "compname" contains the Jobname of a load step file

Both the RESUME command and the /CLEAR command can destroy the counter used in a *DO loop. I have
used the PARSAV command before RESUME, and the PARRES command immediately after, in order to
recover the counter and other looping parameters when placing RESUME inside a *DO loop. The user should
test this technique before using -- the parameters saved and restored may undesirably overwrite parameters in the
file that is resumed. Look at this /CLEAR example; it illustrates what can be done:
! test of looping
fini ! exit whatever is active

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/clear ! be prepared to hit OK button


These methods can make it possible to program considerable automation into ANSYS, using the ability to
assemble parameter names, parameter contents, commands, and file names from letters and numbers.

Tip 70: Solid Elements 95 and 92 -- Efficiency and Interconnection

These two solid elements have mid-side nodes, so they follow curved surfaces nicely. Fewer elements are needed
than with Solid45 8-node bricks, for equivalent accuracy. Note the ANSYS manual comments that the simpler
flat-sided elements may be preferred for material nonlinearity. However, nonlinearity is supported by Solid92
and Solid95. The Solid45 tetrahedral element is "not recommended" in the ANSYS manuals because of its low
accuracy in predicting stresses -- the higher order Solid92 and 95 tetrahedral option elements do not have these
warnings, and may be preferred in some cases.

Solid element 95 is a 20-node brick element. It also supports a prism, pyramid, and tetrahedral element shape
option. At revision 5.3 of ANSYS, my testing suggests that the prism and pyramid forms are not generated by the
automatic volume mesher. At the 5.5 revision, pyramids may be generated by the mesher at the interface between
the brick form, and the tetrahedral form. Brief testing I did suggests that meshing of volumes can successfully
interface the brick and tetrahedral forms. The tetrahedra formed at the interface with brick elements do not have
mid-side nodes where they would not exist on the matching brick elements, so there should not be a big
mismatch problem at the interface. These elements that have a mid-side node missing are considered to be
degenerate forms in the ANSYS manuals, and are not recommended in regions with high stress gradients, or
where exace stress values are important.

The Solid92 element is a 10 note tetrahedron -- it should act the same as the 10 node version of the Solid95
element in producing results. However, it executes significantly faster than the 10 node Solid95 element,
presumably because the software is not dealing with the redundant extra 10 nodes. In large models, this speedup
will be of value to users, so Solid92 elements should be considered where Solid95 tetrahedral forms would
otherwise be employed in large structural models.

Up to Contents

Return to Main Page

FEA and Optimization Introduction Page
FEA Modeling Issues Page
© 1998, 1999 by Peter C. Budgell -- You are welcome to print and photocopy these pages (don't plagiarize or sell the contents).

May 27, 1999

E-mail Address: Please see my main page.

Link to: The ANSYS® Home Page at

Link to: ANSYS Technical Overview Recommended Reading
For more links, Return to Links on Main Page.

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Modeling Issues in FEA with ANSYS

Finite Element Analysis

Modeling Issues and Ideas
Peter Budgell

E-mail Address: Please see my main page.

© 1998 & 2004 by Peter C. Budgell -- You are welcome to print and photocopy these pages.
These tips and comments are intended for user education purposes only. They are to be used at your own risk. The
contents are based on my experience with ANSYS 5.3 -- more recent versions may change things. The contents do
not attempt to discuss all the concepts of the finite element method that are required to obtain successful solutions. It
is your responsibility to determine if you have sufficient knowlege and understanding of finite element theory to apply
the software appropriately. I have attempted to give accurate information, but cannot accept liability for any
consequences or damages which may result from errors in this discussion. Accordingly, I disclaim any liability for any
damages including, but not limited to, injury to person or property, lost profit, data recovery charges, attorney's fees, or
any other costs or expenses.

Return to Main Page

FEA and Optimization Introduction Page A Quick Overview of FEA
ANSYS® Tips Page My Collection of Tips on ANSYS Use.

Modeling issues include a host of topics. I will mention some that have been relevant to my
experience. After almost six years of continuous use of the ANSYS program, I continue to learn
new features of the software, discover more ways to represent or approximate features, and
develop new ways to get useful output information from the models.

Example of Approximation: I wrote a macro to give the surface area (one side) of a previously
selected set of shell elements. A force divided by this area can be applied as pressure over these shell
elements, for smooth force application, if the elements are flat. Writing the macro required a few lines
of code that: determine the number of elements, get the first element identity, create an array of correct
size to hold data, put the areas of the elements into the array, sum the array entries, report the result,
and delete the variables and array. NOTE: The user must be careful to apply the pressure to the
CORRECT FACE of the set of shell elements. Force or pressure on a flat shell may require Large
Displacement (geometrically nonlinear) analysis.


1. FEA is Approximate
2. Meshing
3. Shell versus Solid versus Beam Elements
4. Reduction of the model to a shell structure
5. Pressure on Shell Elements
6. Reflecting Part of a Model
7. Representation of Bolted Connections
8. Warning about Nodal Coupling
9. Development of geometry in which surfaces cut each other with shared lines
10. Application of boundary conditions
11. Application of loading
12. Pressure loading of a wall containing granular material
13. Deformation of thin flat panels by pressure loading
14. Use of Units
15. Buckling analysis and failure
16. Ramping Loads in ANSYS
17. Plotting results
18. Coping with Design Changes
19. Computer Aided Engineering Environment
20. FEA versus Hand Calculations

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21. Choosing an Appropriate Shell Element

22. Using P-Elements
23. Harmonic Response
24. Failure Modes to Consider
25. Stress Limits and Margin of Safety
26. Representation of a group of bolts (or rivets)
27. Adequate Computer Hardware for FEA

MODELING ISSUES that are faced include (but are by no means limited to):

FEA is Approximate. The first issue to understand in Finite Element Analysis is that it is
fundamentally an approximation. The underlying mathematical model may be an approximation of
the real physical system (for example, the Euler-Bernoulli beam ignoring shear deformation). The
finite element itself approximates what happens in its interior with interpolation formulas. The
interior of a 2-D or 3-D finite element has been mapped to the interior of an element with a perfect
shape, so a severely distorted element can not deform in a manner that has an accurate match to the
real physical response. Integration over the body of the element is often approximated by Gaussian
Quadrature (depending on the element, an analytical integral can be either impractical or
exceedingly difficult -- I've done a few with the computer algebra system MACSYMA and the
number of terms can explode unless constants are extracted during the derivation and the integrand
is kept factored; some elements are said to be more accurate with numerical integration at a limited
number of points). The continuity of deformation between connected elements is interrupted at
some level. Badly shaped (by distortion, warping or extreme aspect ratio) elements can give less
accurate results. Elements approximate the local shape of the real body. Numerical analysis
difficulties such as ill-conditioned matrices may reduce the accuracy of calculated results. A linear
analysis is an approximation of the real behavior. The loading of the model is an approximation of
what happens in the real world. The boundary conditions approximate how the structure is
supported by the outside world. The material properties assumed are approximate. Flaws are not
represented unless the analyst incorporates a model of a flaw. The overall dimensions of the model
approximate real structures that are manufactured within a tolerance. Many details are idealized,
simplified, or ignored. Element results may be reported at integration points or nodes, not
continuously evaluated with the interpolation functions over the whole element interior. Stress and
strain results are based on the derivatives of the displacement solution, amplifying the errors.

The result of an analysis contains the accumulated errors due to all of the contributing
approximations. Good analysis and interpretation of results requires knowing what is an acceptable
approximation, development of a complete list of what should be evaluated, appreciation of the
need for margin of safety, and comprehension of what remains unknown after an analysis.

Meshing. Production of a good quality mesh is a major topic. The mesh should be fine enough for
good detail where information is needed, but not too fine, or the analysis will require considerable
time and space in the computer. A mesh should have well-shaped elements -- only mild distortion
and moderate aspect ratios. This can require considerable user intervention, despite FEA software
promotional claims of automatic good meshing. The user should put considerable effort into the
generation of well-shaped meshes. This will include setting element densities, gradients in element
size, concatenation of lines or areas to permit mapped meshing, playing with automatic meshing
controls, and re-meshing individual areas and volumes until the result looks "just right".

In ANSYS, the command "LSEL,S,NDIV,,0" will select all the lines that have not had mesh
density assigned. This can help find missed lines when setting mesh densities manually.

On a curved surface, quadrilateral shell elements should not be generated with a warped form.
(The theory manual discusses shell element warping, but I suspect that the discussion is more

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relevant to element deformation under load, than to the initial un-deformed element shape.
ANSYS will give warnings if there is more than very slight warping of the original un-deformed
quad shell element shape.) Quad shell elements can sometimes be fitted to a cylindrical curve so
that they are rectangular in shape and not warped. On other curved surfaces, finely meshed
triangular 3-node or four-sided curved 8-node shell elements may be needed. Mid-side node
elements can follow complex curved surfaces, so if they are capable of any nonlinearity that will
be needed, they may be acceptable and preferred. The 8-node Shell93 shell element of ANSYS has
mid-side nodes, follows curved surfaces, and supports nonlinearity.

Remember that most finite elements are stiffer than the real structure. For these elements, a coarse
mesh generally results in a structure that underpredicts deflection, and overpredicts buckling load
and vibration frequency. A coarse mesh is less sensitive to and "hides" stress concentrations. A
fine mesh generally gives an answer closer to the exact solution. A fine mesh also results in larger
models, more data storage, and longer model solution and display times.

Shell versus Solid versus Beam Elements. Ideally, structures would be represented for Finite
Element Analysis by solid elements, for this would eliminate the problem of positioning the
mid-plane of shell elements, exactly represent the sectional properties of components, and position
welds in their design location. Unfortunately, there would have to be several solid elements
through the thickness of sheets of steel or aluminum to capture local bending effects with any
accuracy, and the other dimensions of the elements would have to be kept small so that the aspect
ratios of the elements were acceptable. Consequently, the number of elements would be
unbelievably large. It is not feasible to model many thin-wall structures with solid elements.

Shell elements were originally developed to efficiently represent thin sheets or plates of steel or
aluminum, both flat and curved surfaces. They include out-of-plane bending effects in their
fundamental formulation, as well as transferring shear, tension, and compression in the plane.
Developing an interface between a shell portion and a solid element portion of a model has a
difficulty: Most solid elements do not include rotational degrees of freedom at the nodes, and this
results in a rotational "joint" if shell elements are connected to a solid. Even if a solid element with
rotational degrees of freedom is used, the rotational stiffness at a solid's edge node is not
appropriate for connection to shell elements -- these solid elements were intended to be connected
to each other. In addition, high order solid elements like these are not usually capable of nonlinear
analysis. A modeling trick that is often used is to overlap one shell element with the first element
in a solid, and join the nodes in two locations in order to imply continuity of rotations, as well as
deflections. This is not a perfect fix. Rigid regions with node pairs (rigid links with CERIG) may
be used to enforce connection, although high local stresses will result. Some finite element
software may have tools to address this problem.

Of course, beam elements are even simpler and more efficient, when structures employ beam-like
details. There are occasions in FEA work when structural beams (including I, wide-flange,
channels and angles) will be more fully represented as shells or solids, in order to examine in
detail how they are behaving, or interacting with the structure where they are connected to other
parts. Structural steel tubing and rolled sections can sometimes be simplified as beam elements.
NOTE: Remember that when shapes are simplified as beam elements, we lose the possibility of
predicting flange buckling, web buckling, and concentrated stresses, so caution must be used. Link
elements will not show bending stress or Euler buckling of a link.

On the XANSYS listserver, I have seen the opinion that the ANSYS PCG solver is not
significantly faster than the frontal solver with shell elements, because of the great stiffness
difference between in-plane deflections of shell elements, and out-of-plane deflections. In the
ANSYS manuals the PCG solver is not recommended where significant numbers of coupled nodes

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(CP) and rigid regions (CERIG) have been defined. Gap and contact elements may introduce the
same problem. This has usually been my experience. However, when modeling a perforated flat
plate with shell elements that were roughly square, all about the same shape and size, and as thick
as they were wide, using about 200,000 degrees of freedom, I achieved good convergence with the
PCG solver. The frontal solver could not fit this problem into my computer because of the size and
large wavefront. Of course, you can speed up the "solution" of the PCG solver by accepting a
larger convergence error. You know you are having PCG convergence trouble when the
convergence error is not decreasing monotonically (when it goes up and down instead of dropping
smoothly). The PCG solver is not recommended for use with nonlinear solutions. One time I tried
it I got a negative on the diagonal, which would have resulted in bisection with the Frontal solver
and adaptive time stepping, but crashed ANSYS with the PCG solver. However, for better
behaved models, I have achieved apparently good results with the PCG solver, with shell elements,
in nonlinear Large Displacement runs.

Reduction of the model to a shell structure. Shell elements are appropriate for many steel
structures, since the plates of steel are thin in comparison with their other dimensions. (This
applies to aluminum and other materials, too.) The ideal position for the shell element is on the
mid-plane position of the sheet of steel. Consequently, a variety of approximations are needed to
link parts of the model together, so that the surfaces act as if they are welded together.

ANSYS supports shell elements for which the element thickness varies within the element. This
could require a REAL value for every element in order to input a different shell thickness at each
node. Input from external programs such as CAD packages sometimes generates such elements
and information. User-written macros are sometimes employed to generate elements with varying
thickness, or to set up REAL values for existing elements, with the thickness that is assigned being
based on node position.

There is a helpful if less-than-ideal fix for the case when somewhat thick shells overlap each other,
and are welded together. Place the shell mid-surfaces correctly in space, and mesh them so that
nodes where welds are used are positioned directly "above" one another on the two surfaces. Join
those nodes in pairs with rigid regions (CERIG) or with massless high-stiffness beam elements.
The beam elements have the advantage of working properly in large displacement (geometrically
nonlinear) solutions. The problem with this technique is that it requires proper mesh control if the
user wants to automate generation of the model, and it is tedious to implement manually. In some
cases it will be desired to place gap or surface contact elements (with the gap set closed) between
the nodes or elements in the interior of the pair of shells, requiring more work. The gap elements
keep their original orientation in a large displacement solution, so they will not be applicable in
large displacement analyses (unless you can live with the error), and surface contact elements will
be needed. Surface contact elements on shell elements must be applied to the correct face of the
shell elements.

The following figure shows two areas that are offset with one above the other. Lines have been
created so that the CERIG command can be used to join them as if they were welded together.
Mesh densities have been set so that the rigid region pairs can be created.

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Modeling Issues in FEA with ANSYS

The next figure shows the same two areas after meshing and the creation of the rigid region pairs
with CERIG. The shell elements have been plotted with the shell thickness shown, so that the
positioning of the nodes in the center of the shell elements is visible, and the touching of the plates
is implied. Remember that rigid regions only apply accurately with Small Displacement analysis.

Automating the creation of these CERIG pairs could be done with a macro that:

1. Has the user identify the set of lines on one surface, and the set on the other surface.
2. Steps through the nodes on the first set of lines.
3. For each node on the first set of lines, uses a *GET command to select the closest node from
the nodes on the other set of lines.
4. Create a rigid region from the pair of nodes.

The macro would work as long as the nodes for the sets of lines are located "above" one another by
appropriate mesh control on the lines. A similar macro could join the node pairs with the massless
high stiffness beam elements mentioned. Alternatives to using a macro include applying the
CEINTF or the EINTF commands with appropriate tolerance values. The reader is cautioned that

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this technique tells us little about the stresses in the weld, or about fatigue, crack growth and
fracture. A prying load applied to the above example could tear the weld apart if the weld was
small in comparison to the shell thickness. The example does not illustrate good design practice
for handling certain loads. The FEA evaluation of loading of welds in shell structure models is a
whole separate topic.

Pressure on Shell Elements. In ANSYS, shell elements have two sides. These are known as the
TOP and the BOTTOM faces. They are also known as FACE 1 (the BOTTOM) and FACE 2 (the
TOP). The nodes I,J,K,L form a path around the element. If the "right hand rule" is used on this
path, the fingers of the right hand following the path, then the thumb points out of the TOP surface
(FACE 2).

If positive (into the element) pressure is to be applied to FACE 2, a positive pressure vector points
into FACE 2, the TOP. If positive pressure is to be applied to FACE 1, a positive pressure vector
points into FACE 1, the BOTTOM. Areas act similarly.

If a simple primitive solid (for example a cube) is created in ANSYS, it is bounded by areas. The
areas will have FACE 1 on the inside surface, while FACE 2 is on the outside of the solid. If the
volume was deleted, and the areas that bounded the solid were to be pressurized on the interior of
the box that was formed, the pressure should be applied to FACE 1 on all sides. In other models,
where Boolean operations have been performed, the FACE 1 and FACE 2 orientations get very

For the user to apply pressure, careful checking must be used to assure that the correct faces of
shell element have been pressurized. ANSYS can plot elements or areas for which the positive
vector points out of the screen (when coming out of FACE 2), or when it points into the screen.
This lets the user plot only those areas or elements for which the user sees FACE 2, or for which
the user sees only FACE 1. This helps in choosing whether to apply pressure to FACE 1 or FACE
2 when using picking to select areas or elements. Alternatively, ANSYS 5.3 (and presumably later)
plots shell elements with different colors for FACE1 and FACE2 under PowerGraphics when the
numbering options are set with "No Numbering" and with "Colors" or "Colors and Numbers".

To add to the challenge, the

direction of the pressure arrows
(choose arrows to be shown to
indicate pressures under the
SYMBOLS choice under
PlotCtrls on the Utility Menu)
for areas may differ from the
direction of the arrows shown
for the elements attached to
those areas, depending on
surfaces visible and sides to
which the pressure was applied.
The arrow plots for the elements
are the ones to believe.
Pressures have to be transferred

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Modeling Issues in FEA with ANSYS

from geometric entities to

elements in order for these plots
to take place. You have to activate plotting of arrows with the /PSF command -- by default surface
symbols are used. ANSYS only plots pressure arrows on shell elements when the arrows point into
the screen, so you have to look at a model from all directions when inspecting a shell model. Have

Final notes on pressures: ANSYS can include a gradient in the applied pressure to show the effect
of, for example, pressure increasing as a depth of water increases. "Suction" can also be applied by
using a minus sign. Remember that "suction" in physically realistic models cannnot be applied
beyond the point at which a liquid boils, or below zero absolute pressure. ANSYS, however, does
not limit the negative pressure values that a user enters. The hydrostatic pressure of oil floating on
water might be modeled by setting the "zero" position of the water pressure gradient above the
position where the water starts, in order to include the pressure of the oil. A variety of other tricks
can be applied.

Reflecting Part of a Model. Where symmetry in the design exists, only a partial model need be
built; the rest can be created by reflecting (mirror imaging) the geometry. Where structure is
repeated (e.g. a set of posts) multiple copies can be made.

Reflection in ANSYS can be done across the XY, YZ, or ZX planes of any ACTIVE Cartesian
coordinate system. Since the active coordinate system can be any local system that the user has
defined, any kind of reflection in 3D Cartesian space can be accomplished.

If the reflection included geometry, nodes, or elements that were on the XY, YZ, or ZX plane
about which the reflection took place, copies of those entities will overlay the original copy on the
plane of reflection. Entity appropriate merge (NUMMRG) commands will be needed to connect
the original and reflected entities. Warning: As discussed elsewhere, elements lying in the plane of
reflection get copied with the node order reversed, and will NOT merge with the element from
which they were generated. These elements may have to be deleted, depending on your intentions.

Representation of Bolted Connections. This non-trivial item can be tackled at a simplified level,
or with detailed 3-D representation. The simplest approximation is to represent the bolted (or
riveted) connection of overlapping shell structures by locating a node of each surface at the
location of the bolt. The nodes have to be located at the same X,Y,Z location in space. This means
offsetting one or both shells from its nominal position so that the nodes and shells can touch. One
then uses nodal coupling (the CP command in ANSYS) to tie the X, Y, and Z locations in space. It
will generally be desirable to tie two of the three rotations as well. The only rotation that is free is
that about an axis perpendicular to the planes of elements (about the axis of the bolt). When any
rotations in a 3-D analysis are coupled (a result of the bolt clamping surfaces together) the rotation
coupling is generally valid only in a small displacement (geometrically linear) analysis. Large
displacement (geometrically nonlinear) analysis introduces an error based on the difference
between "sin(theta) and theta" (expressed in radians). If contact surfaces are added between the
shells that are bolted together, the coupling of rotation is not needed, but the solution becomes a
nonlinear iterative process, taking several times longer. NOTE: Contact surfaces on shell elements
have to be defined carefully, so that the correct surfaces (Face 1 or Face 2) of the shell elements
are the ones in contact -- shell element orientation may need to be doctored to get this to work.

Another bolt representation is to use a rigid region to link pairs of nodes. Rigid regions in ANSYS
assume small displacement (geometrically linear) analysis. The degree of freedom for rotation
about the axis of the bolt must be free at one end of the rigid region node pair, for bolt
representation. This representation has the advantage that the shells can be positioned properly in

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space. However, contact surfaces may become desirable, depending on the dimensions of the
clamped parts. The ANSYS rigid region (CERIG) couples rotations about global axes, so the axis
of the bolt would have to be along one of the global axes for the rotational degree of freedom to be
correct. The analyst may do better to use a very stiff beam element, with incomplete nodal DOF
coupling at one beam end and shell, and the other beam end attached to the other shell; the
rotational degree of freedom about the beam axis is free at the end with the nodal coupling. A
beam with arbitrary orientation may require the nodes at the coupled end to have their coordinate
system rotated to have the rotational degree of freedom oriented properly (I haven't tried this). The
problem of contact surfaces remains. It can be partially addressed by using gap elements at nearby
nodes, for which the nodes of the two shell surfaces must be aligned "above" one another, so the
gap elements are perpendicular to the two shell surfaces. Note: Gap elements keep their original
orientation in a large displacement analysis, and will not be applicable where there is significant
rotation. Contact surfaces (with the gap closed) may be needed where there will be large
displacement. The previous warning about applying a contact surface to the correct side of a shell
element applies.

Note that nodal coupling acts in the coordinate system of the nodes coupled. The nodal coordinates
systems of the coupled nodes should, in general, be identical. The ability of nodal coupling to act
in the nodal coordinate system means that the user is not restricted to coupling in global coordinate
system directions.

Two of the previous bolt representation methods (nodal coupling and rigid region CERIG) are
missing the possibility of representing bolt preload. Preload can be implied if a bolted connection
is represented with a link or beam element that is capable of "initial strain". In ANSYS these
include: Link1 (2-D Spar), Beam3 (2-D Elastic Beam), Beam4 (3-D Elastic Beam), Link8 (3-D
Spar), and Link10 (Tension or Compression Only Spar). They must be squeezing surfaces
together, which means that either nodal contact elements (gap elements) or surface contact
elements must be in use between separated shell element surfaces, or that surface contact elements
must be used on the interface between touching 3-D solid elements or touching shell element

Other ways to represent bolt preload include:

1. Use all 3-D representations of bolts and parts, use contact elements, and apply a temperature
difference to the bolt to cause it to "shrink" an intended amount.
2. Use 3-D elements and contact surface elements, with an initial interference between bolt and
parts, such that the initial interference results in the intended preload.

Temperature setting, interference setting, and setting the "surface normal stiffness" value of
surface contact elements in ANSYS must be carefully done to result in the intended preload.
Setting the surface normal stiffness value appropriately is nontrivial. The intended preload must
exist BEFORE the structure is loaded. An iterative process may help, but be time-consuming. If
the bolts are not overloaded when the structure is loaded, the bolt preload will be nearly unchanged
when the structure is loaded. Whether any gap or contact element friction coefficient should be
included in the model needs to be considered carefully for it can hide or prevent shear loading on
the bolts. For conservatism and safety, friction coefficients may need to be zero, so that the bolts
take all the load. When postprocessing, loading on bolts should be assessed using established

My experience has been that if a full 3-D model of a bolted connection (bolt and materials
represented with 3-D elements, and contact elements on the surfaces) starts out with the bolt loose
and none of the contact elements touching, convergence may be difficult when the solver begins

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work. Various analyst "cheats" may help, such as moving the bolt or parts so that there is some
contact, and/or using some very soft spring stiffness combination elements to keep the model from
"flying off into space", when the solver is working to converge.

Warning about Nodal Coupling. Nodal coupling has its uses: one is a quick-and-dirty
representation of a bolted or riveted connection with shell elements (see above). More exotic
applications can be invented. When nodal coupling is used to represent a bolted connection of 3D
shells, the nodes that are coupled must occupy the same position in space. Otherwise, body
rotation at that part of the structure will result in an artificial mechanism acting on the structure. If
the nodes were tied in the X,Y,Z directions, structure rotation would not result in the necessary
change in the relative X,Y,Z positions of the two nodes. High local stresses, and an external couple
would result if the coupled nodes were not located at the same position. This is not good!

Development of geometry in which surfaces cut each other with shared lines. The lines must
be shared between different areas if the finite elements are to act as if the surfaces are welded
together, when meshing takes place. Considerable care and checking is always necessary as a
model is built, to see that connectedness is complete. I can still make errors of this type, for they
sneak in even when being careful.

Hopefully, a beginning ANSYS user will have had some training in the development of ANSYS
solid geometry within /PREP7. New revisions of ANSYS improve the capability of /PREP7, with
not all improvements being publicized. I lived with ANSYS 5.0 and 5.1, and much prefer the more
recent ANSYS versions. The solid modeling engine does not like singularities, e.g. you can't have
a line that cuts half way through an area, the way that you can cut half way into a sheet of paper
with a pair of scissors. It is necessary to cut an original area into two areas, in order to get a line
that extends into the interior of the original area. Recent ANSYS versions appear to be more
tolerant of cusps and some other difficulties. Development of complex structure solid-model
geometry with /PREP7 calls on analyst creativity, intelligence, and puzzle-solving skills, as well as
a good dose of patience. This tends not to be understood by those who have never done the work.

ANSYS does not assign the attributes (REAL, MAT, TYPE, and ESYS) of a parent geometric
entity (Line, Area, or Volume) to the entities that are formed by a Boolean operation such as
dividing the original entity into parts. I consider this unfortunate, since it increases the work
required of the analyst who is developing the model. It is an easy way to forget to assign attributes.

Application of boundary conditions. Structural FEA displacement boundary conditions are the
limitations on movement of the structure at places such as anchor locations. The boundary
conditions in a finite element model must limit translation or rotation in a manner appropriate to
the case at hand. Boundary conditions can be used to imply symmetric behavior in a structure that
has symmetry, so that the model size can be halved, quartered, or similarly reduced, if the loading
of the structure is also symmetrical. Boundary conditions can also be used to imply anti-symmetry,
for example, where a warping displacement is applied to a symmetric structure (envision twisting a
shoebox about the long axis -- a quarter model could be sufficient).

There are occasions when a displacement boundary condition needs to be applied to a single node
so that the structure can rotate around the support point. This single node support, however, can
result in a serious local stress spike. Depending on the model, the elements where the single node
support will be applied might be artificially stiffened. Alternatively, if there is a surrounding "pad",
an even pressure could be applied to the pad, that generates a force equal to the reaction otherwise
found at the constrained node. Two stress runs could be used: (1) Run without the pressure on the
"pad" and find the reaction at the constrained node. (2) Take the reaction, spread it smoothly over
the pad as a pressure, and run again. The reaction could be spread over nearby nodes at stiffeners,

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instead of applied as a pressure, depending on the nature of the model and structure. The goal here
is to approximate reality in an acceptable way, while avoiding the time-consuming use of contact
and other non-linear elements. (Of course, in some cases, it will be necessary to exactly model a
support complete with many non-linear complexities.) NOTE: If you do this, the reaction forces
will no longer equal the previous applied load plus gravity load on the structure, because of the
new load that has been introduced.

Application of loading in a manner that is of satisfactory accuracy, without becoming overly

complex. It is often sufficient to apply forces directly to a small set of nodes. However, better
representation of loading can be needed to avoid local stress spikes in some analyses. As discussed
above, application of pressure over a region of elements, producing the desired force, can help
avoid a local stress spike. Artificially stiffening a local region where a point force is applied can
help, if this is acceptable.

The load to consider may need to be increased because of the possibility of dynamic effects, if you
are doing only a static analysis. Your industry may have standards for this. Consider road vehicle
design -- you wouldn't want the tires to blow out from the increased force due to a vehicle
roll-over. (If they did, how would you prove that tire failure did not cause the accident?) This
would call for the tires to stand at least twice the "normal max rating" without immediate failure. I
once sighted a non-professional driver pulling a simple trailer grossly overloaded with crushed
stone. It appeared that the wheel bearings failed before the tires let go (there was a lot of smoke so
it was hard to tell). Somebody did good tire design! (Some transportation structures have to be
limited in size under the knowlege that users will fill them to the maximum possible volume,
without regard to the density and total weight of the material loaded.)

For structures that do not have a severe weight penalty (e.g. those that do not have to fly), getting a
conservative result is often satisfactory. An analyst will develop a feel for this as the result of
experience in a particular industry. However, where there are high material costs, or large volumes
manufactured, extra modeling detail to reduce unjustified conservatism may be economically

Pressure loading of a wall containing granular material is particularly challenging. Earth, sand,
grain, coal, or other granular material pressure is a civil engineering topic. Because of internal
friction in the material, the lateral pressure on walls is usually less than simple hydrostatic pressure
would be for a liquid of the same average density. For some dry materials, the pressure would be
roughly 40 to 60 percent of hydrostatic pressure (look up a proper value) on a vertical wall. The
pressure loading varies with the depth of the material, and varies if the slope of a wall changes (a
horizontal surface could see hydrostatic pressure). On the other hand, in a long column filled with
granular material, the pressure may be constant past a certain depth -- this affects the function of
an hourglass. The ANSYS Finite Element program is capable of applying a pressure with a
gradient, so pressure can ramp up smoothly as the depth increases. The pressure load must be
applied to the correct face of a shell finite element. Considerable FEA checking is needed to assure
that the whole structure model is properly loaded. Extra analyst work is needed to apply a series of
gradient loads that increase smoothly in intensity if curvature of a wall or container surface causes
change of slope. The Rankine formula describes granular material pressure on a vertical wall.
Non-vertical sides might require the Coulomb formula to give a higher accuracy representation of
how non-vertical slope affects granular material pressure on a wall (go visit a library, plus talk to a
civil engineer). Take a look at EJGE/Magazine Feature for more information.

After creating loads that represent a granular material in a container, under a 1.0 g vertical load,
the vertical component of the applied pressure should result in a total force that equals the weight
of the granular material. It may be desired to scale the granular material pressures so that the total

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vertical force component under 1.0 g equals the weight of the contained material. This should be
checked in reviewing the results of the analysis.

A perfect FEA model of containers (bin, hopper, hold, box, trailer, etc.) loaded by granular
material may be impossible. The pressure required to push inward and deform a surface of a
granular material is greater than the load with which the granular material pushes outward. This is
because of the internal friction in the material. A finite element model of a loaded wall can include
pressure on the inside surface that would result from contained material. However, that pressure
will not be adjusted according to whether the wall moves inward, or expands outward, as the
container deforms under various loads. Since an FEA analysis results in deformation of the walls,
exact representation of the pressure loading will be unachievable. I have not been able to find an
expert who would say that a granular material nonlinear solid element finite element model can be
included inside a shell structure container model in a successful manner, using contact elements on
the interface between the solid elements and shell elements (geotechnical engineers should know
far more about this than I do). Material properties such as Drucker-Prager are included in ANSYS
and some other FEA packages, but I don't know if they are applicable to this type of structure and
granular material modeling. ANSYS manuals discuss this material option briefly. An engineer
often settles for a model and design thought to be conservative or adequate, given industry
experience. The worrying starts when a design departs significantly from previous practice.

Deformation of thin flat panels by pressure loading causes the panels to curve. When flat
panels are loaded on one of their surfaces, the panels curve, then start to carry applied loading with
membrane forces. The only way in which this can be represented is to activate large displacement
(geometrically nonlinear) analysis. A rule of thumb is that membrane forces begin to be significant
when the out-of-plane deflection exceeds half the thickness of the panel. Nonlinear analysis
requires considerable experience, because of the difficulty in achieving converged solutions.
Failure to use nonlinear analysis where it is appropriate can result in considerable ignorance of the
real structural mechanics involved. Nonlinear analysis becomes very time consuming because of
the iterative solutions needed. Fast computers are very desirable when doing this kind of work
with a large model. Failure to consider that significant out-of-plane deflection can result during
nonlinear analysis can, in some cases, lead to inadequate designs. In other cases, the curvature can
lead to significant increases in strength of the structure. The designer needs to be aware of the need
to include nonlinear effects in some work.

Use of Units. Vibration and transient analysis require that the mass of the structure be entered in
units consistent with the other units in the model. Some North American industries normally work
in inches-pounds-seconds. This requires that mass be represented as pounds/in/sec^2. Pounds here
means "pounds force", the force with which 1.0 g of gravity pulls on the mass. This means
dividing the weight in "pounds force", or the density in pounds/in^3, by the number 386.1 (more
accurate than 32.2*12=386.4), which is the acceleration due to gravity expressed in inches per
second squared (in/sec^2). In consequence, when mass and mass density have been defined this
way (the density of steel, which depends on the alloy, if given as 0.2836 lb/in^3 would be entered
into ANSYS as 0.0007345) it is necessary to enter 1.0 g of gravity as 386.1 in/sec^2 to let ANSYS
apply the correct force due to gravity on the structure. Loads will be entered in pounds. Pressures
and stresses will be referred to as pounds per square inch. ANSYS refers to these units as "BIN"
(see the /UNITS command for "British system using inches", noting that the /UNITS command is
for annotation of the database, and has no effect on the analysis or data).

In the metric world, fundamental units are meters-kilograms-seconds. However, in engineering

work, analysts often use millimeters-kilograms-seconds. Forces are expressed in Newtons (1
Newton accelerates 1 kilogram at 1 meter per second squared). Pressure is Newtons per square
meter (1 Newton/Meter^2 = 1 Pascal). A pressure of 1 Newton per square millimeter is referred to

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as 1 megapascal. When working in millimeters-kilograms-seconds, it is common to refer to

pressures, stresses, and Young's modulus in megapascals or kilopascals. Acceleration due to
gravity is 9.807 meters/sec^2, or 9807 mm/sec^2.

ANSYS does not care what units are used, nor does it issue warnings. The analyst must be
consistent in the set of units in one model, to avoid errors. Getting the mass and mass density into
the correct units is particularly important if any form of vibration, transient, or transient heat
transfer work will be done. Tip: Check the values for typical materials in the ANSYS material
library as a guide, even if you do not use these exact materials. A comparison will indicate if your
values are in the right range. The ANSYS materials library includes material values in various
systems of units. Many design codes will, for example, give densities in lb/in^3, where pounds is
actually the weight expressed as "pounds force". This Imperial value cannot be used directly for
vibration and transient work, and must be converted. (When I try to explain this to non-North
American people, and even recent Canadian graduates, they think the whole Imperial units
business is insane -- I can't blame them.)

The usual question on Imperial units is, "Why can't I enter density for steel as 0.2836 and 1.0 g of
gravity as 1.0 ?" The answer is, "This would work for gravity loading on a structure, but if you
ever do vibration or transient analysis on the same model in the future, your answer will be
garbage." My own policy is to always use the "correct" units, similar to those that the ANSYS
material library supplies for the BIN system, in case vibration or other work is done in future.

If densities have been entered "correctly" in Imperial units (e.g. 0.2836/386.1=0.0007345 for
steel), then when ANSYS reports the "mass" of the model during the SOLVE process, that mass
will have to be multiplied by "g" (386.1 in this example) to recover the weight of the model in
"pounds force".

Buckling analysis and failure can be pursued in two ways: Linear eigenvalue buckling, and
geometrically nonlinear (Large Displacement) buckling analysis. Eigenvalue buckling (also known
as Euler buckling or classical buckling) will be sufficient for some structures, but much greater
detail about stress amplification and margin of safety can be found with geometrically nonlinear
analysis. Note that margin of safety is not a simple concept in a nonlinear analysis. The margin of
safety will be based on the difference between the intended design load and either the load that
reaches failure conditions or the load that exceeds allowables set by design codes. The relationship
between loading and consequent stress and deflection cannot be extrapolated linearly when a
nonlinear analysis is used, or when it is needed. Design codes may address this concept with
reference to combined compression and bending of beams, but many codes were written before the
availability of nonlinear finite element analysis, so the analyst will need to comprehend the intent
of the design code and interpret it, if this is permissible.

A difficulty here is to establish what level of loading has reached "failure" conditions. If the
structure starts to buckle in a Large Displacement analysis, solution convergence will become
slow, as the load is ramped up. The fact that the FEA solution stops converging at some level does
not guarantee that the failure load has been reached -- it could be just a numerical analysis
difficulty. The Arc-length method is useful here, since it will follow the load up and back down as
the load/deflection curve first rises and then falls. An advantage to Large Displacement, Plastic
material property analysis is that the failure can be followed in detail (if the model is small, or the
computer is very fast). Defining margin of safety still requires a human decision as to what load
"reaches" unacceptable stress and deflection, before complete collapse happens. Simply basing
margin of safety on the highest load reached in a plastic, Large Deflection, Arc-length analysis
would not satisfy the rules in most design codes, and usually not make good engineering sense.

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A problem with eigenvalue analysis of some structures is that localized "popping" of panels or
other components happens long before the whole structure begins to fail via buckling induced
deformation. The problem with geometrically nonlinear analysis of the same structure and loading
is that convergence troubles may make analysis exceedingly difficult and/or time consuming. This
is particularly true when applied force is ramped up. Convergence of applied displacement is more
successful in nonlinear studies, but applied displacement is not the most common way in which
loads are analyzed. A possible advantage of a geometrically nonlinear Large Displacement run is
that if convergence of the model is achieved, it may sometimes be shown that the structure will
handle a load considerably greater than the first several eigenvalue buckling loads, without
exceeding yield, or allowable stress, or undergoing deflection significant enough to merit concern.
A geometrically nonlinear analysis with loads that exceed the eigenvalue buckling level should
have loading ramped up, with substep information saved in fine detail. The substep results should
be examined carefully to see whether sudden changes in the stress or deflection patterns develop.
With a shell model, this should be done for both mid-plane and surface (use Powergraphics)
stresses and for deflection plots. The ability of the ANSYS program to generate an animation file
from the set of substep results is helpful here. Deflection can be set 1:1 or exaggerated using the
/DSCALE command.

Ramping Loads in ANSYS. Loads are ramped up if the appropriate settings are used for time
stepping. The fun starts when the user tries to ramp the loads back down (as when wanting to find
the permanent deformation that results from plastic deformation). If the loads are deleted, there is
nothing to ramp down to, the force drops immediately to zero, and convergence may be a problem.
One solution is to reduce forces and pressures to an extremely small number. Another problem is
that if the loading has been applied to geometric entities, it cannot be scaled down directly, for
ANSYS lacks commands to do this.

An unsatisfactory but adequate fix is to transfer the loading to the nodes and elements, then delete
the relationship between geometric entities using the MODMSH,DETA command from /PREP7
(Warning: make sure your model is saved before doing this -- MODMSH ruins the connection
between your geometry and your FEA mesh), then scale down the loading on the nodes and
elements. If you merely scale down the loading on the nodes and elements, it will be replaced by
the loading on the geometric entities when the SOLVE command is executed.

A more satisfactory way to ramp loads that were originally applied to geometric entities will be to
write and read load step files. The full loading on the geometric entities can be transferred to the
elements, then a load step file written. The load step file includes pressures on elements, not
information about loading on geometric entities. Then, the loading on geometric entities can be
deleted. Next, the load step file can be read, bringing back in the pressures on the elements.
Finally, that loading can be scaled down to an extremely small number. This method works in
general for keeping the loading that geometric entities transferred to elements and nodes, while
discarding the original assignment of loading to geometry, and so can be quite convenient.

Plotting results can show the stresses in the structure with colored contour maps. Plotting with
stresses averaged at nodes (PLNSOL) results in smoother cleaner contours that are easier to study,
and that tend to average out stress fluctuations due to local variations in element shape. However,
such plots have the disadvantage that they average stresses at shell intersections (at corners, "Tee"
intersections, thickness discontinuities, and material changes, for example). This results in
considerable loss of information, and masking of high stress areas in some models. Either element
stress plots with no nodal averaging must be used when this matters (PLESOL), or element
selection must be limited to continuous panels of material, so that the averaging is not performed
where it is not appropriate. This is a very common error in the reporting of results from shell
models (and solid models with material type changes). I have seen stresses hidden that would

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cause fatigue troubles, because of nodal stress averaging with shell FEA models. In addition,
fatigue-causing stresses often need to be shown at shell surfaces, not just at the mid-plane, so both
mid-plane and surface stress plotting will often be required for complete model evaluation. In a
complex model, components may need to be examined from a number of viewing angles, and with
cutting planes, in order to inspect the stresses everywhere.

ANSYS has introduced its "Powergraphics" setting that can show VISIBLE SURFACE shell
stresses with discontinuity at intersections, and changes in REAL and MATerial (see the AVRES
command). However, a user often wants stress at the shell mid-plane. ANSYS keeps track of the
surface stresses in its database, and calculates the mid-plane average when needed. I have written a
macro that will move the mid-plane stress for each node of each shell element,
element-by-element, to the top and bottom surfaces, so that the Powergraphics setting can show
mid-plane shell stress with discontinuities and intersections. The problem with the macro is that it
executes VERY slowly -- it was about two seconds per SHELL 63 element on a Pentium-Pro 180
under Windows NT in a 70,000 DOF model, taking 7 hours to process one load case. Surrounding
macro executable lines with /NOPR and /GOPR speeded up the process by roughly a factor of 3.
The database is permanently modified by this macro, so the analysis results database must be
stored on disk BEFORE this macro is used. It must be used with caution.

The ANSYS contour map colors can be customized. I set them to shades of gray when I want to
plot to a black-and-white laser printer (directly from ANSYS, not the DISPLAY program). The
contour levels can be set automated to be evenly applied (default), or can be set by the user. I
sometimes set all levels but the "red" contour to be evenly spread out up to the material yield, or
the allowable stress, and let red color the region above. I wrote a macro to automate this, using the
*GET command to find the max and min stresses, in order to calculate the custom levels. The
macro has to be re-applied every time stresses are plotted for new elements, or for a different stress
plot type. The automatic contour level mode should be returned to when done.

Shell mid-plane stresses are often preferred for review of structures. There are also good reasons
to review shell surface stresses. They include checks on: direct shell bending, torque causing
torsion stress in open sections, plastic hinge development and the onset of plastic failure, local
stress concentrations, locations for possible fatigue or fracture, non-linear buckling, stresses from
design errors or modeling errors, and prying loads. Torsion on an open section can cause
substantial shell surface stresses at shell intersections such as corners -- an invitation to fatigue
failure, fracture, or possible structure collapse. This phenomenon will be completely overlooked if
only mid-plane stresses are plotted.

In limited testing I did, ANSYS gave me surprisingly good values for surface stress caused by
torque applied to open sections modeled with shell elements. (I created equivalent solid models
with a few solid elements through the wall thickness for the comparison runs that gave the "real"
answer.) Mid-plane stress plots don't hint that torsional load is causing high shell stress on the
surfaces of open sections. I wouldn't extrapolate my test result to any structure, but it suggests that
shell surface stress plots will help to detect a class of design problems (shortcomings) that
mid-plane stress plots will miss. ANSYS PowerGraphics plotting helps considerably.

Coping with Design Changes. A fun topic! The analyst must be able to modify existing models.
The ability to do this can be enhanced if the model has been planned for later modification (see
parametric design comments below). The commands that move keypoints can help a little... the
keypoint moves will destroy curved lines, and only work if affected areas are not severely
distorted, and topology does not try to change. KEEPING THE GEOMETRY on which the mesh
was based is an important part of being able to do significant future modifications of models. It is
easier to move a set of nodes than a set of keypoints, so under rare circumstances the elimination

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of geometry may be desired (nodes cannot be moved while they attached to underlying geometry;
see the MODMSH command but do not use it without knowing exactly what you are doing).
However, any substantial model changes become very difficult when only elements and nodes are

Computer Aided Engineering Environment. I often develop finite element models the "hard"
way: Generate all the geometry from scratch in the pre-processor of ANSYS. For existing designs,
I may get copies of a few dozen drawings, sometimes scaling dimensions off the drawings (I did
say finite element analysis is approximate) when the dimensions are not explicit on the drawings (I
don't like this). I adjust the position of parts in space to achieve a good mid-plane representation of
steel sheets for shell element development. Adjustments and modeling tricks are used to
approximate some connections of thick parts and of bolted parts. For a complex model it can
become very time consuming to modify a model's fundamental dimensions after model
development has progressed significantly. This makes exploration of cost-saving alternatives
difficult on a tight time schedule (what other kind of time schedule is there?), even though
significant money might be at stake. Significant money is involved with expensive structures,
weight penalties, high-volume production, and with failures.

There exist CAD systems that can link the 3-dimensional CAD model to a complex shell finite
element model (e.g. Pro/Engineer and SDRC IDEAS, probably others as progress is made). The
CAD models can be parametrically defined so that overall dimensions can be updated quickly with
all associated part and assembly prints, and the bill of materials being automatically updated, as
well as the finite element model. This can make exploration of design alternatives much more
sophisticated. Otherwise, the analyst may be limited to exploring shell thickness alternatives, and
development of ANSYS models parametrically, so that the ANSYS log files can be re-run with
different fundamental dimensions. Such a finite element model "program" requires careful
planning and experience.

FEA versus Hand Calculations. This issue comes up when a new design needs to be configured.
The "first cut" at a design must start with the invention of a configuration that supports the applied
loads, and carries these loads to the support points of a structure. A variety of loads usually need to
be supported, and structural details must be present that will handle each kind of load in a manner
that is acceptable for the type of structure being considered (e.g. welded steel structures, bolted,
pipes and pressure vessels, and others). The initial layout of the components of the structure, and
the initial sizing of the parts has to begin with manual calculations.

Several concerns arise in the initial configuration, such as:

Adequate section properties and crossectional area to handle applied loading.

The presence of bracing and stiffeners that prevent structure instability.
Sufficient wall and beam thickness and stiffening to avoid detrimental buckling of local
Avoidance of unacceptable stress concentrations by methods such as stiffeners, shapes,
finishing, or other details.
Adequate weld and bolt size to handle all applied loads.
Design for manufacturing.
Development of geometry that respects dimensional constraints on the overall structure.
Minimizing cost: material cost, uncut raw material size, material availability, fabrication
expense, delivery dates and penalties, and risk.
Use of standard thicknesses, hot rolled sections, bolt sizes, available maximum dimensions,
and affordable material choices.
Discussions with suppliers regarding not just supply and cost, but possible cost-saving

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customization of the scope of supplied material and parts. Remember that suppliers are
familiar with the practices of others, including your competitors -- they can be a valuable
resource to a designer (and to a job-hunter, so treat them well, but don't give away secrets).

Given an initial structural concept, an FEA model can be created. If the model is only of moderate
complexity, the geometry for the FEA model can be created parametrically, so that the log file can
be reused in the future to regenerate the design with different dimensional values. This will require
that there be no changes in the topology of the structure (e.g. varying the number of stiffeners, or
shortening a part until it no longer meets another part) or else the parametric approach must
include means to accommodate these changes. If the model is complex, it may not be feasible to
create the geometry parametrically, and the finite element model will be created with exact
dimensions entered numerically. During the finite element analyses that follow, the thicknesses of
shells or beams can be varied in order to investigate the possibility of weight savings and cost
reduction. The FEA package can be used to investigate stress, deflection, buckling, vibration, and
nonlinear effects if these matter. Properly interpreted results will show where the structure is
overdesigned, underdesigned, or if it has significant inadequate design details (e.g. complete lack
of stiffeners where they are needed) and needs modification. Design sensitivity can be assessed
with respect to variations in some dimensions. Optimization may be possible if time and sufficient
skill are available.

Given modern CAD software, a parametric model can be built in the CAD system. An FEA model
can be derived from the CAD model such that updating the CAD model leads to updating of the
FEA model. This makes the modify-and-assess design loop much more effective and can lead to
significant cost savings. Progress with development and deployment of these CAD systems

Choosing an Appropriate Shell Element. There are several shell elements types available under
ANSYS. The usual workhorse shell element is Shell63, a 4-node shell element. This element
supports large displacement, but not plastic material properties. (If plastic material properties have
been entered, they will be ignored by Shell63.) If your element type 1 was Shell63, you can
directly enter (by hand) a command like "ET,1,181" to convert the elements to Shell181, which
has plastic capability. You may want to modify the KEYOPT values after this command. Note that
the effect of stress stiffening is activated with shell elements like Shell63 by adjusting one of the
KEYOPT values for this element. Other 4-node elements that are capable of plasticity include
Shell43, Shell143, and Shell181.

I have recently found Shell93, an 8-node shell element, to give satisfactory results for a problem I
ran. This element is capable of plasticity (ANSYS manuals note that lower order elements (4-node
in this case) may be preferred for nonlinear and plastic analysis), in addition to large displacement,
so it gives "one size fits all" service. The advantage to this element is that mesh density does not
have to be as great, and it follows curved surfaces very well, since it is a curved element. (4-node
shell elements are flat, and any significant warping of their shape during meshing will cause the
FEA program to complain, and presumably give degraded results.) Some user work is required
with mid-side node elements, because they do not want to curve too much. Meshing an area fillet
has to be carefully controlled. To change a model with 4-node elements, to 8-node elements with
mid-side nodes, the usual thing to do would be to clear elements and re-mesh, after possibly
modifying mesh density. Stress stiffening is activated for Shell93 in the Solution part of ANSYS,
not by setting a KEYOPT value as with Shell63.

Using P-Elements. The use of P-elements can reduce the effort required to mesh models. The user
is cautioned that the P-elements do not support large displacement or plasticity.

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Harmonic Response. This is what ANSYS calls Steady State Frequency Response to constant
harmonic input (an input forcing frequency that is sinusoidal steady state). There are three ways
available in ANSYS: full, reduced, and modal. A damping ratio can be input using the DMPRAT
command. The output is complex numbers that imply amplitude and phase. The phase differs from
the phase of the input if the input is not at an eigenfrequency. Only the reduced and modal
methods can handle stress stiffening. The /POST26 Time History postprocessor can plot amplitude
for a node versus frequency (see the PLCPLX key value); the /POST1 postprocessor can use the
SET command to load either the Real or the Imaginary component, but not both. The manuals say
that the /POST26 postprocessor can do things with the components. As with all vibration and
transient analyses, the units of mass must be input appropriately.

Failure Modes to Consider. Textbooks are written on this topic. There are many things an analyst
may overlook. Just a few of the many things to think and worry about include:

1. Static loads lead to stresses exceeding yield (or allowable stress) over a significant region.
Dynamic loads exceed anything considered in load factors for static loading.
2. Loads on bolts, rivets, spot welds, plug welds, stitch welds, fillet welds, bevel welds,
full-penetration welds, adhesives, nails, tie-rods, links, or other connection devices are too
high. Prying loads are not considered or properly assessed, and are too high. Moments tear a
bolt circle apart because it was represented as a pinned (one bolt) joint. Compression of
tie-rods or links reaches buckling levels (FEA will not detect this for link elements).
3. Loads on bolt holes are too high. Bolt holes weaken a section.
4. Strains reach fracture levels in brittle materials.
5. Surface strains cause damage to protective coatings.
6. Deformations cause lock-up of parts that should slide or rotate.
7. Buckling of components leads to local damage, or to progressive collapse.
8. Buckling of the full structure is reached.
9. Combined bending and compression leads to excessive stress and failure.
10. Fatigue failure and/or sudden fracture is reached. If the FEA model ignores stress
concentrations, and representation of details where trouble can occur, fatigue or fracture may
never have been properly assessed. If cracks grow without detection, sudden fracture
conditions may be reached. Growing cracks need to be of a detectable size without causing
sudden fracture. (The capacity of a crack to cause sudden fracture in a structure increases
with the size of the crack and with the stress level, and depends on the properties of the
material. Remember that when materials are welded together there is an implicit crack
formed except where good-quality full-penetration welds are used.) To paraphrase a writer
whose name I unfortunately can't recall, "A tolerable crack size needs to be large enough
that it can be detected by a tired inspector on a Friday afternoon a half hour before quitting
time." To keep a crack of detectable size from causing sudden fracture, the material choice,
allowable stress, allowable load, and inspection frequency can be affected, in addition to
other design details.
11. Vibration frequencies are located where applied loading causes damage through large
amplitude response.
12. Margins of safety are not high enough to deal with material variability, work quality
variation, and unknown or unexpected loading.
13. Buckling and high deflection or stress are not assessed with Large Displacement analysis,
when it was needed.
14. Stresses that exceed yield over regions of "questionable" size are accepted, rather than
checked with a model that includes material plasticity (within design rules and "good
15. The structure is destroyed by flow induced vibration, flutter damage, or high-intensity sound

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or noise.
16. Shipping, handling and erection loads are not considered, or are underestimated. Some
structures need extra stiffening and protection from impact loads, bending or torsion during
shipping and handling.

Please send me your favorites, to add to this list of failure modes, as they relate to
inadequacies and oversights in FEA.

Stress Limits and Margin of Safety. Two possible approaches to margin of safety are: (1)
Amplify the loading, e.g. to twice the maximum static applied load (or far more with many civil
engineering and other structures), and use the lesser of material yield or a fraction of ultimate
tensile stress as the allowable limit, or, (2) Use the maximum static applied load, and the lesser of
a fraction of material yield or a smaller fraction of ultimate tensile stress. The approach will
depend on the industry and the codes followed; some industries may differ. Other factors may
bear, e.g. stress allowables may be reduced by temperature and by high temperature creep
considerations. Other considerations will be different allowables for thermal stresses, "secondary
displacement-driven" stresses, and checks on vibration characteristics, buckling, fatigue, etc.

I noticed some recent discussion on ASME changes in the fraction of ultimate tensile stress (UTS)
to be applied to some pressure vessel materials (some carbon and low alloy steels below creep
temperatures in Section VIII, Div.1). The UTS fraction settings were said to put some ASME
regulated designs at a competitive disadvantage on the world market. Steel producers note that the
quality and uniformity of their steel is much better than two or three decades ago. Still, I have seen
new steel plate that had laminar cracks more than a foot in size (roughly half a meter), and a spring
that had a crack along the length of the wire from which it was produced. QC checking and
conservative designs will not go away any time soon.

In discussing nonlinear material properties in these web pages, I am usually referring to checking
for structure failure when loading leads to stresses that exceed material yield over regions of
questionable size. This will usually NOT be strictly according to the rules laid out in design codes,
but is added as a check that the intent of codes and safety needs are considered under severe or
unusual loading, or under loading that is important but not included in codes. Some design codes
have rules for "elastic-plastic" analysis, or for "fully plastic" analysis, which would have to be
studied and applied during design and analysis.

Representation of a group of bolts (or rivets). A single bolt might be represented in an FEA
model as preventing motion in the X, Y, and Z directions, as well as rotations, except rotation
about the axis of the bolt. Contact elements may be wanted between the layers that are bolted
together, at the expense of much slower solution. Friction with these contact elements might or
might not be considered, depending on whether bolt preload or initial interference was included,
and on whether it was acceptable to let friction carry any of the "in-plane" load -- it may be
important or necessary (per codes or for safety) to let the bolts carry all the "in-plane" load, setting
the contact element friction coefficient to zero. Because of looseness of fit, tolerancing of bolt
diameter, and of hole position, diameter and alignment, not all bolts will act simultaneously when
a real structure is loaded up. This would be true of structural tension, compression, and shear
forces that produce shear forces in the bolts, and of moment applied to a "bolt circle." It may be
decided in FEA to represent all bolts as being "tight" for the purpose of analysis. Note, this can
introduce a problem: In the FEA model, the structural members undergo strain when they carry
loads. Where members are bolted together, the overall structural strain will create high local forces
as the bolts try to make one bolted member's strain match the other bolted member's strain. This
makes the FEA report very high forces on the individual bolts, much of which may not be due to
load path forces being transferred through the bolts.

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I can't think of a simple way out of this dilemma. Your firm or industry may have "standard" ways
of dealing with this analysis. It might be decided to average the reported forces acting on the full
group of bolts for tension forces, and to use the standard analytical approaches to force on a group
of bolts, and to a bolt circle with net moment on the group of bolts. If there is no significant load
path force in one direction, some of the bolts could be modeled as "loose" in this direction. An
alternative, possibly conservative, approach would be to consider a minimum number of bolts and
directions of bolt action, to be acting to resist forces and moments, although this could result in
FEA reporting overloaded bolts and high local stresses if the bolts are on the primary load path.
(Usually, all the bolts should be "tight" in the direction in which they pull the joined materials
together (the bolt axis direction).) The load on this reduced number of bolts could be considered to
be spread over the group of bolts, and analyzed manually. In general, the user will want to consult
codes and standards used in the appropriate industry, understand the concepts used in bolting, and
discuss with people with expertise. It wouldn't hurt to review standard textbooks. Remember to
avoid significant prying loads on bolts, rivets, welds, and other fasteners.

The presence of a bolt or group of bolts means that the crossectional area of the bolted materials is
reduced by the presence of the bolt holes. If the holes are not represented in the finite element
model, the analyst needs to do extra work to examine the stress in the zone of the bolt holes, using
codes, standards, and good judgment to find the allowable net stress, bearing force, and total force
in that zone.

Adequate Computer Hardware for FEA. I once heard of a product failing when highly loaded.
An FEA analyst had limited modeling to a coarse FEA mesh with small-displacement elastic
analysis, and plotted nodal averaged stresses, on an underpowered older computer. Proper
computer equipment, some staff training, a finer mesh, nonlinear analysis (large displacement and
material plasticity), and more thorough post-processing of results (PowerGraphics plots of shell
element midplane and surface stresses) could have detected a structural weakness. Prevention
would have been easier than modification. Such is life.

In an ideal world, adequate computer hardware would only rarely be an FEA modeling issue. A
company may save thousands of dollars by using inadequate FEA hardware, and lose significantly
more as a result. Computer hardware affects the mesh density possible in FEA models, the time to
develop FEA models, to run solutions, and to save, process, review, and plot the results. Time
saved by using better hardware makes it possible to use better resolution in a model when it
matters, to take analyst "short cuts" that save model development time but increase computational
expense, to check for errors, to check effects such as large displacement buckling and plastic
deformation, to check unusual loadings, and to vary a design in attempts to reduce weight and
costs. Convincing management of this can be another matter. A few thousand dollars not spent on
computing hardware is a visible "saving". X million dollars in design errors that could be
prevented remain hypothetical until they happen. Y million dollars in cost reductions also remain
only a daydream if not proven in a non-rigged demonstration. In practice, funding for the computer
hardware is often set by people who are either unfamiliar with FEA and engineering, or who have
noticed that the analysis detail sometimes expands to fill the available computing capacity. (How's
that for a euphemism?) When analysts living with deadlines spend an unacceptable amount of time
waiting on computer hardware while performing FEA work, significant differences of opinion
about computer hardware can develop between analysts and management. Analysts have been
known to change employers over this issue.

Given the price of the ANSYS software, a computer costing only a fraction of the software cost
can do a very substantial amount of analysis work given present (2004) hardware costs. In the
Windows XP world, a few thousand U.S. dollars will purchase a computer with large RAM (2 GB
or 4 GB), large hard drive (60 Gig or more), fast processor (2.4 or more GHz), cheap laser printer,

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colored ink-jet printer, 17" or larger monitor, graphics card with 32 Mbytes or more of RAM, and
an adequate backup device -- a CD or DVD burner is often employed. A budget of several
thousand dollars will allow a PC with a 2 CPU motherboard, 4 GB RAM, change the hard drive to
a fast version of SCSI, monitor to a 21" CRT or a 19" to 21" LCD, and graphics card to an ANSYS
tested powerful OpenGL card. Large budgets take the purchaser into the world of very fast
Windows or UNIX machines with 64-bit operating systems and multiple processors. (My
comments here will gradually become out of date.)

Hard drives have become very cheap. In FEA work, a hard drive should be able to store a
significant amount of work-in-progress and recent completed work, with additional capacity to
handle ANSYS solver temporary files for large models, including substantial results file storage. I
can't say it with authority, but I have the impression that a SCSI hard drive will transfer
information with less interruption of operation of the computer, for disk-intensive aspects of FEA
work (e.g. working from an input file, and using the frontal solver on very large jobs). I have heard
that having two SCSI drives, one for the operating system including the virtual memory swap file,
and one for the model being run, can improve some FEA operations. I suspect that the money
could be better spent on a larger RAM or dual-processor machine.

RAM is currently very cheap. A large RAM will permit larger models to be run with the SPARSE
and PCG solvers in ANSYS; for this reason some companies have PC machines with 2 GB or 4
GB of RAM -- this will depend on your work. Models too large for a 32-bit operating system with
the any solver will require a move to a 64-bit operating system and RAM larger than 4 GBytes. A
large RAM will help your solutions work quietly in the background, with little swap file disk
thrashing. Your ANSYS vendor can probably advise on high-end equipment.

FEA work is one of the numerically intensive applications that justifies the extra expense of a very
fast processor. The availability of drivers for your operating system should also be checked before
the purchase of extras.

I have found both 17" and 21" monitors to be sufficient for FEA modeling. Make sure that the
cheapest monitor purchased supports at least refresh rates of 70 Hz or higher at resolutions of 1024
x 768 pixels or higher. Make sure that the graphics card matches or exceeds the monitor's
resolution and refresh rates. A CRT monitor refresh rate lower than 70 Hz will cause the eye to
perceive flicker of the image, and cause eye strain. Informed people prefer 75 Hz or more. Many
PC computers are delivered running their monitors at a refresh rate of 60 Hz, and have to be
properly set up by the end user. (I've known people who went to the optometrist because the
computer screen was bothering their eyes. All that was wrong was that the refresh rate was at 60
Hz. The optometrist didn't know about this phenomenon or its fix.) I currently use a 17" LCD
monitor at 1280 x 1024, so the refresh rate is not relevant for static images (60 Hz works with this
LCD monitor and this display device does not flicker), but if using a CRT monitor, I would prefer
that it be set to 1280 x 1024 pixels running at 85 Hz. A new monitor should support a resolution of
at least 1280 x 1024 pixels at 75 Hz or higher, as should any decent modern graphics card. Today's
graphics cards are cheap enough that this resolution should be supported with 24-bit color. The
OpenGL cards that ANSYS suggests should result in much faster model graphics display. With
large models, this should be a helpful investment.

Printers can be relatively inexpensive, although you can run up fairly high bills for colored ink if
you generate large numbers of plots. A laser printer can be a fast inexpensive way to get
black-and-white listings and plots during FEA work and report writing. I keep both a gray-scaled
and a colored ANSYS color map on my toolbar to move quickly between black-and-white and
color. A substantial amount of work can be done cheaply with gray-scaled plot prints, prior to
developing a final report with color images. A color ink-jet printer is the least expensive way to get

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helpful colored plots. If a larger budget is available, consider an ink-jet that generates 11" x 17"
plots, or a colored laser printer for high-volume high-priced work. In some companies the
speed-up in analysis work will pay for the equipment in short order.

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© 1998 by Peter C. Budgell -- You are welcome to print and photocopy these pages (don't plagiarize or sell the

E-mail Address: Please see my main page.

October 22, 1998; minor update in January 2004.

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