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# UNDERSTANDING THE MASS

PARTICIPATION FACTOR
In my post Example of how to use the mass participation factor in SolidWorks you can find a practical
example where this methodology is implemented.
Introduction
Every structure has the tendency to vibrate at certain frequencies, called natural or resonant frequencies.
Each natural frequency is associated with a certain shape, called mode shape, that the model tends to assume
when vibrating at that frequency.
When a structure is properly excited by a dynamic load with a frequency that coincides with one of its natural
frequencies, the structure undergoes large displacements and stresses. This phenomenon is known as resonance.
Several programs such as SolidWorks are provided with a Finite Element Analysis module, FEA, which
helps to calculate properties as the mode shapes, stresses, displacements, strains, velocities, accelerations,
When I started using this type ofmodal analysis I needed to answer some questions that somehow haunted me:
Q1: How do I know if a certain dynamic load will make resonate the structure where it is
installed?
Q2: When I am doing a modal analysis, how many resonant modes should I check?
Q3: When a mode shape should be considered or not?
Q4: What is the effective mass participation factor?
Q5: How could I make the most of the effective mass participation factor?
Firstly, I will give a very direct answer to the first question applying a criterion limiting
the exciting frequencies (it uses the idea of the Design Factor of Safety presented in the post What is your
Design Factor?).
Frequency limits criterion - Answer to Q1
After studying different information about modal analysis, I found out a criterion as follows (this criterion is
also followed by the ASHRAE, an association with an important role in a lot of engineering fields):
> 1-0,6 = 0,4 (it is 60% lower) Eq. 1
, where is the exciting frequency (i. e. is the frequency of the expected dynamic load) and is a
particular resonant frequency and represents the integral multiples of the exciting frequency (generally, you
can use the first six integral multiples to obtain reliable results). To make it clear, if I want to avoid resonance
problems, I should perform the design so that the resonant frequencies under consideration are 40% or less of
the expected exciting frequency, which means using a DFoS of 0,4. In the same way, we can support that:
> 1+0,6 = 1,6 (it is 60% higher) Eq. 2
which means that the resonant frequencies under consideration should be 60% or more of the expected
exciting frequency, which means using a DFoS of 1,6.
-60% +60%
[-------------------------o-------------------------]
should not be in here
This criterion shall be applied to each natural frequency taken under consideration to evaluate if the
phenomenon of resonance appears, but a new question arises. Now, you will need to answer the second
question: How many resonant modes should I consider? Or, how do you know if you have chosen sufficient
modes?
As a general rule, you probably want to look at as many modes as it takes to fully explore the frequency
excitation range youre expecting. For example, for structural excitations you can check 6 modes minimum
(obvious) and dont normally evaluate more than 10 modes or a couple of hundred Hz (say 500 Hz). However,
this methodology is not always the right method and that is why I will introduce you to the term
of Effective Mass Participation Factor, EMPF (also known as Mass Participation Factor).
What is the Effective Mass Participation Factor? - Answer to Q4 and Q5
Basically, the EMPF provides a measure of the energy contained within each resonant mode since
it represents the amount of system mass participating in a particular mode. For a particular structure, with a
mass matrix , normalized mode shapes and a ground motion influence coefficient , participation of
each mode can be obtained as the effective mass participation factor:
Eq. 3
Therefore, we can assure the following ideas:
A mode with a large effective mass is usually a significant contributor to the response of the
system.
It is possible to calculate a EMPF for a particular direction (x, y or z).
The sum of the effective masses for all modes in a given response direction must equal the total
mass of the structure.
How Can I Calculate EMPF Using SolidWorks?
To list mass participation factors:
1. Run a frequency or a linear dynamic study.
2. Right-click the Results folder and select List Mass Participation (Figure 1).
3. The Mass Participation (Normalized) dialog box opens.
4. Click Save to save the listed information to an Excel (*.csv) file or to a plain text (*.txt) file.

Figure 1. List of mass participation factor
Number of modes criterion - Answer to Q2
Priestley et al (1996), among other authors, confirm that a sum of all EMPF (known as Cumulative Effective
Mass Participation Factor, CEMPF) of 80% to 90% in any given response direction can be considered
sufficient to capture the dominant dynamic response of the structure:
Eq. 4
, where is the number of modes taken under consideration. Therefore, if for example we expect a vibration
in the x direction, we need to keep calculating modes until the sum of all EMPF in the x direction is about 80-
90%. This should ensure a consistency in the results since we can compare the exciting frequency with the
sufficient natural frequencies. In the previous example, you can see that the sum of the EMPF for each
direction is higher than 80%.
Participation criterion - Answer to Q3
The frequency limits criterion is not the unique criterion that we must apply to evaluate if
the expected dynamic load generates a resonance effect. For example, it may be the case that the exciting
frequency is close to one of the natural frequencies but the energy contained within this resonant mode is a
small value and hence there is no resonance effect. That is why we need to use another criterion:
Eq. 5
One common rule is that a mode should be considered if it contributes more than 1% of the total mass.
Methodology for performing a good, coherent and precise modal analysis
Lets finish the post summarizing the main presented ideas and sort those key ideas as follows:
1. Evaluate the expected dynamic loads (frequencies and directions).
2. Run a frequency or a linear dynamic study for an initial number of modes .

3. Check if the CEMPF is between 80% and 90% for those directions (x, y or z) where
you expect a dynamic load. If not, increase the number of considered modes and re-run the
simulation (Number of modes criterion).
4. Check any EMPF where the value is higher than 1% (Participation criterion).
5. Apply the Frequency limits criterion for those .
In my post Example of how to use the mass participation factor in SolidWorks you can find a practical
example where this methodology is implemented.
I hope this post has been useful and if you have any concerns or questions feel free to contact me
jaime.martinez.verdu@gmail.com
If you liked it Dont forget to share!
References:
ASHRAE publications:
Vibration Isolation and Control
A shot of isolation to prevent an outbreak of vibration
Priestley, M. J. N., Seible, S., Calvi, G. M., Seismic Design and Retrofit of Bridges, John Wiley and Sons,
1996. p 184,242.
Giancarlo Genta, (1998).Vibration of Structures and Machines: Practical Aspects. Springer; 3rd edition.
Tom Irvins webpage: http://www.vibrationdata.com/
SolidWorks help: Mass Participation (Normalized)

EXAMPLE OF HOW TO USE THE MASS PARTICIPATION
FACTOR IN SOLIDWORKS
I ntroduction
In a previous post Understanding the mass participation factor I have talked about the modal analysis in
SolidWorks and how to make the most of it. I presented the results that you can obtain using that software:
mode shapes, resonant frequencies, effective mass participation factors, cumulative effective mass
participation factors, what information have those values, how to interpret the results, Beside that basic
introduction it is also necessary to do a practical example to fully understand the topic.
An example makes it easier to understand
Let us imagine that we need to simulate an structure using SolidWorks. After evaluating the expected
dynamic loads (we consider a dynamic load of 5 Hz in the direction X) and simulating, SolidWorks provides
the following data:

Table 1. Resonant frequencies and effective mass participation factors
Only part of that data is avaliable in the previous table; if you are looking for further information click here for
the whole table.
As you can see, the CEMPF is between 80% and 90% for the direction X (Number of modes criterion) and so
the number of modes calculated is enough. Furthermore, the next figure shows the cumulative values:

Figure 2. Representation of the cumulative effective mass participation factor
515 Hz is the value of the resonant frequency where the CEMPF for the direction X reaches 80%.
Using the data in the table it is also possible to check if any EMPF has a value higher than 1% (Participation
criterion). Additionally, we can represent that information graphically (to facilitate the visualitation there is
only a representation of the first 80th modes):

Figure 3. First 80th resonant frequencies and their respective effective mass participation factors
Since 76.4 Hz ( ) is the resonant frequency closer to 5 Hz ( ) which has a EMPFhigher than 1% in the
direction X, we need to apply the Frequency limits criterion for that frequency:

That means the structure will not have resonant problems with a dynamic load of 5 Hz in the direction X.