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# LECTURE 3

## Finite Element formulation of trusses

Global and local coordinate systems
Transformation of vectors
Truss element
Example of solution of a truss using Direct Stiffness Method

Learning objectives:
At the end of this session, you should be:

3.1

## Familiar with FE formulation of a truss element

Able to develop the stiffness matrix for a plane truss
Able to compute stresses and axial forces in members of a plane truss

DEFINITION OF A TRUSS

The main objective of this session is to introduce the basic concepts in finite element
formulation of trusses. A truss is an engineering structure consisting of straight
members connected at their ends by means of bolts, welding, etc. Trusses offer
practical solutions to many structural problems in engineering, such as bridges, roofs
of buildings, and towers. A plane truss is defined as a truss whose members lie in a
single plane. The forces acting on such a truss must also lie in the same plane.
Members of a truss are generally considered to be two-force members. This means
that internal forces act in equal and opposite directions along the members.
A typical truss structure consists of a large number of elements connected together.
One of the simplest techniques for solving such structures is based on the method of
joints (enforcing equilibrium of forces at each of the nodes) for a statically determinate
structure. The statically indeterminate trusses can also be solved using the force or
displacement methods.
The analysis of the truss may also be obtained by considering each of the individual
elements in isolation from the other elements. This procedure will provide the stiffness
matrix for an individual element, each of which may be combined to provide the overall
(global) stiffness matrix for the structure. The deflections of the nodes and the forces in
each of the elements due to applied external loading and restraints can then be
determined.

3.2

## BASIC CHARACTERSTICS OF A TRUSS ELEMENT

2
A truss element is considered to be a tension and compression element, as shown in
Figure 3.1:

## Figure 3.1 A truss member subjected to a force F

Recall that the average stresses in any two-force member are given by

F
A

(3.1)

## The average strain of the member can be expressed by

L
L

(3.2)

Over the elastic region, the stress and strain are related by Hookes Law,

(3.3)

AE
F
L
L

(3.4)

## Combining Eqs. (3.1), (3.2), and (3.3)

Note that Eq. (3.4) is similar to the equation of a linear spring, F k . Therefore, a
centrally loaded member of uniform section may be modelled as a spring with an
equivalent stiffness

keq
3.3

AE
L

(3.5)

## LOCAL AND GLOBAL COORDINATE SYSTEMS

In many problems, it is convenient to introduce both local and global coordinates. Local
coordinates are always chosen to represent the individual element of the structure.
Global coordinates are chosen to be convenient for the whole structure.

3
We choose a fixed global coordinate system, xy (1) to represent the location of each
node and to keep track of the orientation of each element, using angles such as ; (2)
to apply the constraints and the applied loads in terms of their respective global
components; and (3) to represent the solution that is, the displacement of each node
in global directions. A local, or an elemental, coordinate system is used to describe the
behaviour of individual elements. The relationship between forces in the local and
global coordinate systems is shown in Figure 3.2.

f2 y

f2 y

y
f1 y
f1 y

f1x

f2 x

f2 x

f1x

x
Figure 3.2
systems

## ( x, y) and local ( x, y ) coordinates

The global forces are related to the local forces according to the following equations:

## f1x f1x cos f1 y sin

f1 y f1x sin f1 y cos
f 2 x f2 x cos f2 y sin

(3.6)

f 2 y f2 x sin f2 y cos
or, in matrix form,

f T f
where

(3.7)

f1x
cos
f
sin
1y
f f , T
0
2x

f 2 y
0

sin
cos
0

0
0
cos

sin

0
0
,
sin

cos

f1x

f
f 1 y
(3.8)
f2 x

f 2 y

## f and f represent the components of forces acting at nodes 1 and 2 with

coordinates, respectively. T is the
respect to global xy and the local xy
transformation matrix that allows for the transfer of local forces and deformations to
their respective global values. In a similar way, the local and global displacements may
be related according to the equations

## d1x d1x cos d1 y sin

d1 y d1x sin d1 y cos
d 2 x d2 x cos d2 y sin

(3.9)

d 2 y d2 x sin d2 y cos
If we write Eqs. (3.9) in matrix form, we have

d T d

(3.10)

where

d1x
d
d d1 y
2x
d 2 y

and

d1x

d1 y
d

d2 x

d 2 y

(3.11)

## d and d represent the displacements of nodes 1 and 2 with respect to global

(x,y) and the local ( x, y ) coordinate systems, respectively. The transformation matrix
[T] is identical to that shown in Eqs. (3.8). We define the angle to be positive when
measured counterclockwise from
3.4

x to x .

## STIFFNESS MATRIX FOR A TRUSS ELEMENT IN LOCAL COORDINATES

We will now consider the derivation of the stiffness matrix for the linear elastic truss
element shown in Figure 3.3. The derivation here will be directly applicable to the
solution of pin-connected trusses. The bar is subjected to tensile forces T directed
along the local axis of the bar and applied at nodes 1 and 2. Here we have introduced

5
two coordinate systems: a local one ( x, y ) with x directed along the length of the bar
and a global one ( x, y ) assumed to be best suited with respect to the total structure.
The truss element is assumed to have constant cross-sectional area A, modulus of
elasticity, E, and initial length, L. The nodal degrees of freedom are local axial
displacements represented by d1x and
Figure 3.3.

y
x

2
d2 x , f2 x

1
d1x , f1x

x
Figure 3.3

## Truss element; positive nodal displacements and forces in the

local coordinate system

It has been shown in Section 3.2 that a truss member of uniform section may be
modelled as a spring with equivalent spring stiffness AE/L. Therefore, the truss
element stiffness equation becomes

f1x

f2x

Now, because

AE 1 1 d1x

L 1 1 d
2x

## f [k]d , we have from Eq. (3.12),

(3.12)

[ k]

AE 1
L 1

1
1

(3.13)

Equation (3.13) represents the stiffness matrix for a truss element in local coordinates.
For structures composed of more than one element, the global stiffness and force
matrices and global equations must be assembled using the direct stiffness method
described in Lecture Notes 2:
N

K [k ](e)

and

e 1

## where now all local element stiffness matrices

element stiffness matrices
by Eq. (3.14).

F f

(e)

(3.14)

e 1

## [ k ] before the direct stiffness method is applied as indicated

The following several steps of the finite element method will be identical to the
procedure discussed for the spring element. The nodal displacements will be
determined by imposing boundary conditions and simultaneously solving a system of
equations, F K d . Finally, the element forces will be determined by backsubstitution of the displacements into the local stiffness equations for each element.

3.5

## GLOBAL STIFFNESS MATRIX

We will now use the transformation relationship Eq. (3.10) to obtain the global stiffness
matrix for a truss element. We need the global matrix of each element to assemble the
total global stiffness matrix of the structure. The following assumptions are used in
deriving the truss element stiffness matrix:
The bar cannot sustain shear force; that is, f1 y 0 and f2 y 0 .
Any effect of transverse displacement is ignored.
We have already shown that for a truss element in the local coordinate system,

f1x

f2 x

AE 1 1 d1x

L 1 1 d
2x

(3.15)

Taking into considerations the assumption (1) and setting these terms equal to zero,
the local internal forces and displacements can be related through the stiffness matrix

f1x
1

f1 y AE 0

f 2 x L 1

0
f
2 y

0 1 0 d1x
0 0 0 d1 y

0 1 0 d2 x

0 0 0 d
2 y

(3.16)

## In Eq. (3.16), because f1 y 0 and f2 y 0 , rows of zeros corresponding to the row

numbers f1 y and f2 y appear in k . Using matrix form, Eq. (3.16) can be written as

f k d

(3.17)

d , we have

1
1
T f k T d

(3.18)

1

cos
sin
1
T 0

sin
cos
0
0

0
0
cos
sin

0
0
sin

cos

(3.19)

## Pre-multiplying both sides of Eq. (3.19) by T , we have

f T k T d
1

(3.20)

Equations (3.20) express the relationship between the global element nodal forces

and the global nodal displacements d , where the global stiffness matrix for an
element is

k T k T

(3.21)

Substituting Eq. (3.8) for T , we obtain the global element stiffness matrix in explicit
form by

C2

AE CS
k 2
L C

CS

CS

C 2

S2
CS

CS
C2

S 2

CS

CS

S 2
CS

S 2

(3.22)

## where C cos and S sin .

The next few steps involve assembling the elemental stiffness matrices, applying
boundary conditions and external loads, solving for displacements, and obtaining other
information, such as normal stresses. These steps are best illustrated through an
example problem.

3.6

## SOLUTION OF A PLANE TRUSS

We will now illustrate the use of equations developed in previous sections, along with
the direct stiffness method of assembling the total stiffness matrix and equations, to
solve the following plane truss example problem. A plane truss is a structure
composed of bar (truss) elements that lie in a common plane and are connected by
frictionless pins. The plane truss also must have loads acting only in the common
plane.
Example.
For the two-bar truss shown below, determine the displacement in the y direction of
node 1 and the axial force in each element. A force of P = 1000 kN is applied at node 1
in the positive y direction while node 1 settles an amount = 50 mm in the negative x
direction. Let the modulus of elasticity E = 210 GPa and the cross-sectional area A =
6.0 x 10-4 m2 for each element. The lengths of the elements are shown in the figure.
2

1
3m

P = 1000 kN
= 50 mm

4m

9
3.7

## COMPUTATION OF STRESS FOR A TRUSS ELEMENT

We will now consider the determination of the stress in a truss element. For a bar, the
local forces are related to the local displacements by the following equation:

f1x
AE 1

L 1
f

2x

1
d1x

1
d 2 x

(3.23)

The usual definition of axial tensile stress is axial force divided by cross-sectional area.
Therefore, axial stress is

f2 x
x
A

(3.24)

where f2 x is used because it is the axial force that pulls on the bar as shown in Figure
3.3. By Eq. (3.23),

d1x

f AE 1 1

2x
L
d2 x

(3.25)

## Therefore, combining Eqs. (3.24) and (3.25) yields

E
1 1 d
L

(3.26)

Now using the transformation matrix to transfer the local displacements d into global
coordinates, it can be shown that the stress in the member may be calculated as

E
C
L

S C

d1x
d
1y
S
d2 x
d 2 y

(3.27)

where vector d includes the global displacements at nodes 1 and 2 of the truss
element.