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PSD Postprocessing of Relative Displacement

Sheldon Imaoka
Memo Number: STI0903
ANSYS Release: 11.0
March 7, 2009


PSD users may wish to determine the relative 1 results between two points.
This memo covers three methods to perform this operation, in hopes that
it will give users more familiarity with PSD postprocessing in ANSYS.


PSD postprocessing has been previously covered in Reference [2]. As noted

there, output results are statistical, so they cannot be manipulated in a
vectorial sense.
If a user wishes to determine the relative 1 displacements between two
points, one of three methods should be used:
Statistically subtract 1 results
Add a massless node with constraint equations (CE) to measure the
relative displacements
Generate a response PSD based on the difference of the two points
(easiest and recommended approach)
It is important to keep in mind that PSD results should be interpreted in
the solution coordinate system (RSYS,SOLU). In the General Postprocessor
/POST1, the user should issue RSYS,SOLU prior to postprocessing stresses
will be interpreted in the element coordinate system while displacements
will be in the nodal coordinate system.1 In the Time-History Postprocessor

At ANSYS 12.0, PowerGraphics (/GRAPH,POWER) now supports the results coordinate

system RSYS,SOLU. Also, at 12.0, results should automatically be displayed in RSYS,SOLU
for PSD postprocessing.

Sheldons Tips

PSD Postprocessing of Relative Displacement

/POST26, results are always interpreted in the solution coordinate system,

so no special action needs to be taken.
Figure 1 shows a simple shell model that will be used to demonstrate the
techniques outlined in this memo. Two beam-like structures are joined at
the midspan. The base (right side) is fixed and will have a base excitation
with two different PSD tables. The relative displacement of the tips of the
beams will be of interest.


Figure 1: Example Model

Method 1: Adding Standard Deviation

Usually, if a user is interested in relative displacement between two points

x1 and x2 , vectorial addition will be used:
x12 = Ax1 + Bx2


where, for simple subtraction, A = 1 and B = 1.

However, since PSD output deals with statistical quantities (Gaussian
distribution with zero mean), the relative displacement should be added in
a statistical manner. Mean values are added directly, so the difference in
displacements would result in a mean value of zero as well. The variance 2
is determined as follows:
2 (Ax1 + Bx2 ) = A2 2 (x1 ) + B 2 2 (x2 ) + 2ABcov(x1 , x2 )


Sheldons Tips

PSD Postprocessing of Relative Displacement

The standard deviaton is simply the square root of the variance 2 . From
the above, if A = 1 and B = 1, one can see that the variances are additive,
and the covariance becomes negative. In laymans terms, if two points are
fully-correlated, they would most likely move together, so the variance of the
relative displacement would decrease, thus explaining the negative term.
The first example input file, psd relative1.inp, uses this approach
to determine the relative displacement between the deflection of the two
tips. The variance and covariance are retrieved in /POST26 using the CVAR
command. The 1 relative displacement in the z-direction is found to be
Note that the 1 results of displacement in load step 3 of /POST1 are
obtained from closed-form integration, so the square of this value should give
the same value as the CVAR command output.2 One can, however, obtain
the variance by using numerical integration of the response PSD; this is
also demonstrated in the input file as parameter RESULT UZ1, which gives a
result of 0.1725, very close to the target value of 0.1724. The value obtained
by closed-form integration (CVAR command) should compare well with the
numerically-integrated value (RPSD and INT1 commands), as demonstrated
by this example if not, check the input PSD with the PSDGRAPH command,
or increase the number of data points with STORE,PSD.

Method 2: Use of CEs and MASS21

Another method to obtain relative displacements in a PSD analysis is shown

in the input file psd relative2.inp. Here, a MASS21 element with negligible
mass is tied to the two tips with constraint equations the CE command
defines the deflection of the MASS21 element as the difference between the
deflections of the tips. In this manner, the relative displacements of the two
tips is built into the model as long as the constraint equations are defined
correctly, where the MASS21 elements DOF is the dependent (eliminated)
DOF, this should not influence the behavior of the model in any way.
By querying the displacement at the MASS21 element in /POST1, one
obtains 0.1724, which is the same as the value obtained in Section 3.
Because the user must create the MASS21 element with appropriate constraint equations prior to solution, this method is not a recommended approach. However, it is covered here for illustrative purposes only.
In this example, compare parameters POST1DISP1 with VAR1 to see that they are the

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PSD Postprocessing of Relative Displacement

Method 3: Use of NSOL and RPSD

The input file psd relative3.inp demonstrates a third method to calculate

the relative displacements between two points. As demonstrated earlier in
Section 5, numerical integration of the response PSD allows one to determine
the variance and standard deviation of the quantity of interest.3
A user may define the two nodal points of interest with the NSOL command. The difference of the two points can be obtained with the ADD command. This result is then taken for the RPSD calculations. The standard deviation in this example is 0.1725, which matches the numerically-integrated
value covered in Section 3.
Because this approach requires the least amount of effort, the author
recommends using this method to determine the 1 relative displacement
between two points of interest.

Miscellaneous Topics

Although not directly part of the discussion on determining relative displacements in a PSD analysis, the author has provided some additional
miscellaneous topics related to PSD analyses.


COVAL and QDVAL commands

The COVAL and QDVAL commands are available to define cospectral and quadspectral input. Equation 17-175 of Reference [1] describes these cross terms
in detail. If two input PSDs n and m are fully-correlated, the user should
input cospectral Cnm and quadspectral Qnm values such that the following
relationship holds:
|Cnm iQnm |2 = Sn Sm


For example, the supplied three examples deal with two flat PSD input
spectra. One table is 1g 2 /Hz while the other is 10g 2 /Hz. To define these
tables as fully-correlated, the cospectra is sqrt(10) while the quadspectra is
left blank.
To confirm that this definition leads to a fully-correlated condition between the two input PSD tables, the psd relative4.inp input file is provided, which uses a single table. The results are shown to be the same
between both cases.

Section 19.13 of Reference [1] discusses the calculation of the response PSD.

Sheldons Tips


PSD Postprocessing of Relative Displacement

Direct Sampling Comparison

As a point of reference, direct sampling methods were used in psd relative4.inp.

In ANSYS, arrays may be filled with the *VFILL command with a Gaussian distribution and specified mean and standard deviation. When using
this approach, no correlation can be specified between arrays, so the result
will neglect the correlation coefficient x1 ,x2 , which is defined in Equation (4):
x1 ,x2 =

cov(x1 , x2 )
(x1 )(x2 )


The correlation coefficient ranges from -1 to 1, with no correlation being 0.

For a million samples, the input file psd relative4.inp gives a standard
deviation of 0.573, which matches well with 0.570 that is obtained by direct
manipulation of the standard deviation, neglecting covariance. If the two
points were fully-independent, this result would be correct however, in
this case, there is correlation between the two points (due to the material
joining the two beams), so use of arrays without considering correlation leads
to incorrect results.
The Probabilistic Design System (PDS) component of ANSYS can also
be used to perform direct sampling studies. Moreover, correlation can be
specified between input variables. The companion files pds input.inp and
pds setup.mac are used in psd relative4.inp. By specifying the correct
correlation via the PDCORR command, one finds the relative displacement has
a standard deviation of 0.1741 for 1,000 samples, which is not too far from
the target value of 0.1724.4
While direct sampling methods are usually more computationally expensive than the other methods proposed in this memo, it provides a useful,
academic comparison.


Determining relative displacement between two points in a random vibration

analysis requires dealing with statistical output. Consequently, users should
not directly subtract 1 values but use any of the methods outlined in this
memo. The intent of the memo is to remind the user of special considerations
in PSD postprocessing.

1,000 samples for a Monte Carlo simulation is quite low, but it should run relatively
fast for this simple example. The user may modify the input files to run more iterations,
if desired.

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PSD Postprocessing of Relative Displacement

[1] ANSYS, Inc. Theory Reference for ANSYS and ANSYS Workbench 11.0,
[2] Sheldon Imaoka. PSD Postprocessing. Tips and Tricks,, June 2004.

Sheldons Tips

General Information

Sheldons Tips and Tricks

Sheldons Tips and Tricks are available at the following URL: tips/
Please remember that, with each release of ANSYS, new features and techniques may be introduced, so please refer to the ANSYS documentation as
well as your local ANSYS support office to verify that these tips are the
most up-to-date method of performing tasks.
Disclaimer: the author has made attempts to ensure that the information contained in this memo is accurate. However, the author assumes no
liability for any use (or misuse) of the information presented in this document or accompanying files. Please refer to for the latest version
of this document. Also, this memo and any accompanying input files are
not official ANSYS, Inc. documentation.

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