Anda di halaman 1dari 10



Wan X. Zhong
Dalian University of Technology, Dalian 116023, P.R. China

An analytical criterion of patch test is proposed, which is proved to be equivalent
to the engineering version, and also proved to be the necessary and sufficient
condition of FEM convergence, the weak variational crime condition is also


Patch test is an effective criterion for finite element convergence. The original statement was proposed
1, 2
as an engineering version , which wants a numerical computation to check. However, from
mathematical point of view a purely analytical version of patch test is pursued . The special term,
variational crime, is used for incompatible element, but the condition of discontinuity has not been
given explicitly. Based on the mathematical definition of patch test given in , some counter
4 , 5, 6
were shown that passing the patch test is neither necessary nor sufficient condition for
the incompatible element convergence, which denied the meaning of patch test mathematically.
However, the book declared again that patch test is really necessary and sufficient for FEM
convergence, that the counter example by Stummel should be refused. Such confliction should be
resolved from checking the discontinuity condition of variational crime in mathematical definition of
patch test.
Usually the patch test is described with plane elasticity problem. The engineering version can be
expressed with a polygonal element Fig.1, supported with minimum elastic springs, the other points are
treated as natural (given force) boundary conditions. The forces acted on these points making uniform
stress to the element. If for any mesh subdivision in e the FEM solution still keeps the same
uniform stress, then the patch test is considered passed.

Figure1: A polygonal element

This engineering version depends on numerical verification, so it is considered not so precise on
mathematics. Based on that version of patch test, a new criterion is proposed in this paper, which is
proved to be the necessary and sufficient condition for engineering version of patch test. Furthermore,

the present criterion can also be proved to be the necessary and sufficient condition for FEM
convergence, i.e.
Engineering patch test Proposed criterion Eqs.(15,16) FEM convergence.



An element contributes its stiffness matrix R to the structure. The element strain energy is given as

U e = d T Rd / 2


where d is the vector of element nodal displacement with ne connecting nodes

d = {u1 , v1 , u 2 , v 2 ,...., u ne , v ne }T


Selecting appropriate interpolation functions to generate the element stiffness matrix is the main task of
element computation. Such that the solution of the assembled structure under arbitrary mesh
subdivision converges to the exact solution of the original problem when the mesh becomes denser.
The engineering patch test was proposed under that background.
The computation of FEM naturally subdivided into two phases, namely the element computation phase
and the structural computation phase. Patch test is the criterion to the element stiffness matrices, which
is a crux to the convergence of FEM solution. For a plane elasticity element with n e 3 connecting

points, there are m = 2n e external displacements and m interpolation functions, which are
certainly analytic (such as polynomials) within the element domain and continuous up to the nodal
points, so that the incompatibility can happen only at element edges where the displacement
discontinuity can be only of the order of O( h ) , h is the maximum diameter of the mesh. From
FEM convergence consideration, the interpolation functions must can compose the constant and linear
terms of displacements, i.e. the three rigid body motion and three simple stress states. However there
are another ( m 6) linearly independent combinations, under proper selection these (m 6)
combinations will be second order or higher functions, i.e.

u j = O( h 2 ),

v j = O(h 2 )

( m j 7)


The composite displacement basis can be selected with physical meaning

u = a1 + 0 + a 3 y + a 4 x a5 x + a 6 y/2 + a 7 f 7 u + .... + a m f mu
v = 0 + a 2 a 3 x a 4 y + a5 y + a 6 x / 2 + a 7 f 7 v +....+ a m f mv
where a1 , a 2 are rigid body shifting, a 3 is rotation, a 4 , a 5 are x and y simple tension
respectively, and a 6 is pure shearing; the a 7 and up are higher order combination displacements,
see Eq. (4).
For incompatible elements, the existance of composite parameters a1 ~ a 6 is only the necessary
condition, further condition is required for the convergence under arbitrary mesh . The transformation
from composite vector a = {a1 , a 2 ,..., a m } to nodal displacement vector d can be given as

a = T 1d

d = Ta,

where T is a

m m transformation matrix.


The element strain energy can also be expressed with the vector a

U e = a T Ra a / 2


where Ra is m m non-negative symmetric matrix. Based on the physical meaning of parameters

a1 ~ a 6 , and proper selection of other composite parameters a 7 ~ a m , it gives


Ra = 0

Rcl = 0


Rcl = 0
3 ;

Rc m 6

EA 0

Rl = EA


where Rc is a positive definite symmetric ( m 6) ( m 6) matrix.

Ra = T T RT ,
R = T -T RaT 1
Usually, only R is computed but not Ra . The structure of Ra determines if the element can pass
the patch test and also if the FEM solution converges to the exact solution. The computation of R is
extremely versatile in FEM, such as isoparametric technique, Gauss integration, the integration points,
reduced integration or constant Jacobi matrix, etc. Therefore the analysis of general element behaviour
such as convergence, patch test, etc. should be independent to these details, but only depends on the
characteristics of R or the characteristics of matrices Ra and T .
2. 1 T h e c o n d i t i o n o f p a t c h t e s t
The element stiffness matrix determines the nodal force vector
f e = Rd
For simple stress states such as x = 1, (or a 4 = 1 / E , a 5 = a 6 = 0 ), the corresponding nodal
force vector should be determined. The method can be as follows, first for the CST element Fig.2a, the
force vector can easily be derived as

f 4 = { y b y c ,0, y c y a ,0, y a y b ,0} T / 2,

f 5 = {0, x c x b ,0, x a x c ,0, x b x a } T / 2,

for a 4 = 1 / E
for a5 = 1 / E

f 6 = {x c x b , y b y c , x a x c , y c y a , x b x a , y a y b } T / 2,


for a 6 = 1 / G

Then for arbitrary polygonal element the nodal force of simple stress state can be derived such as for
5-node element in Fig.2b, by adding two assistant lines to subdivide it into three CST elements
125, 245, 234 , and compute their nodal force vectors respectively, then assemble them
together. It gives a m = 10 dimension nodal force vector as
a4 = 1 / E
f 4e = { y 2 y5 ,0, y 3 y1 ,0, y 4 y 2 ,0, y5 y 3 ,0, y1 y 4 ,0} T / 2,

f 5e = {0, x5 x 2 ,0, x1 x 3 ,0, x 2 x 4 ,0, x 3 x5 ,0, x 4 x1 } T / 2,

a5 = 1 / E


f = {x5 x 2 , y 2 y5 , x1 x 3 , y 3 y1 , x 2 x 4 , y 4 y 2 ,

a6 = 1 / G
x 3 x5 , y5 y 3 , x 4 x1 , y1 y 4 } T / 2,
The above method for generation of element nodal force f under simple stress state is independent


CST element ABC

(b) 5-node element is subdivided into three CST

Figure 2:

on the assistant lines.

Eq. (12) means that the stiffness matrix R has been imposed on some conditions, i.e. when the vector
d is composed from the displacement field ( u = x / E , v = y / E ) of x = 1, see Eq.(5),

then the nodal force computed from Eq.(10) must be the f 4 of Eq.(12a). Let us compose the matrix
T of Eq.(6)
T = [ d 1 , d 2 , d 3 , d 4 , d 5 , d 6 ,..., d m ]
where d 1 , d 2 , d 3 are the nodal displacement vectors of rigid body motion, and d 4 , d 5 , d 6 are the
nodal displacement vectors of simple stresses x = E , y = E and xy = G respectively.


y 2
= { x1
x 2
= { y 1 / 2 x1 / 2 y 2 / 2 x 2 / 2


y ne
x ne
x ne
y ne
y ne
... x ne
... y ne / 2 x ne / 2

The Eqs. (12) and (10) are transformed as the patch test criterion

Rd 1 = 0 ,
R( d 4 / E ) = f 4e ,

Rd 2 = 0 ,
R( d 5 / E ) = f5e ,



Rd 3 = 0
R( d 6 / G ) = f6e


These equations are the necessary and sufficient conditions for engineering patch test, its proof is given
The vectors d j , ( j = 7,..., m ) are selected such that the matrix Ra has the form of Eq.(8),
multiplying Eq.(16) from left by

d Tj in turn gives

d Tj fi e = 0 ;

j = 7,..., m;


i = 4,5,6


which is called the orthogonality condition to be satisfied for patch test.

2.2 Proof of necessity for engineering patch test

It is to prove the statement, that under the action of an external nodal force f the element e
realizes simple stress, if the element e is further subdivided into more elements, all these elements
still keep the same simple stress, then the Eqs. (15,16) must hold for the element e .
Proof: Further subdivide the element e into several CST elements, just as shown in Fig.2b. These
CST elements keep the same simple stress according to the assumption.
Assembling the nodal forces of these CST element according to the Eq.(11) gives still the vector as in
Eq. (12). When the simple stress is a 4 = 1 / E or a 5 = 1 / E or a 6 = 1 / G , then the
displacement vector d must be (rigid body motion)+( d 4 or d 5 or d 6 ). Now selecting different
support spring constants k 1 , k 2 , k 3 (Fig.1), the supporting forces are independent on the spring
constants, thus d 4 , d 5 , d 6 and the nodal forces do not change, only the rigid body motion changes.
So that the Eq. (15) must hold.
To prove the Eq. (16), let a 4 = 1 / E and further divide the element e into CSTs, the simple stress
x = 1 and the vector d = ( d 4 / E ) + (rigid body motion) keep unchanged. Assembling the

nodal forces of the CSTs, f 4 is obtained for the nodal force vector f . Substituting f 4 and d
into Eq.(10) and using the proved Eq.(15), the first equation of (16) is obtained. The other two
equations of (16) can be proved similarly, which follows the necessity of Eqs. (15,16).

2.3 Proof of the sufficiency for engineering patch test

It is to prove the following statement: A polygonal element e with minimum supports realizes a
simple stress state with the external nodal force vector, i.e. Eq.(12) is satisfied; if further subdivide the
element e , Fig.3, into a number of elements (can be of different types), which individually satisfy the
corresponding Eqs. (15,16), then all the subdivided element must have the same simple stress solution.

Figure 3: Internal edges travel once positively and once reversely

Below is the proof.
Firstly, the rule for the components in Eq.(12) is, travelling round the edges of element e
anti-clockwisely, say 1-2-3-4-5-1(Fig.2b), the subscripts of subtractive terms are the forward and
backward points. The arrows given in Fig.3 for each subdivided element are the anti-clockwise
travelling. The net effect is, for each internal edge it travels once positively and once reversely,
whereas for the edges of the original element e , it travels only once anti-clockwisely.
The finite element solution of the subdivided mesh has unique solution. When assembling the nodal
forces of each subdivided element with the same simple stress, the effect of travelling the internal
edges cancelled out, and remains only one round along the boundary edges of the original element e ,
which just corresponds to the original nodal force vector of the element e , i.e. all the equilibrium
equations satisfied. The displacements of all the nodes corresponding to the same simple stress
obviously satisfy the compatibility condition. Therefore the simple stress state is a solution, and the
solution is unique. It proves that if the subdivided elements fulfill the Eqs. (15,16) then the FEM
solution of the subdivided mesh still keep the same simple stress solution, i.e. the engineering patch test
fulfilled. The sufficiency of Eqs. (15,16) is thus proved.
The physical meaning of Eq.(15) is that the element stiffness matrix R acting on the rigid body
motion has no effect; the meaning of Eq.(16) is that R acting on the displacement of simple stress
gives the corresponding nodal force vector, which is as shown in Eq.(12).
The Eqs.(15,16), with very clear physical meaning, are the necessary and sufficient conditions of the
engineering patch test, i.e. they are equivalent. Therefore, Eqs.(15,16) can be regarded as the patch test
criterion. The benefit is that the criterion is analytical and can be verified directly, but not based on
numerical computation.
Based on the criterion for patch test, if an element cannot ensure to pass the patch test, one can make
some change to force it passing the patch test .
2.4 The weak variational crime
In treating the convergence of FEM, the interpolation function and element strain energy should be
considered. The generation of element stiffness matrix is highly versatile, that its integration,
differentiation, interpolation etc. all induce approximations, which imply some kind of incompatibility.
The displacement incompatibility along the element boundary is also such kind of error. All these
intricate approximations are different for different elements. The convergence should only relate to the
general characteristics of elements, such as passing the patch test, but not to the formulation details of
individual element. The criterion Eqs. (15,16) is such general characteristics. Some general factors for
the element convergence should be mentioned.
The interpolation functions in the element formulation are always the analytical functions such as
polynomials. The criterion (15,16) implies that the rigid body motion and simple stress solutions are
precisely satisfied, which are the complete set of solutions of the order of O( h) with no
incompatibility. Hence the displacement incompatibility along the element boundary must be of the
order of O( h ) or even higher. The displacement incompatibility with that limitation is considered

weak variational crime. Only weak variational crime element can fulfill the criterion (15,16), and
converge to the exact solution when h 0.
Analytical interpolation functions has the following characteristics: If the stress is known as O( h)

then the nodal displacement, except rigid body motion, must be O( h ) ; on the contrary, if the nodal

displacements are known as O( h ) , then the element stress must be O( h) . On the other hand, if the

element nodal forces are known as O( h ) , then its stress is O( h) ; and if the element stress is

known as O( h) , then the nodal forces must be O( h ) .

The convergence proof below requires only the patch test criterion (15,16), and that the interpolation
functions are all analytical functions. The weak variational crime requirement can be considered
involved in the criterion (15,16).

3. Patch test criterion is the necessary and sufficient condition for element
The solution of the original problem is assumed analytical and has no singularity. Patch test is
represented by the Eqs. (15,16). Convergence means that the difference between FEM solution and the
exact one must tend to zero as the mesh size very dense, h 0 .
For compatible element, the convergence proof becomes the problem of minimization in a Sobolev
space and was solved before. The CST element is compatible, so its solution converges to the exact
solution, Fig.4.

Figure 4: Incompatible element mesh converges to CST mesh,

whereas CST mesh converges to original problem
For a mesh with various polygonal elements, such as CST, quadrilateral and polygonal elements, one
can change the mesh into all CST elements by adding assistant lines with the same nodal points Fig.2b,
termed the corresponding CST mesh. The convergence of CST mesh solution implies, it is only
necessary to show that the polygonal element mesh solution converges to the corresponding CST mesh
solution, which will follow the convergence of the polygonal mesh, see Fig.4.
The polygonal mesh is composed of finite structural nodes and finite number of elements, so that it is a
structural analysis problem of an elastic system. A structural system concerns only the element stiffness
matrix, with no regard to the stiffness matrix generated from compatible or incompatible element. To
prove the polygonal element mesh converges to the CST mesh, the theorems of minimum potential and
minimum complementary energy are applied, recalled as: An approximate solution of a structural
system, if the continuity condition is fulfilled beforehand, then its negative potential energy must always
be less than the exact value; on the other hand, if the equilibrium condition is fulfilled beforehand, then
its complementary energy must be too large; if the continuity and equilibrium conditions are all
fulfilled (the real solution), the complementary energy equals the negative potential energy, the real
energy simply. If a negative potential energy of continuity approximate solution equals the
complementary energy of an equilibrium approximate solution, then both solutions are real solutions of
the structural system.
The problem is now reduced to find two approximate solutions, one of which satisfies the continuity

condition beforehand, and the other satisfies the equilibrium conditions beforehand, and the negative
potential energy and complementary energy of these approximate solutions respectively will converge
to the corresponding CST mesh real energy when h 0 . These two approximate solutions are given
in the next two sections.
Before finding the two solutions one statement should be mentioned, that if the element displacement
interpolation has only O( h ) discontinuity to the structural system nodal displacement, then the

displacement incompatibility between adjacent element has only O( h ) discontinuity too.

3.1 The continuity approximate solution
For the FEM solution of the corresponding CST mesh, its nodal displacement is the continuity as well
as equilibrium solution (real solution) in sense of the corresponding CST mesh, however it is also the
continuity approximate solution of the original polygonal mesh. In fact, structural mechanics concerns
only the finite structural nodal points, and the element stiffness matrices connecting to these structural
nodes. Generation of element stiffness matrices is the matter of element analysis, which will relates to
the convergence of polygonal mesh FEM solution.
The stresses of CSTs obtained from a polygonal element e by additional lines, such as Fig.2b,
computed with the nodal displacements should be close each other, i.e.
max( x , y , xy ) Mh ,
= O (h )
where means the difference, and M is a constant unrelated to mesh size h . The stresses of
polygonal element can be computed from the composite displacement a

a = T 1 d


where d is the nodal displacement of polygonal element extracted from the solution of
corresponding CST mesh, and T is a revised transformation matrix. If the nodal displacement d
makes the polygonal e subdivided CSTs having same stresses, then the composite displacement a
from eq.(19) will have a j = 0( j = 7 to m ) , and a 4 ~ a 6 corresponding to the same stresses
as the CSTs.
The case of d makes the element e subdivided CSTs having different stresses should be
considered. Based on estimation (18), the summation of strain energy of the subdivided CSTs is

[ E ( a 42 + a52 2a 4 a5 ) + Ga62 + O ( h )] ACST ,


= Ae


where ACST are the area of CST elements, the sum of which is the polygonal element area Ae , and
a 4 ~ a 6 are the average value of the corresponding CSTs.
The strain energy of polygonal element e should be computed again directly from the interpolation
function of e directly. Because of estimation (18), the stresses of e can be written as 0 + ,

varies in
the polygonal e . The nodal displacement of e can be written as d = d 0 + d , where d 0
corresponding to rigid body motion and simple stress, therefore d must be of the order of O( h )
and is O ( h) . From d 0 + d the composite vector a can be computed, where a1 ~ a 3
has no strain energy, a 4 ~ a 6 are constant stress related components, and ac = {a 7 ,..., a m } is
varied stress related components. From the above order analysis, all the components of vector a are
of the order O(1) . The polygonal element strain energy can be computed as

Ue =

1 T
a R a a = [a lT R l a l + a cT R c a c ] = [ EAe (a 42 + a52 2a 4 a5 ) + GAe a 62 + a cT R c a c ] (21)

is the average stress of subdivided CSTs corresponding to a 4 ~ a 6 ; and


Now note that Rc is of the order of O(h ) , so that

= Ae O (h )


This estimation hold for all the elements in the mesh, therefore for whole the mesh, the difference
between the strain energy of the continuity approximate solution of the polygonal mesh and the strain
energy of the real solution of corresponding CST mesh tends to zero with h 0 .
Further, because of the same nodal displacements are used for both polygonal mesh and its
corresponding CST mesh, the external force potential energies are the same for both meshes. It is
asserted that the difference between the negative potential energies of both meshes equals the
difference between the strain energies of both meshes, and thus tends to zero with h 0 .
3.2 The equilibrium approximate solution
The polygonal element mesh is still further subdivided into corresponding CST mesh with the same
nodal points as the original mesh. The solution of corresponding CST mesh satisfies equilibrium
condition, so that for every polygonal element e assembling the nodal forces of its respective CSTs

together give its nodal force vector f . Evidently, such force system satisfies the equilibrium
condition for the polygonal mesh, so that the minimum complementary energy variational principle
Note f

is the average stress induced nodal force and is of the order of
= f AV
+ f e , where f AV

O( h) ; f e comes from nonuniform stress distribution being of the order of O(h 2 ) .


The strain energy is required to compute under the nodal force f . Firstly, the case of corresponding
CSTs having same stresses is considered, such as a 4 = 1 / E , a 5 = a 6 = 0 . Assembling the nodal
forces of these CSTs together gives the nodal force f AV = f 4 of the polygonal element
equation has been given in Eq.(12a). The strain energy can be computed via the composite force
fa = T T f e ,
f e = T T fa

substituting f ( = f


e , its

) into the above equation gives

f a 4 = {0,0,0; Ae ,Ae ,0; d 7T f 4e ,...., d mT f 4e }T = {03T ; f alT ; f acT }T


f ac correspond to the linear displacement as well as quadratic or higher order

displacements respectively. The orthogonality condition (17) of patch test zeros the vector f ac .

f al ,

The expression for element strain energy is

1 T 1
fa Ra fa = [ falT Rl1 fal + facT Rc1 fac ]
the patch test condition f ac = 0 determines that the strain energy of polygonal element is the same as
Ue =

the sum of its corresponding CSTs.

Now the case of corresponding CSTs having different stresses should be considered. The f a obtained
from eq.(23)
f a = T T f e = T T ( f AV
+ f e ) = {03T ; f alT ;0 T }T + {03T ;03T ; f acT }T
where the constant stress part f al is induced from the average stress, and f ac induced from

f e

They have the order of O( h ) and O( h ) respectively. Therefore

Ue =

1 T 1
f a Ra f a = [ f alT Rl1 f al + f acT Rc1 f ac ] = Ae [ E ( a 24 + a52 2a 4 a5 ) + Ga 62 ] + O ( h 4 )

where a 4 , a 5 , a 6 are from f al , the average stress parameters. On the other hand, the strain energy
computed from the corresponding CSTs gives

ACST {E[(a4 + a4 ) 2 + (a5 + a5 ) 2 2 (a4 + a4 )(a5 + a5 )] + G(a6 + a6 ) 2 }
2 e
= ACST [ E ( a 42 + a52 2a 4 a5 ) + Ga62 + O ( h )]
2 e


Therefore U U CST = Ae O( h), it follows that for whole the mesh its strain energy (i.e. the
complementary strain energy) difference between the equilibrium approximate solution of polygonal
mesh and the real solution of corresponding CST mesh tends to zero with h 0 .

The equilibrium approximate solution of the polygonal mesh has the same nodal force to the real
solution of the corresponding CST mesh, thus the support given displacement complementary energy is
the same to both meshes, therefore it is asserted that the total complementary energies for both the
meshes tend to be the same with h 0 .
The upper and lower bounds of the polygonal mesh real energy converge to the corresponding CST
mesh real energy with h 0 ; however the CST solution was proved converging to the exact
solution, therefore the convergence of polygonal mesh solution is proved. Note that the above proof is
based on that patch test criterion is fulfilled for all the polygonal elements, thus the sufficiency of patch
test criterion to convergence is proved.

The present patch test criterion is different from the mathematical definition , which was shown not
4 , 5, 6
being the sufficient condition for FEM convergence
3.3 The necessity of patch criterion for convergence
To prove the convergence of FEM under arbitrary mesh subdivision requires all the elements fulfill the
patch test criterion. With the mesh size h 0 , given an arbitrary polygonal element e with a
simple stress, changing the e with corresponding CSTs, which must have the same simple stress as
e . The nodal forces of these CSTs must be assembled to be the froce of the simple stress of e , which
implies that the equations (16) satisfied. The equation (15) is also easily shown. The necessity of patch
test criterion is thus proved.

Patch test is of primary importance to FEM, but the engineering version is quite different to the
mathematical definition , which failed to give the limitation of displacement discontinuity along the
boundary of incompatible element. For the mathematical definition , mathematicians proposed
counter examples to show that passing the patch test is neither the necessary nor the sufficient
4 , 5, 6
conditions for convergence
, which is quite contrary to FEM practice. This paper gives the patch
test criterion, which is proven to be equivalent to the engineering version of patch test, and is also
necessary and sufficient for convergence. It clarifies the contradiction from the mathematical definition
of patch test.
The patch test criterion (15,16) has strong physical background, so it can be extended to other

B.M. Irons. Numerical integration applied to finite element methods, Conf. on use of digital computers in
structural engineering, Univ. of Newcastle, (1966).

O.C. Zienkiewicz, and R.L. Taylor. The finite element method, 4th ed. Ch.11, McGraw-Hill, (1989).


G. Strang, and G.J. Fix. An analysis of the finite element method. Prentice-Hall, (1973).


E. Stummel. The limitation of patch test, Int. J. Numer. Meth. Eng., 15, 177-188 (1980).


Z.C. Shi. An explicit analysis of Stummels patch test examples.

1233-1244 (1984).


Z.C. Shi.


W.X. Zhong. FEM patch test and its convergence. Report 97-3001, Res. Inst. Eng. Mech., Dalian Univ.
Tech.,(1997) (in Chinese).


W.X. Zhong. Convergence of FEM and the conditions of patch test.

Dalian Univ. Tech (1997) (in Chinese).

Int. J. Numer. Meth.. Eng., 20,

Difficulties with Irons patch test. ZAMM, 64, 314-315 (1984).

- 10 -

Report 97-3002, Res. Inst. Eng. Mech.,