Computational aspects of sensitivity calculations in linear transient structural analysis

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

A study has been performed focusing on the calculation of sensitivities of displacements, velocities, accelerations, and stresses in linear, structural, transient response problems. One significant goal of the study was to develop and evaluate sensitivity calculation techniques suitable for large-order finite element analyses. Accordingly, approximation vectors such as vibration mode shapes are used to reduce the dimensionality of the finite element model. Much of the research focused on the accuracy of both response quantities and sensitivities as a function of number of vectors used.

Two types of sensitivity calculation techniques were developed and evaluated. The first type of technique is an overall finite difference method where the analysis is repeated for perturbed designs. The second type of technique is termed semianalytical because it involves direct, analytical differentiation of the equations of motion with finite difference approximation of the coefficient matrices. To be computationally practical in large-order problems, the overall finite difference methods must use the approximation vectors from the original design in the analyses of the perturbed models. In several cases this fixed mode approach resulted in very poor approximations of the stress sensitivities. Almost all of the original modes were required for an accurate sensitivity and for small numbers of modes, the accuracy was extremely poor. To overcome this poor accuracy, two semi-analytical techniques were developed. The first technique accounts for the change in eigenvectors through approximate eigenvector derivatives. The second technique applies the mode acceleration method of transient analysis to the sensitivity calculations. Both result in accurate values of the stress sensitivities with a small number of modes. In both techniques the computational cost is much less than would result if the vibration modes were recalculated and then used in an overall finite difference method.