Plane frame element addition to the MESS finite element program

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

A plane frame element based on linear, elastic theory is developed and implemented into the MESS finite element program. Post-processed results include nodal displacements, end reactions, maximum tensile and average shear stress, and a deformed geometry plot. The element is tested for accuracy relative to simple beam theory and by comparison with results generated using another finite element program. In both cases agreement to within 6 significant figures was achieved.

Because the intended use is educational, a survey of its benefit as a design aid in undergraduate instruction is included. These benefits are based on test cases from senior design class projects. Results generated using analysis techniques presently available are contrasted with those using the plane frame element. Students' work that was examined contained mistakes resulting from large amounts of hand calculations. Conversely, results generated using the finite element method proved to be easily obtained and to have a higher degree of accuracy. A recommendation for further improvements in program capability is provided at the end of the study.