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Modelling a Cable using Femap with NX Nastran

1 - Introduction

This article discusses the simulation of a cable using Femap with NX Nastran by way of a simple
example (note that a cable is assumed to be a structural component which can only carry load in
tension).

Although not every step in generating and solving the example model is detailed, the intention has
been to provide sufficient information to allow a user to replicate the analysis. Note that this article
was generated on the basis of work performed using Femap v11.0.0 and NX Nastran v8.5, but should
be equally valid for other versions of Femap/NX Nastran. Also note that SI units have been utilised
throughout.

2 – Model/Analysis Overview

The example model is a simple square steelwork frame (‘I’ beams) measuring 2m x 2m, with a
‘bracing’ cable running diagonally between two opposing corners. The steelwork frame has been
modelled using eight beam elements per side, and the cable has been modelled using a single rod
element. The rod element (CROD in NX Nastran) can carry tension, compression and torsion loads,
but not bending loads.

The beam elements reference a linear material but the rod element references a material which
includes a ‘non-linear elastic’ stress/strain curve – this is used to give the rod element its stiffness in
tension only’ characteristics. The model has been constrained at the two bottom corners and is
subject to shearing loads which act to deform the frame from a square to a parallelogram. Two load
cases have been analysed – one induces compression in the rod, the other tension. The model was
solved using NX Nastran solution scheme SOL 106 (non-linear statics) - this is necessary to ensure
that the non-linear material properties are accounted for.

The model (elements only) is shown in Figures 1 and 2.


Figure 1

Figure 2
3 - Material Properties

Two material properties have been defined – one for the steelwork beams (‘steel - si units’ – see
Figures 3 and 4) and another for the cable (‘steel – si units – non-linear’ – see Figures 5, 6 and 7).

Note that the material for the rod element has been defined as a ‘non-linear elastic’ material, and
that it references a function which defines the ‘stress vs strain’ behaviour. In tension the slope of
the ‘stress vs strain’ curve is equal to the Young’ Modulus of the cable (in this case it has been set
equal to the material Young’s Modulus). In compression the slope of the ‘stress vs strain’ curve is
set to be significantly less (in this case it has been set to be equal to the material Young’s Modulus
reduced by a factor of 1.0e-9).

Note that, if the rod element is assumed to carry no load in compression then, in theory, the slope of
the ‘stress vs strain’ curve in compression would be zero. However, using a value of zero might lead
to numerical problems when the model is analysed, so a small value is defined instead. Once
analysed, the axial force in any rod element representing a cable subject to compression can be
checked to see whether or not its magnitude is significant. If it is then reducing the value for the
slope of the ‘stress vs strain’ curve in compression might be appropriate.

Figure 3
Figure 4

Figure 5
Figure 6

Figure 7
4 - Physical Properties

The beam elements representing the steel framework have been defined as ‘I’ beams measuring
0.1m high x 0.04m wide x 0.004m thick – see Figures 8 and 9.

Figure 8
Figure 9

The rod element used to represent the cable has been defined assuming a solid circular cross section
of 0.02m diameter – see Figure 10.

Figure 10

Note that on the ‘define property – rod element type’ form (Figure 10) there is no option to define a
cross section ‘shape’ (as per the ‘define property – beam element type’ form – see Figure 8), and
hence the cross sectional property data has to be defined directly. If desired, the required cross
sectional property data can be derived by creating a beam property table for the appropriate cross
section, and then manually copying the values to the property table for the rod element – see
Figures 11 and 12. Note that the ‘additional options, cable’ button on the ‘define property – rod
element type’ form (Figure 10) should be ignored – this option does not apply when the solver is NX
Nastran.

Figure 11
Figure 12

5 – Constraints

The model has been constrained in all degrees of freedom except ‘rotation z’ at the two nodes on
the bottom edge of the frame – see Figures 13 and 14.

Figure 13
Figure 14

6 – Loading

Loading has been applied as a nodal force to one of the nodes at the top of the frame. In fact two
load cases have been defined:

Load case 1 : 1000N in the positive global x direction – see Figures 14 and 15

Load case 2 : 1000N in the negative global x direction – see Figures 16 and 17

The results from these two load cases allow the effect of loading the cable in compression and
tension to be assessed.
Figure 15

Figure 16
Figure 17

7 – Analysis Setup

The model has been solved for both load cases simultaneously as an NX Nastran SOL 106 non-linear
statics analysis. This solution type is required in order to ensure that the non-linear material
properties used to model the cable behaviour are accounted for.

Figure 18 shows the ‘analysis set manager’ form.


Figure 18
8 – Results

The results of the analysis show that the behaviour of the structure is very different for the two load
cases. For ‘Load case 1’ the force has been applied in the positive global x direction, thereby
subjecting the rod element to compression load. The results indicate a peak displacement for the
frame of 3.26e-3m, and an axial force in the rod element of -5.356e-5N (i.e. ‘zero’) – see Figure 19.

Figure 19

By contrast, for ‘Load case 2’ the force has been applied in the negative global x direction, thereby
subjecting the rod element to tension load. For this load case, the results indicate a smaller peak
displacement for the frame of 1.10e-3m, and an axial force in the rod element of 1.3721e3N – see
Figure 20.
Figure 20

Hence it is clear that the rod is acting in the desired manner, i.e. only carrying load when subject to
tension, thereby simulating the load carrying characteristics of a cable.

David Whitehead