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ISSN 2320 6020

Nonlinear Finite Element Analysis of Four-Pile Caps Supporting Columns

Subjected to Generic Loading
Ambareesh Kumar1, Ashish Singh2, Kanhaiya Lal Pandey3 and Rohit Rai4
ABSTRACT: Comparisons with results from three pile cap tests demonstrate that the one way shear design provisions of the present IS2911 Indian standard code are excessively conservative for deep pile caps, and the traditional flexural design procedures the two-way
slabs are un-conservative for pile caps. Flexural design can best be accomplished using a simple strut-and-tie model, and test results of
the pile cap is using various load design with bending theory and the longitudinal and transverse reinforcement provided of the equal
distance of both side. A simple shear design is proposed in which maximum load and deflection is considered the best indicator of
shear strength for deep pile caps. The influence of confinement is more gradual than suggested by the ACI Code bearing strength
provisions. The paper presents the development of an adaptable strut-and-tie approach that can be applied to the design or analysis of
four-pile caps with different load of pile cap that support steel piles a supported rectangular column. Three piles were designed of
varying depth and were tested for deflection and comparison of results was done. The results indicate that the use of the proposed
model would lead to safe and economical designs. The proposed model can be easily extended to any number of piles, providing a
rational procedure for the design of wide range of pile caps.
KEYWORDS: Pile Cap, Bearing Strength, Flexure, Compression, Deflection.
In traditional design practice, pile caps are assumed to acts as
beams spanning between piles. The design of pile cap with
different load and depth of a cap is then selected to provide
adequate shear capacity and the required amount of
longitudinal reinforcement is calculated using engineering
beam theory. The methods for the design of pile cap have been
developed that are based on the finite element analysis
approach. These methods assume that an internal load
resisting truss, so-called strut-and-tie model, carries the forces
through the pile cap in which concrete compressive struts act
between the column and piles and steel ties (reinforcement)
act between piles.
This is highly undesirable behaviour as there is neither
warning cracks nor pronounced deformations before these
types of brittle shear failures occur.
These unexpected shear failures can be explained in
two ways. Firstly, engineering beam theory was originally
developed for structural elements with significant deformation
capacity. As a consequence, if this theory is applied to
elements with limited deformation capacity such as pile caps,
the calculated effective depth will tend to overestimate the
concrete contribution from shear.
Ambareesh Kumar1 and Rohit Rai 4
Department of Civil Engineering
M.M.M. Engineering College Gorakhpur
273010 (UP) India
Email: ambar006@gmail.com1 and

Secondly, engineering beam theory usually leads to more

longitudinal reinforcement than would be calculated by using
a strut-and-tie approach, and for the specific situation of fourpile caps, pile caps designed using engineering beam theory
have a tendency to be over reinforced and as consequence,
shear failures may occur as a result of longitudinal splitting of
compression struts before yielding of the longitudinal
Although the strut-and-tie approach provides a more rational
basis for the design of pile caps, it is only commonly applied
for the design of simple pile caps such as pile caps supporting
square columns subjected to axial load. This is believed to be
due to the complexity and uncertainties as to the appropriate
strut-and-tie model to use for more complex loading
conditions. Thus, designers have chosen to rely on the use of
engineering beam theory for the design of even slightly more
complex pile caps, including four-pile caps that support four
circular steel piles.
To address the situation of pile caps supporting columns under
general situation (comparison on to different load design pile
cap failure), an adaptable strut-and-tie model for four-pile caps
is proposed in this paper. Unfortunately there is experimental
test data on the performance of this type of four-pile caps.
Thus, non-linear finite element analysis (NLFEA) has been
applied to make the best possible prediction of the behaviour
of these pile caps. A NLFEA program was selected for use
that was specifically written for predicting the behaviour of a
three-dimensional continuum of structural concrete subjected
to a complex state of stress. This program will be validated
herein by available test data. The result of the analyses of
four-pile caps design of different load and depth will illustrate
the appropriateness and experimental check the behaviour of
pile cap of the proposed model. They are design of three
model of pile cap with different load (50KN, 75KN, 100KN)



and check deflection of pile cap. This model can be further
extended for the design of more complex pile caps.
Strut-and-tie model to the design of fourpile caps
The proposed model is an adaptable 3-dimensional strut-andtie model, which can be used for the design or analysis of
four-pile caps supporting square or rectangular columns
subjected to the vertical loading of pile cap and check the
deflection. In the proposed model, vertical force applying on
the centre column of pile cap check the behaviour of pile cap
at centre and supporting of steel pile on the pile cap, and the
net axial load acting from the column on the pile cap is always

Fig-1: Proposed strut-and-tie model for four-pile caps

The influence of a concentrated load with d from the column
face support of a member subjected to one-way shears
summarized in Fig. The pile cap shear force such a member is
very different and depend the side of the concentrated vertical
load with critical section is located. The truss model indicates
that the vertical load is transmitted directly to the support of
pile by a compression strut of the cap. No stirrups are required
to resist the shear created by the vertical load. The vertical
load does, increase the diagonal compression stresses of pile
in the concrete immediately above the support, as well as the
required tension force in the longitudinal reinforcement of the
pile from the face of the support depicts simple threedimensional strut-and-tie model of the four-pile cap. The
vertical column load is transmitted directly to the support of
pile in inclined compression struts. The horizontal tension ties
baris required to prevent the piles from being spread apart.
The shear design of pile cap using a strut-and-tie model

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involves limiting the concrete stresses of compression struts
and nodal zones at the tension tie yields prior to any
significant diagonal cracking in the plain concrete
compression struts. That the concrete stresses are entire
disturbed region can be considered in safe the maximum
bearing stress in all nodal zones is the compression and
tension below a certain limit. The analytical and experimental
study of pile cap in deferent loading by plain concrete, it is
proposed that the maximum deflection in nodal zones of deep
pile caps be limited to the lower bearing stress.
The proposed strut-and-tie model is intended of the design of
deep pile caps, it use steel pile. The concrete caps may be a
general shear design procedure for pile caps can be
accomplished by the following. The initial pile cap depth
using in three model of the design at one-way and two-way
shear design procedures from IS code. In the case of one-way
shear, the critical section should be taken at d from the column
face, and any pile force within the critical section should be
ignored. The nodal zone bearing stresses should be checked.
The pile cap depth may be changed at the design of three
model of cap, the pile cap dimensions may be constant at the
every model confinement of the nodal zones, or the bearing
stresses may need to be reduced by increasing the column or
pile dimensions and the deflection of cap is increase to
applying load. Thus, the shear strength of pile caps will be
limited by the traditional sectional shear design procedures,
while the shear strength of pile caps will be limited by the
design load and the failure at the maximum load of nodal zone
of the cap.
The results on pile caps are tested of the deflection of four-pile
caps. In all cases, the simulated rectangular column
(250mm250mm) and steel piles were the same depth as the
pile cap, so the models were really wide deep beams. The
models had various amounts of either straight deformed
reinforcing bar that were anchored by a number of different
methods. Shear failure occurred of a diagonal crack of the pile
cap. The objective of the tests was to investigate the behaviour
of cap at design from deferent loading of four pile cap depth
and the amount of reinforcing steel. The specimens were
stronger than anticipated. All pile caps behaved similarly with
one main vertical (flexural) crack forming at midspan. They
are tested of three series of pile caps. The first series consisted
of three models at about the same load (50 KN) and depth
(130mm), while the second series consisted of three
approximately specimens. The main objective of the tests was
to determine the load and deflection of pile cap at deferent
loading of pile cap and check the behaviour of cap failure in
transverse and longitudinal reinforcement layout. There
enforcement of cap are resulted in higher capacities (for a
given quantity of steel Fe 500 N/mm2), even though some
parts of the specimens had poor crack control. Distributing an
equal amount of reinforcement in a uniform grid resulted in
the four-pile caps. The cap reinforcement in placed transverse
and longitudinal at deferent spacing in deferent sample of cap.
The capacities were not significantly influenced by whether



the bunched reinforcement was provided around the perimeter
of the pile cap or diagonally across the pile cap; however, the
best crack control under service loads occurred when a
combination of the two was used. The longitudinal
reinforcement layout and anchorage were the parameters
The behaviour of all pile caps was similar of the all tested
sample. The shear and vertical cracks formed near at centre of
the pile cap sides, extending to near the top of the pile caps.
The pile cap fail at the steel pile from the corner at the support
of cap. The testing at the cap at design vertical loading to find
the deflection at the cap is middle at higher at the support pile.
The cap is fail in two-way shear and punching failure at the
centre of cap. The pile caps had usually split into four separate
pieces hinged supported below the column base. According to
the code, most specimens failed in shear and bending after the
longitudinal reinforcement yielded. The code also classified
the failure modes as either one-way (beam) shear or two-way
(punching) shear, depending on the appearance of the failed
specimen. Bunching the reinforcement over the steel piles
resulted in a 100 percent increase in capacity compared to
spreading the reinforcement uniformly. The so-called of the
full anchorage resulted in approximately a 75 percent increase
in capacity. The reference at the research Sabnis and Gogate
tested in the six very small (1/10) scale models of four-pile
caps to study. The quantity of uniformly distributed
longitudinal reinforcement is influences the shear capacity of
pile caps. They are Similar to the design of Clarke, the
longitudinal reinforcement are hooked and extended from the
top surface. The tests showed that varying the load and
deflection ratio between 0.0014 and 0.012 had little influence
on the shear capacities of the models. All pile caps were
statically indeterminate (steel piles in four-pile caps were
arranged in a rectangular shape), and the actual pile reaction
loads were measured throughout the test. Sliding bearings
were used under the pseudo-piles to simulate the lateral
flexibility of piles.
External and internal dial gauge measurements the deflection
during the tests demonstrated that the behaviour of pile caps is
very different from two-way slabs. The third pile caps deform
very little before failure and thus, have virtually no ability to
redistribute pile loads. Dial gages in five of the specimens
indicated that the middle point and every corner of cap had
definitely yielded prior to failure. The failure mode still a very
much like shear failure because the plain concrete in the pile
caps had very little ductility. They believed that true shear
failures were a result of compression struts and deflection of
the pile cap at the deferent dial gauge. Depending on the
geometry of the pile cap, the final failure mechanism
resembled either a one-way or two-way (punching failure)
shear failure. The maximum bearing stress of the specimens
that failed in shear varied from 1.13 to 1.27 (fc)1/2.

ISSN 2320 6020

from four-pile caps tested. Present data of different load and
depth of pile cap as well as the measured cracking, yielding,
deflection and failure of pile cap.

Prior to the use of a NLFEA program for evaluating this

adaptable strut-and-tie model, it is first necessary to evaluate
the ability of this program to predict the behaviour of tested
pile caps. This was completed using the experimental data



ISSN 2320 6020

Reinforcements were modelled using an embedded

formulation and the Newton-Raphson solution method was
applied for the solution scheme. Boundary conditions and
material properties were defined in order to accurately
represent the described experimental setup and the overall
response was recorded using monitoring points for loading (at
the top of the column) and displacements (at the centre bottom
of the pile caps)The predicted load-displacement behaviour for
the simulated four-pile caps using Staad pro.
The properties of four pile cap of 130mm depth to the load
and deflection curve are used in the study of the experiment.
The specimens are considered the small wide-beam cap
models tested.



In the case of one-way shear, the three different predictions is
given the ACI Building Code:1) the 1977 edition of the ACI
Building Code (critical section at d from the column face); 2)
the 1983 ACI Building Code (critical section at the column
face); and 3) the special provisions for deep flexural members.
The table four in the ratio of measured pile cap capacity to
predicted capacity for the three ACI Code predictions, as well
as the CRSI Handbook prediction. The interesting to note that
three pile caps predicted to fail in flexure and punching shear
at the centre were reported to have failed in shear of the
deflection of cap. The testing of the pile cap applying the load
from universal testing machine at the 25KN to check the
deflection of the cap to find the cracking load and the failure
load of cap. They are design the pile cap at IS 2911 at load and
deflection compression of three deferent model at 28 days
curing. As previously mentioned, the likely reason for the pile
caps is large blocks of plain concrete that do not have the
ductility to undergo significant flexural deformations a shear
The strut-and-tie model and compares the predictions with the
experimental results. The shear capacity is the maximum
rectangular column load limited by the nodal zone bearing
stresses, while the flexural capacity is the maximum column
load at the various interval of the limited by yielding of the
longitudinal transverse reinforcement of cap. The flexural
capacity is depends strongly at the inclination of the
compression strut in the pile cap is defined by the location of
the nodal zones. The lower nodal zones of the pile cap were
located at the centre of steel piles at the level of the
longitudinal reinforcement, while the upper nodal zones were
assumed to the top surface of pile cap at the column quarter
points. It is obvious from, the one-way shear design provisions
of the 1984 and subsequent editions of the IS Code are
excessively conservative for pile foundation. They also
demonstrate the traditional flexural strength of cap predictions
are un-conservative for pile caps. These flexural strength
procedures in the meant for lightly reinforced beams they are
able to undergo extensive flexural deformations after the
reinforcement yields. As the curvature increases, this flexural
compression stresses concentrate at the near compression face
of pile cap. As mentioned previously, the pile caps are brittle
and undergo such deformations; therefore, assuming that the
flexural compression is concentrated near the compression
face is inappropriate.

ISSN 2320 6020

remains until at the failure step when at the central span
suddenly increases and sample fail in the shear. If considering
the practical serviceability of pile caps, all the models in the
FEA can be treated as having experienced shear failures i.e.
the shear cracks caused failure before bending failure

Assuming the flexural compression are uniform and across the

entire pile cap failure at the top of cap, which deflection
measurements have shown to be incorrect leads to a further
over prediction of the flexural capacity. While the proposed
strut-and-tie method in the least amount of scatter between
experimental in pile cap results predictions. This can be
explained, the fact that the shear failure of pile caps involves a
tension failure of the concrete in the upper surface of cap. The
most important issue is that the proposed design method is
simple, rational, and conservative, and unlike the other design
methods, it does not over predict any of the pile cap test

Crack propagation and distribution

The cap has stated that for most in sample one, two and three,
punching failure and shear failure were always very close at
the failure step. This is also true in the FEA. Though many
samples one failed by punching failures, wide shear cracks are
also observed in showing that bending failure and shear failure
are very close.
For all samples in failure crack at the compressive splitting
shear crack linking the vertical loading to the pile head
matured at the failure. For those caps observed to fail in
bending in FEA, the bending crack supersedes the
compressive splitting shear crack only at the failure steps. This



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While calculated displacements were generally lower than

experimental displacements, the cracking patterns and failure
modes were quite well predicted. The typical radial crack
pattern predicted for four-pile caps with bunched

Fig -3: Predicted crack pattern at failure for pile cap

Fig -6: shear failure at the corner of cap

Fig -4: Shear failure of the side in cap

Typical failure cracks for the designed four-pile caps
supporting a rectangular column subjected to the various depth
are shown in Typical deformed shapes at maximum load, as
well as, the principal stress acting in the ties are shown.

Fig -5: Crack pattern at maximum load for the Specimen.

Fig -7: Failure of pile cap at FEM

Fig -8: Deformed shape at maximum vertical load and

deflection in the reinforcements ties for the Specimen.



In order to assess the concrete contribution on the capacity of
the pile caps, additional analyses were conducted of
unreinforced pile caps. As can be seen, for pile caps with
heights over 50 cm, no longitudinal reinforcement would be
necessary to support the design loads. These results show that
concrete tensile strength, often neglected in structural codes, is
a critically important factor in the design of stocky member
such as pile caps. Taking into account that safety factors are
additionally applied to the design, it is very clear that a large
portion of some pile caps will be reinforced.
Due to the lack of a generic strut-and-tie model for the design
of pile caps to support realistically complex loadings from
columns, designers commonly use engineering beam theory or
very simplified strut-and-tie models for the design of pile
caps. In the latter approach, knowing the piles reactions due to
the simultaneous action of comparison of deferent load and
depth, the highest reaction is multiplied by the number of
piles, in a manner that an equivalent compressive axial load is
To encourage the use of more appropriate design procedures
for pile caps, an adaptable3-dimensional strut-and-tie model
was presented in this paper. The main strength of the proposed
model is that it provides a clear methodology for calculating
the deflection of four-pile caps supporting steel piles subjected
to various load and depth. The proposed methodology is
shown by analyses to result in safe and economical design
The performance of the proposed model was evaluated using
non-linear analyses. The results show that the predicted
capacities are greater than those calculated from the adaptable
strut-and-tie model. The lower the shear span-to-depth ratio,
c/d, the higher was the failure load. However, as the same
strut-and-tie model was applied for the same loading
condition, the same capacity at reinforcement yielding and at
failure would have been expected for all specimens. The
differences in the predicted behaviour can be explained by the
significant influence of the concrete tensile strength in the
bottom region of the pile caps, which is not considered in the
present formulation and in most codes of practice.
The proposed adaptable strut-and-tie model is considered to
provide a more rational basis for the design and analysis of
four-pile caps. Even so, it should be noted that the proposed
model may lead to the use of more than necessary amounts of
longitudinal tension reinforcement.
The numerical simulations illustrated the capacity provided by
the concrete alone would support most service loads. This
implies that field experience should not provide a good
indication of the appropriateness of design practice.

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