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In my post Example of how to use the mass participation factor in SolidWorks you
can find a practical example where this methodology is implemented.
Every structure has the tendency to vibrate at certain frequencies, called natural or
resonant frequencies. Each natural frequency is associated with a certain shape,
called mode shape, that the model tends to assume when vibrating at that
When a structure is properly excited by a dynamic load with a frequency that
coincides with one of its natural frequencies, the structure undergoes large
displacements and stresses. This phenomenon is known as resonance.
Several programs such as SolidWorks are provided with a Finite Element Analysis
module, FEA, which helps to calculate properties as the mode shapes, stresses,
displacements, strains, velocities, accelerations, When I started using this type
of modal analysis I needed to answer some questions that somehow haunted me:
Q1: How do I know if a certain dynamic load will make resonate the
structure where it is installed?
Q2: When I am doing a modal analysis, how many resonant modes
should I check?
Q3: When a mode shape should be considered or not?
Q4: What is the effective mass participation factor?
Q5: How could I make the most of the effective mass participation
Firstly, I will give a very direct answer to the first question applying a criterion
limiting the exciting frequencies (it uses the idea of the Design Factor of Safety
presented in the post What is your Design Factor?).
Frequency limits criterion Answer to Q1
After studying different information about modal analysis, I found out a criterion as
follows (this criterion is also followed by the ASHRAE, an association with an
important role in a lot of engineering fields):
> 1-0,6 = 0,4 (it is 60% lower) Eq. 1
, where
is the exciting frequency (i. e.
is the frequency of the expected dynamic
load) and
is a particular resonant frequency and represents the integral
multiples of the exciting frequency (generally, you can use the first six integral
multiples to obtain reliable results). To make it clear, if I want to avoid resonance
problems, I should perform the design so that the resonant frequencies under
consideration are 40% or less of the expected exciting frequency, which means using
a DFoS of 0,4. In the same way, we can support that:
> 1+0,6 = 1,6 (it is 60% higher) Eq. 2
which means that the resonant frequencies under consideration should be 60% or
more of the expected exciting frequency, which means using a DFoS of 1,6.



should not be in here
This criterion shall be applied to each natural frequency taken under consideration to
evaluate if the phenomenon of resonance appears, but a new question arises.
Now, you will need to answer the second question: How many resonant modes
should I consider? Or, how do you know if you have chosen sufficient modes?
As a general rule, you probably want to look at as many modes as it takes to fully
explore the frequency excitation range youre expecting. For example, for structural
excitations you can check 6 modes minimum (obvious) and dont normally evaluate
more than 10 modes or a couple of hundred Hz (say 500 Hz). However, this
methodology is not always the right method and that is why I will introduce you to
the term of Effective Mass Participation Factor, EMPF (also known as Mass
Participation Factor).
What is the Effective Mass Participation Factor? Answer to Q4 and Q5
Basically, the EMPF provides a measure of the energy contained within each
resonant mode since it represents the amount of system mass participating in a
particular mode. For a particular structure, with a mass matrix
, normalized mode
and a ground motion influence coefficient , participation of each mode
can be obtained as the effective mass participation factor:
Eq. 3
Therefore, we can assure the following ideas:

A mode with a large effective mass is usually a significant

contributor to the response of the system.
It is possible to calculate a EMPF for a particular direction (x, y or z).
The sum of the effective masses for all modes in a given response
direction must equal the total mass of the structure.

How Can I Calculate EMPF Using SolidWorks?

To list mass participation factors:
1. Run a frequency or a linear dynamic study.
2. Right-click the Results folder and select List Mass Participation (Figure
3. The Mass Participation (Normalized) dialog box opens.
4. Click Save to save the listed information to an Excel (*.csv) file or to a
plain text (*.txt) file.

Figure 1. List of mass participation factor

Number of modes criterion Answer to Q2
Priestley et al (1996), among other authors, confirm that a sum of all EMPF (known
as Cumulative Effective Mass Participation Factor, CEMPF) of 80% to 90% in
any given response direction can be considered sufficient to capture the dominant
dynamic response of the structure:
Eq. 4
, where is the number of modes taken under consideration. Therefore, if for
example we expect a vibration in the x direction, we need to keep calculating modes
until the sum of all EMPF in the x direction is about 80-90%. This should ensure a
consistency in the results since we can compare the exciting frequency with the
sufficient natural frequencies. In the previous example, you can see that the sum of
the EMPF for each direction is higher than 80%.
Participation criterion Answer to Q3
The frequency limits criterion is not the unique criterion that we must apply to
evaluate if the expected dynamic load generates a resonance effect. For example, it
may be the case that the exciting frequency is close to one of the natural
frequencies but the energy contained within this resonant mode is a small
value and hence there is no resonance effect. That is why we need to use another
Eq. 5
One common rule is that a mode should be considered if it contributes more than 1%
of the total mass.
Methodology for performing a good, coherent and precise modal analysis
Lets finish the post summarizing the main presented ideas and sort those key ideas
as follows:

1. Evaluate the expected dynamic loads (frequencies and directions).

2. Run a frequency or a linear dynamic study for an initial number of
modes .
3. Check if the CEMPF
is between 80% and 90% for those
directions (x, y or z) where you expect a dynamic load. If not, increase
the number of considered modes and re-run the simulation (Number of
modes criterion).
4. Check any EMPF
where the value is higher than 1% (Participation
5. Apply the Frequency limits criterion for those

In my post Example of how to use the mass participation factor in SolidWorks you
can find a practical example where this methodology is implemented.
I hope this post has been useful and if you have any concerns or questions feel free
to contact me jaime.martinez.verdu@gmail.com

If you liked it Dont forget to share!

ASHRAE publications:
Vibration Isolation and Control
A shot of isolation to prevent an outbreak of vibration
Priestley, M. J. N., Seible, S., Calvi, G. M., Seismic Design and Retrofit of
Bridges, John Wiley and Sons, 1996. p 184,242.
Giancarlo Genta, (1998).Vibration of Structures and Machines: Practical Aspects.
Springer; 3rd edition.
Tom Irvins webpage: http://www.vibrationdata.com/
SolidWorks help: Mass Participation (Normalized)
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