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HKIE Transactions

ISSN: 1023-697X (Print) 2326-3733 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/thie20

Problems with Some Common Plate Bending


Elements and the Development of a Pseudo-higher
Order Plate Bending Element
C W Law , Y M Cheng & Y Yang
To cite this article: C W Law , Y M Cheng & Y Yang (2012) Problems with Some Common Plate
Bending Elements and the Development of a Pseudo-higher Order Plate Bending Element,
HKIE Transactions, 19:1, 12-22
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1023697X.2012.10668240

Published online: 09 Apr 2013.

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Date: 14 November 2016, At: 02:47

TRANSACTIONS PAPER

The Hong Kong Institution of Engineers Transactions, Vol 19, No 1, pp12-22


Paper T0824-201007; Received 29 July 2010; Accepted 4 March 2011

Problems with Some Common Plate Bending


Elements and the Development of a Pseudohigher Order Plate Bending Element
Anomalous results from a number of raft foundation and pile cap designs in Hong Kong
employing the finite element analytical method have revealed the shortcomings of some popular
plate elements. For simple cases with these problematic plate elements, this paper proposes to
use simple interpolation functions to overcome the abnormalities. For more general cases, an
improved pseudo-higher order rectangular plate element has been developed in this paper.
The element possesses nine number of nodes which include the four corner nodes, four midside nodes and one centre node in the formulation of its shape functions. Such high order
polynomials can simulate the structural behaviour much better than the classical plate element
for both thin and thick plate configurations. In the formulation, the four mid-side nodes and
the centre node are turned pseudo by having their displacements incorporated into that of the
four corner nodes. Such static condensation can reduce the required computer capacities as well
as provide greater convenience for simulation of the structure and the boundary conditions.
Comparisons with the former eight node plate element by the authors and the analytical solution
by series have shown that this nine node element can perform well even when the mesh is
coarse. The merits of the proposed nine node element over other popular plate elements are
further illustrated by cross-comparison on a simple cantilever slab problem.

C W LAW
Housing Department, the HKSAR
Government

Y M CHENG
Department of Civil and Structural
Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic
University

Y YANG
Department of Civil and Structural
Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic
University

Keywords: Pseudo Higher Order Element, Shear Locking, Shear Jump

Introduction
Pile caps, transfer plates and raft foundations are important and expensive
thick structures. With the extensive use of computer methods nowadays,
the flexible plate assumption which has taken into account the out-ofplane flexibilities of plate bending structures have been extensively
employed in the structural analysis of thick plate structures. In the
analysis, even though the flexural deformations are often the most
important deformations, shear deformations cannot be ignored when
the plate thickness is appreciable, as otherwise the deformation will
be under-estimated. Whilst the mathematical formulation of the plate
bending model (by the finite element method) is relatively simple for thin
plate structures where the shear deformation is ignored (the Kirchhoff
plate), the formulation of the thick plate structures involving shear
deformation is more complicated. In the past few decades, many thick
plate elements have been proposed and used by different investigators
(Zienkiewicz and Taylor, 2000, 2005; Katili, 1993; Reddy, 2000; Szilard,
2004). A detailed review about the recent development of the thick plate
elements was conducted by Cheng and Law (2008). Among the various
plate bending finite elements, the thick plate element by Ibrahimbegovic
(1992, 1993) (termed IB element in the previous and this study) is one
of the most popular thick plate elements currently adopted by engineers
in Hong Kong. The IB element has been demonstrated to be good and
accurate by Cheng and Law (2005, 2008) and Law and Cheng (2006)
if the mesh is regular and the boundary conditions are normal. For
problems with highly irregular meshes, this paper has however identified
serious problems with the IB elements (2005, 2006, 2008) from some
projects in Hong Kong.
A thick plate structure is commonly simulated as an assembly of four
nodes or three nodes plate elements as shown in Fig 1(a). The elements
are joined together at their corner nodes. However, the most primitive
formulation (in terms of shape functions) of the four nodes or three
nodes element can at most yield linear or bi-linear variations of stresses
(the term stress is a finite element terminology referring to moments
or shears per unit width which will be used consistently in this paper) in
bending and shear within itself, and its simulation of the real behaviour
12

Figure 1 Formulation of Finite Elements


of the bending structure is therefore very limited unless the structure
is finely meshed. More complicated higher order elements with more
number of nodes can perform better as the stress variations are of
higher orders (in terms of mathematical formulation as polynomials).
Closer simulation to the actual structural behaviour can therefore be
achieved by the use of higher order element. For higher order element
where there are three or more nodes along an element edge (Fig 1(b)),
the boundary conditions of all the edge nodes must be prescribed, or
else there will be a locking problem (unstable) with ridiculous results
for the displacements and internal forces. If point loads are prescribed
on those internal nodes, the locking problem will also occur. Because of
these fundamental problems with higher order elements, such elements
are not commonly used for practical engineering analysis and design. To
reduce the size of computer storage and computation time, the deflections
of the side nodes can be expressed in terms of corner nodes and their
participation in the solution of nodal displacements can therefore be
eliminated whilst the higher order simulation of structural behaviour of
the element can still be maintained. Such elements can be described
as pseudo higher order elements. Law and Cheng (2006) and Cheng
and Law (2008) have demonstrated that such elements possess the
advantages of high accuracy even when the mesh is coarse, and they
can perform well in both thin plate and thick plate configurations.
It is also known that the shape function of the IB element is of high
orders through the use of side nodes. Nevertheless, there are diverging

THE HKIE TRANSACTIONS Volume 19 Number 1

analytical results when the mesh is coarse and the thickness of the plate
is relatively thin as identified and discussed by Cheng and Law (2008)
and Law and Cheng (2006). Further analysis with the IB element for a
simple problem with regular mesh will be demonstrated by a cantilever
slab in this paper which gives surprising results to the authors.
Under irregular meshing (which have to be employed for irregular plan
shapes of plate structures), it is noticed that the IB element performs
less satisfactorily in the analysis. The shear jump problem under some
circumstances emerges. This is a phenomenon of which a large difference
in shear stresses (constituting jumps) is noted at a node among the
adjacent IB elements meeting and the node is neither a support nor having
heavy point loads (Law and Cheng, 2006; Cheng and Law, 2008). Such
a large difference is obviously erratic by simple engineering judgment,
as although generally the finite element method does give different
stresses for different elements at the adjoining node, the variation of
the stresses should not be significant (unless there is an external point
load by an applied load or a support reaction) so that the variations of
stresses across them are smooth and such smoothness should increase
if the mesh is adequately fine. In fact, such a large difference implies
inaccuracy and poor performance of the element. For the IB element,
this problem is more critical when the mesh is highly irregular or at
junctions where quadrilateral and triangular elements meet.
To overcome the various limitations of the IB element and to further
improve numerical accuracy, methods are developed in this paper to
tackle the shear jump problem and a new thick plate element PLATE-9
is formulated. For comparison purpose, the DKT (discrete Kirchhoff theory)
element in ANSYS and the IB element in SAFE/SAP2000 were tried. The
DKT element ignores the shear deformations with orthogonality of the
normals to the mid-plane retained in its formulation. Babuska and Scapolia
(1989) have pointed out the inaccuracy of the Kirchhoff plate model which
occurs in the analysis of skewed plates, even when they are thin. The
well-known problems of deriving conforming C1 continuous thin plate and
shell elements motivated a number of authors to explore the applications
of the Reissner-Mindlin theory which relaxes the normal orthogonality
condition, thereby introducing the effect of shear deformation which is
of practical importance in thick plate formulations. Among them, the
IB element takes shear deformation into account. In the IB element, in
order to construct the displacement and rotation interpolation free of
shear locking, the Kirchhoff mode must be attainable. Therefore, the
displacement interpolation should be a polynomial of order of one
degree higher than the polynomial which interpolates the rotations. If
an isoparametric displacement interpolation is used, it is impossible to
have a constant shear strain and this will lead to an overly stiff bending
response, ie shear locking phenomenon. Ibrahimbegovic (1989) has
applied a special trick to force a special term to zero which is equivalent
to an assumed strain method to relieve the shear locking problem of the
element. This approach is less natural than the approach by Law and
Cheng (2006) and Cheng and Law (2008) where all the coefficients of
the interpolation polynomials are determined from the minimum energy
principle. It can be demonstrated that the PLATE-9 element can achieve
higher accuracy and convergence than the popular IB element and the
DKT element in ANSYS, even for analysis with coarse meshes. The more
important feature is that this new element can well capture the change
of internal forces near to supports while other existing elements need
finer meshing to achieve similar accuracy.

of the shear stresses. Method (II) is suitable for a case that there are
more nodes and points with shear jumps.
Method (I): Interpolation by Shears of Four or Six Nodes for a Single
Shear Jump

Figure 2 Example for Method (I) in Dealing with Shear Jump


Fig 2 shows a finite element meshing in which five elements join at
node P which is neither a support nor having a joint load acting on it.
Originally, the shear stress of P is conventionally taken as the mean
value of the stresses at the same node at the elements A, B, C, D and
E, ie S P = (S PA + S PB + S PC + S PD + S PE)/5. If S PB and S PC are significantly
different from the others constituting a shear jump (likely due to the
presence of the triangular element, but can also occur in an assembly
of quadrilateral elements of large variations in geometric sizes), then
S P calculated will not correctly represent the actual shear stress at the
node and should be modified. Under this circumstance, S P should be
re-calculated by interpolating the shear stresses at nodes K1, K2, K3
and K4 which are at farther ends of the adjoining elements, provided
that these values are checked to be reasonable. For the interpolation,
the following equation is proposed:

t(x, y) = A0 + A1x + A2y + A3xy (1)


If there are more node numbers available for interpolation, say six, the
equation proposed becomes:

t(x, y) = A0 + A1x + A2y + A3x2 + A4y2 + A5xy (2)


In Eqn (1) and Eqn (2), x and y are the coordinates of the nodes. By
substituting the known values of the far end nodes, the A coefficients can
be determined and Eqn (1) or Eqn (2) can be used to solve for the shear
stress at P. The approach is applicable to the shear stresses components
on the faces parallel to both the x and y directions conventionally adopted
in analysis which can be determined separately.
Method (II): Interpolation by Mean Values along x-direction and
y-direction for Shear Jumps across a Few Nodes in Proximity

Simple Methods to Overcome Shear Jump Problem


Since most of the engineers are still using the IB element in Hong
Kong in their daily analysis and design works, two simple methods
are proposed to overcome the shear jump problem (as described in
the previous paragraphs, and details are given by Law and Cheng,
2006) or similar problem in this paper. Shear jump is more critical as
shear involves derivative of the moment, and the problem will be more
pronounced if the derivative is carried out over a small region (moment
jump and torsion jump are less critical though they are also identified
by the authors from an internal study). Method (I) is suitable for a case
that only a few nodes give abnormal results (shear jumps) in the values

Figure 3 Example of Method (II) in Dealing with Shear Jump

THE HKIE TRANSACTIONS Volume 19 Number 1

13

From Fig 3, an example is shown for the use of method (II) to interpolate
the shear stresses of P33 , P34 , P43 and P44 from the known and more
reasonable shear forces from Kij . Therefore the value of shear forces
from Kij must first be checked to be reasonable, otherwise a finer grid of
finite elements should be used instead. In method (II), the value of shear
force Pij is calculated by the mean value of interpolation along x-direction
and y-direction from the known points Kij. By considering the calculation
of the shear stresses on the faces of the elements perpendicular to the
x-direction, they can be expressed as follows:
SX(x) = A0 + A1x + A2x2 + A3x3

for four reasonable points Kij (3)

SX(x) = A0 + A1x + A2x2 + A3x3 + A4x4 + A5x5



for six reasonable points Kij (4)

Figure 5(a) Location of Shear Jump for a Raft Foundation in Hong


Kong (Law and Cheng, 2006)

With the known reasonable values of shear stresses, the A coefficients


can be calculated and Eqn (3) or Eqn (4) can be used to calculate
stresses at nodes which are dubious. Similarly for shear stresses on the
faces of the elements on the faces of the elements perpendicular to the
y-direction, it is shown as:
SY(y) = B0 + B1y + B2y2 + B3y3

for four reasonable points Kij (5)

SY(y) = B + B y + B2y2 + B3y3 + B4y4 + B5y5


for six reasonable points Kij (6)

0
1

It is discovered that the interesting shear jump phenomenon in a


building project in which a 700 mm thick raft footing with plan shape
shown in Fig 4 has been analysed with the use of the IB elements (Law
and Cheng, 2006; Cheng and Law, 2008). The shear
jumps will be corrected by the method (I) and (II) in
this paper. In the analysis, the structure is modelled
as an assembly of plate bending elements by the
programme SAFE which employs IB elements. The
support to the raft footing is modelled as surface
supports by uniform Winklers spring. A shear jump
is found in the location at coordinate (23.985,
7.725), where there is a very high shear forces by the
programme SAFE (employing IB element) as shown in

Figure 4 Plan Shape of the Raft Footing with Shear


Jump Identified (Law and Cheng, 2006)

Figure 5(b) Location of Shear Jump (Zoom In)

Figure 6 VXX for Loading Case (Dead + Live)

Shear Stress VXX before Correction


X = 23.75

X = 23.985

X = 24

X = 24.103

X = 24.23

Y = 7.9

28.511

373.729

457.633

256.585

1,515.668

Y = 7.771

-108.891

439.227

1,420.216

-1,362.12

1,217.982

Y = 7.739

-329.734

21,409.07

24,517.96

-1,684.63

-86.422

Y = 7.725

-1,217.07

77,918.23

57,522.08

-425.255

93.367

Y = 7.7

-648.822

11,662.24

12,376.36

157.152

16.887

Y = 7.6

11.977

-1,223.56

-554.453

960.752

198.497

Table 1 The Numerical Values of VXX before Correction; X,Y Indicate Coordinates of Locations
14

Figs 5(a) and 5(b). The shear stresses increase


sharply along both x-direction and y-direction
despite the absence of point loads or supports at
these locations, indicating errors occured.
The shear stresses VXX (averaged over the elements
joined at each node) around the location (23.985,
7.725) are shown in Fig 5 and Table 1, and the
corresponding results along x-direction and
y-direction are indicated in Fig 6. In comparison,
the method (I) and (II) are used to correct the values
of shear stresses as shown in Fig 6. The values
after correction are more reasonable than before

THE HKIE TRANSACTIONS Volume 19 Number 1

Shear Stress VXX after Correction


Y = 7.9

X = 23.75

X = 23.985

X = 24

X = 24.103

X = 24.23

28.511

373.729

457.633

256.585

1,515.668

Y = 7.771

-108.891

439.227

1,420.216

-1,362.12

1,217.982

Y = 7.739

-329.734

-963.822

-464.462

-1,684.63

-86.422

Y = 7.725

-1,217.07

-449.238

75.1095

-425.255

93.367

Y = 7.7

-648.822

-196.528

306.103

157.152

16.887

Y = 7.6

11.977

-1,223.56

-554.453

960.752

198.497

Y = 7.9

-114.95

86.672

393.674

565.854

296.399

as shown in Table 2 and Fig 7 in which the shear


jump is eliminated. Thus the two methods are good
and effective in solving the problem of shear jump.
Even though this approach is tedious and requires
engineering judgment and the presence of good
results adjacent to the problematic location, it is
nevertheless a simple method to overcome the
unreasonable shear jump problem as discussed by
Law and Cheng (2006) and Cheng and Law (2008).

Formulation of the Pseudo-higher


Order Shear Deformable Plate

The technique mentioned in the previous section


can only be applied to the condition that the
mesh is relatively simple and accurate results
are available near the problematic locations. To overcome such
limitations, an improved pseudo higher order plate element which is
free of the shear jump problem is developed in this section. A number
of successful four-node quadrilateral Mindlin thick plate elements have
been developed in recent years. However, there are still many practical
cases in which the modern thick plate elements cannot perform well. A
quadrilateral PLATE-8 pseudo-high order element is developed with a
formulation based on four corner nodes and four mid-side nodes which
can perform very well even for a coarse mesh (Cheng and Law, 2008).
In the PLATE-8 element, the four mid-side nodes have been absorbed
(statically condensed) into the four corner nodes in the formulation of
the stiffness matrix. To further increase the accuracy, a centre node is
added to form a new pseudo-higher order element. It is well known that
a nine node element can perform much better than an eight (or lesser)
node element even when the element is highly distorted (Zienkiewicz
and Taylor, 2005). The advantage of the nine node element will be
shown in the latter sections.

Table 2 The Numerical Values of Corrected VXX ; X,Y indicate Coordinates of Locations

Figure 7 VXX along X and Y Directions before Correction

In this paper, the formulation of the rectangular element is first discussed.


The rectangular plate of corner nodes 1, 2, 3, 4; mid-side nodes 5, 6,
7, 8 and a centre node 9; side lengths 2a and 2b is indicated in Fig 9.
In the figure, the coordinate system is x and y as shown whilst x and h
y
x
are the normalised values where
= x and
= h. The use of x and
b
a
h is for facilitation of mathematical manipulation. The moments (Mx
and My) are taken as positive when they act in the directions along the
positive x and y axes which is the popular convention adopted in finite
element analysis. In the mathematical formulation, the mid-side nodes
and centre node will be statically eliminated in the stiffness matrix.
Based on the Timoshenko thick beam theory (1959) as discussed by
Law and Cheng (2006), a thick and thin plate element PLATE-9 can be
formulated. The special feature about this element is that it will degenerate
to the classical thin plate element if the thickness of the plate is small.
For the plate as shown in Fig 9, the nodal displacement ae is given as:

Figure 8 Corrected VXX along X and Y Directions

Figure 9 The Psuedo 9 Node Thin/Thick Plate Element


THE HKIE TRANSACTIONS Volume 19 Number 1

15

ae = [w1 x1 y1 w2 x2 y2 w3 x3 y3 w4 x4 y4] (7)

3t (1 + m)

db =

Prior to detailed discussion of the formulation of the element, the


following relations in regard to the structural behaviour of a shear
deformable beam (with end nodes i and j shown in Fig 10) are listed.
The derivations of these relations are found in Law and Cheng (2006)
and are listed as follows. They are useful in the formulation of the
proposed PLATE-9 Element.

10b + 6t2 (1 + m)

t = thickness of the plate, = Poissons ratio.

The nodal shear strain are therefore:



gx1 = gs12
gy1 = gs41

2d
gx2 = gs12
gy2 = gs23
2d
g0 =
wi +
w di dj
(8)

(13)
L j
L
gx3 = gs34
gy3 = gs23
where g0 is the shear strain in the shear deformable beam which is taken
as constant through the beam.

gx4 = gs34

The shear strain within an element can be expressed as:

d =

6t (1 + m)

in which m is the poisson ratio and t is the

5L2 + 12(1 + m)t 2

depth of the beam.

r = 0.5 =

3 (1 2d)
2L

gy4 = gs41

wi

3 (1 2d)
2L

1 3
1 3
wj + + d i + + dj
4 4 (9)
4 4

gx
g =
gy

(14)
0

gx = gx1N1 + gx2N2 + gx3N3 + gx4N4



where
(15)

0
0
0
0

gy = gy1N1 + gy2N2 + gy3N3 + gy4N4

where r = 0.5 is the rotation of the beam at mid-length.

and N i (i = 1, 2, 3, 4) are bilinear interpolation functions for Q4 element



1
1
1
1
given by:
wr = 0.5 =
wi + wj Li + Lj
(10)
2
2
8
8
1
1
1
0
0
0
N1 =
(1 x)(1 h); N 2 =
(1+ x)(1 h); N 3 =
(1+ x)(1 + h);
where wr = 0.5 is the translation of the beam at mid-length.
4
4
4
0

N4 =

1
4

(1 x)(1 + h)

By substituting Eqn (12) and Eqn (13) into Eqn (15) and after simplification,

g can be expressed in terms of the nodal displacement ae such that g

= B Sae where:

B S = [B S1B S2] (16)
and
Figure 10 Symbols and Sign Convention of the Shear Deformable Beam
The stiffness matrix of the element will be the sum of the shear stiffness
matrix and the bending stiffness matrix as:
e

K = K s + K b (11)
Shear Stiffness Matrix
e

The shear stiffness matrix K s is first derived. By Eqn (8), the transverse
(out-of-plane) shear strains g along the edges 12, 23, 34, 41 are listed
as follows:

(1 h)da (1 h)da
0

2a
2

B S1 =
(1 x)db
(1 x)db
0

2b
2
(1+ h)da

2a

B S2 =
(1+ x)db

2b

(1+ h)da
2
0

(1 h)da

(1 h)da

2a

(1+ x)db
2b

(1+ h)da

(1+ h)da

2a

(1+ x)db

(1 x)db

2b

(1+ x)db

2
0

(1 x)db

2
0

The D matrix for shear is:



da
da


5t 1 0
1 0
E
gs12 =
w1 +
w da y1 da y2
5 1 0
5Et
t.
(17)
Ds = G .
a

=

a 2
=
2(1 + m) 6 0 1 12(1 + m) 0 1
6 0 1


d
d
gs23 = b w2 + b w3 dbx2 dbx3
b
b
The stiffness matrix for shear can be obtained as:

(12)
1 1
da
d
1 1


gs34 =
w4 + a w3 da y4 da y3
e
T
T

.
K s = Bs Ds B S | J | d x d h = ab Bs Ds B S . d x d h (18)
a
a

gs41 =

db
b

w1 +

db
b

w4 dby1 day4

where da =

3t (1 + m)

;
10a + 6t2 (1 + m)
t
5

(1 + m)
+2
6
2a
16

1 1

Bending Stiffness Matrix

t
(1 + m)
2a

1 1

For the derivation of pseudo bending stiffness matrix K b as indicated


in Eqn (11), the normal (in the vertical plane perpendicular to the edge)
and tangential rotations (in the vertical plane containing the edge) at
mid-sides nodes and the centre node 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 in Fig 9 have to
be expressed in terms of the displacements and rotations of the corner
nodes. Whilst the tangential rotation can be expressed by Eqn (9), the

THE HKIE TRANSACTIONS Volume 19 Number 1

normal rotation has to be taken as average of that of the adjacent corner


nodes. So the followings can be listed:
1

y y5 =

2
1

y x8 =

(yy3 + yy4 );

x =

4a

3 (1 2db)

y6 =

(yx2 + yx3 ); y y7 =

(yx1 + yx4 ) (19)

3 (1 2da)

x5 =

(yy1 + yy2 ); y x6 =

By substituting Eqn (21) and Eqn (22) into Eqn (24), the followings are
listed:

4b

w1

w2

3 (1 2da)

w2 +

4a

3 (1 2db)

w3 +

4b

3
2
3
2

da x1 +

db y2 +

3
2
3
2

da x2

3 (1 2da)
4a

w4

3 (1 2da)

w3 +

4a

3
2

da x3 +

3
2

db y3

da x4

3 (1 2db)

y8 =

4b

w1

3 (1 2db)

w4 +

4b

3
2

dby1 +

3
2

db y4

(20)
It should be noted that the displacements of node 9 are first expressed
in terms of that of nodes 5, 6, 7 and 8 by Eqn (9) and by substituting
Eqn (20) and then using Eqn (10), it is finally expressed in terms of the
displacements of the corner nodes.
3 (1 2db )

x9 =

w1 +

8b

3
4

3 a(1 2db )

16b

db x1

y1

3 (1 2db )
8b

w2

1 3
1 3
3 a(1 2db )
3 (1 2db )
y2
w3 + + db x3
+ + db x2 +
8 4
8 4
16b
8b

3 a(1 2db )
16b

y3 +

3 (1 2db )
8b

1 3
3 a(1 2db )
w4 + + db x4 +
y4
8 4
16b

y9 =
+

8a

3 b(1 2da)
16a

w1

3 b(1 2da)

x2 +

16a
+

3
4

x1

3 (1 2da )

8a

w3

3 b(1 2da )
16a

(22)
The shape functions of the nine node element can be listed as:
=

1
4

1
4

xh(1 x)(1 h) N 5 =
1
4

xh(1 + x )(1 h) N 6 =

xh(1 + x)(1 + h) N 7 =
1
4

1
2
1
2

xh(1 x )(1 + h) N 8 =

1
2

(1 x )h (1 + h)

(23)

i=1

i=1

3 a(1 2db )
N9 3 (1 2db )

w1
N9 x1 +
4b
16b
2

N 3 (1 2db )
N 1 3
N
N1 + 5 + N8 + 9 + db y1 + N6 + 9
w2

2
4b
2 4 2
2

3 a(1 2db )
16b

N5

N9 x2 + N2 +

N 1 3
+ N6 + 9 + db y2

2 4 2

N
N 1 3
N3 + 7 + N6 + 9 + db y3 N8 + N9 3 (1 2db ) w
4

4
2
2

2
2
4b
3 a(1 2db )
16b

N9 x4 + N4 +

N 1 3
+ N8 + 9 + db y4

2 4 2
2

N7

(26)

The element formulation is hence a pseudo nine node formulation which


will increase the accuracy of the solution, and is better than the classical
Q8 Mindlin plate element (Zienkiewicz, 1991) and the pseudo 8 element
by Law and Cheng (2006) in many different real cases.

kx

k = ky

kxy

yx

yy

y
y
y
x

x
y

(27)

Ni yxi ; yy = Ni y yi

(25)

x(1 x )(1 h )

The nodal rotations for the pseudo nine node element are determined
by the classical element shape function as:

yx =

(1 x )h (1 h) N 9 = (1 x )(1 h )

N
3 (1 2da)
N7 + 9 w +
4

2
4a

The curvature of the element is given by:

16a

N9 y3 +

x(1 + x )(1 h )

3 b(1 2da )

y = N8 +

x3

1 3
1 3
3 (1 2da )
3 b(1 2da)
w4 +
x4 + + da y4
+ + da y3
8 4
8 4
8a
16a

N1

N
2

N3

N4

3 (1 2da)
N
N 1 3
N
N7 + 9 w + N3 + 6 + N7 + 9 + da x3
3

4a
2

2 4 2
2

3 a(1 2db )
N 3 (1 2db)
N9 x3 +
w3
N6 + 9

16b
4b
2

1 3
3 (1 2da)
+ + da y1 +
w2
8 4
8a

da y2

16a

3 (1 2da)
N
N5 + 9 w +
2

4a
2

N9 y1

N 1 3
N
3 b(1 2da )
N4 + 8 + N7 + 9 + da x4 +
N9 y4

2 4 2
2
16a

(21)
3 (1 2da)

3 b(1 2da )

N 1 3
N
N1 + 8 + N5 + 9 + da x1

2 4 2
2

N 1 3
3 b(1 2da )
N
N2 + 6 + N5 + 9 + da x2 +
N9 y2

2 4 2
16a
2

x7 =

N
3 (1 2da)
N5 + 9 w +
1

2
4a

(24)

yx h
yx 1 yy
yx
yy x
yy
.
.
.
,
=
=
etc
=
=
h y
h b
y
x
x x
x

Using

and by appropriately differentiating Eqn (25) and Eqn (26), the B matrix
for bending as equated by k = B Bae can be presented as B B = [B B1 B B2
B B3 B B4] where:

THE HKIE TRANSACTIONS Volume 19 Number 1

17

B B1 =

3(1 2da) x (1 h )
4a

(1 h)(1 3x + 6dax)

4a

3(1 2db) (1 x )h

4b2

3a(1 2db) (1 x 2)h

3b(1 2da )x(1 h2)


8a

(1 x)(1 3h + 6dbh)

8b2

4b

3[(1 2da)(1 x ) + (1 2db )(1 h )]

(1 x)[1 + 3x 6da(1+ x) ] 3(1 2db ) x (1 h2)

(1 h)[1 + 3h 6db (1+ h) ] 3(1 2da ) (1 x 2)h

8ab

8b

8a

(1 h)(1 +3x 6dax)

3b(1 2da )x(1 h2)

4a

8a2

3a(1 2db) (1 x 2)h

(1+ x)(1 3h + 6dbh)

3(1 2da) x (1 h )

4a2

3(1 2db) (1+ x )h


B B2 =
4b2

3[(1 2d )(1 x2) + (1 2d )(1 h2)]


a
b

8ab

B B3 =

8b2
(1+ x)[1 3x 6da(1 x) ] + 3(1 2db ) x (1 h )

(1 h)[1 + 3h 6db (1+ h) ] + 3(1 2da ) (1 x 2)h

8b

8a

3(1 2da) x (1+ h )


4a

4b
2

3(1 2db) (1+ x )h

4b2

(1+ h)(1 +3x 6dax)

4a
3a(1 2db) (1 x 2)h

8b2

3b(1 2da )x(1 h2)


8a

(1+ x)(1+ 3h 6dbh)


4b

3[(1 2da)(1 x2) + (1 2db )(1 h2)]

(1+ x)[1 3x 6da(1 x) ] 3(1 2db ) x (1 h2)

(1+ h)[1 3h 6db (1 h) ] 3(1 2da ) (1 x 2)h

8ab

8b

8a

(1+ h)(1 3x + 6dax)

3b(1 2da )x(1 h2)

3(1 2da) x (1+ h )

4a2

3(1 2db) (1 x )h
B B4 =

4b2

3[(1 2d )(1 x2) + (1 2d )(1 h2)]


a
b

8ab

M
x
3
Et
M = D k and D =
y
b
b

12(1 m2)
Mxy

4a

8a

3a(1 2db) (1 x 2)h

(1 x)(1+ 3h 6dbh)

8b2

4b

(1 x)[1+ 3x 6da(1+ x) ] + 3(1 2db ) x (1 h2)

(1+ h)[1 3h 6db (1 h) ] + 3(1 2da ) (1 x 2)h

8b

8a

1 m 0

1 0
m

1m
0

(28)

(29)

So the stiffness matrix for bending is:


b a
1 1
1 1


e
T
T
T
K b = B B DbB B dxdy = B B DbB B| J | d x d h = ab B B DbB B d x d h

(30)
b a
1 1
1 1
e

The total stiffness of the plate element will be K = K s + K b by Eqn (11).


In this way, the user will only need to deal with four node element which
has no unstable behaviour of ordinary higher element as mentioned
previously, but the internal computation is actually based on a nine
node element with very high accuracy.

Performance of the PLATE-9 Demonstrated by


Numerical Examples
For demonstration of the performance of the PLATE-9 element, a cantilever
plate element of width 1.8 m, length 1.5 m, thickness 0.2 m formulated
in accordance with Eqn (28) to Eqn (30) is fixed at two adjacent nodes
(Nodes 1 and 2) as shown in Fig 11. Two point loads of 150 kN are
acting at the two free corner nodes, Nodes 3 and 4 at Case (1) and
additional moments are added in Case (2). For such a simple case, it
is surprising to find that the popular plate elements available in those
popular commercial finite element programmes cannot perform well.
This plate is analysed by the PLATE-8 Element and PLATE-9 Element. As
shown in Fig 12, the moment contours for the moment in the direction of
the cantilever span of the PLATE-9 Element are curved. By the restraints
18

Figure 11 Example for Demonstration of the Good Performance of the


PLATE Q-9 Element as Compared with PLATE Q-8 Node Element
of the limited power of the shape functions of the PLATE-8 Element, only
linear variation of stress can be demonstrated whilst that of the PLATE-9
can demonstrate non-linear variations even only one element is used.
The differences in effects are more pronounced in Case (2) where there
are end moments applied at the free corners.
For comparison purpose, an approximate analytical solution has been
derived. The cantilever slab is treated as a thin plate and analysed by
the Ritz W Method with its displacement function as:

n
w(x, y) = c i fi (x, y)
(31)
i=1

As the cantilever slab is symmetrical about the centroidal axis, the


deflection curve can be expressed as:

w(x, y) = X(x) . Y(y) (32)

THE HKIE TRANSACTIONS Volume 19 Number 1

where D =

Et

12(1 m)

with t as the plate thickness, E and m as the

Youngs Modulus and Poisson ratio of the material respectively and:

2w

Mx = D

+m

2
2
2w
w
w
; My = D 2 + m 2 and
2
y
x
y
2

Mxy = D (1 m)
Figure 12(a) Moment along Span of Cantilever for Case (1) of Figure 11
PLATE Q-8 on the Left and PLATE Q-9 on the Right

w
x y2

The external potential energy for Case (1) of Fig 11 will be:
V = Pw(0, b) + Pw(a, b) and for Case (2)

(36)


w
w
w
V = Pw(0, b) + MX x
+ MX x
+ Pw(a, b) + MY x
y (0, b)
x (0, b)
x (a, b)

+ MY x

w
y

(37)
(a, b)

where P, MX and MY are the applied loads and moments at the free
corners. To minimise the total energy = U + V, differentiation is
performed with respect to the coefficients c1 and c2 in Eqn (33) such that:
Figure 12(b) Moment along Span of Cantilever for Case (2) of Figure 11
PLATE Q-8 on the Left and PLATE Q-9 on the Right
where x and y are coordinates defined in Fig 13 and the functions X(x)
and Y(y) are:

x
2x3
x4
X(x) = c1 + c2 3 + 4
(33)
A
A
A

3y2
y3
Y(y) = 2 3
B
B

The Ritz W Method is carried out with minimisation of the sum of the
internal energy and external potential energy. For the plate structure,
the former is the sum of the bending and twisting energies given as:
y x
y x
y x


1 2
1 2
1 2
U=
M
dxdy
+
M
dxdy
+
M
dxdy

(35)
x
y
xy
2D y
2D
2D
y1 x1

(38)

On solving the simultaneous equations obtained in Eqn (38), c1 and c2


can be solved for the Cases (1) and (2) of Fig 11. The complete deflection
and moment fields can be obtained. The moment contours along the Y
axis are plotted in Fig 14.


(34)

The X(x) function is chosen such that symmetry can be achieved at the
axis x = A/2 and the Y(y) is in fact the deflection shape of a cantilever
beam. c1 and c2 are coefficients to be determined. A higher order function
for Y(y) has been tried but it is found that the coefficients from 4th order
upwards are zero from Ritz energy minimisation analyses. Ge and Liu
(1999) and Yuan (1993) have demonstrated that for cantilever slab under
uniformly distributed load, the use of Eqn (32) will be adequate when
compared with infinite series solution (error around 2%).

= 0 and
= 0
c1
c2

y1 x1

x1

Figure 14 Moment along Span of Y-axis for Cases (1) and (2) of Figure
11 by the Ritz W Method with Case (1) on the Left and Case (2) on the
Right
Since only one element is used for the present study, the performance
of the element near location with high variation in internal forces is
clearly illustrated. It can be readily seen that the structural behaviour
of PLATE-9 element is closer to the reality than that of the PLATE-8
element. Finally, the shear jump problem in the raft footing (Fig 4) as
discussed in the foregoing is re-analysed by the PLATE-9 element with
results as shown in Fig 15. It is noticed that the unreasonable shear
jump of nearly 4,000 kN/m at x = 23.985m by the IB element does
not appear, demonstrating the good accuracy of the PLATE-9 element
for a problem with highly distorted mesh.

Numerical Examples

Figure 13 Plate Model for Analysis by Ritz W Method

The cantilever structure plate in Fig 11 has been re-analysed by SAFE


for comparison with that obtained from the proposed element PLATE-9.
As SAFE does not allow analysis of single plate element, the smallest
practical mesh of 4 x 4 is used. For more detailed analysis, higher
degree of meshing of 20 x 20 has also been tried. The moment per
unit width along the direction of the cantilever span are plotted in Figs
16(a) and 16(b).

THE HKIE TRANSACTIONS Volume 19 Number 1

19

Although the moment stress contours follow a similar pattern with that
of TMQ-9 element and that by series (demonstrating a well-known
phenomenon that results from finite element analysis can converge to
accurate values at fine meshing), SAFE gives high stress concentration at
nodes where there are applied moments. The stress concentration effect
becomes more pronounced with the increasing degrees of meshing which
is also a common phenomenon in finite element analysis. In comparison,
the proposed plate element PLATE-9 is a simple quadrilateral element
that can give accurate results even at a single element configuration.
Similar analysis by the famous large-scale finite element programme
ANSYS has also been carried out for the present problem, with the DKT
plate element. When four DKT elements are used, the moment contours
as shown in Fig 17 are practically straight lines without indication of any
corner effects. Since the results are poor, different meshes have been
tried, and it is found that a mesh with a minimum of 64 elements is
required before the curvature of the moment contours as shown in Fig 18
becomes obvious. The results in Fig 18 are also similar to the results in
Fig 12 by PLATE-9 and Fig 14 by the analytical solution by series. From
these results, it can be concluded that PLATE-9 has the best performance
as it can, such that by using one element, yield results similar to that
with 64 DKT elements in ANSYS with many elements.

(a) Results of Shear by PLATE-9

Many thick plates have been developed (Zienkeiwicz and Taylor, 2005)
for the past 20 years. The current formulation of PLATE-9 possesses

(b) Results of Shear by IB Element


Figure 15 Shear Jump Problem as Discussed by Law and Cheng (2006)
and Re-analysed by PLATE-9 Element

Figure 17 Moment along Span of Cantilever for Case (1) of Figure 11


Using four Elements
Figure 16(a) Moment along Span (Y-axis) for Cases (1) and (2) of Figure
11 by the SAFE of Meshing of 4 x 4 with Case (1) on the Left and Case
(2) on the Right

Figure 16(b) Moment along Span (Y-axis) for Cases (1) and (2) of Figure
11 by the SAFE of Meshing 20 x 20 with Case (1) on the Left and Case
(2) on the Right
20

Figure 18 Moment along Span of Cantilever for Case (2) of Figure 11


Using 64 Elements

THE HKIE TRANSACTIONS Volume 19 Number 1

the advantages of using total energy consideration without the need of


artificial compensations in form of bubble function (Wilson and Taylor,
1973) or stabilisation matrices (Hughes, 1987). Even though the resulting
matrices from the present formulations are more complicated in the form,
the present formulation is easier to understand as compared with most
of the modern thick plate formulations. The PLATE-9 element can be
used in a way similar to any other classical thick plate elements with
only minor increase in computation effort as most of the computer time
is devoted to solution of stiffness matrix equations rather than stiffness
matrix formulations. When comparing the differences between PLATE-8
and PLATE-9, the only major difference is the B-matrix. For PLATE-8, some
of the entries in the B-matrix are zero while all entries are non-zero in
the B-matrix for PLATE-9. The increase in the computer time for such
a difference is minimal, but there is a much better improvement in the
accuracy of results. Hence, PLATE-9 is preferred to PLATE-8 for general
cases. The total time used by the IB element and PLATE-9 for a mesh
with 16,641 nodes is almost the same (which is 55 sec) by a computer
using 2.83 GHz Intel Xeon. So, without using extra computer time or
memory, a much better accuracy can be achieved by using PLATE-9
which is beneficial to complicated problems.

Discussion and Conclusion


The proposed methods to overcome the shear jump problems are
considered straightforward and easy to apply, under the demonstration
by the worked examples in the paper. Furthermore, as the errors arisen
from the problem are localised, the interpolation technique (with the
use of high order polynomials) employed by the proposed methods is
considered appropriate and can yield good and correct results.
The PLATE-9 element developed by the authors in this paper is in
fact a further development of the PLATE-8 element proposed by the
authors (Law and Cheng, 2006; Cheng and Law, 2008). As similar to
the PLATE-8 element, PLATE-9 is formulated by energy minimisation.
The formulation of both is more direct to engineers as compared with
other elements employing bubble functions, substitution shear strain or
stabilisation matrices in their formulation. Nevertheless, with the increased
order of polynomials in the formulation of the shape functions, much
better performance than PLATE-8 in terms of internal forces change,
edge effort, and rate of convergence has been proven in the worked
examples as demonstrated in the foregoing sections of this paper and
in comparison with the Ritz W Method. Even very accurate solutions can
be effected under a coarse meshing. In addition, even the formulation of
the stiffness matrix is more complicated, there is no significant increase
in computation time as compared with the IB elements with the same
meshing. Summing up, it is more worthwhile to adopt this PLATE-9
element in finite element analysis in the future.
In addition, the current PLATE-8 and PLATE-9 elements differ from
the conventional eight or nine node elements by having the mid-side
nodes and centre nodes statically condensed into the corner nodes.
(Conventional eight or nine node element refer to an element with all
the eight and nine nodes participated in the final stiffness matrix, each
yielding three number of degree of freedom.) Such static condensation
has the merit of retaining the high order of polynomial functions in
the formulation of the shape functions (thus higher accuracy) but with
considerable reduction in the final stiffness matrix of an element.
That is the degree of freedom of a conventional eight or nine node
elements that falls from 24 or 27 to 12. Obviously, computation time
will be significantly reduced. In addition, instability may occur in these
conventional eight or nine node elements if their mid-side nodes are
restrained and have external application of loads. In order to cut short
the computation time and avoid instability problems, such condensation
is much preferred in finite element formulation.

avoided. However, softwares currently available in market often perform


auto-meshing by which the designers ability to mesh the structure is
very limited. Thus the designer may have to examine the results carefully
and identify any anomalies and try re-meshing if required.

Acknowledgements
This work is supported by the project Enhanced analysis and design of
thick plate structures 87T3 by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

References
1. Babuska, I., Scapolia, T., Benchmark computation and performance evaluation
for a rhombic plate bending problem. International Journal for Numerical
Methods in Engineering. Volume 28, pp155-181. (1989).
2. Bathe, K.J., Dvorkin, A Four node plate bending element based on Mindlin/
Ressiner plate theory and mixed interpolation. International Journal for Numerical
Methods in Engineering. Volume 21, pp367-383. (1985).
3. Cheng, Y.M., Flexible Pile Cap Analysis, internal report, Hong Kong Polytechnic
University. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. (2003).
4. Cheng, Y.M., Law, C.W., Some Problems in Analysis and Design of Thin/
Thick Plate. The HKIE Transactions. Volume 12, No 1, pp1-8. The Hong Kong
Institution of Engineers. Hong Kong (2005).
5. Cheng, Y.M., Law, C.W., Problems with a popular thick plate element and the
development of an improved thick plate element. Structural Engineering and
Mechanics. Volume 29, pp327-338. (2008).
6. Computers and Structures Inc 2002, Safe 7.0 Users and verification manual.
(2002).
7. Ge, X.S., Liu, S., Bending and stability of cantilever rectangular plants. Journal
of computational mechanics (Chinese Ed). Volume 16, No 3, pp362-365. (1999).
8. Hughes, T.J.R., The Finite Element Method. Prentice Hall. (1987).
9. Hughes, T.J.R., Hinton, E., Finite Element Methods for Plates and Shell Structures.
Volume 1. Pineridge Press. (1986).
10. Ibrahimbegovic, A., Plate quadrilateral finite elements with incompatible
mode.Communications in Applied Numerical Methods. Volume8,pp497-504.
(1992).
11. Ibrahimbegovic, A., Quadrilateral Finite Elements for Analysis of Thick and
Thin Plates. Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering. Volume
10, pp195-209. (1993).
12. Jirousek, J., Wroblewski, A., Szybinski, B., A new 12 d.o.f. quadrilateral element
for analysis of thick and thin plates. International Journal for Numerical Methods
in Engineering. Volume 38, pp2619-2638. (1995).
13. Katili, I., A new discrete Kirchhoff-Mindlin element based on Mindlin-Reissner
plate theory and assumed shear strain fields Part I: an extended DKT element
for thick-plate bending analysis. International Journal for Numerical Methods
in Engineering. Volume 36, pp1859-1883. (1993).
14. Law, C.W., Cheng, Y.M., Improved Thick Plate Analysis and Design. The HKIE
Transactions. Volume 13, No 2, pp49-58. The Hong Kong Institution of
Engineers. Hong Kong (2006).
15. Reddy, J.N., Theory and Analysis of Elastic Plates. Taylor and Francis. (2000).
16. Reismann, H., Elastic Plates, Theory and Application. John Wiley. (1988).
17. Sze, K.Y., Three-dimensional continuum finite element models for plate/shell
analysis. Progress in Structural Engineering and Materials. Volume 4, pp400407. (2002).
18. Timoshenko, S., Krieger, W., Theory of Plates and Shells. McGraw-Hill. (1959).
19. Wang, C.M., Reddy, J.N., Lee, K.H., Shear deformable beams and plates. Elsevier.
(2000).
20. Wilson, E.L., Taylor, R.L., Doherty, W., Ghaboussi, J., Incompatible Displacement
Models. Numerical and Computer Methods in Structural Mechanics. Academic
Press. (1973).
21. Yuan, Y.W., A polynomial method for solving the problems for lateral instability
of cantilever plates. Applied Mathematics and Mechanics (English Ed). Volume
14, No 2, pp163-168. (1993).
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edition. Butterworth and Heinemann. (2005).

Finally, as discussed in the foregoing, abnormal results by the finite


element analysis are often originated from poor meshing of the structure if
the performance of the element employed is not good enough. Therefore,
as a general rule, rectangular elements of large length breadth ratios
should not be used if possible. In addition, triangular elements joining
rectangular elements do sometimes give erratic results and should also be
THE HKIE TRANSACTIONS Volume 19 Number 1

21

About the Authors


C W LAW BSc MSc MIStructE MHKIE MICE
Email: cw.law@housingauthority.gov.hk
Ir Law received his BSc and MSc degrees from the
University of Hong Kong in 1978 and 1995 respectively.
He obtained his professional qualifications in 1982. He
is currently serving as a Senior Structural Engineer in the
Housing Department of the HKSAR Government. Before
joining the Housing Department, he worked as a Senior
Engineer with Hyder Consultants. Throughout his career,
he has been engaged in design and administration of
various projects involving tall buildings, deep basements,
transfer structures and studies of various aspects
of theories and methods in reinforced concrete structures analysis and design
including the finite element method, concrete shrinkage and creep, ductility etc. He
has published 13 papers in both the HKIE Transactions and international journals.

Y M CHENG BSc MPhil PhD MICE MHKIE


CEng R.P.E.
Email: ceymchen@polyu.edu.hk
Ir Dr Cheng received his BSc, MPhil and PhD degrees
from the University of Hong Kong in 1981, 1990 and
1992 respectively. He has worked on the design and
construction of MTRC Island Line project, Eastern
Harbour Crossing project and Island Eastern Corridor
project and has worked in consultant, contractor and
client sector before joining the university. Currently,
his research interests include slope stability, pile
foundation, finite element/distinct element method,
plate analysis on pile cap and transfer plate. Ir Dr Cheng is currently an Associate
Professor of the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, the Hong Kong
Polytechnic University.

22

THE HKIE TRANSACTIONS Volume 19 Number 1

Y YANG MSc
Email: yangy30@hotmail.com
Mr Yang obtained his masters degree from the
University of Science and Technology, Beijing and is
currently a PhD research student at the Hong Kong
Polytechnic University. His research areas include
both geotechnical engineering as well as structural
engineering.