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INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL FOR NUMERICAL METHODS IN ENGINEERING

Int. J. Numer. Meth. Engng 2009; 79:379–416


Published online 12 February 2009 in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI: 10.1002/nme.2559

A modified node-to-segment algorithm passing the contact


patch test

Giorgio Zavarise and Laura De Lorenzis∗, †


Department of Innovation Engineering, Università del Salento, Lecce, Italy

SUMMARY
Several investigations have shown that the classical one-pass node-to-segment (NTS) algorithms for the
enforcement of contact constraints fail the contact patch test. This implies that the algorithms may
introduce solution errors at the contacting surfaces, and these errors do not necessarily decrease with mesh
refinement. The previous research has mainly focused on the Lagrange multiplier method to exactly
enforce the contact geometry conditions. The situation is even worse with the penalty method, due to its
inherent approximation that yields a solution affected by a non-zero penetration. The aim of this study is
to analyze and improve the contact patch test behavior of the one-pass NTS algorithm used in conjunction
with the penalty method for 2D frictionless contact. The paper deals with the case of linear elements. For
this purpose, several sequential modifications of the basic formulation have been considered, which yield
incremental improvements in results of the contact patch test. The final proposed formulation is a modified
one-pass NTS algorithm which is able to pass the contact patch test also if used in conjunction with the
penalty method. In other words, this algorithm is able to correctly reproduce the transfer of a constant
contact pressure with a constant proportional penetration. Copyright q 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Received 26 May 2008; Revised 18 December 2008; Accepted 23 December 2008

KEY WORDS: contact mechanics; contact patch test; node-to-segment; penalty method

1. INTRODUCTION

In contact analyses performed using the finite element method, the contact surfaces are divided
into segments and a contact formulation is adopted for the enforcement of the contact boundary
conditions. The so-called one-pass node-to-segment (NTS) algorithm is widely used, due to its
simplicity, clear physical meaning and flexibility.
The NTS algorithm was originally introduced for the enforcement of purely geometric non-
penetration conditions between the bodies in contact. Early implementations are reported in Hughes
et al. [1, 2], Hallquist [3], and have been extended to more general cases in Bathe and Chaudhary

∗ Correspondence to: Laura De Lorenzis, Department of Innovation Engineering, Università del Salento, Lecce, Italy.

E-mail: laura.delorenzis@unile.it

Copyright q 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


380 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

[4], Hallquist et al. [5], Wriggers and Simo [6], Wriggers et al. [7], Papadopoulos et al. [8],
Stupkiewicz [9], Areias et al. [10], see also Wriggers and Zavarise [11]. The non-penetration
conditions are enforced by preventing the nodes on one contact surface (the ‘slave’ one) from
penetrating the contact segments on the counterpart contact surface (the ‘master’ one).
The NTS approach is generally used in conjunction with lower-order elements [12]. This choice
is made partly because of the greater simplicity of the formulation, and partly because of the
non-uniform distribution of nodal forces associated with higher-order shape functions in presence
of a uniform stress field. This paper will only deal with the case of linear elements.
The contact patch test, introduced by Taylor and Papodopoulos [13], can be used to check
the capability of a contact formulation to exactly transmit constant normal stresses between two
contacting surfaces, regardless of their discretization. Algorithms that do not pass the patch test
introduce solution errors at the contacting surfaces. These errors do not necessarily decrease with
mesh refinement.
As will be illustrated in detail in later sections, the classical NTS contact formulation fails the
patch test, whereas the two-pass NTS algorithm passes the patch test but only if used in conjunction
with the Lagrange multiplier method. The aim of this study is to analyze and to improve the patch
test behavior of the NTS algorithm used in 2D frictionless contact in combination with the penalty
method. The classical formulation has been modified in several sequential steps, each one producing
incremental improvements in results of the contact patch test. The final target is the development of
a modified one-pass NTS algorithm able to pass the patch test also if used in conjunction with the
penalty method. In other words, this algorithm should be able to correctly reproduce the transfer
of a constant contact pressure, producing also a constant proportional penetration.

2. STATE-OF-ART REVIEW

Taylor and Papadopoulos [13] first demonstrated that the one-pass NTS algorithm does not pass
the contact patch test. The reason can be explained as follows: in the classical NTS approach, the
contact contribution to the virtual work is conventionally based on the concentrated contact force
and corresponding virtual displacement at each slave node. It can be shown that this corresponds
to an integration scheme along the contacting surfaces, whose integration points are the nodes
of the slave surface. On the other hand, the normal gap function is piecewise continuous, with
possible discontinuities arising at the nodes of both contact surfaces. As a result, the integration
cannot be exact. Owing to the insufficient number of integration points, the contact term in the
virtual work equation is evaluated incorrectly and the patch test cannot be passed. The authors also
showed that the two-pass NTS approach, having a sufficient number of integration points, is able
to correctly evaluate the contact contribution to the virtual work, hence it passes the patch test.
This conclusion holds when an exact enforcement of the contact boundary conditions is achieved,
e.g. by using the Lagrange multiplier method. It will be shown later that this is no longer the case
when an approximate enforcement is obtained by using the penalty method.
After Taylor and Papodopoulos [13], a few more recent studies have dealt with the patch test
performance of the NTS algorithm, and on possible techniques to improve it. Crisfield [12] focused
on the case of higher-order elements, with contact modeled by the two-pass NTS algorithm. He
carried out test problems for both straight and curved interface geometries. In addition, he proposed
a new contact formulation, based on the combined use of lower-order shape functions for the

Copyright q 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Engng 2009; 79:379–416
DOI: 10.1002/nme
A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 381

force distribution, and higher-order functions for the geometry. Numerical results showed that this
formulation significantly improved the contact patch test performance for higher-order elements.
El-Abbasi and Bathe [14] analyzed both the stability and the patch test performance of several
contact algorithms, including the one-pass and the two-pass NTS approaches. They showed that,
for linear elements, the one-pass algorithm is stable but it fails the patch test, whereas the two-pass
algorithm passes the patch test but it is unstable. They also proposed a new contact algorithm based
on the Lagrange multiplier method, which can be classified as a segment-to-segment approach
[15] and satisfies both the stability and the patch test requirements.
Park et al. [16] developed an algorithm for interface coupling of independently discretized
finite element models. They introduced an interface patch test criterion that can be employed a
priori for the localized construction of non-matching structural interfaces. The key aspects of the
algorithm are (i) the introduction of a frame, interposed between the subdomains to be connected,
that localizes the Lagrange multipliers (interface forces) and (ii) the global self-equilibrium of the
frame, verified through its rigid-body motions as test functions. Feature (i) leads to a modular
construction of interface constraints. If the frame displacement field is piecewise linear, feature
(ii) provides a frame node placement criterion that determines the frame node locations so that the
interface patch test condition is satisfied a priori.
Tan [17] discussed the patch test performance in relation to mesh matching. He derived the
conditions to ensure that a mesh matching formulation passes the patch test. These include partition
of unity and compatible conditions of shape functions, as well as the inf–sup condition of the
augmented equilibrium equations. He presented various examples to show the patch test perfor-
mance of lower- and higher-order mesh matching (contact) formulations for straight and curved
interfaces in 2D. For a general 3D case, an example showed also that, unlike in 2D, the two-pass
NTS formulation using linear elements could not pass the patch test.
Chen and Hisada [18] developed a modified one-pass NTS approach where, instead of using
concentrated contact forces at the slave nodes, the contact contribution to the virtual work is
integrated on the contact surfaces based on the nodal contact pressure. Moreover, projection points
from the master nodes are found on the slave surface, and the contact pressures at these points are
interpolated from those at the slave nodes. This algorithm passes the patch test, however it yields
asymmetry in the contact stiffness matrix.
Kim et al. [19] developed a new computational strategy for two-dimensional contact problems
within the range of infinitesimal deformations. With the aid of variable-node finite elements,
which are among moving least-square-based finite elements, the node-to-surface contact problems
are transformed into node-to-node contact problems. This contact formulation with variable-node
elements leads to an accurate and effective solution procedure, and passes the contact patch test
without any additional treatment.
All the above reviewed studies have focused on the use of the Lagrange multiplier method to
exactly enforce the contact geometry condition. As some authors explicitly stated, the results based
on the Lagrange multiplier method can be extended to the case where the penalty method is used,
but only in the limit as the penalty parameter approaches infinity. Despite being approximate, due
to its great simplicity the penalty method is widely used in contact formulations. In this method
the contact force at each slave node is proportional to the penetration of the slave node into the
master segment, hence no additional unknowns are introduced in the problem. With respect to
the Lagrange multiplier method, the penalty one presents specific characteristics and needs to be
investigated separately. The main drawback is related to the penalty parameter that cannot become
too large, in order to avoid ill-conditioning of the stiffness matrix and consequent difficulties in

Copyright q 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Engng 2009; 79:379–416
DOI: 10.1002/nme
382 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

convergence. Owing to the above characteristics, large problems can only be tackled with relatively
small penalty parameters.

3. OUTLINE OF THE STUDY

In the context of the finite element method and using the classical NTS algorithms, the geometrical
non-penetration condition is enforced on the discretized geometry at each slave node. From the
mathematical point of view, the penalty method consists of a local approximate enforcement of
the geometrical non-penetration condition [20], obtained by minimizing a suitable modification of
the potential
 
¯ = +
  N g N (1)
A

where  and  ¯ are, respectively, the unmodified (contactless) and the modified potential functionals

of the problem; A stands for the summation extended to all the slave nodes where the non-
penetration condition has been violated; g N is the distance between the contacting surfaces, i.e.
the measure of the penetration (normal gap function);  N is the so-called penalty parameter, and
 and  are further constants that have to be suitably selected. Moreover, the constants  and 
are typically set to the values 12 and 2, respectively, hence
1
¯ = +
 2 N gN
2
(2)
A

It can be easily shown that this corresponds to locating linear discrete springs, of zero initial length
and stiffness  N , at those slave nodes for which the evaluation of the normal gap, g N , detects
a penetration state (Figure 1). The elongation of these springs corresponds to the value of the
penetration. Section 4 will highlight that the use of such discrete springs prevents the contact patch
test from being passed, due to the non-uniform contact areas and the constant penalty parameter
associated with the various slave nodes.
On the other hand, on examining the physical aspect of the problem at the microscopic scale, it
is evident that contact occurs between the asperities of the surfaces. These are better modeled as a
continuous bed of springs than as a set of nodal discrete springs (Figure 2). The two approaches
can be related considering the stiffness of each nodal spring (or, equivalently, the nodal contact
force) as the result of an integration over the ‘area of competence’ of the slave node. This area
of competence can be defined as the sum of the half-lengths of the two segments adjacent to

Master surface

Slave surface

Figure 1. Physical meaning of the penalty method.

Copyright q 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Engng 2009; 79:379–416
DOI: 10.1002/nme
A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 383

Figure 2. Idealization of surface asperities as a bed of springs.

Area of competence of the


slave node S = lAB = lAS + lSB
lAS lSB
S1 S2
A B
S

n gN
t

2 1
(1−ξ) l12 ξ l12
l12

Figure 3. Area of competence of a slave node S.

S1 S2 S1 S2
A B A B
S S

(a) (b)

Figure 4. Penalty with area regularization—slave node formulation: (a) distributed springs of stiffness ˆ N
and (b) equivalent spring of stiffness  N .

the slave node [21]. Details about this geometry are provided in Figure 3, where t and n are,
respectively, the tangent and normal unit vectors, l12 is the master segment length and  is the
normalized projection of the slave node onto the master segment, 01. As a result, the discrete
spring stiffness located at each slave node is the resultant of the distributed stiffness of the springs
located along the area of competence (Figure 4), i.e.  N = ˆ N (l AS +l S B ), where ˆ N is the stiffness
per unit length of the bed of springs, and (l AS +l S B ) is the area of competence of the slave node
(Figure 3). Such equivalence is computed for each slave node.
Alternatively, the equivalence between distributed and discrete springs can be set up looking
at each slave segment rather than at each slave node, as shown in Figure 5. This corresponds to
carrying out a 2-point Newton–Cotes integration over each slave segment.
In order to discuss the patch test performance of the NTS algorithms, we have first to look no
longer at a single slave node, but rather at the two end nodes of a slave segment. Then, two main
categories of cases can be introduced. The first category includes cases where the projection of
each slave segment is contained within a single segment on the master surface. These are indicated
as ‘normal’ cases. The second category includes all the remaining cases, where the projection

Copyright q 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Engng 2009; 79:379–416
DOI: 10.1002/nme
384 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

S1 S1
S ⇒ S

(a) (b)

Figure 5. Penalty with area regularization—slave segment formulation: (a) distributed springs of stiffness
ˆ N and (b) equivalent springs of stiffness  N .

S S

S1 S1

n
t n
2 1 2 t 1 n
t
2
1
(a) (b)

Figure 6. Projection cases: (a) ‘normal’ case and (b) ‘pathologic’ case.

involves more than one segment on the master surface. These cases are indicated in the following
as ‘pathologic’ cases (Figure 6).
In ‘normal’ cases, it can be easily demonstrated that, for each slave segment, there is equivalence
of forces and moments between the uniform contact pressure acting on the slave segment and the
concentrated forces transmitted to the corresponding master nodes by using the NTS algorithm.
Once this equivalence holds, the use of the area of competence as a weighting factor for the penalty
parameter is sufficient to guarantee that the NTS formulation in conjunction with the penalty
method passes the contact patch test. This will be detailed in Section 4.
In ‘pathologic’ cases, treated in Section 5, the previously mentioned equivalence does no longer
hold for each slave segment, while it continues to hold at the global level. As a result, the patch test
is not passed. To deal with these cases with an NTS strategy (as opposed to a segment-to-segment
one), we have to look again at a single slave node. In this context, it emerges that two distinct ideal
steps are involved in the transfer of a uniform contact pressure between two discretized contacting
bodies:
• the first step is the slave nodal force computation, i.e. the transformation of a uniform contact
pressure over the slave surface into concentrated contact forces acting at the slave nodes;
• the second step is the slave nodal force transmission, i.e. the ideal transformation of the
concentrated forces located at the slave nodes into a corresponding uniform contact pressure
acting over the master surface. This then has to be transformed into equivalent forces on the
master nodes.
In order for the patch test to be passed, equivalence of forces and moments between the
concentrated forces and the uniform contact pressure must hold at each contact element during
both the above steps. Section 5 shows that, in pathologic cases, equivalence of moments is violated
during either one or both of the aforementioned steps.
It can be easily proved that the classical NTS scheme corresponds to a 2-node Newton–Cotes
integration over the slave segments (Figure 7(b)). The virtual slave node technique, proposed by

Copyright q 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Engng 2009; 79:379–416
DOI: 10.1002/nme
A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 385

S1 S1
S S

(a) (b)

Virtual slave nodes at


Virtual slave nodes at quarter point locations
Gauss point locations
S1
S1
l/4 S
S
l/2
l/4
l
(c) (d)

Figure 7. Original and modified virtual slave node techniques: (a) continuous scheme; (b) classical NTS
scheme; (c) original virtual slave node technique; and (d) modified virtual slave node technique.

Zavarise et al. [22], consists of changing the integration scheme usually adopted in NTS contact
elements. An arbitrary number of points is specified inside each contact element, and each of
these points is treated by the NTS algorithm as a (virtual) slave node. This technique guarantees
a higher flexibility, by making the discretization used for enforcement of the contact conditions
independent from the discretization used for the continuum. In the original formulation of the
virtual slave node technique, virtual slave nodes are located at the Gauss points of each slave
segment (see Figure 7(c), where two virtual slave nodes are introduced). Section 5.1 introduces a
modified version of the virtual slave node technique, in which two virtual slave nodes are located
at the quarter points of each slave segment (Figure 7(d)). It is shown that, using this procedure,
equivalence of moments is certainly satisfied during the first step mentioned earlier. It is satisfied
also during the second step (hence, the patch test is passed) if the area of competence of each
virtual slave node, when projected onto the master surface, falls within a single segment on the
master surface. If the latter condition does not hold, the concentrated contact forces situated at the
virtual slave nodes are incorrectly transformed into forces at the master nodes. In order to solve
the problem, treated in detail in Section 5.2, care has to be taken while transferring the contact
forces acting at the virtual slave nodes to the elements of the master surface. More in detail, the
following steps have to be followed for each virtual slave node:
(a) identification of the projection of the area of competence of the virtual slave node over the
master surface;
(b) transformation of the concentrated contact force acting at the virtual slave node into a
uniform contact pressure acting over this projected area;
(c) transformation of the uniform contact pressure acting over the projected area into equivalent
concentrated contact forces acting at the end nodes of all the elements on the master surface
involved by the projected area.
The problems briefly outlined above, which prevent the patch test from being passed by the usual
NTS formulation, are described in detail in the following sections. Solutions to such problems
are also proposed and described in detail. For this purpose a modified NTS algorithm passing the
contact patch test is developed in Section 6. The good patch test performance of this new algorithm
is demonstrated with suitable examples in Section 7.

Copyright q 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Engng 2009; 79:379–416
DOI: 10.1002/nme
386 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

4. CONTACT PATCH TEST—‘NORMAL’ CASES

4.1. The problem


It is well known that the enforcement of the geometric non-penetration conditions with the penalty
method is not exact. From the physical standpoint, the use of this method corresponds to locating
springs of stiffness equal to the penalty parameter,  N , at the slave nodes where the normal
gap, g N , is evaluated. The solution tends to the exact one in the limit as the penalty parameter
tends to infinity. The relationship between the contact pressure at each slave node, p N , and the
corresponding normal gap is given by
FN  N g N
pN = = (3)
l AB l AB
where FN is the contact force at the slave node and l AB is its area of competence, i.e. the sum of
the half-lengths of the two segments adjacent to the slave node, see Figure 3 [21]. In the case of a
uniform mesh, l AB is the same for all the slave nodes, except for the two extreme ones that have
an area of competence reduced by half. This implies that, for a given uniform gap, the contact
pressure cannot be uniform, or equivalently that, for a given uniform contact pressure, the gap will
be non-uniform, as shown in Figures 8–10, and detailed later.

4.2. The problem solution


The problem outlined above can be solved by using the penalty method with Area Regularization
(AR) [21], i.e. using the area of competence of each slave node as a weighting factor for the penalty
parameter. This algorithm will be indicated for brevity as NTS-AR, while the NTS algorithm used
in conjunction with the classical penalty method will be simply indicated as NTS. See Table I for
a list of acronyms introduced in the following.
In the NTS-AR algorithm, the penalty coefficient,  N , is no longer a constant, but for each node
it depends on the associated area. In this way the spring of stiffness  N , located at the slave node,

p=1

p 2p p
2p 2p

2 2
(a) (b)

Figure 8. Case test A1: (a) geometry and (b) exact contact force distribution.

εN = 2 N

εN
εN = N
(a) (b)

Figure 9. Case test A1: magnified penetrations: (a) NTS and (b) NTS-AR.

Copyright q 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Engng 2009; 79:379–416
DOI: 10.1002/nme
A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 387

1.10
1.08
1.06

Contact pressure
1.04
1.02
1.00
0.98
0.96
0.94 NTS
NTS - AR
0.92
0.90
-2 -1 0 1 2
x coordinate

Figure 10. Case test A1: contact pressure distributions.

Table I. Acronyms of the various algorithms.


Acronym Acronym explanation Corresponding algorithm
NTS Node to segment Penalty
NTS-AR Node to Penalty with AR
segment—area regularization
VTS-G Virtual (slave node) to Original version of the virtual slave node
segment—Gauss technique (virtual slave node + penalty with AR)
VTS-ME Virtual (slave node) to Modified version of the virtual slave node
segment—moment equilibrium technique (modified virtual slave node + penalty with AR)
VTS-PPT Virtual (slave node) to VTS-ME + special algorithm for slave nodal
segment—passing patch test force transmission

is replaced by a bed of springs of distributed stiffness per unit length ˆ N , located along the area
of competence of the slave node (Figure 4). In this case the input parameter of the analysis is the
stiffness per unit length, ˆ N . The ‘nodal’ stiffness,  N , is obtained as the integral of the distributed
stiffness of the bed of springs
 B
N = ˆ N dl = ˆ N l AB (4a)
A

Therefore, the contact force and pressure are evaluated as follows:

FN =  N g N = ˆ N l AB g N (4b)
p N = ˆ N g N (4c)

Using the NTS-AR algorithm for the case test A1, depicted in Figure 8, uniform normal gap
and contact pressure can be obtained, as shown in Figures 9 and 10.
More in general, in ‘normal’ cases (Figure 6(a)), the use of the AR is sufficient to ensure that
the NTS formulation passes the contact patch test. The reason is that in these cases, for each slave

Copyright q 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Engng 2009; 79:379–416
DOI: 10.1002/nme
388 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

(a) (b)

(c) (d)

Figure 11. Case test A2: magnified penetrations: (a) uniform mesh (NTS); (b) uniform mesh (NTS-AR);
(c) non-uniform mesh (NTS); and (d) non-uniform mesh (NTS-AR).

1.80 1.80
1.70 NTS 1.70 NTS
1.60 NTS - AR 1.60 NTS - AR
Contact pressure
Contact pressure

1.50 1.50
1.40 1.40
1.30 1.30
1.20 1.20
1.10 1.10
1.00 1.00
0.90 0.90
0.80 0.80
-5 -3 -1 1 3 5 -5 -3 -1 1 3 5
(a) x coordinate (b) x coordinate

Figure 12. Case test A2: contact pressure distributions: (a) uniform mesh and (b) non-uniform mesh.

segment, there is equivalence of forces and moments between the uniform contact pressure acting
on the slave segment and the concentrated forces transmitted to the corresponding master nodes
by using the NTS algorithm. Conversely, in ‘pathologic’ cases (Figure 6(b)) such equivalence is
generally not satisfied locally, i.e. for each contact element, while it continues to hold at the global
level. Therefore, the use of AR is not sufficient for the patch test to be passed. This problem will
be discussed in Section 5.

4.3. Case test A1


The geometry of case test A1 is shown in Figure 8(a). Two bodies are pressed into contact with a
uniform pressure. At the contact plane, the upper surface is the slave and the lower is the master

Copyright q 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Engng 2009; 79:379–416
DOI: 10.1002/nme
A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 389

one. Figure 8(b) shows the correct contact force distribution. Note that, in Figure 8 and in the
subsequent ones, the nodal forces shown on each contact surface are those transferred from that
surface to the companion one. These are equal and opposite to the nodal forces acting on the
surfaces themselves.
It may be noticed that, assuming the correct distribution of contact forces at the slave nodes, the
resulting distribution of forces at the master nodes is correct, i.e. it is compatible with a uniform
pressure over the master surface. This occurs for all ‘normal’ cases, i.e. whenever the projection
of each slave segment onto the master surface is contained within a single segment. However, due
to the constant penalty parameter, the classical penalty method is not able to produce the correct
force distribution at the slave nodes, hence it fails the patch test, as explained earlier. For the
same case test, the NTS-AR algorithm passes the patch test. Evidence of these facts is provided
in Figures 9 and 10.

4.4. Case test A2


In case test A2, an elastic block is pressed against a rigid foundation with a unit pressure. Both
cases of a uniform (Figures 11(a) and (b)) and non-uniform mesh (Figures 11(c) and (d)) are
considered. The deformed shapes and the contact pressure distributions (Figure 12) clearly show
that the AR allows the patch test to be passed for both uniform and non-uniform mesh. Conversely,
the classical penalty yields a non-uniform penetration, due to the non-uniform contact areas and
constant penalty parameter associated with the slave nodes.

5. CONTACT PATCH TEST—‘PATHOLOGIC’ CASES

This section will focus on ‘pathologic’ cases. As mentioned earlier, in these cases the NTS-AR
algorithm is not able to pass the patch test. This is due to two types of errors occurring during
the slave nodal force computation and the slave nodal force transmission. Both problems will be
described and solved in the following.

5.1. Slave nodal force computation


5.1.1. The problem. In the NTS formulation it can be assumed that each slave node, S, transfers
to the master segment the resultant of the contact pressures pertaining to segments AS and SB,
A and B being the mid-nodes of the two segments adjacent to the slave node (Figure 3) [21]. At
each slave node, equivalence of forces and moments between the uniform contact pressure and
the concentrated contact force transferred at the node must hold in order for the patch test to be
passed.
If the two segments adjacent to the generic intermediate slave node are of equal length, the slave
node is centrally located on segment AB (Figure 13(a)). In this case, the contact force transferred to
the master segment coincides with the resultant of the contact pressures acting on AB. Conversely,
if the two segments adjacent to the slave node have unequal length (Figure 13(b)), or if the slave
node under consideration is at the end of the slave surface (Figures 13(c) and (d)), then the slave
node will no longer coincide with the midpoint of the segment AB. However, the resultant of
the contact pressures acting on AB will continue to be transferred at its location. As a result, the
contact force transferred to the master segment will no longer coincide with the resultant of the
contact pressures acting on AB. Hence, equivalence of moments will no longer be satisfied.

Copyright q 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Engng 2009; 79:379–416
DOI: 10.1002/nme
390 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

p p

A S B A S B

p lAB p lAB

(a) (b)

p p

S=A B A S=B

p lAB p lAB

(c) (d)

Figure 13. Transmission of the contact pressure at a slave node: (a) adjacent segments of equal length;
(b) adjacent segments of unequal length; (c) end (first) slave node; and (d) end (last) slave node.

As the above implies, using the NTS approach it is generally not possible to satisfy equivalence
of forces and moments between a uniform contact pressure and the contact forces generated at the
slave nodes. More precisely, this equivalence cannot be satisfied locally, i.e. at each slave node,
while, obviously, global equivalence of forces and moments over the whole slave surface still
holds. As a result, the patch test cannot be passed.
It has to be noticed that Figure 13 and the next ones assume, for simplicity, that the slave and
master surfaces at the location of the slave node S share the same normal direction. However, this
fact does not affect the general treatment of the problem.

5.1.2. The problem solution. The problem outlined above can be solved by using a properly
modified version of the virtual slave node technique proposed by Zavarise et al. [22]. The basic
idea of the virtual slave node technique consists of changing the integration scheme usually adopted
in NTS contact elements. In particular, the contact contribution to the stiffness matrix and the
internal force vector is integrated on each contact element through an n-point Gauss integration
scheme. It has to be noticed that, in this context, considering two slave nodes at the end of a
slave segment, the classical formulation can be viewed as a 2-points Newton–Cotes integration.
With the virtual slave node method, an arbitrary number of Gauss points can be specified inside
each contact element, regardless of the discretization used for the continuum. Each one of these
points (the virtual slave nodes) is treated by the NTS algorithm as a (virtual) slave node. The
displacements related to a virtual slave node are obtained as linear interpolations of those related
to the end nodes of the contact element containing the virtual slave node itself. For more details,
see Zavarise et al. [22]. This method permits to achieve a fine discretization of the interface where
the contact conditions have to be enforced, without refining the discretization of the continuum.
This technique with a Gaussian distribution of the virtual slave nodes will be indicated in the
following as VTS-G (see also Table I).
If suitably modified, the virtual slave node method can be employed to solve the problem under
examination, namely to satisfy equivalence of forces and moments between a uniform contact
pressure and the contact forces transferred at each slave node. For this purpose, it is sufficient to
place one virtual slave node at the centroid of each of the two half-segments adjacent to the generic
slave node S, as shown in Figure 14. This implies that each element of the slave surface contains
two virtual slave nodes located at its quarter points. As a result, the virtual slave node technique has

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DOI: 10.1002/nme
A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 391

p
S1 A S B S2

p lAS p lAS p lSB p lSB

Figure 14. VTS-ME algorithm—location of the virtual slave nodes.

p
S1 S S2

plS plSS
1S 2

6 6

Figure 15. VTS-ME algorithm (with n virtual slave nodes, n = 6)—location of the virtual slave nodes.

to be modified by replacing the 2-points Gauss integration distribution with the integration over the
two quarter-points of each slave surface element. Hence, a modified virtual slave node technique
results, whereby the NTS-AR strategy is applied to the virtual slave nodes, and these are located
at the quarter points of each slave segment. This technique is such that Momentum Equilibrium
(ME) is locally satisfied; hence, it will be indicated in the following as VTS-ME (Table I).
Obviously, this is just the simplest procedure to solve the problem under discussion with the
virtual slave node technique. A larger number of virtual slave nodes could also be used if desired,
provided that their locations are specified appropriately. In this case, the integration with n Gauss
points is replaced with an integration over n virtual slave nodes, each one located in the middle
of a segment obtained dividing the slave segment into n equal parts (Figure 15).

5.1.3. Case test B. Case test B is shown in Figure 16(a). Once again, the upper surface is the slave
and the lower is the master one. Figure 16(b) shows the expected correct values of the contact
forces, obtained by moving a uniform pressure distribution to the nodes on both surfaces. Figure
16(c) shows how the upper set of forces at the slave nodes is transmitted to the master nodes with
the NTS algorithm. It is obvious that the resulting distribution is incorrect, i.e. it is not compatible
with a uniform pressure over the master surface. Hence, in this case the penalty method, either
with or without AR, cannot pass the patch test, as shown in Figures 17(a) and (b).
As mentioned in the Introduction, the patch test can be passed by a two-pass NTS formulation
using the Lagrange multiplier method. Conversely, the two-pass algorithm using the penalty method
still fails the patch test without improving the approximation with respect to the one-pass case,
see Figures 17(c) and 18. The patch test is finally passed by the one-pass algorithm using the
VTS-ME technique (Figures 16(d), 17(d) and 18).

5.2. Slave nodal force transmission


5.2.1. The problem. The previous section has shown that the VTS-ME algorithm can be used to
transform a uniform contact pressure over the slave surface into a correct distribution of equivalent
concentrated contact forces both at the virtual slave nodes and at the master nodes. This technique
has been successfully applied to case test B and the patch test has been passed.

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392 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

p=1

2 2 4 4

p 2p 3p 4p 2p
3/2p 3p 7/2p 3p p

3 3 4 2
(a) (b)

p 2p 3p 4p 2p p p p p 2p 2p 2p 2p
5/3p 10/3p 3p 2p 2p 3/2p 3p 7/2p 3p p

(c) (d)

Figure 16. Case test B: (a) geometry; (b) exact contact force distribution; (c) NTS transmission of an exact
(upper) slave force distribution; and (d) VTS-ME transmission of an exact (upper) slave force distribution.

(a) (b)

Virtual slave node

(c) (d)

Figure 17. Case test B: magnified penetrations: (a) one-pass NTS; (b) one-pass
NTS-AR; (c) two-pass NTS-AR; and (d) one-pass VTS-ME.

A detailed observation of Figure 16(b) reveals a specific feature of the geometry in case test B,
namely: the area of competence of each slave node, when projected to the master surface, falls
within a single segment on the master surface. In other words, only one segment on the master
surface (the master segment) pertains to that slave node. This obviously continues to hold when
the virtual slave nodes at the quarter points of the slave segments are considered (Figure 19(a)).
However, other geometries may be such that the previous condition is not satisfied. See, e.g.
Figure 19(b) where the area of competence of the virtual slave node V, when projected to the
master surface, intercepts not only the master segment 1–2, but also its adjacent element 2–3.

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DOI: 10.1002/nme
A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 393

1.60
1.50
one-pass NTS
1.40

Contact pressure
one-pass NTS - AR
two-pass NTS - AR
1.30 one-pass VTS - ME
1.20
1.10
1.00
0.90
0.80
0 2 4 6 8 10 12
x coordinate

Figure 18. Case test B: contact pressure distributions.

p
p
S1 A V S S1 A V S

p lAS
p lAS

3 2 1 3 2 1
(a) (b)

p
p lAS

3 2 1 3 2 1
(c) (d)

Figure 19. Effects of the projection on the master segment of the area of competence of the
virtual slave node: (a) area projected on one master element; (b) area projected on more than one
master element; (c) resulting contact forces from (b) according to the classical NTS algorithm;
and (d) exact contact force distribution from (b).

When the latter situation occurs, the concentrated contact forces situated at the virtual slave
nodes (assuming that VTS-ME is used in order to solve the problem discussed in Section 5.1) are
incorrectly transformed into forces at the master nodes. As shown in Figure 19(c), the concentrated
force competing to the virtual slave node V is transferred entirely to the end nodes of the master
segment 1–2, whereas a correct transfer to the master surface of the uniform contact pressure
acting on the area of competence of V would also involve node 3 (Figure 19(d)).

5.2.2. The problem solution. In order to solve the above outlined problem, care must be taken
while transferring the contact forces acting at the virtual slave nodes to the elements of the master

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394 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

surface. More in detail, the following steps have to be followed for each virtual slave node:
(a) identification of the projection of the area of competence of the virtual slave node over the
master surface;
(b) transformation of the concentrated contact force acting at the virtual slave node into a
uniform contact pressure acting over this projected area;
(c) transformation of the uniform contact pressure acting over the projected area into equivalent
concentrated contact forces acting at the end nodes of all the elements on the master surface
involved by the projected area.
Following the above strategy, a contact element Passing the Patch Test (PPT) can be devised.
The corresponding algorithm will be indicated as VTS-PPT (Table I). Its detailed description is
reported in Section 6.

5.2.3. Case test C. Case test C, whose geometry is depicted in Figure 20(a), has been proposed
by El-Abbasi and Bathe [14]. As usual, the upper surface is the slave and the lower is the master
one. Figure 20(b) reports the expected correct values of the contact forces, whereas Figure 20(c)

p=1

2 2 4 4

p 2p 3p 4p 2p
3/2p 3p 3p 3p 3/2p

3 3 3 3
(a) (b)

p 2p 3p 4p 2p p p p p 2p 2p 2p 2p
5/3p 10/3p 7/3p 8/3p 2p 3/2p 3p 17/6p 10/3p 4/3p

(c) (d)

p p p p 2p 2p 2p 2p
3/2p 3p 3p 3p 3/2p

(e)

Figure 20. Case test C: (a) geometry; (b) exact contact force distribution; (c) NTS transmission of an exact
(upper) slave force distribution; (d) VTS-ME transmission of an exact (upper) slave force distribution;
and (e) VTS-PPT transmission of an exact (upper) slave force distribution.

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A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 395

(a) (b)

Virtual slave node

(c) (d)

Virtual slave node

(e)

Figure 21. Case test C: magnified penetrations: (a) one-pass NTS; (b) one-pass NTS-AR; (c) two-pass
NTS-AR; (d) one-pass VTS-ME; and (e) one-pass VTS-PPT.

1.70
one-pass NTS
1.60 one-pass NTS - AR
two-pass NTS - AR
1.50 one-pass VTS - ME
one-pass VTS - PPT
Contact pressure

1.40
1.30
1.20
1.10
1.00
0.90
0.80
0.70
0 2 4 6 8 10 12
x coordinate

Figure 22. Case test C: contact pressure distributions.

shows the contact forces obtained by assuming the correct distribution at the slave nodes, and
computing the distribution of forces at the master nodes resulting from application of the NTS
algorithm. As in Case test B, the latter distribution is obviously incorrect (see also Figures 21(a)
and 22), hence, the patch test cannot be passed with the standard formulation.
As for Case test B, both the one- and the two-pass NTS-AR algorithms fail the patch test
(Figures 21(b), (c) and 22). Unlike for Case test B, using the VTS-ME technique does not
completely solve the problem (Figures 20(d), 21(d) and 22). The reason is that, for this geometry,
the area of competence of one of the virtual slave nodes intercepts two segments on the master
surface. Hence, the transfer of contact forces to the master nodes is incorrect. The problem is

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396 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

solved by using the strategy summarized above (and described in detail in Section 6), as shown
in Figures 20(e), 21(e) and 22.

6. A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST

In this section, we provide a detailed analysis of all the enhancements of the basic NTS formulation
needed to obtain an NTS contact element passing the patch test (VTS-PPT). It can be easily
proved that the VTS-PPT element is able to pass the patch test also using the Lagrange multiplier
approach.

6.1. The new algorithm—basic version


The basic version of the proposed algorithm is obtained from the standard one-pass NTS algorithm
with the following modifications:
1. coupling of two slave nodes to consider the slave segment;
2. adoption of the virtual slave node technique [22];
3. modification of the technique by replacing the two virtual slave nodes, originally located at
the Gauss points, with two nodes located at the quarter points of each slave segment;
4. for each virtual slave node, identification of the projection of its area of competence over the
master surface;
5. transformation of the concentrated contact force acting at the virtual slave node into a uniform
contact pressure acting over this master projected area;
6. transformation of the uniform contact pressure acting over the projected area into equivalent
concentrated contact forces acting at the end nodes of all the involved elements on the master
surface.
While steps 1–3 and 5 are quite straightforward and have been discussed earlier, more details have
to be provided on steps 4 and 6. Such details are illustrated in the following.

6.1.1. Projection of the area of competence of a virtual slave node onto the master surface. The
described process is carried out for each segment of the slave surface and, within each segment, for

B
Area of competence of V
M
V
A

n
t
Master segment line
n2 A n 1≡ 2 1≡ p2 M p1
l12
n2 p1
1A
1n2

Figure 23. Projection of the area of competence of a (virtual) slave node V onto the master surface.

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A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 397

FOR each slave segment


FOR each virtual slave node V
Determine the last element and the last node on the master surface involved by the
projection of the area of competence of V (Box 2).
Determine the first element and the first node on the master surface involved by the
projection of the area of competence of V.
END
END

Box 1. Projection of the area of competence of a virtual slave node V onto the master surface.

both the virtual slave nodes located at the quarter points of the segment. A typical case is depicted
in Figure 23, which shows the slave segment AB, on which V is the virtual slave node under
consideration. The area of competence of V is AM, which has to be projected onto the master
surface. The aim is to identify the segments on the master surface involved by this projection. The
end nodes of all these segments will receive contact forces, hence, their degrees of freedom will
be involved in the contact contribution to the residual vector.
The master segment corresponding to the virtual slave node V is still identified by the normal
projection. The projection of AM will be also carried out along the direction of the normal to the
master segment. The steps involved in this projection are shown in Box 1, see also Figure 23.
Box 2 details the procedure to find the last master element and node involved by the projection. The
procedure to identify the first master element and node is analogous and is not reported for brevity.

6.1.2. Computation of the contact contribution to the residual vector. In the standard NTS algo-
rithm, the residual vector has the following expression [23]:
⎡ ⎤ ⎡ ⎤
RS n
⎢ ⎥ ⎢ ⎥
[R] = ⎣ R1 ⎦ = FN ⎣ −(1−)n⎦ (5)
R2 −n
where RS , R1 and R2 are, respectively, the contact forces acting on the slave node and on the two
end nodes of the master segment, FN is the total contact force transferred from the slave node to
the master surface and  is the normalized projection of the slave node onto the master segment,
see Figure 3. The first two degrees of freedom are those of the slave node, and the subsequent
four are those of the two end nodes of the master segment.
In the NTS algorithm using the virtual slave node technique, the residual vector is transformed
as follows [22]:
⎡ ⎤
1−ci p
⎡ ⎤ n⎥
RA ⎢
⎢ 2 ⎥
⎢ ⎥ ⎢ 1+c ⎥
⎢ RB ⎥ ⎢ ip ⎥
[R] = ⎢
⎢ ⎥
⎥ = FN ⎢
⎢ 2
n⎥
⎥ (6)
⎣ R1 ⎦ ⎢ ⎥
⎢ −(1−)n⎥
R2 ⎣ ⎦
−n

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398 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

Determine the projection of A onto the master segment line, Ā (Figure 23)
1 Ā = 1A•t
IF 1 Āl12 , THEN
the last node involved by the projection, nl , is local node 2 of the master segment
the last element is the master segment
ELSE
reference segment = master segment
DO until last element is identified
find the segment next to the reference segment (local nodes n 1 , n 2 )
determine the projection of node n 2 onto the master segment line, n̄ 2 (Figure 23)
1n̄ 2 = 1n2 •t
IF 1 Ā1n̄ 2 , THEN
the last node involved by the projection, nl , is local node 2 of the next segment
the last element is the next segment
last element identified
ELSE
reference segment = next segment
END IF
END DO
END IF

Box 2. Determination of the last master element and node involved by the projection of AM.

where RA , RB , R1 and R2 are, respectively, the contact forces acting at the two end nodes of the
slave segment containing the virtual slave node and at the two end nodes of the master segment,
FN is the total contact force transferred from the virtual slave node to the master surface,  is
the normalized projection of the virtual slave node onto the master segment, 01, and ci p is
the normalized coordinate of the virtual slave node, −1ci p 1 (Figure 24). Hence, the first four
degrees of freedom are those of the two end nodes of the slave segment containing the virtual slave
node, and the subsequent ones are those of the two end nodes of the master segment. Equation
(6) can be easily obtained from Equation (5) by interpolating the displacements at the virtual
slave node, V, from those at the end nodes of the slave segment, A and B. If, for the reason
discussed in Section 5.1, the virtual slave nodes are placed at the quarter points of the slave
segment, then

ci p = ± 12 (7)

and the corresponding weights are equal to the unity, hence, they do not appear in Equation (6).
Figure 25 shows the correspondence of the residual vector terms pertaining to the master segment
with the forces transferred from the virtual slave node to the end nodes of the master segment.
The forces illustrated in the figure, as well as the expression of the residual vector in Equation (6),
are both correct if the projection of AM along the direction of the normal n to the master segment
falls within the master segment itself.

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DOI: 10.1002/nme
A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 399

cip lAB/2
B
V
M

A
n
t
2 (1−ξ) l12 ξ l12 1

Figure 24. Normalized coordinate of the virtual slave node.

B
M
V
A
- FN n

ξ FN n n
t (1−ξ) FN n
2 (1−ξ) l12 ξ l12 1

Figure 25. Contact force transmission to one segment on the master surface.

If the above condition is not satisfied, the contact forces transferred to the end nodes of all
the segments of the master surface involved by the projection can be computed by dividing the
procedure in sub-problems, as shown in Box 3 and Figures 26–29. In particular, Figure 26 shows
a generic case of transmission of the contact pressure to the master surface and the consequent
forces on the master nodes. Figures 27–29 illustrate more in detail the computation of such forces
in the three possible cases where, respectively, the segment on the master surface is the first,
an intermediate one, or the last among those involved by the projection. In this example it is
assumed that V belongs to AM, but the same procedure can be applied to any virtual slave
node.
The basic version of the proposed algorithm, which was just illustrated, results into a modification
of the classical residual vector which now involves more than one segment on the master surface.
The standard residual given by Equation (6) can be rewritten as follows:

⎡ ⎤
RA
⎢ ⎥

⎢ RB ⎥ RV
[R] = ⎢
⎢ ⎥=
⎥ (8)
⎣ R1 ⎦ RM
R2

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400 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

FOR each slave segment


FOR each virtual slave node
detect all the segments on the master surface involved by the projection of the area
of competence AM
IF only one segment THEN
residual from Equation (6)
ELSE
residual from assembly of all the involved segments
FOR the first segment (first node n f , second node n n ) (Figure 27)
draw a line through n n parallel to the master segment line
determine the projection of node n f onto the parallel line, n̄ f
determine the normalized projection of M onto the segment n̄ f n n
(x M −x f¯ )•t
M f n = l f¯n
determine the total contact force transferred to segment n f n n
F f n = (1− M f n )ˆ N g N l f¯n
determine the forces transferred to nodes n f and n n
(1− M f n ) (1− M f n )2
Ff = 2 Ff n n= 2 ˆ N g N l f¯n n
(1+ M f n ) (1−2M f n )
Fn = 2 F f nn = 2 ˆ N g N l f¯n n
store Ff and Fn in the residual vector (rows5 to 8)
END
FOR all intermediate segments (Figure 28)
reference segment = first segment
DO until last segment is reached
find the segment next to the reference segment (its end nodes are
now n f and n n )
draw a line through n n parallel to the master segment line
determine the projection of node n f onto the parallel line, n̄ f
determine the total contact force transferred to segment n f n n
F f n = ˆ N g N l f¯n
determine the forces transferred to nodes n f and n n
Ff = Fn = 12 F f n n = 12 ˆ N g N l f¯n n
store Ff and Fn in the residual vector, adding them to the pre-existing contributions
reference segment = next segment
END DO
END
FOR the last segment (Figure 29)
draw a line through n n parallel to the master segment line
determine the projection of node n f onto the parallel line, n̄ f
determine the normalized projection of A onto the segment n̄ f n n
(x A −x f¯ )•t
A f n = l f¯n

Box 3. Computation of the contact contribution to the residual vector in the proposed algorithm.

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A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 401

determine the total contact force transferred to segment n f n n


F f n =  A f n ˆ N g N l f¯n
determine
the forces transferred
to nodes
n f and n n
A f n A f n
Ff = 1− 2 F f n n =  A f n 1− 2 ˆ N g N l f¯n n
 2
Fn = A2f n F f n n = A2f n ˆ N g N l f¯n n
store Ff and Fn in the residual vector, adding them to the pre-existing contributions
END
END IF
END
END

Box 3. Continued.

where RV and RM indicate synthetically the contributions of the nodes of the slave segment (i.e.
the segment containing the virtual slave node) and of the master segment. This residual is now
replaced by an enhanced one of the following form:
⎡ ⎤
RV
⎢ ⎥
⎢ RM ⎥
⎢ ⎥
⎢ ⎥
[R] = ⎢ Rf ⎥ (9)
⎢ ⎥
⎢R ⎥
⎣ i⎦
Rl

where Rf , Ri and Rl are, respectively, the contributions associated with the nodes of the first
segment, of the intermediate segment(s) and of the last segment on the master surface involved by
the projection of the area of competence of the virtual slave node. In Equation (9), for the sake
of clarity, the master segment contribution RM has been isolated from the remaining contributions
related to the nodes of the master surface. However, the master segment may coincide with the
first, with the last or with one of the intermediate segments on the master surface involved by the
projection of the area of competence of the virtual slave node. Therefore, RM may coincide with
Rf , with Rl or with one of the Ri terms, respectively. As shown by Equation (9), the dimension
of the residual vector depends on the number of elements on the master surface involved by the
projection of the area of competence of the virtual slave node. More in detail, the dimension of
the residual vector is equal to the number of the end nodes of the aforementioned elements of the
master surface, multiplied by the number of degrees of freedom per node.
It should be noticed that the enhanced residual vector is not associated with any modification in
the tangent stiffness matrix. In fact, starting from the classical penalty contribution to the potential
( 12  N g 2N ), only the two end nodes of the master segment play a role in determining the penetration.
The tangent stiffness matrix for the standard virtual slave node technique has the following form:


KVV KVM
[K T ] = (10)
KMV KMM

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402 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

B
M
V
A

n
t

nl
nf

Figure 26. Contact force transmission to more than one segment on the master surface.

M
V
A
n
t Ffn
Master segment line
nl
Fn Ff nf Parallel line
nn
ξMfn l nf
fn

l fn

Figure 27. Contact force transmission to more than one segment on the master
surface: first segment subcase.

M
V
Ffn
A

t
n Master segment line ≡ Parallel line
Fn
nl nf
nn
Ff
l fn nf

Figure 28. Contact force transmission to more than one segment on the master surface:
intermediate segment subcase.

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A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 403

M
V
A
Ffn
Master segment line n
Ff t
Parallel line Fn nf

nn ≡ nl
ξ Afn l f n nf
l fn

Figure 29. Contact force transmission to more than one segment on the master
surface: last segment subcase.

where the subscripts V and M in the submatrices refer to the nodes of the slave segment (i.e. the
segment containing the virtual slave node) and of the master segment, respectively. In the proposed
algorithm, the stiffness matrix becomes as follows:
⎡ ⎤
KVV KVM 0 0 0
⎢ ⎥
⎢ KMV KMM 0 0 0⎥
⎢ ⎥
⎢ ⎥
[K T ] = ⎢ 0 0 0 0 0⎥ (11)
⎢ ⎥
⎢ 0 ⎥
⎣ 0 0 0 0⎦
0 0 0 0 0
As shown by Equation (11), the degrees of freedom involved by the non-zero terms in the tangent
stiffness matrix remain those of the virtual slave node (in turn interpolated from those of the
two end nodes of the slave segment), and those of the two nodes of the corresponding master
segment. Hence, the terms of the tangent stiffness matrix are computed in the same way as in the
standard virtual slave node technique, which corresponds to a small modification of the classical
NTS algorithm. The final set of algebraic equations is
[K T ][u] = −[R] (12)
where [K T ] and [R] are, respectively, given by Equations (11) and (9), and
⎡ ⎤
uV
⎢ ⎥
⎢ uM ⎥
⎢ ⎥
⎢ ⎥
[u] = ⎢ uf ⎥ (13)
⎢ ⎥
⎢u ⎥
⎣ i⎦
ul
is the vector of the unknown displacements. Once again, subscripts V and M refer to the nodes
of the slave and of the master segments, respectively. Subscripts (f), (i) and (l) refer to the nodes
of the first segment, of the intermediate segment(s) and of the last segment on the master surface
involved by the projection of the area of competence of the virtual slave node.

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404 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

6
VTS - ME
4
VTS - PPT - basic version
VTS - PPT - final version
2

Residual norm (log scale)


0
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
-2

-4

-6

-8

-10

-12
Iteration number

Figure 30. Rate of convergence for the VTS-ME algorithm and for the basic and final versions of the
VTS-PPT algorithm (case test C).

This inconsistency between the tangent stiffness matrix and the residual vector implies that the
rate of convergence of the non-linear problem solved by the Newton–Raphson method is no longer
quadratic, as shown in Figure 30 for Case test C.

6.2. The new algorithm—consistent version


The above algorithm is able to pass the contact patch test, but the consistency of the tangent
stiffness is lost. To solve this problem we observe that, once the contact contribution to the residual
vector, [R], is known, the first variation of the contact contribution to the potential, c , can also
be expressed directly as follows:

c = []T [R] (14)

where [] is the column vector of the virtual variations of the displacements. Owing to the additive
nature of the potential, its first variation can be expressed as

c = c,V +c,M +c, f +c,i +c,l (15)

where c,V is the contribution associated with the virtual slave node, i.e. by linear interpolation,
to the two end nodes of the slave segment, c,M is the contribution associated with the nodes
of the master segment corresponding to the virtual slave node, and c, f , c,i and c,l are,
respectively, the contributions associated with the nodes of the first segment, of the intermediate
segment(s) and of the last segment on the master surface involved by the projection of the area of
competence of the virtual slave node. In Equation (15), for the sake of clarity, the master segment
contribution c,M has been isolated from the remaining contributions related to the nodes of the
master surface. However, as previously noted, the master segment may coincide with the first, with
the last, or with one of the intermediate segments on the master surface involved by the projection
of the area of competence of the virtual slave node. Therefore, c,M may coincide with c, f ,

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A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 405

with c,l , or with one of the c,i terms, respectively. From the analysis in Section 6.1 the
following expressions for the terms in Equation (15) are obtained:

(1− M f n )2 (1−2M f n )
c, f = −xf ·Ff −xn ·Fn =−xf · ˆ N g N l f¯n n−xn · ˆ N g N l f¯n n (16)
2 2
 
  1
c,i = (−xf ·Ff −xn ·Fn ) = −(xf +xn )· ˆ N g N l f¯n n (17)
f,n f,n 2
 
A f n 2A f n
c,l = −xf ·Ff −xn ·Fn =−xf · A f n 1− ˆ N g N l f¯n n−xn · ˆ N g N l f¯n n (18)
2 2
 
1−ci p 1+ci p 1
c,V = −xV ·FV = xA + xB · ˆ N g N l AB n (19)
2 2 2

Note that, in Equations (16), (17) and (18), xf and xn are the current position vectors of the end
nodes of the first segment, of an intermediate segment and of the last segment on the master
surface involved by the projection, respectively. For more details, see the Appendix.
The linearization of Equation (15) yields

c = c,V +c,M +c, f +c,i +c,l (20)

where the single contributions result as follows:


(1− M f n )2
c, f = −xf · −(1− M f n ) M f n ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n
2

(1− M f n )2 (1− M f n )2
+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n
2 2

(1−2M f n ) (1−2M f n )
−xn · − M f n  M f n ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n
2 2

(1−2M f n )
+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n (21)
2
  
 1 1 1
c,i = −(xf +xn )· ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n (22)
f,n 2 2 2
  
A f n
c,l = −xf · (1− A f n ) A f n ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ A f n 1− ˆ N g N l f¯n n
2
    
A f n A f n
+ A f n 1− ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ A f n 1− ˆ N g N l f¯n n
2 2

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406 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

2A f n 2A f n
−xn ·  A f n  A f n ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n
2 2

2A f n
+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n (23)
2
   
1−ci p 1+ci p 1 1 1
c,V = xA + xB · ˆ N g N l AB n+ ˆ N g N l AB n+ ˆ N g N l AB n (24)
2 2 2 2 2
For details on the computation of the above contributions, see the Appendix. The contact contri-
bution to the tangent stiffness matrix, [K T ], can then be obtained by setting a suitable assembling
of c in the form
c = []T [K T ][] (25)
where [] is the column vector of the unknown increments of the displacements. In this way,
instead of using the potential, we start directly from the residual (which can be easily determined)
and obtain from it the related consistent tangent stiffness matrix.
By using this tangent stiffness matrix, which is a consistent one, the rate of convergence is
quadratic, as shown in Figure 30 for case test C. However, the tangent stiffness matrix obtained
with this procedure is inherently asymmetric. This stems from the fact that the normal penetration
g N is always computed from the displacements of the virtual slave node and of the two end nodes
of the master segment, with no contribution from any other node on the master surface. As a result,
an asymmetric solver is required.

6.3. Final remarks


It is worth noting that, although the proposed algorithm has been developed in a 2D setting, in
principle it can be extended to a 3D framework with no conceptual modifications. First of all, the
concept of area of competence of a slave node can be easily generalized, and such area has to be
used as a weighting factor for the penalty parameter. In normal cases, i.e. when the projection of
each slave element falls within a single element on the master surface, the use of AR is sufficient
for the patch test to be passed. In pathologic cases, the subsequent improvements of the basic
NTS algorithm previously illustrated in the 2D framework have to be implemented. During the
first step (slave nodal force computation), the modified virtual slave node technique can be readily
extended to the 3D case, by ideally subdividing each element into four equal parts and placing
one virtual slave node at the center of gravity of each part (a greater number of parts can be used
if desired). During the second step (slave nodal force transmission), the area of competence of
each slave node has to be projected onto the master surface, the concentrated forces acting at the
virtual slave nodes have to be transformed into a uniform contact pressure applied on the projected
surface, and finally this pressure has to be transformed into concentrated contact forces acting at
the end nodes of all the elements on the master surface involved by the projected area. There is
obviously an increased degree of geometric complexity associated with the projection. However,
the conceptual frame of the algorithm remains unchanged.
It is interesting to compare the proposed approach with the use of a segment-to-segment proce-
dure, such as that proposed in Zavarise and Wriggers [15]. The latter formulation has been shown
to be extremely cumbersome, if all the contributions to the consistent tangent stiffness matrix are

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A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 407

to be included. In such a case the maximum number of vector product terms required for the
construction of the exact tangent stiffness matrix is equal to 392. Therefore, the exact consistent
tangent stiffness for the segment-to-segment algorithm is practically unfeasible to construct. It is
only by means of several approximations that the number of terms can be reduced to a reasonable
amount [15]. Instead, with the proposed method, the consistent tangent stiffness requires as many
terms as with the standard formulation.
The development of the NTS algorithm proposed in this paper considers the single slave node
no longer as an individual ‘isolated’ entity, but takes its ‘environment’ into account. In doing so, it
conceptually develops in the direction of a segment-to-segment algorithm. However, it still keeps
a reasonable level of simplicity and computational cost, especially in cases where the fineness of
the discretization on slave and master surfaces is comparable, or where the discretization is coarser
on the master surface (i.e. in the most common cases). The apparent complexity of the method as
illustrated in this paper is due to the completely general situation considered for the pathological
cases. In most practical situations, the projection of the area of competence of a virtual slave node
onto the master surface involves only two master segments, which results in an extremely simple
modification to the standard algorithm.
Finally, there is no proof that the proposed formulation satisfies the inf–sup (or LBB) condi-
tion, which characterizes the numerical stability of mixed method approaches [24]. An improved
version of the modified virtual slave node technique accounting for this problem is currently under
development. However, the proposed algorithm can be considered similar to a mortar-like method,
where point collocation is used instead of a Galerkin approach. Hence, it might occur that with
respect to the LBB condition, the proposed formulation shares the same characteristics of the
mortar method.

7. EXAMPLES

This section presents some examples illustrating the effectiveness of the proposed algorithm. Small
deformation linear isoparametric quadrilateral elements in plane strain have been used throughout
the analyses for discretization of the continuum. All computations have been performed with the
finite element program FEAP (courtesy of Prof. R. L. Taylor).

7.1. Example 1: Taylor and Papodopoulos’ contact patch test


The example here presented is the contact patch test proposed by Taylor and Papodopoulos [13]. It
corresponds to a rectangular elastic punch forced into an elastic basement by means of a uniformly
distributed force field (Figure 31). Both bodies have the same material properties, hence the exact
solution is given by a constant pressure throughout the area of contact. This would still hold in the
case of different material properties for punch and foundation, as frictionless behavior is assumed
for the interface. The upper surface is assumed as the slave, and the lower as the master one.
In Taylor and Papodopoulos [13], the mesh in Figure 31 is reported to fail the patch test with
the one-pass NTS algorithm, and to pass it if the two-pass algorithm is used. In both cases, the
Lagrange multiplier method is adopted. As Figures 32 and 33 show, if the penalty method is used,
the one-pass NTS, the one-pass NTS-AR and also the two-pass NTS-AR algorithms fail the patch
test. Conversely, the VTS-ME technique successfully permits the transfer of a uniform contact
pressure corresponding to a uniform proportional penetration. Note that, in this case, the projection

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408 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

p=1
p=1 p=1

Figure 31. Example 1.

(a) (b)

(c) (d)

Figure 32. Example 1: magnified penetrations (close-up of the contact zone): (a) one-pass NTS;
(b) one-pass NTS-AR; (c) two-pass NTS-AR; and (d) one-pass VTS-ME.

2.2 1.20
one-pass NTS one-pass NTS
2.0 one-pass NTS-AR 1.15 one-pass NTS-AR
two-pass NTS-AR two-pass NTS-AR
1.8 one-pass VTS-ME 1.10 one-pass VTS-ME
Contact pressure
Contact pressure

1.6 1.05

1.4 1.00

1.2 0.95

1.0 0.90

0.8 0.85

0.6 0.80
-3 -1 1 3 -3 -1 1 3
(a) x coordinate (b) x coordinate

Figure 33. Example 1: contact pressure distributions.

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A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 409

p=1
p=1 p=1

Figure 34. Example 1bis.

(a) (b)

(c) (d)

(e)

Figure 35. Example 1bis: magnified penetrations (close-up of the contact zone): (a) one-pass NTS;
(b) one-pass NTS-AR; (c) two-pass NTS-AR; (d) one-pass VTS-ME; and (e) one-pass VTS-PPT.

of the area of competence of each slave node falls within a single segment on the master surface.
Hence, the slave nodal force transmission is carried out correctly already by the classical NTS
formulation. This is why the use of the VTS-ME technique is alone sufficient to guarantee the
patch test to be passed.
For the same example, the mesh in Figure 34 is such that the projection of the area of competence
of the slave nodes does not always fall within a single segment on the master surface. In this
case, both the slave nodal force computation and transmission are carried out incorrectly by the
classical formulation. Hence, the VTS-ME technique is not sufficient for the patch test to be passed
(Figures 35 and 36). On the contrary, with the VTS-PPT algorithm, the computation of the nodal
forces transmitted to the master nodes is carried out correctly and hence the patch test is passed.

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410 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

1.4 1.2
one-pass NTS
one-pass NTS
one-pass NTS-AR one-pass NTS-AR
1.3 NTS-AR
two-pass two-pass NTS-AR
one-pass VTS-ME one-pass VTS-ME
one-pass VTS-PPT one-pass VTS-PPT
1.2 1.1

Contact pressure
Contact pressure

1.1

1.0 1.0

0.9

0.8 0.9

0.7

0.6 0.8
-3 -1 1 3 -3 -1 1 3
(a) x coordinate (b) x coordinate

Figure 36. Example 1bis: contact pressure distributions.

In both cases it has to be noticed that the NTS-AR algorithm, despite failing the patch test,
provides a quite good result compared with the one-pass NTS and with the two-pass NTS-AR
algorithms.

7.2. Example 2: elastic disk on elastic foundation


This example considers the classical case of an elastic disk pressed onto an elastic foundation. In
this example, the disk radius is R = 10 units, the elastic modulus is E = 1.0E+8 units, and the
Poisson ratio is set to zero. A concentrated force F = 1.0E+6 units is applied on top of the disk.
A very fine mesh is used close to the contact zone, see Figure 37. The foundation is discretized
using 160×30 elements. The elastic modulus of the foundation is set to 1.0E+9 units, i.e. ten
times larger than that of the disk. The penalty parameter is set to 1.0E+9 units, and the energy
norm to check convergence is set to 1.0E−15 units.
Figure 38(a) shows the numerical pressure distributions for half disk, the other half being
perfectly symmetric. The coordinate x along the contact surface is zero on the axis of symmetry.
The numerical pressure distributions are very close to each other. No problem is encountered with
the release of the slave nodes for inactive contact elements. At a closer view (Figure 38(b)) local
differences are observed between predictions of the various algorithms. In particular, Figure 39
shows the difference between local contact pressures given by the VTS-PPT algorithm and by the
VTS-ME. The differences are due to the transfer of contact forces to the master nodes, which is
only correct with the proposed algorithm. The same number of iterations (4) is required by all
algorithms for convergence.

8. CONCLUSIONS

This study has illustrated several sequential modifications of the basic NTS formulation for 2D
frictionless contact, used in conjunction with the penalty method. These modifications yield incre-
mental improvements in results of the contact patch test. In particular, the last proposed formulation

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A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 411

(a) (b)

Figure 37. Example 2: problem discretization: (a) complete mesh and (b) close-up of the contact zone.

0.00E+00 -1.54E+06
0.00 0.10 0.20 0.30 0.40 0.50 0.00 0.02 0.04 0.06 0.08 0.10
-2.00E+05
-1.55E+06 NTS - AR
-4.00E+05 NTS-AR VTS - G
VTS-G VTS - ME
-6.00E+05 VTS-ME
-1.56E+06
VTS - PPT
Contact pressure

Contact pressure

VTS-PPT
-8.00E+05
-1.57E+06
-1.00E+06
-1.58E+06
-1.20E+06

-1.40E+06 -1.59E+06
-1.60E+06
-1.60E+06
-1.80E+06

-2.00E+06 -1.61E+06
(a) Coordinate x along contact surface (b) Coordinate x along contact surface

Figure 38. Example 2: contact pressure distributions: (a) numerical pressure distributions
and (b) close-up of the middle contact zone.

(VTS-PPT) is a modified one-pass NTS algorithm which is able to correctly transfer a constant
contact pressure from the slave to the master surface, hence it passes the contact patch test. The
differences between the proposed algorithm and the standard NTS one are: (i) the use of the modi-
fied virtual slave node technique, with virtual slave nodes located at the quarter points of each slave
segment; (ii) the use of a specific procedure to correctly compute the contact forces at the master
nodes. In the basic version of the proposed algorithm, feature (ii) only yields a modification in
the contact contribution to the residual vector, whereas the tangent stiffness matrix is unmodified.
This introduces an inconsistency between the contact contributions to the residual vector and to the

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412 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

1.50E+03

1.00E+03

Difference in contact pressure 5.00E+02

0.00E+00
0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20 0.25 0.30 0.35 0.40

-5.00E+02

-1.00E+03
Coordinate x along contact surface

Figure 39. Example 2: difference between the VTS-PPT and the VTS-ME algorithms.

tangent stiffness matrix. As a result, the linearization is no longer consistent and the quadratic rate
of convergence when solving the non-linear problem is lost. However, once the correct residual
vector is built, if the tangent stiffness matrix is computed by consistently linearizing it, the rate of
convergence returns quadratic. The disadvantage of the proposed algorithm in this final version is
the lack of symmetry in the contact contribution to the tangent stiffness matrix.

APPENDIX A

As follows, the main expressions related to the computation of the contact contribution to the
tangent stiffness matrix are reported. The geometric quantities used in the following equations
are illustrated in Figures 27–29. The equations apply to the situation where the virtual slave node
belongs to AM. Minor modifications have to be performed if it belongs to MB.

A.1. Contribution of the first segment on the master surface involved by the projection of AM
(Figure 27)
The first variation of the potential and its linearization are given by

c, f = −xf ·Ff −xn ·Fn (A1)


c, f = −xf ·Ff −xn ·Fn (A2)

where xf and xn are the current position vectors of nodes n f and n n , i.e. of the end nodes of the
first segment on the master surface involved by the projection. The respective forces are given by

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A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 413

(see Box 3):


(1− M f n )2
Ff = ˆ N g N l f¯n n (A3)
2
(1−2M f n )
Fn = ˆ N g N l f¯n n (A4)
2
Hence, their linearizations can be obtained as:
(1− M f n )2 (1− M f n )2
Ff = −(1− M f n ) M f n ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n
2 2
(1− M f n )2
+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n (A5)
2
(1−2M f n ) (1−2M f n )
Fn = − M f n  M f n ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n
2 2
(1−2M f n )
+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n (A6)
2
The quantities needed for the computation of the expressions above are given by:
l f¯n  M f n = 12 t·(xA +xB )+ VM n·(x1 −x2 )−(1− M f n )t·xf − M f n t·xn (A7a)

1
VM = [(1− M f n )·xf + M f n xn −xM ]·n (A7b)
l12
 
1−ci p 1+ci p
g N = n· xA + xB −(1−)x1 −x2 (A8)
2 2
l f¯n = V f n n·(x1 −x2 )−t·(xf −xn ) (A9)

1
n = tn·(x1 −x2 ) (A10)
l12
1
Vfn = − (xn −xf )·n (A11)
l12

A.2. Contribution of the intermediate segment(s) on the master surface involved by the projection
of AM (Figure 28)
The first variation of the potential and its linearization are given by:

c,i = (−xf ·Ff −xn ·Fn ) (A12)
f,n

c,i = (−xf ·Ff −xn ·Fn ) (A13)
f,n

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414 G. ZAVARISE AND L. DE LORENZIS

Here xf and xn are the current position vectors of nodes n f and n n , i.e. of the end nodes of the
intermediate segment on the master surface involved by the projection which is currently being
considered. The summation is extended to the nodes of all the intermediate segments involved by
the projection, according to the procedure outlined for the residual vector in Box 3. The respective
forces are given by:
Ff = Fn = 12 ˆ N g N l f¯n n (A14)
Hence, their linearization can be obtained as
Ff = Fn = 12 ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ 12 ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ 12 ˆ N g N l f¯n n (A15)
where g N , l f¯n and n are given by Equations (A8), (A9) and (A10), respectively.

A.3. Contribution of the last segment on the master surface involved by the projection of AM
(Figure 29)
The first variation of the potential and its linearization are given by:
c,l = −xf ·Ff −xn ·Fn (A16)
c,l = −xf ·Ff −xn ·Fn (A17)
Here xf and xn are the current position vectors of the end nodes n f and n n of the last segment on
the master surface involved by the projection. The respective forces are given by (see Box 3):
 
A f n
Ff =  A f n 1− ˆ N g N l f¯n n (A18)
2

2A f n
ˆ N g N l f¯n n
Fn = (A19)
2
Hence, their linearizations can be obtained as
 
A f n
Ff = (1− A f n ) A f n ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ A f n 1− ˆ N g N l f¯n n
2
   
A f n A f n
+ A f n 1− ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ A f n 1− ˆ N g N l f¯n n (A20)
2 2

2A f n 2A f n
Fn =  A f n  A f n ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n
2 2
2A f n
+ ˆ N g N l f¯n n (A21)
2
where
l f¯n  A f n = t·xA + V A n·(x1 −x2 )−(1− A f n )t·xf − A f n t·xn (A22)

1
VA = [(1− A f n )·xf + A f n xn −xA ]·n (A23)
l12
whereas g N , l f¯n and n are given by Equations (A8), (A9) and (A10), respectively.

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A MODIFIED NTS ALGORITHM PASSING THE CONTACT PATCH TEST 415

A.4. Contribution of the area of competence of the virtual slave node


The first variation of the potential and its linearization are given by
1−ci p 1+ci p
c,V = −xV ·FV = − xA ·FV − xB ·FV (A24)
2 2
1−ci p 1+ci p
c,V = − xA ·FV − xB ·FV (A25)
2 2
where xV is the current position vector of the virtual slave node. The total contact force FV on
the virtual slave node is given by:
FV = − 12 ˆ N g N l AB n (A26)
Hence, its linearization can be obtained as:
FV = − 12 ˆ N g N l AB n− 12 ˆ N g N l AB n− 12 ˆ N g N l AB n (A27)
where g N and Dn are given by Equations (A8) and (A10), respectively, and
 
4 1 1
l AB = (xM −xA )· − xA + xB (A28)
l AB 2 2

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Copyright q 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Numer. Meth. Engng 2009; 79:379–416
DOI: 10.1002/nme