A computer program implements a finite-element-based method of predicting the deformations of thin aerospace structures made of isotropic materials or anisotropic fiber-reinforced composite materials. The technique and corresponding software are applicable to thin shell structures in general and are particularly useful for analysis of thin beamlike members having open cross-sections (e.g. I-beams and C-channels) in which significant warping can occur.

In many popular commercial packages that offer the two-dimensional finite elements option, inaccuracies arise from node offsets and overlapping of elements; in other formulations utilizing one-dimensional discretization, angles of twist tend to be overestimated. In the present formulation, a shell element that incorporates "floating" reference surfaces on which nodal points reside is developed. This element concept facilitates the formation of proper connections among elements and thereby eliminates the inaccuracies attributable to element-overlapping and nodal offsets in the other methods.

This program was written by Gregory Clarke of Goddard Space Flight Center.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2007 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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