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Structural Finite Element Software Coupling Using Adapter Elements

Andreas H. Schellenberg1,*, Yuli Huang2, Stephen A. Mahin

Senior Engineer, Maffei Structural Engineering, San Francisco, CA 94111, USA.
Senior Structural Analyst, Arup, San Francisco, CA 94111, USA.

*Corresponding Author: Andreas Schellenberg. Email: .
† Deceased 10 February 2018.

(This article belongs to this Special Issue: Advances in OpenSees Applications to Civil Engineering)

Computer Modeling in Engineering & Sciences 2019, 120(3), 719-737.


This paper describes a versatile and computationally efficient method for coupling several finite element analysis (FEA) programs together so that the unique modeling and analysis capabilities of each code can be utilized simultaneously to simulate the static or dynamic response of a complete numerical system. An arbitrary number of finite element analysis software packages can be coupled by adding two special types of elements, namely generic and adapter elements, to each of the finite element applications using their programming interface. These elements are inserted at the interfaces between the different sub-domains of the complete system modeled by each finite element analysis software package. Exchange of data between the coupled FEA codes is accomplished in a modular and synchronized manner using OpenFresco (Open-source Framework for Experimental Setup and Control). OpenFresco is an object-oriented, environment independent software framework initially developed for hybrid simulation in which certain aspects of a complete structure are simulated numerically and other aspects are simultaneously tested physically. An important practical advantage of this coupled analysis approach is that all of the connected FEA codes run concurrently and continuously, decreasing analysis time consumption by an order of magnitude or more compared to more traditional approaches that shut down and restart the coupled analysis codes at each integration time step. The implementation and accuracy of this approach to FE software coupling are demonstrated using dynamic analyses of three simple structural models from the field of earthquake engineering.


Cite This Article

Schellenberg, A. H., Huang, Y., Mahin, S. A. (2019). Structural Finite Element Software Coupling Using Adapter Elements. CMES-Computer Modeling in Engineering & Sciences, 120(3), 719–737.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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