Risks Associated With Finite Element Modelling Of Cut And Cover Structures

Suckling, Tony
Organization: Deep Foundations Institute
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2010
The commercially available finite element program Plaxis has a key benefit over other finite element analysis programs in that it has a relatively simple user interface to input and output data. This benefit though may also be it?s weakness in that anyone, regardless of their grounding in geotechnical engineering, may use the program and produce results for design. It is essential, as for all engineering design, that the models are checked by competent engineers. This paper describes the key recurring problems found by the authors when checking Plaxis models, such as the generation of the initial in-situ ground stresses and the modelling of groundwater. Interestingly, the authors have not encountered similar problems when checking finite element models produced using other programs and conclude that this may be due to the higher calibre of modeller needed to use these other programs. The geotechnical industry is in a situation at the moment where senior managers who may not have been trained in finite element modelling are relying on less experienced staff who have had some training in modelling, either at university or post graduation. The quality of this training is variable and all organisations running easy to use programs need to be aware of the potential risks and dangers. Management procedures and engineering checks that are essential to validate the results of these models are described, assuming that those in charge are not experienced modellers themselves. The model checking process by competent persons is absolutely essential and it is hoped that this paper will help those organisations that do not have such procedures as part of their own internal Quality Assurance or design validation system. The procedures described are valid for all finite element programs.
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