T-splines as a design-through-analysis technology

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Date

2011-08

Authors

Scott, Michael Andrew

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Abstract

To simulate increasingly complex physical phenomena and systems, tightly integrated design-through-analysis (DTA) tools are essential. In this dissertation, the complementary strengths of isogeometric analysis and T-splines are coupled and enhanced to create a seamless DTA framework. In all cases, the technology de- veloped meets the demands of both design and analysis. In isogeometric analysis, the smooth geometric basis is used as the basis for analysis. It has been demonstrated that smoothness offers important computational advantages over standard finite elements. T-splines are a superior alternative to NURBS, the current geometry standard in computer-aided design systems. T-splines can be locally refined and can represent complicated designs as a single watertight geometry. These properties make T-splines an ideal discretization technology for isogeometric analysis and, on a higher level, a foundation upon which unified DTA technologies can be built.

We characterize analysis-suitable T-splines and develop corresponding finite element technology, including the appropriate treatment of extraordinary points (i.e., unstructured meshing). Analysis-suitable T-splines form a practically useful subset of T-splines. They maintain the design flexibility of T-splines, including an efficient and highly localized refinement capability, while preserving the important analysis-suitable mathematical properties of the NURBS basis.

We identify Bézier extraction as a unifying paradigm underlying all isogeometric element technology. Bézier extraction provides a finite element representation of NURBS or T-splines, and facilitates the incorporation of T-splines into existing finite element programs. Only the shape function subroutine needs to be modified. Additionally, Bézier extraction is automatic and can be applied to any T-spline regardless of topological complexity or polynomial degree. In particular, it represents an elegant treatment of T-junctions, referred to as "hanging nodes" in finite element analysis

We then detail a highly localized analysis-suitable h-refinement algorithm. This algorithm introduces a minimal number of superfluous control points and preserves the properties of an analysis-suitable space. Importantly, our local refinement algorithm does not introduce a complex hierarchy of meshes. In other words, all local refinement is done on one control mesh on a single hierarchical “level” and all control points have similar influence on the shape of the surface. This feature is critical for its adoption and usefulness as a design tool.

Finally, we explore the behavior of T-splines in finite element analysis. It is demonstrated that T-splines possess similar convergence properties to NURBS with far fewer degrees of freedom. We develop an adaptive isogeometric analysis framework which couples analysis-suitable T-splines, local refinement, and Bézier extraction and apply it to the modeling of damage and fracture processes. These examples demonstrate the feasibility of applying T-spline element technology to very large problems in two and three dimensions and parallel implementations.

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