Computational Particle Mechanics

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 407–428 | Cite as

The Double Hierarchy Method. A parallel 3D contact method for the interaction of spherical particles with rigid FE boundaries using the DEM

  • Miquel Santasusana
  • Joaquín IrazábalEmail author
  • Eugenio Oñate
  • Josep Maria Carbonell


In this work, we present a new methodology for the treatment of the contact interaction between rigid boundaries and spherical discrete elements (DE). Rigid body parts are present in most of large-scale simulations. The surfaces of the rigid parts are commonly meshed with a finite element-like (FE) discretization. The contact detection and calculation between those DE and the discretized boundaries is not straightforward and has been addressed by different approaches. The algorithm presented in this paper considers the contact of the DEs with the geometric primitives of a FE mesh, i.e. facet, edge or vertex. To do so, the original hierarchical method presented by Horner et al. (J Eng Mech 127(10):1027–1032, 2001) is extended with a new insight leading to a robust, fast and accurate 3D contact algorithm which is fully parallelizable. The implementation of the method has been developed in order to deal ideally with triangles and quadrilaterals. If the boundaries are discretized with another type of geometries, the method can be easily extended to higher order planar convex polyhedra. A detailed description of the procedure followed to treat a wide range of cases is presented. The description of the developed algorithm and its validation is verified with several practical examples. The parallelization capabilities and the obtained performance are presented with the study of an industrial application example.


Discrete element method Contact detection Hierarchical search Particle–solid contact interaction 



This work has been carried out with the financial support Spanish MINECO within the BALAMED project (BIA2012-39172).


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Copyright information

© OWZ 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Center for Numerical Methods in Engineering (CIMNE)BarcelonaSpain

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