Inverse Methods for Characterization of Contact Areas in Mechanical Systems

  • Matthew Fronk
  • Kevin Eschen
  • Kyle Starkey
  • Robert J. KuetherEmail author
  • Adam Brink
  • Timothy Walsh
  • Wilkins Aquino
  • Matthew Brake
Conference paper
Part of the Conference Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Mechanics Series book series (CPSEMS)


In computational structural dynamics problems, the ability to calibrate numerical models to physical test data often depends on determining the correct constraints within a structure with mechanical interfaces. These interfaces are defined as the locations within a built-up assembly where two or more disjointed structures are connected. In reality, the normal and tangential forces arising from friction and contact, respectively, are the only means of transferring loads between structures. In linear structural dynamics, a typical modeling approach is to linearize the interface using springs and dampers to connect the disjoint structures, then tune the coefficients to obtain sufficient accuracy between numerically predicted and experimentally measured results. This work explores the use of a numerical inverse method to predict the area of the contact patch located within a bolted interface by defining multi-point constraints. The presented model updating procedure assigns contact definitions (fully stuck, slipping, or no contact) in a finite element model of a jointed structure as a function of contact pressure computed from a nonlinear static analysis. The contact definitions are adjusted until the computed modes agree with experimental test data. The methodology is demonstrated on a C-shape beam system with two bolted interfaces, and the calibrated model predicts modal frequencies with <3% total error summed across the first six elastic modes.


Modal analysis Linearized contact Multi-point constraints Model updating Mechanical interfaces 



This research was conducted at the 2017 Nonlinear Mechanics and Dynamics (NOMAD) Research Institute supported by Sandia National Laboratories. Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory managed and operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, LLC., a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International, Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy‘s National Nuclear Security Administration under contract DE-NA-0003525. SAND2017-11517 C.


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Copyright information

© The Society for Experimental Mechanics, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Fronk
    • 1
  • Kevin Eschen
    • 2
  • Kyle Starkey
    • 3
  • Robert J. Kuether
    • 4
    Email author
  • Adam Brink
    • 4
  • Timothy Walsh
    • 4
  • Wilkins Aquino
    • 5
  • Matthew Brake
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Material EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of Minnesota, Twin CitiesMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Mechanical EngineeringPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  4. 4.Sandia National LaboratoriesAlbuquerqueUSA
  5. 5.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  6. 6.William Marsh Rice UniversityHoustonUSA

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