This post discusses a solution for modeling a traveling load on Maplesim's Flexible Beam component and provides an example of a bouncing load.

The idea for the above example came from an attempt to reproduce a model of a mass sliding on a beam from MapleSim's model gallery. However, reproducing it using contact components in combination with the Flexible Beam component turned out to be not straightforward, and this will be discussed in the following.

To simulate a traveling load on the Flexible Beam component, one could apply forces at discrete locations for a certain duration. However, the fidelity of this approach is limited by the number of discrete locations, which must be defined using the Flexible Beam Frame component, as well as the way in which the forces are activated.

One potential solution to address the issue of temporal activation of forces is to attach contact elements (such as Rectangle components) at distinct locations along the beam, which are defined by Flexible Beam Frame components, and make contact using a spherical or toroidal contact element. However, this approach also introduces two new problems:

  • An additional bending moment is generated when the load is not applied at the center of the contact element's attachment point, the Flexible Beam Frame component. Depending on the length of the contact element, deformations caused by this moment can be greater than the deformation caused by the force itself when the force is applied at the ends of the contact element. Overall, this unwanted moment makes the simulation unrealistic and must be avoided.
  • When the beam bends, a gap (see below) or an overlap is created between adjacent Rectangle components. If there is a gap, the object exerting a force on the beam can fall through it. Overlaps can create differences in dynamic behavior when the radius of curvature of the beam is on the opposite side of the point of contact.

To avoid these problems, the solution presented here uses an intermediate kinematic chain (encircled in yellow below) that redistributes the contact force on the Rectangle component on two support points (ports to attach Flexible Beam Frame components) in a linear fashion.



To address gaps, the contact element (Rectangle) attached to the kinematic chain has the same width as the chain and connects to the adjacent contact elements via multibody frames. In the image below, 10 contact elements are laid on top of a single Flexible Beam component, like a belt made out of tiles. The belt has to be pinned to the flexible beam at one location (highlighted in yellow). The location of this fixed point determines how the flexible beam is loaded by tangential contact forces (friction forces) and should be selected carefully.



Some observations on the attached model:

  • Low damping and high initial potential energy of the ball can result in a failed simulation (due to constraint projection failure). Increasing the number of elastic coordinates has a similar effect. Constraint projection can be turned off in the simulation settings to continue simulation.
  • The bouncing ball excites several eigenmodes at once, causing the beam to wiggle chaotically in combination with the varying bouncing frequency of the ball. A similar looking effect can also be achieved with special initial conditions, as demonstrated with Maple in this excellent post on Euler beams and partial differential equations.
  • Repeated simulations with low damping lead to different results (an indication of chaotic behavior; see three successive simulations below (gold) compared to a saved solution(red)). The moment in the animation when the ball travels backward represents a metastable equilibrium point of the simulation. This makes predictions beyond this point difficult, as the behavior of the system is highly dependent on the model parameters. Whether the reversal is a simulation artifact or can happen in reality remains to be seen. Overall, this example could evolve into a nice experimental fun project for students.