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RFEM – Online Manual

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4.14 Member Hinges

General description

Member hinges limit the internal forces that are transferred from one member to others. Hinges are only assigned to member ends (nodes); they can never be assigned to other locations such as the middle of the member.

Some member types are already provided with hinges: A truss, for example, does not transfer moments and a cable transfers neither moments nor shear forces. When entering data, the assignment of hinges is therefore blocked for members of such member types.

Figure 4.140 New Member Hinge dialog box
Figure 4.141 Table 1.14 Member Hinges
Reference System

A member hinge can be related to one of the following axis systems:

    • Local member axis system x,y,z
    • Global coordinate system X,Y,Z (optionally as scissors hinge)
    • User-defined axis system X',Y',Z'
Member shortcut menu
Member shortcut menu

Use the Display navigator (see Figure 4.165) or the member shortcut menu shown on the left to display the local member axes.

For detailed information about the orientation of local member axes in the global coordinate system XYZ, see Chapter 4.17.

Normally, hinges are related to the local axis system x,y,z. Scissors hinges (see Figure 4.143) can only be defined in relation to the global or user-defined coordinate system.

Axial/Shear Hinge or Spring

To define an axial or shear force hinge, set the respective displacement free by selecting the relevant check box in the dialog box or table. The check mark therefore indicates that the axial or shear force cannot be transferred at the member end because a hinge has been set. This becomes apparent in the Member Hinge dialog box: In the text box to the right of the check mark, the constant of the translational spring is zero.

You can change the spring constant anytime to represent, for example, a semi-rigid connection. In the table, enter the constant directly into the table column. The stiffnesses of the springs are considered design values.

Moment Hinge or Spring

Hinges for torsion and bending moments must be defined like hinges for forces. The check mark once again indicates that the torsion is free and the internal force is not transferred.

Elastic connections can be modeled through spring constants, which you can enter directly. Pay attention not to use extreme stiffness values, because otherwise numerical problems may occur during the calculation: Instead of very big or small constants, use rigid connections (no check mark) or hinges (check mark).

The option for defining nonlinear hinge properties is described at the end of this chapter.

Assigning hinges graphically

To graphically assign hinges in the work window, use the menu item

    • Insert → Model Data → Member Hinge → Assign to Members Graphically


    • Edit → Model Data → Member Hinges → Assign Graphically to Members.

First, select a hinge type from the list or create a new one. After clicking [OK], members are divided graphically at one-third division points.

Figure 4.142 Assigning member hinges graphically

Now you can click the member sides you want to apply the selected hinge to. To assign the hinge to both member ends, click the member in its center area.

Scissors hinge

With scissors hinges, you can model the crossing of beams. For example: You have four members connected in one node. Each of the two member pairs transfers moments in its "continuous direction", but they do not transfer any moments to the other pair. Only axial and shear forces are transferred in the node.

Figure 4.143 Beam crossing
Figure 4.144 New Member Hinge dialog box

In this case, the hinge must be assigned either to members 1 and 2 or to members 3 and 4. The other crossing member pair is modeled as bending-resistant without hinge.


Nonlinear properties can be assigned to member hinges. In this way, you can control the transfer of internal forces in detail. The list of nonlinearities provides various options.

Figure 4.145 List of nonlinear properties

In the table, hinge types with nonlinear properties are marked in blue.

Fixed if internal force is negative or positive

With these two options, you can control the hinge activity for each internal force depending on the direction. For example: An axial force hinge defined with the nonlinearity Fixed if positive N has the effect that tensile forces (positive) can be transferred at the end of the member, but compressive forces (negative) cannot. In case of negative axial forces, the hinge is effective.

The internal forces are related to the local member axis system xyz.

The remaining entries of the Nonlinearity list provide detailed modeling options for hinge properties. To access the options, use the [Edit] dialog buttons to the right of the list or in the table (see Figure 4.141).

Partial activity
Figure 4.146 Nonlinearity - Partial Activity dialog box

The activity of the release can be defined separately for the positive and negative zone. In addition to full effectiveness or failure, the release can lose its effect when a certain displacement or rotation is reached; then it begins to act as a fixed or rigid connection. Tearing (no internal force is transferred after exceeding a certain value) and Yielding (internal forces are transferred only up to a certain value, even in case of larger deformations) are also possible in combination with a Slippage.

The limit values can be defined in the text boxes below. In the Activity Diagram dialog section, the release properties are shown in a dynamic graphic.

Figure 4.147 Nonlinearity - Diagram dialog box

The activity of the release can be defined separately for the Positive and Negative Zone. First, enter the Number of steps (i.e. definition points) represented in the diagram. Then you can enter the abscissa values of the internal forces with the assigned displacements or rotations into the list to the right.

You have several options for the Diagram after last step: Tearing for the failure of the release (no internal force is transferred any longer), Yielding for restricting the transfer to a maximum allowable internal force, Continuous as in the last step, or Stop for restricting to a maximum allowable displacement or rotation followed by a fixed or rigid release activity.

In the Diagram dialog section, the release properties are shown in a dynamic graphic.

Plastic hinge

The plastic properties of the hinge can be defined in a separate dialog box.


Take a look at the following technical articles for detailed information about nonlinearities at scaffoldings:
https://www.dlubal.com/en/support-and-learning/support/knowledge-base/000973 https://www.dlubal.com/en/support-and-learning/support/knowledge-base/001116

Example: Rafter roof
Figure 4.148 Rafter roof

A planar system is used. The hinge must be defined as follows:

Figure 4.149 Table 1.14 Member Hinges

The hinge type can then be assigned to the members.

Figure 4.150 Graphic and Table 1.17 Members
Figure 4.151 Moment diagram in load case self-weight