An Automated Process for 2D and 3D Finite Element Overclosure and Gap Adjustment using Radial Basis Function Networks

Thor E. Andreassen, Donald R. Hume, Landon D. Hamilton, Sean E. Higinbotham, Kevin B. Shelburne

In biomechanics, geometries representing complicated organic structures are consistently segmented from sparse volumetric data or morphed from template geometries resulting in initial overclosure between adjacent geometries. In FEA, these overclosures result in numerical instability and inaccuracy as part of contact analysis. Several techniques exist to fix overclosures, but most suffer from several drawbacks. This work introduces a novel automated algorithm in an iterative process to remove overclosure and create a desired minimum gap for 2D and 3D finite element models. The RBF Network algorithm was introduced by its four major steps to remove the initial overclosure. Additionally, the algorithm was validated using two test cases against conventional nodal adjustment. The first case compared the ability of each algorithm to remove differing levels of overclosure between two deformable muscles and the effects on mesh quality. The second case used a non-deformable femur and deformable distal femoral cartilage geometry with initial overclosure to test both algorithms and observe the effects on the resulting contact FEA. The RBF Network in the first case study was successfully able to remove all overclosures. In the second case, the nodal adjustment method failed to create a usable FEA model, while the RBF Network had no such issue. This work proposed an algorithm to remove initial overclosures prior to FEA that has improved performance over conventional nodal adjustment, especially in complicated situations and those involving 3D elements. The work can be included in existing FEA modeling workflows to improve FEA results in situations involving sparse volumetric segmentation and mesh morphing. This algorithm has been implemented in MATLAB, and the source code is publicly available to download at the following GitHub repository: https://github.com/thor-andreassen/femors

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