There’s a few interpretations floating around regarding the length–real or implied–of zero length elements in OpenSees. So, I made a Twitter poll to assess popular opinion.

Despite being an “easy” question, only 50% of respondents chose the correct answer. Like “When was the War of 1812?”, the question gives it away–zero length elements have zero length.

The other three options were ordered from least to most wrong. Fortunately, the distribution of responses from the other 50% followed this ranking.

1 (unitless) – I could get behind this answer. Like pass through, the unitless one simply translates the material response to the context in which the zero length element is used. A unitless one is something, and at the same time, it is nothing.

1 (length unit of model) – This answer is fundamentally incorrect. A physical length implies the zero length element integrates the material response to suit the element formulation, e.g., multiplying strain by length to get deformation. But when you change the length unit of your model, e.g., from meters to millimeters, you change the implied integration length from 1 meter to 1 millimeter. As a result, your model is conceptually subjective, i.e., not objective and difficult to justify.

Some of the confusion over a unitful one comes from bond slip models implemented in OpenSees using zero length fiber sections. The fiber constitutive models must be adjusted by an anchorage length in order to convert strain to slip. In the end, that length is just another parameter to calibrate.

Infinity – The inverse of the correct answer. I don’t see how a zero length element could have infinite length. Perhaps there is some confusion with plane strain assumptions?

Did I overlook another possible interpretation of zero length elements? Did I unfairly pick on bond slip models? Can you explain the logic behind choosing infinity as the answer? Let me know in the comments section.

I definitely attempt to stay positive all the time. I have been involved in the development, maintenance, and growth of OpenSees since its early days. Recently, I've taken an interest in learning Python and improving my academic writing.
View all posts by Michael H. Scott

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4 thoughts on “Fuzzy Zero Length Logic”

From Sap2000, plastic hinges have hinge length. People may think zero length has a hinge length

From Sap2000, plastic hinges have hinge length. People may think zero length has a hinge length

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In this one, OpenSees uses zero length, most probably Sap2000 uses plastic hinges

https://opensees.berkeley.edu/wiki/index.php/Pushover_Analysis_of_2-Story_Moment_Frame

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Thanks for reminding me of this example. It is also one that creates a lot of confusion and misinformation regarding hinge lengths.

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