A method for generating simplified finite element models for electrical cabinets

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Lim, Edwin
Goodno, Barry J.
Craig, James I.
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An electrical switchboard cabinet is one of the essential pieces of equipment in an electrical distribution system running from a power plant to important facilities such as hospitals. The cabinet houses electrical devices, such as circuit breakers, busbars, and meters that are critical to continued operation of a variety of essential facilities. The cabinet is usually constructed using cold-formed steel members, steel panels, and screw and bolt connections. Methods typically used to assess the dynamic behavior of a properly anchored cabinet are experimental tests and high fidelity finite element models in which all structural elements (i.e., members and panels) are modeled using shell elements. However, these methods are time consuming and expensive, and interpretation of the results may be difficult especially for multiple cabinet arrangements. Therefore, a method to generate a simplified finite element model for the cabinet is proposed in this study. The simplified model consists of Timoshenko beam elements, shell elements, and springs and constraint equations. This model has the capability to capture the possible nonlinear behavior of the cabinet such as buckling of steel panels, failure of screw connections, and possible elastic local buckling near the ends of beam members. The proposed simplified cabinet model was validated using the benchmark cabinet model in both geometric linear and nonlinear pushover analyses. Further applications of the simplified cabinet model in frequency response analysis and time history analysis are also discussed.
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