An improved stress recovery technique for the unfitted finite element analysis of discontinuous gradient fields

Jian Zhang, Alejandro M. Aragón*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
158 Downloads (Pure)


Stress analysis is an all-pervasive practice in engineering design. With displacement-based finite element analysis, directly-calculated stress fields are obtained in a post-processing step by computing the gradient of the displacement field—therefore less accurate. In enriched finite element analysis (EFEA), which provides unprecedented versatility by decoupling the finite element mesh from material interfaces, cracks, and structural boundaries, stress recovery is further aggravated when such discontinuities get arbitrarily close to nodes of the mesh; the presence of small area integration elements often yields overestimated stresses, which could have a detrimental impact on nonlinear analyses (e.g., damage or plasticity) since stress concentrations are just a nonphysical numerical artifact. In this article, we propose a stress recovery procedure for enhancing the stress field in problems where the field gradient is discontinuous. The formulation is based on a stress improvement procedure (SIP) initially proposed for low-order standard finite elements. Although generally applicable to all EFEA, we investigate the technique with the Interface-enriched Generalized Finite Element Method and compare the procedure to other post-processing smoothing techniques. We demonstrate that SIP for EFEA provides an enhanced stress field that is more accurate than directly-calculated stresses—even when compared with standard FEM with fitted meshes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-663
JournalInternational Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • enriched finite element analysis
  • interface-enriched generalized FEM
  • stress improvement procedure
  • stress recovery


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