Main Content

Clamped Square Isotropic Plate with Uniform Pressure Load

This example shows how to calculate the deflection of a structural plate under a pressure loading.

The partial differential equation for a thin isotropic plate with a pressure loading is


where D is the bending stiffness of the plate given by


and E is the modulus of elasticity, ν is Poisson's ratio, h is the plate thickness, w is the transverse deflection of the plate, and p is the pressure load.

The boundary conditions for the clamped boundaries are w=0 and w=0, where w is the derivative of w in a direction normal to the boundary.

Partial Differential Equation Toolbox™ cannot directly solve this fourth-order plate equation. Convert the fourth-order equation to these two second-order partial differential equations, where v is the new dependent variable.



You cannot directly specify boundary conditions for both w and w in this second-order system. Instead, specify that w is 0, and define v so that w also equals 0 on the boundary. To specify these conditions, use stiff "springs" distributed along the boundary. The springs apply a transverse shear force to the plate edge. Define the shear force along the boundary due to these springs as nDv=-kw, where n is the normal to the boundary, and k is the stiffness of the springs. This expression is a generalized Neumann boundary condition supported by the toolbox. The value of k must be large enough so that w is approximately 0 at all points on the boundary. It also must be small enough to avoid numerical errors due to an ill-conditioned stiffness matrix.

The toolbox uses the dependent variables u1 and u2 instead of w and v. Rewrite the two second-order partial differential equations using variables u1 and u2:



Create a PDE model for a system of two equations.

model = createpde(2);

Create a square geometry and include it in the model.

len = 10;
gdm = [3 4 0 len len 0 0 0 len len]';
g = decsg(gdm,'S1',('S1')');

Plot the geometry with the edge labels.

axis equal
title 'Geometry With Edge Labels Displayed'

Figure contains an axes. The axes with title Geometry With Edge Labels Displayed contains 5 objects of type line, text.

PDE coefficients must be specified using the format required by the toolbox. For details, see

The c coefficient in this example is a tensor, which can be represented as a 2-by-2 matrix of 2-by-2 blocks:


This matrix is further flattened into a column vector of six elements. The entries in the full 2-by-2 matrix (defining the coefficient a) and the 2-by-1 vector (defining the coefficient f) follow directly from the definition of the two-equation system.

E = 1.0e6; % Modulus of elasticity
nu = 0.3; % Poisson's ratio
thick = 0.1; % Plate thickness
pres = 2; % External pressure

D = E*thick^3/(12*(1 - nu^2));

c = [1 0 1 D 0 D]';
a = [0 0 1 0]';
f = [0 pres]';

To define boundary conditions, first specify spring stiffness.

k = 1e7;

Define distributed springs on all four edges.

bOuter = applyBoundaryCondition(model,'neumann','Edge',(1:4),...
                                     'g',[0 0],'q',[0 0; k 0]);

Generate a mesh.


Solve the model.

res = solvepde(model);

Access the solution at the nodal locations.

u = res.NodalSolution;

Plot the transverse deflection.

numNodes = size(model.Mesh.Nodes,2);
title 'Transverse Deflection'

Figure contains an axes. The axes with title Transverse Deflection contains 12 objects of type patch, line.

Find the transverse deflection at the plate center.

numNodes = size(model.Mesh.Nodes,2);
wMax = min(u(1:numNodes,1))
wMax = -0.2763

Compare the result with the deflection at the plate center computed analytically.

wMax = -.0138*pres*len^4/(E*thick^3)
wMax = -0.2760