A typical mainframe computer rack is narrow, tall and long. In certain installations, during its functional operation, the server can be subjected to earthquake events. The rack is a steel structure joined together with steel rivets. One of the rack’s functions is to protect the critical components such as the processor, input-output and storage drawers from excessive motion by minimizing the amount of deflection. The riveted joints pose a challenge in accurately representing more than three thousand joints in a finite element (FE) model. In the FE model, bonding together sheet metal regions around the rivet joints will lead to a significantly stiffer model than the actual structure. On the other hand, an accurate representation of the riveted joints will lead to a better representation of the dynamic response of the server rack under vertical and horizontal loadings.

This paper presents a method of analyzing rivet joints. The rivet joints are represented by beam elements with cylindrical cross-sections in the FE model. This is accomplished by identifying two parallel or overlapping plates and inserting discrete beam elements at the riveted joint. This method will be used to predict the dynamics modes of the structure. To validate the FE model, a prototype server rack was subjected to side to side vibration tests. A sine sweep vibration test identifies dominant mode shapes and the transmissibility of the input vibration. The results of the tests on the prototype rack serve as input for FE model refinement. The test data show that representing the riveted joints with beams does provide results that closely match the actual test data. A validated FE model will be used to evaluate dominant vibration modes for several configurations of rack weight as well as configurations to stiffen the structure in the side to side direction. The dynamic mode shapes visualize the effect of stiffening brackets on dominant frequencies of the rack. The optimal stiffening design will be the one that results in the minimum deflection under the standard testing profile.

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