A large rigid body rotation of a finite element can be described by rotating the axes of the element coordinate system or by keeping the axes unchanged and change the slopes or the position vector gradients. In the first method, the definition of the local element parameters (spatial coordinates) changes with respect to a body or a global coordinate system. The use of this method will always lead to a nonlinear mass matrix and non-zero centrifugal and Coriolis forces. The second method, in which the axes of the element coordinate system do not rotate with respect to the body or the global coordinate system, leads to a constant mass matrix and zero centrifugal and Coriolis forces when the absolute nodal coordinate formulation is used. This important property remains in effect even in the case of flexible bodies with slope discontinuities. The concept employed to accomplish this goal resembles the concept of the intermediate element coordinate system previously adopted in the finite element floating frame of reference formulation. It is shown in this paper that the absolute nodal coordinate formulation that leads to exact representation of the rigid body dynamics can be effectively used in the analysis of complex structures with slope discontinuities. The analysis presented in this paper also demonstrates that objectivity is not an issue when the absolute nodal coordinate formulation is used due to the fact that this formulation automatically accounts for the proper coordinate transformations.

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