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Stress and deformation analysis

SIGMA/W is a powerful finite element software product for modelling stress and deformation in soil, rock, and structures. SIGMA/W analyses may range from simple linear elastic simulations to soil-structure interaction problems with nonlinear material models.




SIGMA/W enables you to analyze a broad class of problems in the civil and mining sectors due to its extensive material model library and rigorous formulation. With SIGMA/W, you can analyze complex consolidation problems*, stability of soil and rock slopes, soil-structure interaction problems, and much more.

Key Features

Stress History

In Situ stresses can be established using gravity activation, field stresses, or the K0 procedure, which consider the volumetric water content function to determine effective stresses in the unsaturated zone. Pore-water pressures can be defined using a variety of sources. 



Coupled Consolidation

The coupled stress and pore-water pressure formulation can handle complex analyses with saturated or unsaturated soils. This is useful for construction sequences involving fill placement, excavation, and soil-structure interaction.

*Note that both SIGMA/W and SEEP/W Full licenses are required to run a consolidation analysis




Unloading or loading activities can be simply and accurately modelled, including submerged fill placement, dam and tailings embankment construction, deep excavations, and open pit mine construction. Pore-water pressure changes can be incorporated by defining the initial and final water conditions.




Stress Redistribution

The stress redistribution algorithm is capable of doing stress correction for any material model with a failure criteria. Strength Reduction Stability is also available as an alternative to the limit equilibrium stability method.



SIGMA/W can model a broad range of stress or deformation problems

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Strength Reduction Stability

This example uses the Strength Reduction Stability (SRS) technique to compute the Safety Factor for a slope. Results are compared to the Finite Element Stress stability method available in SLOPE/W.

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Bangkok Wick Drain

Before construction of a new airport in Bangkok, Thailand, full-scale test embankments were constructed on the site to study the effectiveness of prefabricated vertical drains (PVDs) for accelerating the consolidation and dissipation of the excess pore-pressures resulting from fill placement.

Download the GeoStudio data files(1) (2) (3)

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Excavation Below Watertable

The primary objective of this example is to consider the change in pore-water pressure during an excavation below the watertable, particularly the potential for negative pore-water pressures to form. A secondary objective of the example is to demonstrate the use of a moving hydraulic boundary condition on the excavation face.

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Braced Deep Excavation

Halim and Wong's paper in Underground Singapore 2005 presents six case histories where deflections of the shoring walls were measured during construction. The case histories show that GeoStudio has the capabilities to model the behavior of deep shored excavations in soft ground.

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SIGMA/W's intuitive modeling workflow

Create a SIGMA/W analysis and set up the problem workspace. Choose the analysis type, such as In Situ stress, load/deformation, consolidation, and stress redistribution.

Draw the regions in your domain using CAD-like drawing tools, including drawing polygon and circular regions, coordinate import, copy-paste geometric items, length and angle feedback, region splitting and merging, and direct keyboard entry of coordinates, lengths, and angles. Alternatively, import AutoCAD DWG or DXF files directly into GeoStudio to create your domain geometry.

Define the material properties for your analysis, assign them to regions on the domain, and then define your initial pore-water pressure conditions. Select the constitutive model and define the material response type as drained or undrained. Define the initial pore-water pressure conditions for transient scenarios using results from other SEEP/W or SIGMA/W analyses, defined spatial functions or draw an initial water table.

Define stress/strain boundary conditions to simulate stress and fluid pressure conditions or displacement/force conditions to be placed on the domain. Hydraulic boundary conditions can also be added to simulate total head, pressure head, pore-water pressure, water flux (q), water rate (Q), and climatic conditions. Time-varying loading and hydraulic functions can be defined to simulate changing conditions over the duration of a transient analysis. Structural beams and bars can also be applied to the model domain.

Open Draw Mesh Properties to refine the mesh drawn on the entire domain, or along specific geometric regions, lines or boundaries. Interface elements can also be created to simulate frictional properties between materials or between a soil and a structure.

When your problem is completely defined, start the analysis process in the Solve Manager window. The Solve Manager displays the solution progress, allowing you to cancel or stop/restart if necessary. While the solution is in progress, you can look at preliminary results in the Results window.

When the Solver is finished, the Y-total stress contours are displayed, with displacement results displayed as either a deformed mesh or vector arrows. Many other contour options are available in the Draw Contours window, including pore-water pressure, material properties, water flow, and gradients. Contour legends and properties can also be modified. Labels can be added to contour lines in Results View. Plastic states may also be viewed on the domain.

Interactively select any node or gauss region to view result information, including resulting displacement, pore-water pressure, material properties, and more. Draw Mohr Circles to review the stress/strain state of any node or gauss region. Display plots of computed results over the x- or y-direction or create time-varying plots of results in transient analyses, such as displacements, pore-water pressure, total or effective stresses, and more. Generate reports of the definition and results, and export into other applications such as Microsoft Excel for further analysis.

The power of integration

SIGMA/W offers simple but powerful analytical capabilities when used in combination with other GeoStudio products.


SIGMA/W stresses in SLOPE/W

There are many geotechnical cases where it is desirable to not only perform a deformation analysis, but also to look at stability. In other instances, a SLOPE/W limit equilibrium stability analysis alone is inadequate. For cases like this, the SIGMA/W computed stresses can be used in SLOPE/W to compute the safety factors, or a Strength Reduction Stability analysis can be computed in SIGMA/W and compared to the SLOPE/W results.

SIGMA/W pore-water pressures in SLOPE/W

Simulating the placement of fill in SIGMA/W, for example, may create excess pore-water pressures in the foundation. These SIGMA/W excess pore-water pressures can be used in SLOPE/W to analyze the stability during construction and at the end of construction. This could help with designing sub-surface draining or staging the loading.

SEEP/W results in SIGMA/W

SEEP/W pore-water pressures can be used by SIGMA/W to simulate in situ effective stresses. Combine SEEP/W and SIGMA/W to simulate complex hydro-mechanical coupling in both saturated and unsaturated soils.

SIGMA/W pore-water pressures in SEEP/W

Excess pore-water pressures generated during any kind of loading (for example, fill placement) can be used in SEEP/W to study how long it will take for the excess pore-water pressure to dissipate. This can help with specifying the rate of loading.

SIGMA/W stresses in QUAKE/W

Establishing in situ static stresses can be done simplistically in QUAKE/W. Alternatively, you can use the load sequencing and non-linear constitutive soil models in SIGMA/W to improve the estimation of the static stress conditions, and then use them as the initial static stresses in a QUAKE/W dynamic analysis.

QUAKE/W results in SIGMA/W

Stress results from QUAKE/W can be used in a SIGMA/W stress redistribution analysis.