In finite element (FE) analysis, traditional penalty methods impose constraints by adding virtual stiffness to the FE system. In dynamics, this can decrease the critical time step of the system when conditionally stable time integration schemes are used by introducing spurious modes with high eigenfrequencies. Recent studies have shown that using mass penalties alongside traditional stiffness penalties can mitigate this effect for systems with a one single-point constraint. In the present work, we extend this finding to include systems with an arbitrary set of multipoint constraints. By analysing the generalised eigenvalue problem, we show that the values of spurious eigenfrequencies may be controlled by the choice of stiffness and mass penalty parameters. The method is demonstrated using numerical examples, including a one-dimensional contact–impact formulation and a two-dimensional crack propagation analysis. The results show that constraint imposition using the bipenalty method can be employed such that the critical time step of an analysis is unaffected, whereas also displaying superiority over the mass penalty method in terms of accuracy and versatility. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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