I need to model a "fishing rod" in 2 dimensions by joining several "rigid sticks" by flexible/elastic joints. The joints act as plate/torsion springs with different spring constants. The "fishing rod" will bend at these joints. The segments of the rod become lighter and the springs softer, towards the tip.

The only input data are the length and weight of each piece of rod and the respective spring constant by which it is attached to the previous one.

I wish to see how this object bends and moves when one end (the handle) is exposed to torque (i.e. how the fishing rod bends when you throw the bait. - There is no need to include torque around the object's own axis.)

(This is not a problem involving stress analysis by FEM. It is about movement in a time frame of seconds. I will later try to extend this model into biomechanics.)

I can follow (and have simulated) the Lagrange transform for the double pendulum, but for more than two segments, the Lagrange transform becomes "virtually impossible" to compute.

Multi body dynamics software can model multi linked objects (and many more things). See this video for a N-link pendulum simulation. How can the movements of such a complex object be computed!?

If I could just get a grip on how the "physics engine" for multiple, elastic/flexible joints work, in this kind of software, I could maybe use this to model the fishing rod.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A fishing rod is basically a continuous elastic body that would be very difficult to model accurately with rigid sticks connected by flexible joints. Multi-body dynamics software is generally not the right tool for such a model. I suggest you look for a finite element analysis program that supports dynamic analysis, e.g. calculix, calculix.de $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. I will definitely look into your suggestion. One reason I now explore M.B.Dyn. is that I later wish to extend the model, e.g. attaching a bait as a pendulum on a line. Further on I wish to see if it is possible to generalize the results into biomechanics where I must use M.B. Dynamics. I currently read about the software MBDyn, but I am not yet sure it has the kinds of joints needed. If it is possible to build the fishing rod from 10-20 segments, I think that would serve my purpose. (But not if you were manufacturing fishing rods.) $\endgroup$
    – cvr
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 2:20

1 Answer 1


As @BillGreene mentioned, this would be better modeled as a continuous elastic body. It would be something like a cantilever beam subject to its own weight and a force at the tip. You can use, Euler-Bernoulli beams for this, where the equations are as follows:

$$ \cfrac{\partial^2 }{\partial x^2}\left(EI\cfrac{\partial^2 w}{\partial x^2}\right) = - \mu\cfrac{\partial^2 w}{\partial t^2} + q(x)$$

Then, you can discretize your domain and obtain a time-integration scheme, you can use Finite Differences or Finite Elements for this. A common one is Verlet integration,

$$\vec x_{n+1}=2\vec x_n-\vec x_{n-1}+\vec a_n\,\Delta t^2$$

where you express your time stepping as a function of the past two time steps and the force in your nodes. You can see an implementation here.

On the other hand, I think that your idea might work. It will not be a correct representation of the physics of the problem, but I think that it might make sense. I was checking a couple of physics simulations software like Physion, and they do not have rotational springs. So, you will need to implement that part.

Regarding on how you do this, you can formulate the Lagrangian and then obtain the equations of motion. An example for the n-links pendulums is here. Where the author used Python and SymPy as part of the task.After this, you will, probably, find a pattern to assemble your stiffness and mass matrices and then you can use as many links as you want.

In all cases, you will need a way to compute the "forces" between the nodes in your system and a time-integration technique, that is commonly explicit (and symplectic).

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your reply. The Python program was really able to produce the very complex motion equations for many segments! We all agree a fishing rod is well simulated as a continuous elastic body. But with the continuation I hope to make, I must use Multi Body Dynamics. I am currently on a trip and must ask for some time to get into your kind answer. Thanks. / I think the Italian software MBDyn may include the plate/torsion springs that would be needed. $\endgroup$
    – cvr
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ Your answer contains interesting points. The JS framework is really something! I have worked with programming and simulation but I have no full engineering background so I must patch my knowledge all the time. I slowly get to understand MBDyn software (but I haven't run it). Here is from their manual "MBDyn allows the broadest generality in defining what a linear elastic constitutive law contains, since the entire 6 × 6 constitutive matrix can be input." As I understand I could either fit several such segments or use torsion springs between fixed segments. ... $\endgroup$
    – cvr
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 15:45
  • $\begingroup$ What is computationally feasible for home computer I don't know. So right now I try to learn MBDyn interface and also the basics of beam theory. Thanks for adding one more piece to what I have to learn. / I have no idea yet how I should describe, plot and simulate the output from these more "continuous" models. I think MBdyn output goes into MATLAB somehow, but with a lot of work and I am not certain the bent beams just get animated out of the box. $\endgroup$
    – cvr
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 15:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.