Case Study: Modeling a Grain Bin for Safe Entry Retrofit †

Michael Dyer, Serap Gorucu, Randall Bock, Roderick Thomas, Jude Liu, Linda Fetzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


All new grain bins produced after 2018 are recommended to have anchor points capable of handling a 2000 lb loading for attachment of bin entry lifeline systems. This study aims to assess the feasibility of a safe entry anchor point retrofit by using finite element analysis (FEA). We used a grain bin owned by Penn State for 3D FEA modeling in SolidWorks. To validate the model results from the FEA model, first strain and then deflection measurements were conducted on the grain. Strain gauges were applied to the grain bin in five locations and strain values were obtained after applying static loads. The strain gauge measurements from the experimental study were compared to the strain output from the FEA simulation. The error seen was far greater than was expected. The most pertinent error source was strain gauge installation error and equipment failure. Then, the vertical roof deflection of the bin was measured using a precision phase-comparison laser while applying incremental static loads to the retrofitted rescue anchor points. The FEA model results were compared to the experimentally measured deflection results. A 3D FEA model of a grain bin was created. A high amount of error was observed in deflections between the measured and FEA modeling. The errors have resulted from the assumptions made during the model creation. However, the SolidWorks Simulation model still may be used to estimate loading scenarios in a safe and non-destructive way. Based on the research findings, the project team recommends that the suitability of any bin to safely accommodate a lifeline and anchor point system must be verified on a case-by-case basis. Evaluation by a professional structural engineer and consulting with the manufacturer are recommended. This recommendation extends to all-grain bins, including those post-2018.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number28
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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