Optional Features


3DEC simulates the nonlinear response of a system (soil, rock, and structures) to excitation from an external (e.g., seismic) source or internal (e.g. vibration or blasting) sources. It can reproduce the evolution of permanent movements due to yield. This option models the full dynamic response of a system in the time domain. Capabilities include specification of velocity or stress-wave input, quiet (i.e., viscous) boundaries, free-field conditions (ideal for earthquake simulation), and damping.

3DEC model of an arch dam for earthquake analysis. The free-field boundary conditions
are displayed along the model boundaries (Lemos, 2012).


Problems such as seismic loading, explosive loading, seismic release of energy, and flow of particles may be modeled.

Comparison between the parallel tunnel pillars in jointed rock after an accidental explosion in one tunnel. Shown are deformations with rock reinforcement (top) and Illustration of large blocks deformations without ground support (bottom). The unsupported case is not in equilibrium, which means that the blocks continue to move towards some kind of collapse state pillar. (Brandshaug and Rosengren, 2008).


Two types of damping are available in 3DEC: mass-proportional and stiffness-proportional. Mass-proportional damping applies a force which is proportional to absolute velocity and mass, but in the direction opposite to the velocity. Stiffness proportional damping applies a force, which is proportional to the incremental stiffness matrix multiplied by relative velocities or strain rates, to contacts or stresses in zones. Either form of damping may be used separately or in combination (i.e., Rayleigh damping).

In 3DEC, the dynamic input can be applied as either a prescribed velocity history or as a stress history. An acceleration history needs to be integrated numerically first to produce a velocity history for 3DEC.


The thermal option in 3DEC allows the simulation of transient heat conduction. There are two separate formulations of the thermal logic. The first is a numerical formulation using the explicit or implicit finite difference method. This method is more accurate for short times, and includes thermal-mechanical fluid coupling. The second is an analytical formulation that uses superposition of point heat sources* in an infinite medium. This method is suitable for long thermal times, and is very fast.

Feature Numerical ANALYTICAL
Comparison of features available with numerical vs analytical formulations.
Thermal mechanical coupling Yes Yes
Thermal fluid coupling Yes No
Thermal convection in fluid Yes No
Temperature boundary Yes No
Thermal flux boundary Yes No
Thermal convection boundary Yes No
Adiabatic boundary Yes Yes
Homogeneous thermal block properties Yes Yes
Anisotropic thermal block properties Yes No
Heat Sources* (e..g, nuclear waste) Yes Yes

*Point heat sources may be placed individually, in lines, or in grids, to represent point, line, or plane sources of heating. This formulation yields rapid calculations, correct application of mechanical boundary conditions, incorporation of the infinite thermal boundary, and the ability to use inhomogeneous and anisotropic mechanical properties.


Modeling cables and beams is part of the standard functionality of 3DEC. This option adds the ability to model tunnel liners and external structures (such as dams, bridges, walls, buildings, etc.). The tunnel liner logic automatically places equally spaced triangular-shaped plates on the inside surface of an excavation or tunnel. External structures can be modeled using finite elements that are attached to the 3DEC model.


User-defined constitutive models can be written in C++ for both zoned block materials and joint materials. These are compiled as DLL files that can be loaded whenever needed with this option. Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 is used to compile the DLL files. The main function of the constitutive model is to return new stresses, given strain increments. However, the model must also provide other information (such as name of the model and material property names) and describe certain details about how the model interacts with the code. Itasca maintains an online library of UDM C++ models where users can submit and download novel and useful constitutive models.

Brandshaug, T. and L. Rosengren (2008). 3D numerical analyses of accidental explosions in rock tunnels. Swedish Rock Engineering Research, SveBeFo Rapport 89, Stockholm, ISSN 1104 – 1773, 225 pages (in Norwegian).

Lemos, J. (2012). Modelling the failure modes of dams' foundations. In MIR 2012 - Nuovi metodi diindagine, monitoraggio e modellazione degli amassi rocciosi (Eds. G. Barla, M. Barla, A.M. Ferrero, T. Rotonda), Politecnico di Torino, Italy, 2012, pp. 259-272.