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Finite Element Analysis of Sandwich Plates

Finite Element Analysis of Sandwich Plates

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Compuws & Sfructures Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 397-403, 1990Printed in Gnat Britain.004s7949/90 s3.00 + 0.00PergFmm Press plc
FINITE ELEMENT ANALYSIS OF SANDWICH PLATES:AN OVERVIEW
K. H. I-IA
Centre for Building Studies, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3G lM8(Receiued 17 October 1989)
Abstract-Many finite element models have been proposed for the analysis of sandwich plates. In general,these elements can be classified into two broad streams. The first is based on the assumed filamentapproach, and the second on the assumed-stress hybrid approach. Within each stream, the characteristicsof the elements vary greatly in terms of the formulation complexity, accuracy and applicability. Anoverview is given of the state-of-the-art finite element analysis applied to sandwich plate structures.
INTRODUCTION
Sandwich construction is a special class of laminateswhere the inner layers are often thicker and com-posed of more flexible materials. Common con:figurations may consist of a single core bonded to twostiff facings, or multiple cores with multiple facings.Half-sandwich or open faced canstruction has onlyone core and one facing. The structural efficiencyachieved by separating the stiff facings with a thickcore of low density material exacts a certain toll interms of increased transverse (thickness) shear fiexi-bility and increased susceptibility to local instability;these are two issues among many that confront thedesigner.Transverse shear deformations are associated withthe bending behaviour of sandwich plate structures,pa~icularly when the inner layers are thick and ofmore flexible material. Because of this characteristic,classical thin plate ‘KirchhofI’ elements are notapplicable. Many finite element models have beenproposed for the analysis of sandwich plates. Ingeneral, these elements can be classified into twobroad streams. The first is based on the assumeddispla~ment approach, and the second on theassumed-stress hybrid approach. Within each stream,the characteristics of the elements vary greatlyin terms of formulation complexity, accuracy andapplicability.It is the purpose of this paper to give an overviewof the state-of-the-art finite element analysis ofsandwich plate structures. The underlying assump-tions of the elements will be discussed and their rangeof applicability indicated. The information presentedwill be of use to researchers in the field as well as todesigners interested in a particular type of sandwichconstruction. The primary interest will be on theanalysis of the overail behaviour of sandwich platesand shells rather than on the local instabilityphenomena.The paper will progress in the following manner.First, some general considerations in the analysis willbe discussed, then the existing finite element models,classified in accordance with their formulationapproach and functional use, will be presented.Undoubtedly, a survey of this type will not do justiceto al1 contributions, particularly with the theoreticaldevelopments in the wider field of laminate construc-tion, and for which the author apologizes.
GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
This section discusses the various aspects thatunderlie the choice of a particular analysis techniqueor element.
Efects of transverse shear deformations
Transverse shear defo~ations occur to a certainextent in any plate subjected to transverse loading,but they are more significant in thick isotropic orlaminated composite plates and in sandwich plateswith soft cores. It is well known that they have noeffects on the stress resultants in simply supportedrectangular isotropic sandwich plates subjected touniform loading or edge moments. In mostother situations, the stress distributions can be verydifferent from those obtained with thin plateKirchhoff theory.Before embarking on a complex analysis, theanalyst is well advised to ascertain whether the effectsof transverse shear deformations are significantenough to warrant the extra analysis-effort. A rule ofthumb for preliminary design is that such effects canbe neglected if eqn (1) is satisfied [l].
SL2-
D>
loo,where S and
D
are the shear and bending stiffnesses,respectively, and L is the length of the beam or plate.
397
 
398K. H.
HA
These material parameters can be derived for anyconfiguration of sandwich construction (see, forexample, [2, 9).
The type of nodal degrees of freedom
Simple finite elements, possessing only the basicgeometrical nodal degrees of freedom (e.g. mid-planetranslations and section rotations which are easilytransformed) are suitable for the analysis of three-dimensional systems composed of panels meetingat an angle, e.g. folded plates, and panelizedconstruction. Finite element models with additionaldegrees of freedom such as curvatures, higher orderderivatives of displacements or shear strains aretherefore more suitable for the analysis of flat platesor shells. Also, these elements can be very accurate,particularly when interlaminar shear stresses are ofspecial interest.
Special problems
Since interlaminar shear stresses are continuousacross layers, they should not be evaluated using anindividual layer’s elastic constants, but rather byother means, such as equilibrium consideration, orby using higher order assumed-stress elements. Adifferent problem, involving ‘concentrated’ forces,where the local transverse shear stresses are discon-tinuous, can also be tackled by more sophisticatedelements.An additional complication arises in the case ofsandwich construction with unsymmetrical layers,of which half-sandwich is the simplest type, wherebending and in-plane stretching are coupled(although such coupling tends to reduce the plateeffective stiffness, other considerations may prevail).In finite element analysis, this coupling must beincluded at the formulation stage, since a simplesuperposition of the bending and stretchingbehaviours is invalid for this case.In general, finite element solutions for transverseshear stresses and edge reactions are less accuratethan those for deflections and moments; this isparticularly true in the displacement formulation ofsandwich and Mindlin plate elements.The specification of boundary conditions for manyrefined elements can be complicated because of thenumerous degrees of freedom assigned across theplate thickness. For sandwich construction with rigidedge inserts or stiffeners, compatibility requiresspecial consideration. It is unfortunate that develop-ers of finite element models rarely address thesepractical matters.
Assumptions in sandwich plate formulations
The variety of assumptions used in sandwich plateformulation can be confusing. Obviously, the moresophisticated formulations make fewer assumptionsat the cost of more complexity and analysis-effort.A paper by Cook [4] investigates the effects ofsome of these assumptions for three-layer sandwichplates of isotropic facings. The various degrees ofapproximation are classified below to facilitate laterreference.1.
General assumptions.
These are common tomost formulations: (a) the transverse deflection isconstant across the thickness; and (b) perfect bondingbetween layers (the effects of ‘elastic interlayer slips’on sandwich beam-columns were discussed by Fazio
et a1.[5]).2. Materialproperties.
Materials for the facing andcore can be: (a) isotropic; (b) orthotropic; or (c)anisotropic.3.
Stress distribution in facing section.
(a) Thinfacing theory: the face is treated as a solid membrane,i.e. constant a,, by,
Tag.
(b) Thick facing theory: theface is treated as a classical thin plate to allow forstretching and local bending, i.e. linear distribution ofQ,, aY, rxY.c) All five
StreSS
components o,, au,
txy,Txz3tyl
are defined, and are often allowed to varyacross the layer thickness.4.
Stress distribution in the core section.
(a) Flexiblecore: constant transverse shear stresses
T,,, Tag.
(b)Stiff core: similar to 3(c) above.5.
Displacement variation.
The approximations sofar are concerned with individual layer behaviour.Since the layers are bonded together, certain quan-tities such as interlaminar shear stresses and displace-ments are continuous across layers. This, combinedwith the need to enforce strain compatibility withinthe layers (as required in the displacement finiteelement formulation), necessitates an assumed kin-ematic deformation mode for the plate section. (a)Linear variation (Fig. 1): the normal remains straightacross the entire cross-section of the plate, but notnecessarily perpendicular to the middle plane. (b)Piece-wise linear variation with partial continuity(Fig. 2). (c) Piece-wise linear variation with fullcontinuity (Fig. 3). (d) Quadratic or cubic variationto allow for warping of the cross-section.The discontinuity of the inplane displacements atthe layer interface shown in Fig. 2 arises from theneglect of transverse shear deformations in the stifflayers. In addition, if the small displacement u* in thestiff layers is considered then we have the so-calledthick facing theory [i.e. assumption 3(b)], otherwisethe theory is for thin facings [i.e. assumption 3(a)].This discussion also illustrates the interdependencybetween the various assumptions.
l-5
Iz
b!!3
o-
_TW,X
Fig.
1.
Linear displacement variation.
 
Finite element analysis of sandwich plates399Fig. 2. Piece-wise linear displacement with partial continuity.
6. Consideration of equilibrium.
In the finiteelement formulation based on assumed stresses,equilibrium may be enforced on: (a) the stresses at thelayers’ level; or (b) the resultant moments and forces;and (c) the conditions of continuity of interlaminarstresses and traction-free at the laminate exteriorsurfaces.Confusion is caused by the variety of combinationsof the above approximations, especially when theassumptions underlying a particular formulation arenot explicitly stated. As an example, the combinationof the preceeding 2(c), 3(c), and 4(b) seems to behighly sophisticated; however, when it is combinedwith S(a), the resultant formulation may be accept-able for a composite laminate of similar materialstiffnesses, but may not be suitable for sandwichconstruction of multiple cores with differentmaterials.
DEVELOPMENT OF FINITE ELEMENTS
Early theoretical work considering the effects oftransverse shear deformations on homogeneousplates was carried out by Reissner [6] and Mindlin [7],and on sandwich plates by Libove and Batdorf [8].The body of existing analytical theories is large, asshown by the extensive surveys carried out byHabip [9, lo], Bert and Francis [ll], and Bert [12].
Reissner-Mindlin elements
References [6] and [7j and their subsequent exten-sion by Medwadowski [13], Yang
et al.
[14], and
many others, provide the basis for the developmentof finite element models of both homogeneous and
UiFig. 3. Piece-wise linear displacement with full continuity.
laminated plates. Because the Reissner-Mindlinelement type forms part of the library of most largescale structural analysis packages, it is worthwhileto review its basic mechanism for the inclusion oftransverse shear deformations. With the assumption5(a) described before, the displacement field isw(x, y, z) = w(x, Y),(2)where the subscript 0 denotes the displacements ofthe reference plane z = 0, and 8,, 0, are the averagerotations of the normals. The transverse shear strainsareyXI=
w,++, w,+ex~~~=w~+~,~=w,~+e~,
(3)where the comma denotes partial differentiation withrespect to the variable that follows. To account forthe non-uniform distribution of transverse shearstresses, correction factors are introduced. In the caseof a homogeneous plate, the correlation factor of 1.2is included in the definition of the transverse shearstiffness(4)where G is the shear modulus, and h is the platethickness.For the analysis of laminated or sandwich plates,it is necessary to provide the proper material con-stants, expressed in terms of stress-strain relations forthe individual layers, or in terms of the plate resultantforces and moments. Correction factors for this classwere derived by Whitney
[
15,161 based on energyconsideration.The popularity of the Reissner-Mindlin elementtype arises partly from the simplicity in theformulation which requires only Co displacementcontinuity, and partly from its general applicabilityto both thin and thick plates. The first orderReissner-Mindlin elements may work well for lami-nated plates, but Khatua and Cheung [17] haveshown that the assumption of constant shear strainmay not be suitable for sandwich construction ofmultiple cores having large differences in stiffnesses.Because many of these elements (mostly for homo-geneous plates, but also for the approximate analysisof sandwich plates by means of equivalent stiffnesses)have been reviewed by Hrabok and Hrudy [18],the emphasis here will be on elements which wereeither designed specifically for sandwich constructionor developed after 1983. We may add to the listcompiled in
[
181 the following recently developedhomogeneous thick plate elements, mainly of the

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