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Modeling of impacts on composite structures

Serge Abrate
Department of Technology, College of Engineering, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901-6603, USA
Abstract
Impacts of foreign objects on composite structures can create internal damage that reduces the strength of the structure sig-
ni®cantly. The study of such impacts requires understanding the dynamics of the event, predicting the extent of the induced damage,
and estimating the residual properties of the structure. The impact event involves the motion of the target, the motion of the
projectile, and the local indentation in the contact zone. A large number of parameters a€ect the impact dynamics, many types of
responses can be obtained, and many models have been proposed in the literature. These models can be classi®ed into three cat-
egories: (1) energy-balance models that assume a quasi-static behavior of the structure; (2) spring-mass models that account for the
dynamics of the structure in a simpli®ed manner; (3) complete models in which the dynamic behavior of the structure is fully
modeled. Simple models can bring insight into the problem and be ecient but have limited applicability. Complex models may have
wider applicability but require signi®cantly higher modeling and computational e€ort. There is a need for a general understanding of
the impact dynamics and for a method for developing ecient and accurate models. Ó 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights
reserved.
Keywords: Impact dynamics; Models; Laminated composite materials
1. Introduction
Laminated composite materials are used extensively,
but their behavior under impact is of concern since
damage which can be introduced reduces the strength of
the structure signi®cantly. Comprehensive literature re-
views on the e€ect of impact on composite materials
were presented by Abrate [1±4]. The large number of
papers published is an evidence of the interest generated
by this topic and the high level of research activity. Most
of the work reported is concerned with low-velocity
impact and both the damage resistance and damage
tolerance aspects of it.
A ®rst step towards understanding the e€ect of im-
pacts is to develop a model for predicting the contact
force history and the overall response of the structure. It
involves modeling the motion of the projectile, the dy-
namics of the structure, and the local indentation of the
structure by the projectile. Experimental modal analysis
[5] showed that low velocity impact damage has only
minor e€ects on the dynamic properties of laminated
plates. Small shifts in the natural frequencies of higher-
order bending modes are observed which con®rms that
damage needs not modeled in the impact dynamics
analysis. Some impacts produce deformations in a small
zone surrounding the point of impact while others in-
volve deformations of the entire structure. In some
cases, a major portion of the impact energy is trans-
ferred to the plate and in other cases most the energy is
restituted to the projectile. For some problems, the in-
dentation absorbs a signi®cant portion of the impact
energy so that it must be modeled adequately in the
analysis. In other cases, the e€ect of indentation are
negligible. Sorting out these di€erent types of behavior is
necessary for the interpretation of experimental results
and for the selection of an appropriate mathematical
model.
The objectives of this article are to study the various
models available for analyzing the impact dynamics and
to present an approach for selecting an appropriate
model for each particular case. The many models used
to study the impact dynamics are classi®ed here ac-
cording to how the structure is modeled: spring-mass
models, energy balance models, complete models, and a
model for impact on in®nite plates. Simpli®ed models of
the overall deformation of the structure lead to simple
more ecient models for the impact dynamics analysis
and provide insights into the impact response. Section 2
discusses the mechanics of contact between a smooth
indentor and a composite material. An energy-balance
model is used in Section 3 to analyze impacts on a half
www.elsevier.com/locate/compstruct
Composite Structures 51 (2001) 129±138
E-mail address: abrate@engr.siu.edu (S. Abrate).
0263-8223/01/$ - see front matter Ó 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 2 6 3 - 8 2 2 3 ( 0 0 ) 0 0 1 3 8 - 0
place and in Section 4, a method for analyzing impacts
on in®nite plates is recalled. Spring-mass models and
complete models are discussed in Sections 5 and 6. Ex-
amples are presented in Section 7 and a discussion of the
procedure followed for selecting an appropriate model is
presented in Section 8.
2. Contact mechanics
Local deformations in the contact zone are not
modeled with beam, plate or shell theories since those
theories usually assume that the structure is inextensible
in the transverse direction. However, in many cases,
local indentation has a signi®cant e€ect on the contact
force history and must be accounted for in the analysis.
The contact phenomenon is recognized as being rate
independent for most laminated composite materials
and statically determined contact laws are used by most
investigators. During the loading phase of the impact,
the contact force P is related to the indentation a by
P = ka
3=2
: (1)
The contact sti€ness is given by
k =
4
3
ER
1=2
; (2)
where the parameters R and E are de®ned as
1
R
=
1
R
1
÷
1
R
2
and
1
E
=
1 ÷ m
2
1
E
1
÷
1 ÷ m
2
2
E
2
; (3)
where R
1
and R
2
are the radii of curvature of the two
bodies. The Young's moduli and Poisson's ratios of the
two bodies are E
1
; m
1
and E
2
; m
2
, respectively. Subscripts
1 denotes properties of the indentor, while subscript 2
identi®es properties of the target. Eq. (1) is usually re-
ferred to as the Hertzian law of contact.
Permanent indentation occur even at relatively low
loading levels, and the unloading phase of the process is
signi®cantly di€erent from the loading phase. During
unloading, the contact law is
P = P
m
(a [ ÷ a
0
)=(a
m
÷ a
0
)[
2:5
; (4)
where P
m
is the maximum force reached before un-
loading, a
m
the maximum indentation, and a
0
is the
permanent indentation. a
0
is zero when the maximum
indentation remains below a critical value a
cr
. When
a
m
> a
cr
,
a
0
= a
m
1
_
÷ (a
cr
=a
m
)
2=5
_
: (5)
During subsequent reloading, the reloading curve is
distinct from the unloading curve but always returns to
the point where unloading began [6]. The unloading
curve is modelled by
P = P
m
[(a ÷ a
0
)=(a
m
÷ a
0
)[
3=2
: (6)
In some cases, only a small fraction of the impact energy
is used in the local indentation process and therefore it is
not necessary to distinguish between loading and un-
loading branches, and Eq. (1) is used throughout the
indentation process. Sometimes the indentation process
need not be modeled at all.
3. Energy-balance models
One approach for analyzing the impact dynamics is
to consider the balance of energy in the system. The
initial kinetic energy of the projectile is used to deform
the structure during impact. Assuming that the structure
behaves quasi-statically, when the structure reaches its
maximum de¯ection, the velocity of the projectile be-
comes zero and all the initial kinetic energy has been
used to deform the structure. Therefore, the energy-
balance equation can be written as
1
2
MV
2
= E
b
÷ E
s
÷ E
m
÷ E
c
; (7)
where the subscripts b, s, m refer to the bending, shear,
and membrane components of the overall structural
deformation and E
c
is the energy stored in the contact
region during indentation.
When the overall de¯ections of the structure are
negligible compared to the local indentation, the prob-
lem is reduced to that of an impact on a half-space and
the maximum contact force, and the contact duration
are given by
P =
5
4
_ _
3=5
M
3
V
6
k
2
_ ¸
1=5
; (8a)
T
c
= 3:2145
M
2
Vk
2
_ _
1=5
: (8b)
These simple expressions show the e€ect of the projectile
mass and velocity and the contact sti€ness on the con-
tact force.
4. Impacts on in®nite composite plates
Olsson [7] presented an approximate solution for
impacts on in®nite plates. With an Hertzian contact law
(Eq. (1)), non-dimensional indentation and time vari-
ables can be de®ned as
a =
a
TV
; t =
t
T
; (9)
where
T = M kV
1=2
_ _ _ _ ¸
2=5
: (10)
130 S. Abrate / Composite Structures 51 (2001) 129±138
The non-dimensional indentation is governed by the
single, nonlinear, ordinary di€erential equation
d
2
a
dt
2
÷ k
3
2
a
1=2
da
dt
÷ a
3=2
= 0; (11)
which depends on a single non-dimensional parameter
k = k
2=5
c
V
1=5
M
3=5
= 8

mD
+
_
_ _
(12)
called the inelasticity parameter. The equivalent bending
rigidity in Eq. (12) is de®ned as
D
+
=
A ÷ 1
2
(D
11
D
22
)
1=2
;
A = (D
12
÷ 2D
66
)=(D
11
D
22
)
1=2
:
(13)
Eq. (11), with the initial conditions
a(0) = 0;
da(0)
dt
= 1 (14)
must be solved numerically. The contact force is given
by
P = k
2
M
3
V
6
_ ¸
1=5
a
3=2
: (15)
After contact ceases, the de¯ection at the point of im-
pact remains constant while the deformation propagates
outward. During an impact on an in®nite plate, the
wavefront is nearly elliptical. The distance a between the
wavefront and the impact point in the x-direction, can
be estimated using
a = 2

p
_ D
11
m
_ _
1=4
[2(A ÷ 1)[
1=8

t
_
: (16)
In the y-direction, the wavefront is approximately lo-
cated at a distance
b = a=(D
11
=D
22
)
1=4
: (17)
Eqs. (16) and (17) provide an estimate of the size of the
deformed zone during impact.
In [4], this model has been extended for other contact
laws and it was shown that for a linear contact law, Eq.
(11) becomes identical to the equation of motion of a
single-degree-of-freedom system with viscous damping.
In that case, the non-dimensional parameter is analo-
gous to the damping coecient and the physical inter-
pretation is that the deformation of the plate dissipates
some of the impact energy.
5. Spring-mass models
5.1. General case
Spring-mass models are simple and provide accurate
solutions for some types of impacts often encountered
during tests on small size specimens. The most complete
model (Fig. 1) consists of one spring representing the
linear sti€ness of the structure (K
bs
), another spring K
m
for the nonlinear membrane sti€ness, a mass M
2
repre-
senting the e€ective mass of the structure, the nonlinear
contact sti€ness, and M
1
the mass of the projectile. If the
e€ect of shear deformation is negligible, the spring
constant K
bs
is replaced by K
b
which account for bend-
ing deformations only. From the free body diagrams of
the two masses M
1
and M
2
, the equations of motion of
the system can be written as
M
1
x
1
÷ P = 0; (18a)
M
2
x
2
÷ K
bs
x
2
÷ K
m
x
3
2
÷ P = 0; (18b)
where P is the contact force which is a highly nonlinear
function of the indentation x
1
÷ x
2
.
The dynamics of the system described by Eqs. (15)
and (16) and the initial conditions
_ x
1
(0) = V ; _ x
2
(0) = 0; x
1
(0) = x
2
(0) = 0 (19)
can be studied numerically.
The sti€ness used in the spring-mass models can be
determined from formulas available in many handbooks
or, numerically, using the ®nite element method for ex-
ample [8]. For a completely clamped, isotropic, circular
plate, the bending and membrane sti€nesses are given by
K
b
=
4pEh
3
3(1 ÷ m
2
)a
2
; (20)
K
m
=
(353 ÷ 191m)pEh
648(1 ÷ m)a
2
; (21)
where E is the elastic modulus, m the Poisson's ratio, h
the thickness, and a is the radius of the plate. The ef-
fective mass of the plate is taken as one-fourth of the
total mass of the plate [9].
5.2. Linear two-degree-of-freedom model
In many cases, the transverse de¯ections are small
and membrane-sti€ening e€ects are negligible and the
Fig. 1. (a) Two-degree-of-freedom model. (b) Single-degree-of-free-
dom model.
S. Abrate / Composite Structures 51 (2001) 129±138 131
sti€ness of the structure can be represented by the linear
spring k
2
. In order to understand the dynamics of the
impact, we also assume that the local indentation can be
represented by a linear spring k
1
(see Fig. 2). The motion
of the linear two-degree-of-freedom system is governed
by
m
1
x
1
÷ k
1
x
1
( ÷ x
2
) = 0;
m
2
x
2
÷ k
2
x
2
÷ k
1
x
2
( ÷ x
1
) = 0
(22)
with the initial conditions
x
1
(0) = x
2
(0) = 0; _ x
1
(0) = V ; _ x
2
(0) = 0: (23)
Introducing the non-dimensional variables
s = t

k
1
m
1
_
and y
i
= x
i

k
1
=m
1
_
V
: (24)
Eqs. (22) can be written as
y
//
1
÷ y
1
÷ y
2
= 0;
y
//
2
÷
m
1
m
2
y
1
÷
m
1
m
2
1
_
÷
k
2
k
1
_
y
2
= 0;
(25)
and the initial conditions become
y
1
(0) = y
2
(0) = 0; y
/
1
(0) = 1; y
/
2
(0) = 0: (26)
The behavior of the system depends on the two non-
dimensional parameters m
1
=m
2
and k
2
=k
1
.
The non-dimensional natural frequencies of the
system are obtained by solving the bi-quadratic equa-
tion
x
4
÷ x
2
1
_
÷
m
1
m
2
1
_
÷
k
2
k
1
__
÷
m
1
m
2
k
2
k
1
= 0: (27)
The natural frequencies can be approximated as indi-
cated in Table 1 in which we distinguish four special
cases. Fig. 3(a) shows that as k
2
=k
1
becomes large, the
®rst natural frequency tends to the limiting value of one.
The convergence rate is strongly a€ected by the mass
ratio when m
1
=m
2
¸ 1. When k
2
=k
1
is larger than one,
the second non-dimensional frequency increases with

k
2
=k
1
_
and the validity of the approximations given in
Table 1 is shown in Fig. 3(b). Fig. 3(c) shows a ``curve
veering'' phenomenon for the two natural frequencies as
m
1
=m
2
increases for a ®xed k
2
=k
1
ratio.
For case I ((m
1
=m
2
) ¸ l; (k
2
=k
1
) ¸ 1), the natural
frequencies are approximated by
x
1
=

k
2
m
2
_
; x
2
=

k
1
m
1
_
(28)
and the free vibration modes are as shown in Fig. 4(a).
With mode I, the two masses move together but m
1
is
negligible compared to m
2
. For mode II, the heavy mass
remains stationary and oscillates as a single-degree-of-
freedom system with sti€ness k
1
.
For case II ((m
1
=m
2
) ¸ 1; (k
2
=k
1
) ¸ 1), the mass of
the target is small compared to the mass of the impactor
and the sti€ness of the target is small compared to the
contact sti€ness and the natural frequencies are ap-
proximated by
x
1
=

k
2
m
1
_
; x
2
=

k
1
m
2
_
: (29)
In mode I, the indentation is negligible and the projectile
and the target form a SDOF system (Fig. 4(b)). In
Model II, the projectile remains stationary, the sti€ness
of the target is negligible, and the target oscillates as a
SDOF system.
For case III ((k
2
=k
1
) ¸ 1; (m
1
=m
2
) ¸ 1), the sti€ness
of the target is much larger than the contact sti€ness, the
mass of the projectile is small compared to that of the
target. Then
x
1
=

k
2
m
2
_
; x
2
=

k
1
m
1
_
: (30)
The mode shapes are shown in Fig. 4(c). For case IV
((k
2
=k
1
) ¸ 1; (m
1
)=(m
2
) ¸ 1), the sti€ness of the target
is much larger than the contact sti€ness and
Fig. 2. Linear two-degree-of-freedom spring-mass impact model.
Table 1
Approximate formulas for natural frequencies of two-degree-of-free-
dom system
k
2
k
1
¸ 1
k
2
k
1
¸ 1
Case I Case III
m
1
m
2
¸ 1
x
1
=

m
1
k
2
m
2
k
1
_
x
1
=

m
1
k
2
m
2
k
1
_
x
2
=

1 ÷
m
1
m
2
_
x
2
= 1
Case II Case IV
m
1
m
2
¸ 1
x
1
=

k
2
k
1
_
x
1
= 1
x
2
=

1 ÷
m
1
m
2
_
x
2
=

m
1
k
2
m
2
k
1
_
132 S. Abrate / Composite Structures 51 (2001) 129±138
x
1
=

k
1
m
1
_
; x
2
=

k
2
m
2
_
: (31)
For Mode I, the target remains stationary and the
projectile oscillates (Fig. 4(d)). For mode II, the motion
of the plate is una€ected by the presence of the projectile
Fig. 3. Free vibrations of two-degree-of-freedom system: (a) ®rst non-dimensional frequency; (b) second non-dimensional frequency (solid line:
exact; dashed line: approximate); (c) Curve veering phenomenon for k
2
=k
1
= 10 (solid line: exact; dashed line: approximate).
Fig. 4. Approximate mode shapes of linear two-degree-of-freedom system.
S. Abrate / Composite Structures 51 (2001) 129±138 133
due to the weak coupling provided by the contact
sti€ness.
5.3. Linear single-degree-of-freedom (SDOF) spring-
mass model
A signi®cant simpli®cation occurs when membrane-
sti€ening e€ects are negligible and the indentation is
small compared with the overall deformation of the
structure. In that case, a linear SDOF system (Fig. 1(b))
can be used and the contact force is then given by
P = V

K
bs
M
_
sin

K
bs
=M
_
t
_ _
: (32)
Eq. (32) predicts that the maximum contact force is di-
rectly proportional to the initial velocity of the projec-
tile. Similarly, the maximum contact force is
proportional to the square root of the kinetic energy.
The contact force increases with the square root of the
sti€ness of the structure and the square root of the mass
of the impactor. A sti€er structure will cause a harder
impact and, for the same initial velocity, a larger mass
will have a larger kinetic energy which will also increase
the contact force.
5.4. Nonlinear SDOF spring-mass models
There are two situations for which a nonlinear SDOF
can provide accurate predictions of the contact force
history. In the ®rst instance, the overall de¯ection of the
structure is negligible compared to the local indentation.
In that case, the spring in Fig. 1(b) represents the con-
tact sti€ness, and the equation of motion is
M
1
x
1
÷ kx
3=2
1
= 0: (33)
The second situation for which nonlinear a SDOF
model can yield accurate predictions of the contact force
history is when the local indentation is negligible but the
de¯ections of the structure becomes large and mem-
brane sti€ening is signi®cant. The equation of motion of
the single-degree-of-freedom model is
Mx ÷ k
b
x ÷ k
m
x
3
= 0: (34)
A numerical solution of these nonlinear equations of
motion (Eqs. (33) and (34)) yields the dynamic response
and contact force histories.
6. Complete models
With a complete model, the dynamic behavior of the
structure is described accurately. This means that the
appropriate structural theory is used. For example, in
many cases the classical plate theory can be used but, in
some cases, transverse shear deformations become sig-
ni®cant and higher-order theories must be used. If the
initial velocity of the projectile is suciently large,
damage can be introduced plate motion is established.
In that case, a three-dimensional analysis is required.
Once an appropriate theory is selected, all the vibration
modes participating in the response have to be predicted
accurately and must be retained in the model. For a
simply supported plate, for example, an analytical so-
lution can be found for the natural frequencies and
mode shapes. The transient response is then expressed in
terms of these mode shapes and all participating modes
can be included. For other geometries or boundary
conditions, variational or ®nite element models must be
used. With such approximate methods, a suciently
large number of degrees of freedom must be selected so
that the participating modes are predicted accurately.
If N equations are needed to describe the motion of
the structure and one equation for the projectile, the
N ÷ 1 di€erential equations can be written in matrix
form as
[M[¦

X¦ ÷ [K[¦X¦ = ¦F ¦ (35)
and integrated using Newmark's step-by-step time in-
tegration method. The contact force is unknown and is a
nonlinear function of the indentation. Therefore, the
force vector in Eq. (35) is assumed to be known at the
end to the nth time step but its value at the end of step
n ÷ 1 is unknown. In order to determine the displace-
ments at the end of step n ÷ 1, we start assuming that
¦P¦
n÷1
= ¦P¦
n
and solve equation (35) for a ®rst esti-
mate of ¦X¦
n÷1
. A new estimate of ¦P¦
n÷1
can be cal-
culated from these displacements and a new iteration
can be performed. After several iterations, the solution
converges so that both the equations of motion and the
contact law are satis®ed and the process is repeated for
the following time steps.
7. Examples
7.1. Wave controlled impacts
Qian and Swanson [10] studied the impact of a steel
sphere on graphite±epoxy laminates with the following
material properties:
E
1
= 120 GPa; E
2
= 7:9 GPa; G
12
= 5:5 GPa;
m
12
= 0:30; q = 1580 kg=m
3
:
The diameter of the impactor is 12.7 mm, its mass is
8.537 g, and the initial velocity is 3.0 m/s. The Hertzian
contact sti€ness is k = 8:394 × 10
8
N=m
3=2
. The plates
studied where simply supported and had a size of 200 ×
200 mm. Three plates with a [0; 90; 0; 90; 0[
S
layup were
considered. Plate A had a total thickness of 2.69 mm
(0.269 mm/layer), plate B is 5.38 mm thick (0.538 mm/
layer), and plate C is 10.76 mm thick (1.076 mm/layer).
134 S. Abrate / Composite Structures 51 (2001) 129±138
The inelasticity parameter k is equal to 2.055, 0.5139,
and 0.1285 for plates A, B, and C, respectively. There-
fore, di€erent behaviors are expected for these three
plates with identical layups but di€erent thicknesses.
For plate A, the numerical solution to Eq. (11) gives
the contact force history shown in Fig. 5 with a maxi-
mum force of 285.4 N and a contact duration of
257:4 ls. The compressive wave that propagates
through the thickness of the laminate in the early stages
of the impact has a velocity
c =

E
2
=q
_
: (36)
Here c = 2236 m/s, so it takes just 1:2 ls for the wave to
travel through the thickness of the laminate. Therefore
multiple re¯ections occur and the bending motion is
established. Since k = 2:055, the contact force history is
asymmetric with the maximum occurring 37:7 ls after
the start of the impact event. After 257:4 ls, the size of
the deformed zone predicted by Eq. (16) is a = 150 mm
which means that the disturbance initiated by the impact
at the center of the plate would travel 150 mm in the x-
direction and similarly 150 mm in the ÷x-direction in an
in®nite plate. For a 200 × 200 mm plate, the disturbance
reaches the boundary and is re¯ected back, but does not
have sucient time to travel back to the point of impact.
Therefore, the in®nite plate model is still valid and the
maximum contact force of 286.8 N predicted by Qian
and Swanson [10] is identical to that predicted here. This
model is based on the classical plate theory while [10]
used the ®rst order shear deformation theory. Because
the size of the deformed zone is large compared to the
thickness of the plate, the e€ect of shear deformation is
negligible.
For plate B, the contact force history predicted by the
impact on in®nite plate model is also shown in Fig. 5.
The maximum force predicted is 591.7 N and the con-
tact duration is 116:5 ls. The length of the semi-axis of
the elliptical deformed zone is a = 143 mm if the plate is
in®nite so in this case again the impact can be consid-
ered to be in®nite and the e€ect of shear deformation is
negligible. The central de¯ection at the end of the con-
tact duration is 0.02371 mm which is very small and
geometric nonlinearities are negligible. The maximum
contact force predicted in [10] is 562.8 N in good
agreement with the present analysis. The maximum in-
dentation is 0.07921 mm and the plate de¯ection cannot
be neglected.
For plate C, the contact force history predicted by the
impact on in®nite plate model (Fig. 5) gives a maximum
of 802.7 N and a contact duration of 105:5 ls. Eq. (16)
gives a = 192 mm and therefore, waves are close to be
re¯ected back to the impact point but shear deforma-
tions and membrane sti€ening are still negligible. The
maximum indentation is 9:706 × 10
÷2
mm, while the
maximum central plate de¯ection is 7:489 × 10
÷3
mm.
As plate de¯ections become small, the problem tends to
that of an impact on a half-space. If plate de¯ections are
neglected, the energy balance approach predicts a
maximum contact force of 910 N and a contact duration
of 103:4 ls. While the plate de¯ection is small, relative
to the indentation in this case, the maximum contact
force cannot be accurately predicted when plate de¯ec-
tions are neglected. For plate C, [10] gives a maximum
contact force of 759.3 N which again agrees well with
the prediction from the impact on in®nite plate model.
7.2. Boundary controlled impacts
Choi and Hong [8] studied impact on [0; 90[
4S
graphite±epoxy laminates with the following material
properties:
E
1
= 135:4 GPa; E
2
= 9:6 GPa;
m
12
= 0:31 GPa; G
12
= 4:8 GPa; q = 1580 kg=m
3
;
with a ply thickness of 0.1125 mm. The size of the plate
is 100 × 100 mm and the four edges are fully clamped.
The radius of the steel impactor is 6 mm and its modulus
of elasticity and Poisson's ratio are E = 207 GPa and
m = 0:3. The mass of the plate is m
P
= 28:5 g and the
mass of the impactor M is varied so that n = M=m
P
= 1;
3:5; 10, and 35.
In this case, the inelasticity parameter k = 10:39 when
the mass ratio is equal to one and k = 87:72 when the
mass ratio is equal to 35. Therefore, for all the cases
considered in [8], the impact event is dominated by the
deformation of the plate. For k = 10:39, the impact on
in®nite plate model predicts a contact duration of 5.03
ms. During that predicted contact duration, the wave-
front emanating for the impact point at the center of the
plate would travel 546 mm in the x-direction if the plate
were of in®nite extent. In this ®nite size plate, waves
reach the boundary and are re¯ected back and forth
Fig. 5. Example 1: Contact force histories for impacts on plates A, B,
C.
S. Abrate / Composite Structures 51 (2001) 129±138 135
several times during the predicted contact duration.
Therefore, this is a boundary-controlled impact and
spring-mass model with successfully predict the contact
force history. A single-degree-of-freedom spring-mass
model with a spring constant calculated assuming that
the plate is circular and has a radius of 50 mm, so that
Eq. (20) can be used. The results shown in Fig. 6 are in
excellent agreement with the ®nite element results in [8].
For an impact velocity of 2.76 m/s and a mass ratio of
35, the maximum de¯ection of the plate predicted by the
spring mass model is 4.29 mm, more than twice the
thickness of the plate. A rule of thumb is that, when
de¯ections become larger that the thickness of a plate,
geometrical nonlinearities play an important role.
Modeling the plate as a clamped circular plate again, the
membrane sti€ness can be estimated using Eq. (21) and
the motion of the single-degree-of-freedom model is
governed by Eq. (34). The nonlinear e€ect due to
membrane sti€ening cause a signi®cant reduction of the
contact duration and a substantial increase in the max-
imum contact force (Fig. 7).
The energy-balance approach predicts a maximum
contact force of 1773 N when only plate bending is
considered (K
m
= 0; E
c
= 0) which is the same value
predicted by the linear spring-mass model. Including the
e€ect of indentation, the maximum contact force drops
to 1748 N. Considering bending and membrane defor-
mations but neglecting, E
c
, the energy balance approach
yields a maximum contact force of 3315 N which is
nearly identical to that obtained using the nonlinear
spring-mass model. When bending, membrane and
contact deformations are considered together, the
maximum contact force drops to 3127 N. The e€ect of
indentation is much larger when geometric nonlinear
behavior of the plate is considered. Since, for this plate,
the side length to thickness ratio is 56, shear deforma-
tion e€ects are negligible.
7.3. Impact on aluminum plate
The example studied by Shivakumar et al. [9] deals
with the impact of a 19-mm radius steel sphere on a
3.2-mm thick, aluminum, circular plate of 38-mm
radius. For steel, the modulus of electricity E, Poisson's
ratio m, and density q are taken as E = 199:95 GPa,
m = 0:33; q = 7971:8 kg=m
3
. For aluminum, E = 68:95
GPa, m = 0:33; q = 2768 kg=m
3
, and the shear modulus
G = 25:92 GPa. The initial velocity of the projectile is
2.54 m/s, the indentation is assumed to follow Hertz
contact law, and the impact occurs in the center of the
plate.
In this case, k = 14:70 which implies that most of the
energy is used in the deformation of the plate. A nu-
merical solution of Eq. (11) gives a contact duration of
the impact on an in®nite plate of 8.69 ms. During the
duration for impact, Eq. (16) predicts that the radius of
the deformed zone in an in®nite plate is 27.47 m, many
times the radius of the ®nite size plate considered here.
Therefore, the deformation of the plate is expected to be
quasi-static. The bending rigidity of the clamped circular
plate is calculated using Eq. (20). Neglecting shear de-
formation and membrane sti€ening, the energy balance
approach gives a maximum contact force P = 3167 N.
Only 7.7% of the initial kinetic energy of the projectile is
used in the indentation process. The bulk of the initial
impact energy is used for the quasi-static bending of the
target. Using a linear, single-degree-of-freedom spring-
mass model, the maximum contact force is 3296 N and
the contact duration 5.54 ms. This provides a good
approximation to the contact force history even though
it does not capture the small oscillations predicted by a
complete model using a ®nite element discretization of
the plate [11].
Refs. [9,11] indicate that, as the thickness of the plate
increases past 15 mm, the contact duration decreases
Fig. 6. Example 2: Contact force histories for impacts on a [0; 90[
4S
graphite±epoxy plate as a function of the mass ratio.
Fig. 7. Example 2: E€ect of membrane sti€ening on contact force
history (solid line: linear, dashed line: nonlinear).
136 S. Abrate / Composite Structures 51 (2001) 129±138
and tends to a limit. The maximum contact force pre-
dicted by the energy balance approach increases with the
plate thickness and reaches a limit (Fig. 8). As the
thickness becomes large, plate de¯ections become neg-
ligible and we have essentially an impact on a half-space.
The inelasticity parameter k is inversely proportional
to the square of the thickness h and for h = 6 mm;
k = 4:18. The energy balance approach predicts a
maximum contact force of 7109 N, a maximum dis-
placement of the projectile of 0.2232 mm a maximum
plate de¯ection of 0.1465 mm and that plate bending
absorbs 70.5% of the impact energy. The two-degree-of-
freedom spring-mass model con®rms these predictions
but also reveals the presence of oscillations in the mo-
tion of the plate (Fig. 9). These oscillations are re¯ected
in the contact force history (Fig. 10) If the mass of the
plate is neglected (M
2
= 0), the two-degree-of-freedom
model predicts a smooth contact force history. A single-
degree-of-freedom spring mass model can be used to
predict the contact force history in this case. The
equivalent spring constant is determined by dividing the
maximum contact force by the maximum displacement
of the projectile predicted by the energy balance ap-
proach. The contact force history predicted by Eq. (22)
is in excellent agreement with that obtained from the
two degree of freedom model.
When h =15 mm, k =0.6690 and the indentation
process is expected to absorb a major portion of the
kinetic energy of the projectile. The energy balance
model predicts a maximum contact force of 13,320 N
and that 84% of the initial kinetic energy of the pro-
jectile is used in the indentation process. The maximum
de¯ection of the plate is small compared to the maxi-
mum indentation. The two degree of freedom spring±
mass model will provide accurate prediction of the
contact force history in this case.
The limit case is when the de¯ection of the plate is
negligible and then, the energy balance approach (Eqs.
8) predict a maximum contact force of 14,777 N and a
contact duration of 0.148 ms respectively, in good
agreement with the results given in [9,11].
8. Selection of an impact dynamics model
The selection of an appropriate impact dynamics
model starts by neglecting the de¯ections of the plate
and using the energy±balance model (Eqs. 8) to obtain a
®rst estimate of the maximum contact force and of the
contact duration. The in®nite plate model is used to
Fig. 8. Example 3: Impact of a steel sphere on an aluminum plate:
maximum contact force as a function of plate thickness.
Fig. 9. Impact of a steel sphere on a 6-mm thick aluminum plate (solid
line: projectile displacement, dashed line: plate de¯ection).
Fig. 10. Impact of a steel sphere on a 6-mm thick aluminum plate:
contact force history (solid line: two-degree-of-freedom model, dashed
line: two-degree-of-freedom with M
2
= 0, dotted line: single degree of
freedom model).
S. Abrate / Composite Structures 51 (2001) 129±138 137
determine the e€ect of plate de¯ections and the type of
response of the target. The inelasticity parameter k de-
termines how much of the impact energy is absorbed by
the deformation of the plate. When k ¸ 1, the defor-
mation of the plate is negligible and the energy balance
approach is satisfactory. Otherwise, the dynamics of the
plate play an important role. If the deformation front
has not reached the boundary of the plate, the in®nite
plate model is a very ecient and accurate way of an-
alyzing the impact. When the deformation front prop-
agates many times more than the distance from the
impact point to the boundary, the ®nite size of the target
must be accounted for.
In the examples discussed here as well as in many
examples in the literature, the contact deformation is
modeled using Hertz's law for both loading and
unloading. However, contact laws have been investi-
gated at length and some authors account for di€erent
behavior in the unloading and reloading phases (Eqs.
4, 6). When k is small, when the contact force reaches
its maximum, most of the energy is used to indent the
target so that energy losses due to indentation can be
signi®cant. Therefore, when k is large, the indentation
uses only a small fraction of the impact energy so that
it is not necessary to model the contact behavior
carefully.
9. Conclusions
This article presents an overview of mathematical
models used for the analysis of the dynamics of impacts
between a foreign object and a composite structure.
Currently available models are classi®ed into four cat-
egories: spring±mass models, energy±balance models,
complete models, and an impact on in®nite plate model.
Simple models are easy to use and ecient but have
limitations due to the simplifying assumptions on which
they are based. Selecting an appropriate model requires
on understanding of the e€ects the many factors a€ect-
ing the impact dynamics. In this paper, a procedure is
presented in order to determine the type of impact to be
expected and to select an appropriate model. The pro-
cess starts by assuming that the plate is in®nite. In this
case, a simple approximate solution requiring to solve a
single nonlinear ordinary di€erential equation is avail-
able. This model predicts the contact force history and
the overall deformation of the plate. Then we can de-
termine whether the deformation reached the plate
boundaries during the duration of the impact. If bend-
ing waves travel from the impact point to the edge of the
plate and back many times during the predicted contact
duration, we have a boundary controlled impact and a
spring mass model or an energy balance approach might
be adequate because in that case, the plate behaves in a
quasi-static manner. If the deformation never reaches
the edges of the plate, we have a wave-controlled impact
and the approximate solution provides very good re-
sults. For intermediate cases, the in®nite plate model
might be adequate initially but re¯ected waves will a€ect
the contact force history. Then, a complete model taking
into account the full dynamic behavior of the plate and
the boundary conditions will be necessary. Examples
demonstrating this procedure also show that in many
cases a simple model can provide accurate predictions of
the contact force history.
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