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# Modeling delamination growth in laminated composites

**F. Shen, K.H. Lee, T.E. Tay*
**

Department of Mechanical Engineering, National University of Singapore, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260, Singapore

Received 2 May 2000; received in revised form 17 November 2000; accepted 13 February 2001

Abstract

This paper deals with the computational modeling of delamination and the prediction of delamination growth in laminated

composites. In the analysis of post-buckled delaminations, an important parameter is the distribution of the local strain-energy

release rate along the delamination front. A study using virtual crack closure technique is made for three-dimensional ﬁnite-element

models of circular delaminations embedded in woven and non-woven composite laminates. The delamination is embedded at dif-

ferent depths along the thickness direction of the laminates. The issue of symmetry boundary conditions is discussed. It is found

that ﬁbre orientation of the plies in the delaminated part play an important role in the distribution of the local strain-energy release

rate. This implies that the popular use of quarter models in order to save computational eﬀort is unjustiﬁed and will lead to erro-

neous results. Comparison is made with experimental results and growth of the delamination front with fatigue cycling is predicted.

A methodology for the prediction of delamination areas and directions using evolution criteria derived from test coupon data is

also described. It is found that evolution criteria based on components of the strain-energy release rate predict the rate of delami-

nation growth much better than evolution criteria based on the total strain energy release rate. # 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All

rights reserved.

Keywords: B. Fatigue; B. Modeling; C. Delamination; C. Finite-element analysis; Strain-energy release rate

1. Introduction

Although post-buckled delamination growth in com-

posite laminates has been widely studied, many studies

have concentrated on through-width [1–4] or axisym-

metric delaminations [5,6]. The results of such simpliﬁed

analyses are sometimes assumed to reﬂect the general

behaviour and characteristics of delaminations in com-

posite structures. However, in general, delaminations in

laminated structures are usually three-dimensional (3D)

in nature [7,8] because they are embedded within the

laminates. Typically, delaminations may occur during

low-velocity impact, around fastener holes, or as man-

ufacturing defects. Near-surface multiple delaminations

can result from impact damage. As the post-buckling

response of such delaminations under compressive fati-

gue loads is complicated, it is unlikely that simpliﬁed 2D

analyses will be adequate for describing all the char-

acteristics of real structural delaminations. Therefore, in

order to understand the mechanism of delamination

growth more fully, there is a need for more accurate and

realistic models. Furthermore, these models must be

validated, together with appropriately formulated

growth and fracture criteria, by comparison with experi-

mental results. Towards this end, some ﬁnite-element

(FE) analyses of delaminations in composite laminates,

with varying degrees of complexities, have been per-

formed. Although some are 2D plane-strain analyses

[9,10], many may be classiﬁed as quasi-3D analyses,

employing plate or shell elements in order to reduce

computational eﬀort [11–14]. Afeware truly 3Danalyses

[7,8]. In these models, releasing selected node pairs

advances the delamination crack front locally, so that the

ﬁnal shape of the delamination crack front is often dif-

ferent from its initial (usually assumed circular) shape.

The virtual-crack-closure technique (VCCT) [15,16] is

commonly used to determine the local strain-energy

release rates (SERRs) and the locations where the node

pairs are to be released. An advantage of using plate or

shell elements is that the laminate architecture can be

easily incorporated into plate and shell theories. Mesh

reﬁnement and adaptation, if and when desired, is also

0266-3538/01/$ - see front matter # 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

PI I : S0266- 3538( 01) 00023- 9

Composites Science and Technology 61 (2001) 1239–1251

www.elsevier.com/locate/compscitech

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +65-874-2887; fax: +65-779-1459.

E-mail address: mpetay@nus.edu.sg (T.E. Tay).

less tedious [9,12]. Nevertheless, a shortcoming of using

plate and shell elements is that generally it does not

permit the separation of the SERR into its three com-

ponents (i.e. the opening and two shearing modes) [13].

Only the total strain-energy release rate (SERR) along

the delamination front can be calculated. Separation of

the fracture energies for the various modes is not possi-

ble except for some special cases [9,14]. In order to

develop a delamination growth criterion, it is necessary

to determine the relative contributions of the various

fracture modes (i.e. the opening Mode I, shearing Mode

II and tearing Mode III), since it is known that most

composite materials exhibit substantially higher fracture

resistance in Mode II than in Mode I [17,18]. The third

mode, Mode III, is usually not very signiﬁcant in most

practical applications. Currently, to obtain the separate

fracture mode energies at the delamination front, a fully

3D FE analysis has to be performed, although it is more

computationally intensive.

The direction and rate of delamination growth are

inﬂuenced by the type of composite material, lay-up

sequence, position of the initial delamination and

applied external load. All these factors have to be taken

into account in the model. However, in attempts to fur-

ther reduce computational eﬀort, some researchers have

often used one-quarter models of circular embedded

delamination with assumed symmetry boundary condi-

tions. This is despite the fact that the material at each

ply level (which may be orthotropic) may not exhibit

property symmetry compatible with the boundary con-

ditions imposed on the model. It is implicitly assumed

(by invoking St Venant’s Principle) that stress distribu-

tions within the structure at distances far from the

boundaries are not signiﬁcantly aﬀected by the spurious

symmetry assumptions. At ﬁrst glance, this argument may

appear reasonable, since the dimensions of the delamina-

tion and the composite structure are of several orders of

magnitude larger than the thickness of each individual

ply. However, the calculation of the SERR along the

delamination front involves stresses and displacements

close to the delamination front, which includes points near

the boundaries with assumed symmetry conditions. Fur-

thermore, it is known that if the postbuckled delaminated

portion consists of an unbalanced sublaminate, warpage

may occur, resulting in local crack closure. In such cases,

structural as well as material symmetry are clearly absent.

In this paper, the eﬀect of the assumptions of boundary

symmetry conditions on the computed local distribution

of the SERR is studied with the aid of both one-quarter

and complete 3D models.

Finally, this paper also proposes a methodology (to

be used with the FE method) for predicting delamina-

tion growth in woven fabric composites, using fatigue

evolution criteria obtained from earlier experiments

[19,20]. Although other studies have been conducted to

simulate delamination growth, they are mostly qualita-

tive in nature. The numerical predictions of delamination

areas and shapes obtained in this paper are compared

with C-scan results. Reasonable agreement has been

found. It is shown that evolution criteria based on

components of the strain energy release rate predict the

rate of delamination growth much better than evolution

criteria based on the total strain energy release rate.

2. Computation of the local SERR

The problem of a single delamination between two

plies of diﬀerent ﬁbre orientations within a laminated

composite can be considered as that of a crack embed-

ded between two dissimilar orthotropic materials. In such

interfacial crack problems, the near-tip stress singularity

exhibit an oscillatory nature [21]. It can be shown that

while the total SERR does not show oscillatory beha-

viour, the Mode I and Mode II components of the SERR

do [21,22]. It is generally recognized that the oscillatory

stress and displacement solutions are non-physical, as it

implies interpenetration of the crack surfaces. Some

researchers have, therefore, proposed alternative mea-

sures of SERR components that do not exhibit this

oscillatory behaviour [22,23]. Fortunately, the dom-

inance of this oscillatory behaviour of the stresses and

displacements is conﬁned to a small region near the crack

tip (estimated to be about 0.25 of the ply thickness [24]).

Outside this region, the virtual crack closure technique

(VCCT) can be eﬀectively applied to yield physically

reasonable values of Mode I and Mode II components

of the SERR [22,24]. The use of VCCT also avoids the

need to employ special crack tip elements, which entail

the shifting of mid-side nodes to the quarter point posi-

tion relative to the crack tip. These elements assume a

square-root stress singularity, but this does not represent

the true nature of the stress singularity for a delamination

front in composite structures. A brief description of the

VCCT and its extension to the analysis of 3D delamina-

tion follows.

The VCCT is an approximate method that is derived

from the more fundamental crack closure technique

(CCT). Suppose a crack extends by a small amount Ác;

in the CCT, it is assumed that the strain energy released

in the process is equal to the work required to close the

crack to its original length. When applied in a numerical

method, two analyses are needed to obtain the compo-

nents of SERR. The ﬁrst is performed for the case just

prior to crack growth, which yields the nodal forces at

the crack tip. In the second analysis, the relevant crack

tip nodes are released, providing the required corre-

sponding nodal displacements. The nodal forces

obtained in the ﬁrst step are the forces required to close

the crack. The work done during this process can then be

obtained by multiplying one-half of the nodal forces with

the corresponding displacements. The components of

1240 F. Shen et al. / Composites Science and Technology 61 (2001) 1239–1251

SERR can then be obtained by separating the total

work into its corresponding components.

The VCCT, however, is an approximate method that

dispenses with the need for two analysis steps (hence its

popularity). The nodal forces at the crack front and the

displacements behind the crack front are used to calcu-

late the SERR. This implies self-similarity in crack

growth, a fact generally not crucial for 2D delamination

problems (unless ﬁbre bridging or crack kinking out of

the initial delamination plane occurs), but not generally

true for 3D delamination growth. Fortunately, it has

been shown in a previous work [25] that the distribu-

tions of SERR calculated using CCT and VCCT are

similar. Since the VCCT enables considerable saving in

computational eﬀort especially in non-linear analyses

such as the ones considered here, it will be used

throughout this work.

Using the VCCT for 2D crack problems (Fig. 1), the

SERR components G

I

and G

II

can be expressed as

G

I

=

1

2Ác

Y

5

v

1

÷ v

2

( ) ÷ Y

6

v

3

÷ v

4

( ) [ ] (1)

G

II

=

1

2Ác

X

5

u

1

÷ u

2

( ) ÷ X

6

u

3

÷ u

4

( ) [ ] (2)

The SERR (and its Modes I, II and III components

G

I

, G

II

and G

III

, respectively) for a 3-D crack front can

be similarly calculated in a single FE analysis by using

the nodal forces at the crack front and the displace-

ments behind the crack front (Fig. 1):

G

I

=

1

2ÁA

n

Z

c

3

w

a

3

÷ w

A

3

À Á

÷ Z

d

2

w

b

2

÷ w

B

2

À Á

÷

1

2

Z

c

2

w

a

2

÷ w

A

2

À Á

÷ Z

c

4

w

a

4

÷ w

A

4

À Á Â Ã

o

(3)

G

II

=

1

2ÁA

n

X

c

3

u

a

3

÷ u

A

3

À Á

÷ X

d

2

u

b

2

÷ u

B

2

À Á

÷

1

2

X

c

2

u

a

2

÷ u

A

2

À Á

÷ X

c

4

u

a

4

÷ u

A

4

À Á Â Ã

o

(4)

G

III

=

1

2ÁA

n

Y

c

3

v

a

3

÷ v

A

3

À Á

÷ Y

d

2

v

b

2

÷ v

B

2

À Á

÷

1

2

Y

c

2

v

a

2

÷ v

A

2

À Á

÷ Y

c

4

v

a

4

÷ v

A

4

À Á Â Ã

o

(5)

In the above equations, X, Y and Z are nodal force

components, and u, v and w are nodal displacement

components in the x, y and z directions, respectively.

The subscripts denote the corresponding nodes in Fig. 1.

The delaminated area is given by ÁA = Ác·Ál.

3. Three-dimensional analysis of post-buckled

delamination

All FE analyses are carried out using an in-house

nonlinear code specially designed for solving delamina-

tion problems. Two types of models are used: one-

quarter models and full models (Fig. 2). The composite

laminate has a quasi-isotropic lay-up [(0/45/-45/90)

3

]

S

and a centrally located through hole of 5 mm. The cir-

cular delamination has a diameter of 20 mm. Since the

delaminated portion (referred to as the sublaminate) is

expected to buckle under compressive load and thus

experience larger deformations and stresses relative to

the substrate, greater mesh reﬁnement is used for the

sublaminate. Isoparametric twenty-node brick elements

are used throughout the models. Around the crack tip, a

locally symmetric square mesh S2, shown in Fig. 3, is

used to assure convergence of the SERR [25]. Naturally,

the question of the adequacy of the local near-tip mesh

is a signiﬁcant one and has been investigated in greater

Fig. 1. Schematic of crack front region in 2D and 3D cases.

Fig. 2. One-quarter and full ﬁnite element models.

Fig. 3. Local near-tip meshes considered, from Ref. [25].

F. Shen et al. / Composites Science and Technology 61 (2001) 1239–1251 1241

detail in a recent work by the authors in Ref. [25], where

three diﬀerent near-tip meshes (Fig. 3) were used in 3D

ﬁnite element models of delamination in a woven fabric

composite. In the ﬁgure, S1 is a rather crude mesh, with

the length of the side of the near-tip element equal to the

thickness of one ply of the composite. S2 and S3 are

reﬁnements of the local mesh, with the length of the side

of the smallest near-tip element equal to half and a

quarter of the thickness of one ply, respectively. In Ref.

[25], it was shown that the Modes I and II components

of the SERR calculated using S2 and S3 near-tip

meshes did not show appreciable diﬀerence in values.

Only the mesh S1 showed a signiﬁcantly lower predic-

tion of the Mode I component under certain conditions

(such as when the aspect ratio with the circumferential

length of the near-tip element was greater than 10).

Hence, the near-tip mesh S2 is deemed adequate and,

therefore, used for the ﬁnite element models reported in

the current paper. It is perhaps worthwhile to point out

that further reﬁnement of the near-tip meshes with ele-

ment sizes less than a quarter of the ply thickness does

not imply improved accuracy of the computed compo-

nents of the SERR. Indeed, an extremely and increas-

ingly ﬁne mesh would result in non-convergence since

the region would have entered the zone of oscillatory

stress ﬁelds. The work in Ref. [25] showed that in the

near-tip region, if the smallest element size is between a

quarter and one ply thickness, the components of the

SERR are unique and well behaved. Although this

implies the existence of a length scale (which, admittedly

is still controversial and poses conceptual diﬃculties), it

at least assures stable and single-valued components

over a reasonable range.

Symmetric boundary conditions are applied to the xz

and yz planes of the one-quarter models (Fig. 2). A

uniform prescribed displacement is imposed at one

edge. The sum of all the nodal reaction forces at the

opposite edge is equivalent to the applied external load.

The prescribed displacement is increased incrementally

until the applied external load reaches the peak com-

pressive fatigue load (30 kN). No symmetric boundary

conditions are necessary for the full model, of course,

but the same method of applying load through pre-

scribed displacement is used. In order to initiate the

buckling of the sublaminate, a small initial out-of-plane

displacement (equivalent to about 7% of a single ply

Table 1

Description of FE models and experimental specimens

One-quarter

FE models

Full FE

models

Experimental

specimens

Position of

delamination

Ply angles adjacent

to delamination.

Sublaminate

lay-up

Q1 F1 E1 Between layers 1 and 2 0/45 [0]

Q2 F2 E2 Between layers 2 and 3 45/÷45 [0/45]

Q3 F3 E3 Between layers 3 and 4 ÷45/90 [0/45/÷45]

Q4 F4 E4 Between layers 4 and 5 90/0 [0/45/÷45/90]

Fig. 4. Applied load vs maximum transverse displacement.

1242 F. Shen et al. / Composites Science and Technology 61 (2001) 1239–1251

thickness) is prescribed near the center of the circular

sublaminate. This initial displacement does not sig-

niﬁcantly aﬀect the postbuckling behaviour of the sub-

laminate [25]. Four cases are analyzed for each set of

one-quarter models (Q series) and full models (F series),

depending on the location of the delamination in the

laminate (Table 1). In the ﬁrst case (Q1 and F1), the

delamination is located between the ﬁrst and second

plies, i.e. between the 0 and 45

**plies. In the second case
**

(Q2 and F2), the delamination is located between the

second and third plies, i.e. between the 45 and ÷45

**plies. Similarly, in the third case (Q3 and F3), the dela-
**

mination is located between the third (÷45

) and fourth

(90

**) plies, and in the last case (Q4 and F4), the dela-
**

mination is located between the fourth (90

) and ﬁfth

(0

**) plies. It is noted that in the fourth case, the sub-
**

laminate has a quasi-isotropic lay-up.

In order to compare the FE results with experiment,

quasi-isotropic [(0/45/-45/90)

3

]

S

laminates were fabri-

cated from unidirectional graphite-epoxy Fibredux 924

prepregs. Pre-programmed delaminations in the form of

20-mm diameter circular Teﬂon inserts were positioned

within the laminates at four diﬀerent locations during

fabrication, as shown in Table 1. The laminates were cut

Fig. 5. Variation of SERR components with applied strain.

Fig. 6. Distribution of G

I

along delamination front (1-ply delamination) for F1 and Q1.

F. Shen et al. / Composites Science and Technology 61 (2001) 1239–1251 1243

into specimens (E series) of length 250 mm and width 50

mm, and a hole of 5 mm diameter is drilled through

each specimen at the center of the Teﬂon insert. The

specimens were bonded with glass ﬁbre-epoxy end tabs

and compression loaded in fatigue (R = ÷1, peak load

30 kN). An anti-buckling device was used during the test

to prevent global buckling of the laminates. The growth

of delamination was monitored by C-scan at regular

intervals of fatigue cycles. The material properties used

are: E

1

= 134 GPa, E

2

= E

3

= 10:2 GPa, G

12

= G

13

=

5:5 GPa, G

23

= 3:4 GPa,

12

=

13

= 0:3 and

23

= 0:49.

Fig. 4 shows a typical postbuckled load versus dis-

placement curve for the sublaminate. It clearly shows an

increase in the out-of-plane displacement when the cri-

tical load is reached. The stiﬀness of the sublaminate in

the postbuckling stage has been greatly reduced. Similar

behaviour can be observed from experiments [13].

Although the sublaminate has buckled and is thus sub-

jected to nonlinear deformation, the substrate remains

linearly elastic. In the ﬁgure, d is the initial small out-of-

plane displacement, h is the sublaminate thickness and

P the applied compressive load. Fig. 5 shows a typical

relationship between the computed SERR and the

external applied load. A marked increase in both Modes

I and II components of the SERR is observed for loads

greater than the critical buckling load. Although both

Fig. 7. Distribution of G

II

along delamination front (1-ply delamination) for F1 and Q1.

Fig. 8. Distribution of G

I

along delamination front (2-ply delamination) for F2 and Q2.

1244 F. Shen et al. / Composites Science and Technology 61 (2001) 1239–1251

components increase rapidly and nonlinearly with load,

G

I

increases at a faster rate than G

II

.

Figs. 6 and 7 show the distribution of G

I

and G

II

respectively, for the full model F1 and the one-quarter

model Q1. In the ﬁgures, is the angle measured along

the delamination front from the direction of the applied

load. The results of both models agree very well with

each other, although the maximum value of G

II

from Q1

is slightly higher than that of F1. Here, the sublaminate

is a single layer of unidirectional graphite epoxy, i.e. [0],

and the boundaries of the one-quarter model coincide

with the material symmetry planes. It is therefore not

surprising that there should be agreement between the

results of the two models. During the analysis, it is

found that there is substantial crack closure over parts

of the delamination front, and therefore constraints

must be applied at each step to ensure that non-physical

interpenetration of delaminated surfaces is not allowed.

Unfortunately in this case, the experimental results for

specimen E1 could not be used for comparison because

there was extensive transverse cracking in the [0] sub-

laminate, which was not modeled in the FE analysis.

Figs. 8 and 9 show the distribution of SERR compo-

nents along the delamination front for the full model F2

and the one-quarter model Q2. In this case, the delami-

nated part is an unbalanced [0/45] sublaminate; hence

the symmetry boundary conditions imposed on the one-

quarter model are incorrect, since the boundaries of the

one-quarter model do not coincide with the material

symmetry planes. Clearly, the distributions of SERR

components from the two models are very diﬀerent. The

maximum value of G

II

is only about half the maximum

value of G

I

. The positions of maximum G

I

and G

II

are

superimposed on the C-scan image of the delamination

growth for specimen E2 in Fig. 10. The direction of

delamination growth coincides well with the positions of

maximum G

I

and G

II

.

Figs. 11 and 12 show the distribution of G

I

and G

II

respectively, for the full model F3 and the one-quarter

model Q3. Since the sublaminate has the unsymmetrical

lay-up [0/45/-45], the results of F3 and Q3 are not

Fig. 9. Distribution for G

II

along delamination front (2-ply delamination) for F2 and Q2.

Fig. 10. C-scan image of delamination growth of specimen E2.

F. Shen et al. / Composites Science and Technology 61 (2001) 1239–1251 1245

expected to agree. While the results for G

I

are very dif-

ferent, the results for G

II

look surprisingly similar. This

is, however, almost certainly fortuitous and highlights

the need for caution when analyzing the results of FE

models. The C-scan image of the delamination growth

for the corresponding specimen E3 is shown in Fig. 13.

In this case, the direction of delamination growth

appears to agree more with the direction of maximum

G

I

rather than maximum G

II

.

Finally, the distribution of SERR components for F4

and Q4 are shown in Figs. 14 and 15, respectively. The

sublaminate is quasi-isotropic with the lay-up [0/45/-45/

90]. Interestingly, the results of the full model show a

similar distribution along the delamination front with

those of the one-quarter model. The magnitudes, how-

ever, diﬀer considerably; the one-quarter model con-

sistently over-predicts the values of G

I

and G

II

. This case

is particularly interesting because if this problem were

to be analyzed using plates or shell elements, one might

reasonably suppose that the quasi-isotropy of the sub-

laminate justiﬁes the use of one-quarter models, since

the symmetry boundary conditions appear to be com-

patible with material symmetry planes. This analysis

shows that such an assumption would be erroneous,

since the sublaminate is still unsymmetrical (albeit

quasi-isotropic), and boundary eﬀects are still sig-

niﬁcant. The comparison with experimental results from

specimen E4 is shown in Fig. 16. The direction of

Fig. 11. Distribution of G

I

along delamination front (3-ply delamination) for F3 and Q3.

Fig. 12. Distribution of G

II

along delamination front (3-ply delamination) for F3 and Q3.

1246 F. Shen et al. / Composites Science and Technology 61 (2001) 1239–1251

growth is transverse to the load direction, which coin-

cides with the direction of maximum G

I

. In this case, G

II

does not appear to inﬂuence the direction of growth.

4. Prediction of delamination growth rate

In this section, the prediction of delamination growth

rate and direction is investigated with the aid of FE

analysis of a woven fabric composite laminate with a

centrally located hole and circular delamination. The

local SERR components calculated from Eqs. (3)–(5)

are used in a suitable fatigue propagation criterion.

Equations similar in form to the Paris Equation are

commonly used to characterize delamination propaga-

tion in composites. However, instead of stress intensity

factors, the SERR components are usually used. These

criteria can be based either on the total SERR [19] or

the SERR components [20,26], which are obtained from

standard composite test pieces such as the cracked lap

shear specimen (mixed mode, and Mode II), end not-

ched ﬂexure specimen (Mode II) and the double canti-

lever beam (Mode I). Their chief use is for comparison

of fracture toughness and fatigue resistance of various

composite material systems, not for predicting growth

of delamination in composite structures [27]. Two such

criteria are used in this paper:

4.1. Propagation criterion based on the total SERR

[19]

dA

dN

= 3014·

ÁG

T

1000

7:43

(6)

4.2. Propagation criterion based on the SERR

components [20]

dA

dN

= 0:7188·

G

I

103

8

÷6:5938·

G

II

456

6

(7)

The units of delaminated area A and G are mm

2

and

J/m

2

, respectively.

The analysis is carried out for an FE model of a

woven fabric composite plate with an embedded delami-

nation and fatigue loaded under compression. In this

case, only a quarter of the plate is modeled (Fig. 1), since

the use of symmetry boundary conditions is justiﬁed Fig. 13. C-scan image of delamination growth of specimen E3.

Fig. 14. Distribution of G

II

along delamination front (4-ply delamination) for F4 and Q4.

F. Shen et al. / Composites Science and Technology 61 (2001) 1239–1251 1247

because they are compatible with material property

symmetry (all the plies are identically oriented). Dela-

mination growth is modeled by releasing node pairs

held together by multi-point constraints (MPC) between

the surfaces of the delaminated part and the substrate.

The procedure for node release, with consideration for

local damage accumulation at each node pair, is as fol-

lows.

(a) For each step k (to determine increment in dela-

minated area), ﬁrst perform a nonlinear FE analysis and

determine G

I

, G

II

and G

III

for all non-midside nodes i

along the crack front (keeping the external applied load

constant).

(b) From Eqs. (6) or (7), for a given increment in

delaminated area ÁA

i

, calculate ÁN

(k)

i

for these nodes,

i = 1; . . . ; n. Select the node j with the smallest ÁN

(k)

j

1 ÷ D

(k÷1)

j

h i

, where D

(k÷1)

j

is the accumulated damage

coeﬃcient for point j.

(c) The increment in damage coeﬃcient for each node

i is deﬁned by:

ÁD

(k)

i

=

ÁN

(k)

j

ÁN

(k)

i

1 ÷ D

(k÷1)

j

h i

; i = 1; . . . ; n: (8)

where the accumulated damage coeﬃcient D

(k÷1)

j

= 0

for the ﬁrst step.

(d) Calculate the accumulated damage coeﬃcient for

all nodes

D

(k)

i

= D

(k÷1)

i

÷ ÁD

(k)

i

i = 1; . . . ; n: (9)

Select the node j with the largest value of D

(k)

j

(e) Calculate accumulated number of fatigue cycles

N

(k)

t

= N

(k÷1)

t

÷ ÁN

(k)

j

1 ÷ D

(k÷1)

j

h i

(10)

and the total delaminated area

A

(k)

= A

(k÷1)

÷ ÁA

j

(11)

(f) Release the node j and the related mid-side nodes;

set D

(k)

j

= 0.

(g) Set k=k+1 and repeat procedure from (a).

Fig. 15. Distribution of G

II

along delamination front (4-ply delamination) for F4 and Q4.

Fig. 16. C-scan image of delamination growth of specimen E4.

1248 F. Shen et al. / Composites Science and Technology 61 (2001) 1239–1251

In order to compare the FE results with experiment,

12-ply woven fabric laminates were fabricated from

ECS002 plain-weave fabric carbon prepregs, and fatigue

loaded (R = ÷1, peak load 28 kN). A 20 mm circular

pre-delamination was introduced for each specimen by

inserting a circular Teﬂon piece between the ﬁrst and

second plies during casting. This initial delamination

was used to simulate delamination by impact damage.

Circular holes of 5 mm diameter were drilled at

approximately the center of the Teﬂon inserts. The

dimensions of the composite coupons are similar to

those of the previous specimens. The average thickness

of the cured specimens is 3.37 mm. The delamination

growth was recorded by C-scan at regular intervals and

the cumulated area determined. The material properties

for the woven fabric laminates are: E

1

= E

2

= 42:5

GPa, E

3

= 14:5 GPa, G

12

= 17:4 GPa, G

23

= G

13

= 0:85

GPa, and

12

=

13

=

23

= 0:22.

Fig. 17 shows the distributions of SERR components

along the delamination front. The perimeter coordinate

S is used here. The maximum values of G

I

and G

II

are

located at the position S = 0, indicating that the dela-

mination will propagate in the direction perpendicular

to the load direction. This is conﬁrmed by the C-scan

image of the delamination growth (Fig. 18). G

III

, the

tearing mode component of the SERR, is found to be

negligible. Another observation is that the magnitude of

G

I

is signiﬁcantly larger than that of G

II

, suggesting the

dominance of Mode I. In this problem, contact con-

straints must also be imposed to prevent interpenetra-

tion of delaminated surfaces. This is particularly so

when the applied load becomes large relative to the

Euler critical buckling load of the sublaminate.

The predicted delaminated areas using Eqs. (6) and

(7) are plotted in Fig. 19 with the experimentally deter-

mined values, which were obtained by superimposing

ﬁne square grids over the C-scan images. In the ﬁgure, A

is the total delamination area and N is the number of

fatigue cycles. Although both criteria under-predict the

extent of delamination growth, the results using Eq. (7)

appear to agree much closer with the experimental

values. Eq. (6) produces particularly poor prediction. It

appears therefore that predictions based on the total

SERR [Eq. (6)] are not accurate, and that the compo-

nents of the SERR [Eq. (7)] are needed. It is also

observed that during the simulation, the mode mixity

varies as the delamination propagates. Before the dela-

mination grows, the SERR component G

III

is initially

insigniﬁcant. Subsequently, as the delamination grows

and changes shape, the value of G

III

becomes larger.

The maximum G

III

values are located between - 45

and 60

**. Therefore the local mode mixity is dependent
**

Fig. 17. Distribution of SERR components along delamination front for a woven fabric composite laminate.

Fig. 18. C-scan image of delamination growth in a woven fabric

laminate.

F. Shen et al. / Composites Science and Technology 61 (2001) 1239–1251 1249

on the shape of the delamination front. However, most

published evolution criteria such as Eq. (7) do not con-

tain G

III

. Thus presently, it is diﬃcult to assess the sig-

niﬁcance of G

III

.

Finally, typical shapes of the delamination growth

predicted by Eqs. (6) and (7) are shown in Figs. 20 and

21, respectively. The delaminated area in Fig. 20 is 72

mm

2

and in Fig. 21 is 140 mm

2

. The predicted shape

using the criterion based on SERR components [Eq. (7)]

is slightly narrower than the delamination predicted by

using the criterion based on the total SERR [Eq. (6)].

5. Conclusions

In this paper, both woven fabric and non-woven fab-

ric laminates with post-buckled embedded delamination

have been studied using nonlinear ﬁnite elements. Fati-

gue analyses are also carried out based on a proposed

numerical scheme for advancing the delamination front

using fatigue evolution criteria. The numerical results

are validated with experiments. The following conclu-

sions are obtained:

Fig. 19. Prediction of delamination growth rate for circular delamination in a woven fabric laminate.

Fig. 20. Predicted delamination shape using Eq. (6) (delaminated area

72 mm

2

).

Fig. 21. Predicted delamination shape using Eq. (7) (delaminated area

72 mm

2

).

1250 F. Shen et al. / Composites Science and Technology 61 (2001) 1239–1251

1. The direction of delamination growth generally

coincides with the direction of maximum strain

energy release rate.

2. Sublaminate lay-up sequence plays an important

role in the distribution of local strain energy

release rate components along the delamination

front. The use of one-quarter models is popular

because of signiﬁcant reduction in computational

eﬀort, but will generally lead to erroneous results,

particularly when material property symmetry is

incompatible with symmetry conditions imposed

on the boundaries. Even in the case of quasi-iso-

tropic sublaminates, the use of one-quarter models

can lead to over-prediction of the values of SERR

components. In cases where it is not possible to

impose correct boundary conditions in one-quarter

models, full models must be used instead.

3. A method for predicting delamination fatigue

growth is proposed and illustrated, taking into

account the accumulated damage along the delami-

nation front. It is found that propagation criteria

employing strain energy release rate components

rather than total strain energy release rate give closer

predictions when compared to experimental data.

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