Compuws & Sfructures Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 397403, 1990
Printed in Gnat
Britain.
004s7949/90 s3.00 + 0.00 PergFmm Press plc
FINITE
ELEMENT
ANALYSIS
OF
AN
OVERVIEW
SANDWICH
PLATES:
Centre
for Building Studies, Concordia
K.
H. IIA
University,
Montreal,
(Receiued 17 October
1989)
Quebec, Canada
H3G
lM8
AbstractMany 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 filament approach, and the second on the assumedstress hybrid approach. Within each stream, the characteristics of the elements vary greatly in terms of the formulation complexity, accuracy and applicability. An overview is given of the stateoftheart finite element analysis applied to sandwich plate structures.
INTRODUCTION
Sandwich construction is a special class of laminates
where the inner posed of more
figurations may consist of a single core bonded to two stiff facings, or multiple cores with multiple facings. Halfsandwich or open faced canstruction has only one core and one facing. The structural efficiency achieved by separating the stiff facings with a thick core of low density material exacts a certain toll in terms of increased transverse (thickness) shear fiexi
bility and increased susceptibility to local instability; these are two issues among many that confront the designer. Transverse shear deformations are associated with the bending behaviour of sandwich plate structures, pa~icularly when the inner layers are thick and of more flexible material. Because of this characteristic, classical thin plate ‘KirchhofI’ elements are not applicable. 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 displa~ment approach, and the second on the assumedstress hybrid approach. Within each stream, the characteristics of the elements vary greatly in terms of formulation complexity, accuracy and applicability. It is the purpose of this paper to give an overview of the stateoftheart finite element analysis of sandwich plate structures. The underlying assump tions of the elements will be discussed and their range
of applicability indicated. The information
will be of use to researchers in the field as well as to
designers interested in a particular type of sandwich construction. The primary interest will be on the analysis of the overail behaviour of sandwich plates and shells rather than on the local instability phenomena.
layers are often thicker and com flexible materials. Common con:
presented
The paper will progress in the following manner. First, some general considerations in the analysis will be discussed, then the existing finite element models, classified in accordance with their formulation
approach and functional
Undoubtedly, a survey of this type will not do justice to al1 contributions, particularly with the theoretical
developments in the wider field of laminate construc tion, and for which the author apologizes.
use, will be presented.
GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
This
section
discusses
the choice of a particular
the
various
aspects
that
underlie
or element.
analysis
technique
Efects of transverseshear deformations
Transverse shear defo~ations occur to a certain extent in any plate subjected to transverse loading, but they are more significant in thick isotropic or laminated composite plates and in sandwich plates with soft cores. It is well known that they have no effects on the stress resultants in simply supported rectangular isotropic sandwich plates subjected to uniform loading or edge moments. In most
other situations, the stress distributions can be very different from those obtained with thin plate Kirchhoff theory.
the
analyst is well advised to ascertain whether the effects of transverse shear deformations are significant enough to warrant the extra analysiseffort. A rule of thumb for preliminary design is that such effects can be neglected if eqn (1) is satisfied [l].
Before
embarking
on
a
complex
analysis,
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
398
K.
H.
These material parameters can be derived for any configuration of sandwich construction (see, for example, [2, 9).
The type of nodal degrees
of freedom
HA
plates
approximation
reference.
of isotropic
facings.
The
various
degrees
of
later
are classified below to facilitate
to
most formulations: (a) the transverse deflection is
1. General
assumptions.
These
are
common
Simple finite elements, possessing only the basic 
constant across the thickness; and (b) perfect bonding 

geometrical nodal degrees of freedom (e.g. midplane translations and section rotations which are easily 
between layers (the effects of ‘elastic interlayer slips’ on sandwich beamcolumns were discussed by Fazio 

transformed) are suitable for the analysis of three 
et a1.[5]). 

dimensional systems composed of panels meeting 
2. 
Materialproperties. Materials for the facing and 

at an angle, e.g. folded plates, and panelized construction. Finite element models with additional 
core can be: (a) isotropic; (b) orthotropic; or (c) anisotropic. 

degrees of freedom such as curvatures, higher order 
3. 
Stress distribution in facing section. 
(a) Thin 

derivatives of displacements or shear strains are 
facing theory: the face is treated as a solid membrane, 

therefore more suitable for the analysis of flat plates 
i.e. constant a,, by, Tag. (b) Thick facing theory: 
the 

or shells. Also, these elements can be very accurate, 
face is treated as a classical thin plate to allow 
for 

particularly when interlaminar shear stresses are of 
stretching and local bending, i.e. linear distribution of 

special interest. 
_{Q}_{,}_{,} _{a}_{Y}_{,} _{r}_{x}_{Y}_{.} (c) All five StreSS components o,, au, 
txy, 
Special problems
are across layers, they should not be evaluated using an individual layer’s elastic constants, but rather by other means, such as equilibrium consideration, or by using higher order assumedstress elements. A different problem, involving ‘concentrated’ forces,
where the local transverse shear stresses are discon tinuous, can also be tackled by more sophisticated elements. An additional complication arises in the case of sandwich construction with unsymmetrical layers,
of which halfsandwich is the simplest type, where
bending and inplane stretching are coupled (although such coupling tends to reduce the plate effective stiffness, other considerations may prevail).
In finite element analysis, this coupling must be
included at the formulation stage, since a simple superposition of the bending and stretching behaviours is invalid for this case. In general, finite element solutions for transverse shear stresses and edge reactions are less accurate than those for deflections and moments; this is particularly true in the displacement formulation of sandwich and Mindlin plate elements. The specification of boundary conditions for many refined elements can be complicated because of the numerous degrees of freedom assigned across the plate thickness. For sandwich construction with rigid edge inserts or stiffeners, compatibility requires special consideration. It is unfortunate that develop ers of finite element models rarely address these practical matters.
Since
interlaminar
shear
stresses
continuous
Assumptions in sandwich plate formulations
The variety of assumptions
formulation
sophisticated formulations
can
be confusing.
used in sandwich
Obviously,
make
plate
the more
fewer assumptions
at of more the cost complexity and 
analysiseffort. 

A by paper Cook [4] investigates 
the effects of 
some of these assumptions
for threelayer
sandwich
T _{x}_{z}_{3} tyl are defined, and are often allowed to vary across the layer thickness.
4. Stress distribution in the core section. (a) Flexible
core: constant transverse shear stresses T,,, Tag. (b) Stiff core: similar to 3(c) above.
so
far 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, combined with the need to enforce strain compatibility within the layers (as required in the displacement finite element formulation), necessitates an assumed kin ematic deformation mode for the plate section. (a)
Linear variation
across the entire crosssection of the plate, but not necessarily perpendicular to the middle plane. (b) Piecewise linear variation with partial continuity (Fig. 2). (c) Piecewise linear variation with full continuity (Fig. 3). (d) Quadratic or cubic variation to allow for warping of the crosssection. The discontinuity of the inplane displacements at the layer interface shown in Fig. 2 arises from the neglect of transverse shear deformations in the stiff layers. In addition, if the small displacement u* in the stiff layers is considered then we have the socalled thick facing theory [i.e. assumption 3(b)], otherwise the theory is for thin facings [i.e. assumption 3(a)]. This discussion also illustrates the interdependency between the various assumptions.
5. Displacement variation. The approximations
(Fig. 1): the normal
remains
straight
l5
I
b!!3
z
uo _{}
_TW,X
Fig. 1. Linear displacement
variation.
Finite element
analysis of sandwich
plates
399
laminated plates. Because the ReissnerMindlin element type forms part of the library of most large scale structural analysis packages, it is worthwhile to review its basic mechanism for the inclusion of transverse shear deformations. With the assumption 5(a) described before, the displacement field is
Fig. 2. Piecewise linear displacement
with partial continuity.
6. Consideration of equilibrium. In the finite element formulation based on assumed stresses, equilibrium may be enforced on: (a) the stresses at the layers’ level; or (b) the resultant moments and forces; and (c) the conditions of continuity of interlaminar stresses and tractionfree at the laminate exterior surfaces. Confusion is caused by the variety of combinations of the above approximations, especially when the assumptions underlying a particular formulation are not explicitly stated. As an example, the combination of the preceeding 2(c), 3(c), and 4(b) seems to be highly sophisticated; however, when it is combined with S(a), the resultant formulation may be accept able for a composite laminate of similar material stiffnesses, but may not be suitable for sandwich construction of multiple cores with different materials.
DEVELOPMENT
OF
FINITE
ELEMENTS
Early
on
theoretical
shear
sandwich
work
considering
on
the
homogeneous
effects of
and
[7],
Batdorf [8].
transverse
plates was carried out by Reissner [6] and Mindlin
and
deformations
plates
by Libove
The body of existing analytical theories is large, 
as 

shown 
by 
the extensive surveys carried 
out 
by 
Habip [9, lo],
Bert
and
Francis
[ll],
and
Bert [12].
ReissnerMindlin 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 development of finite element models of both homogeneous and
Ui
Fig. 3. Piecewise linear displacement
with full continuity.
w(x, y, z) =
w(x, Y),
_{(}_{2}_{)}
where the subscript 0 denotes the displacements of the reference plane z = 0, and 8,, 0, are the average rotations of the normals. The transverse shear strains are
yXI= w,++U,=w,+ex ~~~=w~+~,~=w,~+e~, _{(}_{3}_{)}
where the comma denotes partial differentiation with respect to the variable that follows. To account for the nonuniform distribution of transverse shear stresses, correction factors are introduced. In the case of a homogeneous plate, the correlation factor of 1.2 is included in the definition of the transverse shear stiffness
(4)
where G is the shear modulus, and h is the plate thickness. For the analysis of laminated or sandwich plates,
it is necessary to provide the proper material con
relations for
the individual layers, or in terms of the plate resultant
forces and moments. Correction factors for this class were derived by Whitney [ 15,161 based on energy consideration. The popularity of the ReissnerMindlin element type arises partly from the simplicity in the formulation which requires only Co displacement continuity, and partly from its general applicability to both thin and thick plates. The first order ReissnerMindlin elements may work well for lami nated plates, but Khatua and Cheung [17] have shown that the assumption of constant shear strain may not be suitable for sandwich construction of multiple cores having large differences in stiffnesses. Because many of these elements (mostly for homo geneous plates, but also for the approximate analysis of sandwich plates by means of equivalent stiffnesses) have been reviewed by Hrabok and Hrudy [18], the emphasis here will be on elements which were either designed specifically for sandwich construction or developed after 1983. We may add to the list compiled in [ 181 the following recently developed homogeneous thick plate elements, mainly of the
stants, expressed in terms of stressstrain
_{4}_{0}_{0}
K. H.
first order Reissner/Mindlin type, contributed by Ghosh and Buragohain [19], Yuan and Miller [20], Zienkiewicz and Lefebvre [21], and Bhashyam and Gallagher [22]. These elements do not seem to suffer from the shear lock problem which plagues earlier elements. For laminated plates, we may include some earlier developments: those of Noor and Mathers [23], Panda and Natarajan [24], Reddy [25], and Lakshminarayana and Murthy [26]. Ding [27] adapted the Mindlin formulation to the optimum design of threelayer unsymmetrical sandwich con struction with a honeycombed core [combination
2(b), 3(c), 4(b) and
WI.
With
the
assumption
5(b), whereby the core’s
normal rotations 0, and 0, are expressed in terms of the facing middle plane displacements, threelayer sandwich elements for curved beams and shells were developed by Abel and Popov [28], Monforton and
Schmit [29], and Ahmed [30,31]. This approach was extended in [17] and by Ha and Fazio [32] to cover a large variety of sandwich constructions composed of thick or thin orthotropic multiple facings and flexible cores. The generality of this approach [combination 2(b), 3(b), 4(a) and 5(b)] is achieved at the cost of introducing inplane displacements at all stiff layers
as degrees of freedom, which effectively allow for
variation of transverse shear stresses from one core to
another. A variation of this theme
Chaudhuri [33] for the analysis of homogeneous plates. By expressing the normal rotations in terms of the inplane displacements of the bottom surface, Chaudhuri claimed that the terms w, and wg in eqn (3) for the shear strains could be omitted. Whilst the transverse shear strains would then be excessive even for the case of thin plates, the results still seem to
converge. Refined elements based on piecewise linear layers’ inplane displacements with full layercompatibility [approximation 5(c)] were developed by Mawenya and Davies [34] for static analysis and by Owen and
Li [35, 361 for static, vibration and stability analysis.
These isoparametric elements are more general than the one in [17] in that all five stress components are considered in the individual layers [combination 2(b)/(c), 3(c), 4(b) and 5(c)]. Reference [34] uses the normal rotations of layers as degrees of freedom, whereas references [35,36] use the inplane displace ments at both faces of the layers. These displacements can be eliminated layer by layer, thus leaving those associated with the top surface of the plate as master degrees of freedom. Standard Mindlin element formulation has been used for large deflection analysis by Rajogopal ei al. [37,38] and by Kumar and Rao [39] for free vibrations of shells. An interesting variation of the Mindlin formulation for moderately thick homo geneous plates was given by Bergan and Wang 1401, where the normal rotations were found in terms of the derivatives of w by enforcing the homogeneous differential plate equilibrium equation.
was used by
HA
Higher
order displacement elements
Most of the elements discussed above are charac terized by assumed linear or piecewise linear dis
placements in the crosssection, and where the nodal degrees of freedom include only displacements or rotations. Higher order elements for thick laminated plates, in the present context, allow for nonlinear warping of the plate crosssection by using extra degrees of freedom. This warping function is often selected to achieve a more realistic distribution of transverse shear stresses vanishing at the exterior surfaces. Since transverse shear stresses are no longer assumed to be uniform, shear correction factors are generally not required for this type of element. In addition to the use of extra degrees of freedom, higher order elements involve higher order resultant moments and shears which have little physical meaning. Quadratic warping functions were used by Engblom and Ochoa [41], with shear stresses being obtained by integration of the equilibrium equation. Parabolic variation of transverse shear strains was assumed by Phan and Reddy [42] for plates, and by Bhimaraddi et al. [43] for shells of revolution. Since the warping functions chosen contain first derivatives
of w, both of these elements require C’ displacement
continuity, i.e. the set of degrees of freedom includes w as well as the normal rotations. In contrast, k’fo&ulation proposed by Pandya and Kant [44], also of parabolic shear distribution, is Co continuity. Furthermore, by assuming linear variation of the thickness normal stress [approximation l(a) abandoned], all six stress components can be found.
A more complex threedimensional formulation was
presented by Kim and Lee [45], and by Hwang and Sun [46]; the latter, in particular, rely on a mixed field iterative scheme for accurate determination of
interlaminar stresses.
Assumed stress and hybrid elements
The assumedstress hybrid approach was pioneered by Pian [47], and its variational basis was established
by Pian and Tong [48]. The approach is characterized
by independently assumed stress and displacement fields, and hence construction of the element stiffness matrix is more complex than its equivalent displace
mentbased counterpart. Early application of this approach to sandwich plate analysis was carried out by Lundgren [49]
(whose formulation, however, used wr, wg as degrees of freedom, and therefore the results do not converge [48]), and by Barnard [50] and Ha 1511.The last two elements use 17 independent stress par ameters with nodal deflections and normal rotations
as degrees of freedom. The effectiveness of this type of element for the analysis of threedimensional panelized sandwich plate structures was demon strated by Fazio and Ha [52, 531. The triangular elements developed by Bartelds and Ottens [54] and
Finite element analysis of sandwich plates
401
by Cook [55] were found to produce spurious zero energy modes. Overall buckling analysis was carried out by Cook [56] and Luo [57]. The simplest rectangular elements, containing 9 and 11 stress parameters in combination with linear edge displace ments, without zero energy mode, were presented by Fazio et al. [58]. All the elements previously mentioned, apart from the elements of [55] which are essentially for homo geneous plates, art! for threelayer symmetric sand wich plates with thin facings and flexible core [combination 2(b), 3(a), 4(a), 5(a) and 6(b)]. A threelayer sandwich element with thick facings was developed by Kraus [59] by su~rimposing thin facing action with local bending in the faces [combination 2(b), 3(b), 4(a) and 5(b)]. The nodal degrees of freedom are then the deflection, its slopes and normal rotations. The first application of hybrid formulation to the general class of thick laminated plates was by Mau ef
al. [60], who developed a fournode element where transverse shear stresses were assumed to be constant spanwise but allowed to vary parabolically within individual layers with full interlaminar continuity and the laminate surface tractionfree [combination 2(c), 3(c), 4(b), 5(c), 6(a) and 6(c)]. The number of degrees of freedom per node is 2(n + 1) + 1 (where n is the nutnber of layers), consisting of a transverse dis placement and inplane displacements at the layers’ surfaces. Several fournode elements, applicable to multilayer plates and satisfying interlayer stress con tinuity as well as laminate surface tractionfree, were
subsequently 
developed by Spilker et al. [6163]. The 
last element 
(of [63]), by virtue of its higher order 
throughthickness stress and displacement variations, is applicable to very thick plates. All of these four node elements suffer from spurious kinematic modes. This deficiency was later corrected in the parametric eightnode element by Spilker [64]. Its assumptions and basic formulation are similar to those of [60]; however, with the increased number of nodes, the inplane variations of both stresses and displacements are of higher order. The effort required for both analytical development and numerical evaluation of the element stiffness matrix far exceeds that of any other elements discussed thus far. Liou and Sun [65] extended Spilker’s develop ment [64] by further including transverse deflections at the layers’ surfaces as additional degrees of free dom, and the resulting eightnode parametric element can accurately predict the exact thr~dimensional elasticity solutions. Its application to vibration problems was discussed by Sun and Liou [66].
FINAL
REMARKS
The
present review has shown the wide spectrum
of
existing finite element analysis capability ranging
from the simple three degrees of freedom per node to
the more
extravagant 3(n + 1) per node. This variety
is, perhaps, necessary in order to match the variety of requirements in practical design situations. The simple elements will suffice for symmetric threelayer sandwich construction of flexible core and thin facings. Construction with multiple thin stiff faces and cores possessing similar stiffnesses can be transformed to standard threelay& con struction by means of equivalent stiffnesses [671. When interlaminar stresses are of prime consider ation, the threedimensional formulation should be considered. Major emphasis has been given to the displace mentbased and hybrid stressbased elements in this review. However, one should be aware that alternative formulation approaches exist, which can provide certain specific advantages. As examples, Gellert (681 used mixed/hybrid formulation, whereas Haas and Lee [69] used assumed strain formulation, to develop lockingfree composite plate and shell elements. Other aspects pertaining to sandwich construction and amenable to numerical treatment have not received much attention. Among these, one may list:
constitutive relations for core and facing materials; Iocal instability; delamination due to thermal or hu~dity effects; influence of stiffeners; loss of bond; creep, etc. Perhaps it is along these directions that future developments will take place.
1.
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