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Compuws & Sfructures Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 397-403, 1990

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FINITE

ELEMENT

ANALYSIS

OF

AN

OVERVIEW

SANDWICH

PLATES:

Centre

for Building Studies, Concordia

K.

H. I-IA

University,

Montreal,

(Receiued 17 October

1989)

Quebec, Canada

H3G

lM8

Abstract-Many finite element models have been proposed for the analysis of sandwich plates. In general, these elements can be classified into two broad streams. The first is based on the assumed filament approach, and the second on the assumed-stress 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 state-of-the-art finite element analysis applied to sandwich plate structures.

element analysis applied to sandwich plate structures. INTRODUCTION Sandwich construction is a special class of

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. Half-sandwich 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 assumed-stress 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 state-of-the-art 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 analysis-effort. 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. mid-plane translations and section rotations which are easily

between layers (the effects of ‘elastic interlayer slips’ on sandwich beam-columns 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,, aY, rxY. (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 assumed-stress 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 half-sandwich is the simplest type, where

bending and in-plane 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

analysis-effort.

A by

paper

Cook [4]

investigates

the

effects

of

some of these assumptions

for three-layer

sandwich

T xz3 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 cross-section of the plate, but not necessarily perpendicular to the middle plane. (b) Piece-wise linear variation with partial continuity (Fig. 2). (c) Piece-wise linear variation with full continuity (Fig. 3). (d) Quadratic or cubic variation to allow for warping of the cross-section. 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 so-called 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

l-5

I

b!!3

z

uo -

_TW,X

Fig. 1. Linear displacement

variation.

Finite element

analysis of sandwich

plates

399

laminated plates. Because the Reissner-Mindlin 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

assumption 5(a) described before, the displacement field is Fig. 2. Piece-wise linear displacement with partial

Fig. 2. Piece-wise 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 traction-free 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].

Reissner-Mindlin elements

References [6] and [7j and their subsequent exten- sion by Medwadowski [13], Yang et al. [14], and many others, provide the basis for the development of finite element models of both homogeneous and

Ui

Fig. 3. Piece-wise 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 non-uniform 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 Reissner-Mindlin 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 Reissner-Mindlin 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 stress-strain

400

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 three-layer 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, three-layer 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 in-plane 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 in-plane 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 piece-wise linear layers’ inplane displacements with full layer-compatibility [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 piece-wise linear dis-

placements in the cross-section, 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 non-linear warping of the plate cross-section 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 three-dimensional 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 assumed-stress 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-

ment-based 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 three-dimensional 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 three-layer symmetric sand- wich plates with thin facings and flexible core [combination 2(b), 3(a), 4(a), 5(a) and 6(b)]. A three-layer 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 four-node element where transverse shear stresses were assumed to be constant span-wise but allowed to vary parabolically within individual layers with full interlaminar continuity and the laminate surface traction-free [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 in-plane displacements at the layers’ surfaces. Several four-node elements, applicable to multilayer plates and satisfying interlayer stress con- tinuity as well as laminate surface traction-free, were

subsequently

developed by Spilker et al. [61--63]. The

last element

(of [63]), by virtue of its higher order

through-thickness 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 eight-node element by Spilker [64]. Its assumptions and basic formulation are similar to those of [60]; however, with the increased number of nodes, the in-plane 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 eight-node 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 three-layer sandwich construction of flexible core and thin facings. Construction with multiple thin stiff faces and cores possessing similar stiffnesses can be transformed to standard three-lay& con- struction by means of equivalent stiffnesses [671. When interlaminar stresses are of prime consider- ation, the three-dimensional formulation should be considered. Major emphasis has been given to the displace- ment-based and hybrid stress-based 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 locking-free 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.

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