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International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

Experimental and numerical studies of foam-"lled sections


Sigit P. Santosa!, Tomasz Wierzbicki!,*, Arve G. Hanssen", Magnus Langseth"
!Impact & Crashworthiness Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Room 5-218,
77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA-02139, USA
"Department of Structural Engineering, The Norwegian University of Science and Technology,
N-7034, Trondheim, Norway
Received 30 September 1998; received in revised form 29 June 1999

Abstract
A comprehensive experimental and numerical studies of the crush behavior of aluminum foam-"lled
sections undergoing axial compressive loading is performed. Non-linear dynamic "nite element analyses are
carried out to simulate quasi-static test conditions. The predicted crushing force and fold formation are
found to be in good agreement with the experimental results. Based on the numerical simulations, simple
closed-form solution is developed to calculate the mean crushing force of the foam-"lled sections. It is found
that the increase of mean crushing force of a "lled column has a linear dependence with the foam compressive
resistance and cross-sectional area of the column. The proposed solution is within 8% of the experimental
data for wide range of column geometries, materials and foam strengths. ( 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All
rights reserved.
Keywords: Thin-walled column; Aluminum foam; Axial crush

1. Introduction
Recent developments of cost-e!ective processes for the production of low-density metallic
cellular material, such as aluminum foam, have cleared the way for using it in light-weight
structural members. This is due to the unique characteristics of the cellular material which can
undergo large strain deformation while maintaining its low stress level before the densi"cation,
which occurs at the densi"cation strain in the range of 60}90%. One potential application of this
type of material is to reinforce thin-walled prismatic columns in space frame structures. It has been

* Corresponding author. Tel.: #1-617-253-2104; fax: #1-617-253-1962.


E-mail address: wierz@mit.edu (T. Wierzbicki)
0734-743X/00/$ - see front matter ( 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 7 3 4 - 7 4 3 X ( 9 9 ) 0 0 0 3 6 - 6

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S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

Nomenclature
E
H
P
b
n
t
C
I
EH
F ,F
0 &
GH
P
.
P
.,&
P
.,&'
*P
.
d
l
h
e
D
oH
o
s
p
0
p
6
p
:
p
&
pH
1p
&!*qH
1q
&!*-

Young's modulus
half-wave folding length
instantaneous crushing force
column width
strain hardening exponent
column thickness
foam strengthening constant
elastic modulus of foam material
characteristic load of empty and "lled column
foam shear modulus
mean crushing force of empty column
mean crushing force for "lled column
mean crushing force for bonded-"lled column
increase of the mean crushing force
instantaneous shortening distance
Poisson's ratio
rotation angle of superfolding element
densi"cation strain
foam density
density of solid cell wall of foam
plastic #ow stress
ultimate strength
yield stress
crushing strength of foam
plastic collapse stress of foam
tensile strength of adhesive
plastic shear strength of foam
shear strength of adhesive

shown through numerical studies that the crushing characteristics of a thin-walled column are
improved dramatically by "lling it with aluminum foam [1].
A comprehensive experimental study on the e!ect of "lling thin-walled columns with aluminum
foam was done by Hanssen et al. [2,3]. They investigated the axial crushing behavior of the
foam-"lled aluminum extrusion under quasi-static loading condition. They found that signi"cant
increases of crushing force were obtained from the direct compressive strength of the foam and
from the interaction between the foam and wall column. The interaction at the foam}wall interface
decreases the folding length, and therefore increases the crushing force. For a typical column with
a length to width ratio of 3, the non-"lled extrusion formed 5 lobes, while the foam-"lled sections
formed as many as 9 lobes. Similar experimental results were obtained by Seitzberger et al. [4], on
the axially compressed steel tubes "lled with aluminum foam. The experimental results on the

S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

511

folding mode of aluminum foam "lling method agreed qualitatively with earlier results on the
low-density polyurethane foam "lling reported by Thornton [5], Lampinen and Jeryan [6], and
Reid et al. [7]. However, Thornton et al. [8] summarized the e!ect of polyurethane foam by
concluding that even though a considerable increase of collapse load was achieved, thickening of
the column wall was still more weight e$cient than polyurethane foam "lling.
Numerical investigations on the e!ect of aluminum foam "lling of thin-walled prismatic columns
undergoing axial crushing were recently carried out by Santosa and Wierzbicki [9]. In terms of
energy absorption per unit total mass, aluminum foam "lling was found to be preferable to
thickening of the column wall. Therefore, the energy absorption characteristics of thin-walled
columns can be improved signi"cantly with aluminum foam "lling. This is due to the prevention of
the inward fold formations of the thin-walled column by the presence of the foam "ller, leading to
large plastic membrane deformation and, accordingly, increased energy dissipation. Santosa and
Wierzbicki have also expanded their numerical analysis to the case of torsion and bending with
cross-sectional crushing [10,11]. In both cases, numerical analyses showed that aluminum foam
"lling reduced the amount of sectional collapse, resulting in the increase of the energy absorption of
the "lled columns.
The objective of this paper is to validate the numerical prediction of the crushing behavior of
aluminum foam-"lled columns using available experimental data. Of interests in the study are the
instantaneous crushing force, the mean crushing force, and the deformation mode of the aluminum
foam-"lled columns. The numerical study was conducted at the Impact and Crashworthiness
Laboratory, MIT, while the experimental study was conducted at the Norwegian University of
Science and Technology. Both studies involve aluminum extrusion and HYDRO aluminum foam
"ller. Furthermore, experimental validation is also conducted for the case of steel column with
MEPURA aluminum foam, in which the data was obtained from Ref. [4]. Simple closed-form
solutions for the mean crushing load are constructed based on the analytical and numerical results
and compared to the experiments.

2. Theoretical prediction
The energy dissipation of foam-"lled columns undergoing a crushing process depends on the
membrane and bending energy of the empty column, crushing energy of the foam, and the interaction between these two mechanisms. The existence of the coupling between the foam and the
column in the deformed geometrical parameters posses a complex analytical problem. Abramowicz
and Wierzbicki [12] developed an approximate solution to the problem of axial crushing of
foam-"lled columns. The interaction was accounted for using the dependency of the dissipated
energy on the volumetric strain.
Simple closed-form solution of the crushing characteristic of the foam-"lled column can be
obtained by assuming that the contribution of the dissipated energy from the compressed foam is
independent from the deformed geometry of the column. This assumption e!ectively decouples the
deformation of the column and the "lling foam. This method was adopted by Reddy and Wall [13]
to calculate the crushing response of axially compressed foam-"lled cylindrical tubes. The mean
crushing force P was then calculated by a simple sum of the crushing resistance of the empty
.
column and the strengthening interaction of the foam "ller.

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Recently, Santosa and Wierzbicki [9] developed a formula for the crushing resistance of the
foam-"lled column by using numerical simulation results. Similarly, Hanssen et al. [3] also
suggested an empirical formula for the crushing resistance of the foam-"lled columns. Both
methods used the following representation for the mean crushing force of the foam-"lled column:
F "F #C f (p , p , m),
(1)
&
0
I
0 &
where F , F are respectively characteristic load of "lled and empty column, while p and p are the
& 0
0
&
plastic #ow stress of column material and the crushing strength of the foam "ller, respectively, and
m is a geometrical parameter. C represents the strengthening constant, and f (p ,p ,m) is an
I
0 &
interaction function, which is determined from the dimensional analysis to capture the strengthening mechanism. Furthermore, in the case of axial compression, the strengthening interaction can be
divided into two di!erent components, which are the direct uniaxial compressive strength of the
foam and the wall}foam strengthening mechanism. Each contributing term in Eq. (1) is discussed in
the following subsection.
2.1. Thin-walled column crushing resistance
Simple closed-form solution for the crushing resistance of empty box columns undergoing axial
crushing adapted here is based on a concept of superfolding developed by Wierzbicki and
Abramowicz [14]. The corresponding theory for a right angle element was later extended to
multi-cornered, arbitrarily shaped column [15]. Here only the main points of the above theory will
be summarized. For a complete analysis, the reader should refer to the above references.
Consider a square box column with cross-section of b]b and thickness t undergoing axial
crushing as shown in Fig. 1. As depicted in the "gure, the folding modes considered in the analysis
is quasi-inextensional axial folding mode. The plastic deformation is localized at a portion of the
column and the plastic energy is dissipated through the formation of hinge lines and membrane
action zones. The localized plastic deformation zone is de"ned as the superfolding element, which is
a large "nite element with a prescribed knowledge of the deformation process and only a few
degrees of freedom. The superfolding element is characterized by the half-folding element H, which

Fig. 1. (a) Deformation pattern of box column, (b) superfolding element.

S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

513

is obtained from the condition of minimum plastic work as [14]


H"t1@3b2@3.

(2)

The instantaneous axial crushing force P(h) for small rotation is given by
P(h)"P

0.512
0.6#
.
h

(3)

Note that h corresponds to the rotation angle of the superfolding element with respect to the
vertical axis (see Fig. 1b) and the values varies from 0 to p/2 for a complete formation of one fold.
The mean crushing force is given by
P "13.05p t5@3b1@3,
(4)
.
0
where p is the #ow stress of the column material. To take strain hardening e!ects into account, the
0
energy equivalent #ow stress can be calculated by using [16,17]

p p
: 6,
p "
0
n#1

(5)

where p and p are the yield and ultimate strength, and n is the strain hardening exponent of the
:
6
thin-walled material.
2.2. Mean crushing resistance of foam-xlled columns
During a complete axial deformation process, the column wall will be progressively crushed. In
this respect, of interest in the crashworthiness analysis is not the actual load-shortening characteristics, but rather an average crushing resistance P . To asses the structural e$ciency of an energy
.
absorbing system, a single characteristic of the mean crushing resistance is su$cient. A simple
closed-form solution for the mean crushing force is given by Eq. (4). Numerically, the mean
crushing load can also be de"ned by

1 d
P "
P(d) dd,
(6)
. d
0
where P(d) is the instantaneous crushing load corresponding to the instantaneous shortening d.
The instantaneous crushing load data can be obtained from the experiments or from the numerical
simulations.
By using the argument that the energy dissipations in the column and the foam were decoupled,
Santosa and Wierzbicki [9] developed a strengthening function of the foam "ller, C f (p ,p ,m) term
I 0 &
in Eq. (1). Based on the numerical simulations, they found that the lateral foam}wall strengthening
interaction was of the same order as the direct uniaxial compressive strength of the foam. They
concluded that the additional strength of the foam-"lled column could then be approximated
as twice of the axial strength of the foam "ller. For a square box column with a cross section
b]b, Santosa and Wierzbicki prediction for the foam-"lled column mean crushing force can be

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S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

written as
P "P #2b2p ,
(7)
.,&
.
&
where P is the mean crushing force of empty column given in Eq. (4).
.
Hanssen et al. [3] developed the foam strengthening mechanism as two separate terms, i.e. the
direct compressive and the wall}foam interaction terms. The wall}foam strengthening interaction
was obtained by dimensional analysis of the parameters involved in the crushing process, which
was modeled as C Jp p bt, where t is the column thickness, and C is interaction constant to
!7'
& 0
!7'
be determined from the experiments. The model was then curve-"tted with the experimental data
and gave an excellent agreement if the value of interaction constant set equal to 5. The empirical
additive model of Hanssen et al. can then be written as
P "P #b2p #5 b tJp p ,
.,&
.
&
& 0

(8)

3. Test program
Fig. 2 shows the test matrix designed for the present experimental investigation. The in#uence of
three parameters on the energy absorbing behavior was studied, i.e. the density of the foam, the
wall thickness of the extrusion and bonding between the foam and extrusion by applying adhesive.
A typical factorial design approach was selected for this investigation [18]. Three di!erent
densities of foam were investigated in addition to empty extrusions. For each density of foam, the
wall thickness was varied between two levels, namely thin wall and thick wall. In addition, each
wall thickness was tested with and without adhesive. This resulted in a total of four tests that had to
be carried out for each density of foam (Fig. 2). As a reference, tests were also carried out without
foam. This program consequently comprised 14 tests, see Fig. 2.
3.1. Experimental setup
The aluminum extrusions were machined to a length of 245 mm. Fourteen specimens with
an average cross-sectional geometry of 80]80]1.88 mm were prepared. Seven of these were
machined on the outside to obtain a wall thickness of 1.0 mm. The resulting geometry of these
seven test specimens was approximately 78]78]1.0 mm, (see Fig. 3). These specimens had sharp
corners, which were di!erent from the original extrusions with rounded edges.
The aluminum foam was supplied as three sheets, each manufactured with a di!erent density. Six
specimens with a geometry of 75]75]245 mm were cut from each sheet and further machined in
order to get an exact "t in the extrusions. This machining required water as a cooling agent, which
soaked the test specimens. In order to obtain an accurate foam density, the specimens were allowed
to dry in an oven at 1003C for 1 h. The subsequent weighing showed average densities of 0.20, 0.35
and 0.48 g/cm3. Only four foam specimens of each of the three densities were needed for the test
program and those closest to the average value of each density were selected.
Six test specimens required adhesive between foam and the walls of the extrusion. On the basis
of previous experience, a two-component epoxy resin was chosen, namely Araldite 2011

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515

Fig. 2. Test program and symbol de"nition.

(AW106/HV953U). Before the adhesive was applied, both the inside of the extrusions and
the outside of the foam specimens were carefully degreased using acetone. The adhesive was
applied evenly to the inside of the extrusions with a sti! brush. In addition, the adhesive
was applied to the outside of the foam specimens using a paint roller. After this process, the
foam specimens were pushed gently into the extrusions. The adhesive was allowed to set for
three days before testing. The components containing foams of the lightest density required
the largest amount of adhesive; see the appendix for component details. For the densest foam o ,
3
the weight of the adhesive amounted to 5%, for o 10%, and for o 16%, compared to total
2
1
component weight.
The tests were carried out in a Dartec 500 kN testing machine (accuracy $ 0.2% of 150 kN). All
tests were quasi-static, starting with a rate of 0.015 mm/s to capture the peak forces at the
beginning. After this the rate was increased to 0.15 mm/s. The data logging system was running at
a constant rate of 1 Hz. The specimens were placed between two 50 mm steel plates in the testing
machine. Fig. 3 gives an overview of the test specimen geometry and experimental setup used in the
tests. The relative displacement between the two steel plates was measured using an inductive
displacement transducer, accuracy $ 1% of full scale (100 mm).

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S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

Fig. 3. Test specimen geometry and experimental set-up.

3.2. Material properties


The aluminum extrusions used in the tests were made up of alloy AA6060 temper T4. A typical
engineering tensile}stress strain curve of the material, obtained from a specimen taken parallel to
the direction of extrusion, is shown in Fig. 4. The aluminum foam was made up of alloy AlSi8Mg.
Fig. 4 shows the engineering stress}strain curve of the foam in compression.

4. Finite element modeling


The explicit dynamics non-linear "nite element code PAM CRASH 97 was used to numerically
simulate the axial crushing process of foam-"led columns. The "nite model was created by mesh
generator program HYPERMESH 2.1. The column wall was modeled with a Belytschko-Tsay-4node thin shell element, while the foam core was modeled with an 8}node solid element. Since the
foam core can undergo a large strain deformation, solid element using selective reduced integration
rule was chosen to avoid volumetric locking. The selective reduced integration rule have 8 integration points for the deviatoric strain part and 1 integration point for the volumetric strain.
In the axial loading condition, the deformation of the square box column has two symmetry
planes with respect to its cross section, i.e. X0> and >0Z planes (Fig. 5). Due to the expected
symmetry of the deformation, only one quarter of the column was modeled to represent the axial
crushing problem. No triggering imperfection was introduced to the model. Clamped boundary
conditions were applied at the bottom of the column, and the symmetry boundary conditions were
applied on all free vertical edges. There are two sets of geometrical models considered in the present
work. First, a square aluminum extrusion with cross section b"80 mm, length "245 mm, and

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517

Fig. 4. Typical stress}strain diagrams, wall of extrusion and aluminum foam.

Fig. 5. Geometric modeling of a foam-"lled column.

thickness t"1.88 mm "lled with HYDRO aluminum foam. Secondly, a square steel column with
b"40 mm, "150 mm, and t"1.4 mm "lled with MEPURA aluminum foam. The results of the
numerical simulations of the "rst and the second models are compared with the experiments given
in Refs. [3,4], respectively.

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S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

To simulate the displacement controlled experiment, velocity boundary conditions were applied
on the top portion or the column. In the actual quasi-static experiments, the speed of the
cross-beam is usually set to 0.01}1 mm/s [3]. This range of velocity is too slow for the numerical
simulation. This is due to the fact that the explicit time integration method is only conditionally
stable, and therefore in general very small time increments have to be used. For the present work,
the applied velocity was arti"cially speed up to 2 m/s. The velocity pro"le was ramped during
the "rst 50 ms to 2 m/s, and then this velocity was held constant. Quasi-static process still can be
achieved with arti"cial high velocity provided that the inertial e!ect is minimized, which can
be done by scaling the mass density. Two simulation responses need to be checked to verify the
quasi-static process is held. First, the total kinetic energy has to be very small compared to the total
internal energy over the period of the crushing process. Secondly, the crushing force-displacement
response must be independent from the applied velocity.
The strengthening interaction between the foam and the column wall was simulated with
a surface-to-surface sliding contact in the case of unbonded "lling. During progressive formation of
plastic folds, interpenetration between two folds in the column wall was prevented by using
self-contact interface. The strengthening e!ect due to friction between the wall column and the
foam "ller was studied for various friction coe$cients. Furthermore, internal solid anti-collapse
has to be applied on the solid element. This internal contact can prevent numerical problem that
can arise when solid elements are heavily compressed and distorted.
In the bonding case, the adhesive was modeled with tied contact. Failure due to excessive tension
and shear forces is allowed from node to node. Onset of failure was governed by the following
failure criterion [19]:

C D C D

p a
q b
#
)1,
p
q
&!*&!*-

(9)

where p
and q are tensile and shear strength of the adhesive material, respectively. In the
&!*&!*numerical simulation, the values for tensile and shear strength were taken to be p "q "
&!*&!*150 MPa, while the exponential constants were taken to be a"b"2, as suggested by
Seggewiss [20].

5. Material modeling
5.1. Thin-walled prismatic column
The constitutive behavior of the thin shell element for the column material was based on the
elastic}plastic material model with Von Mises's isotropic plasticity algorithm. The transverse shear
e!ect was considered by this material model. Plastic hardening was based on the polygonal curve
de"nition, in which pairs of the plastic tangent modulus and the plastic stress were speci"ed.
The aluminum extrusion AA 6060 T4 mechanical properties are: Young's modulus
E"6.82104 N/mm2, initial yield stress p "80 N/mm2, Poisson's ratio l"0.3, and the power
:
law exponent n"0.23. The steel column pro"le was made of mild steel RSt37 with mechanical
properties: Young's modulus E"2 105 N/mm2, initial yield stress p "251 N/mm2, Poisson's
:

S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

519

Table 1
Strain hardening data for AA 6060 T4 and Mild steel RSt37

Plastic
strain (%)

AA 6060 T4
plastic
stress (Mpa)

RSt37
plastic
stress (Mpa)

0.0
2.4
4.9
7.4
9.9
12.4
14.9
17.4

80
115
139
150
158
167
171
173

251
264
295
316
326
334
336
339

ratio l"0.3, and the power law exponent n"0.12. The engineering stress}strain for both
materials were given in Table 1. These stress}strain data were adopted from the experiments taken
from Fig. 4 and Ref. [4].
5.2. Aluminum foam core
The aluminum foam mechanical response in compression shows a typical behavior of highly
porous cellular solids: an initial approximately linear elastic regime is followed by an extended
plastic plateau, truncated by a densi"cation response at high strains during which the stress again
increases steeply (Fig. 6). Based on this characteristic, mechanical behavior of aluminum foam is
characterized by elastic modulus EH, plastic collapse stress pH , shear modulus GH, plastic shear
1strength qH , and densi"cation strain e . These parameters strongly depend on the aluminum foam
1D
density oH.
PAM CRASH o!ers material modeling for metallic cellular solids capable of undergoing large
strain deformation such as aluminum foam. The mechanical properties of the aluminum foam are
smeared in three orthogonal directions (x , x , x ), see Fig. 6. In the case of aluminum foam
1 2 3
material, all three orthogonal directions have the same mechanical behavior, i.e. cubic symmetry.
Currently, no interaction between components of the stress tensor is incorporated in the yield
condition.
Mechanical properties of aluminum foam for various relative densities are given as follows:

A B
A B
A B

o 2
EH"E H ,
4 o
4

(10)

o 2
3
GH" E H ,
4
o
8
4

(11)

o 3@2
H
,
pH "p
10,4 o
4

(12)

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S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

Fig. 6. Material constitutive modeling of aluminum foam.

A B

o 3@2
H
,
(13)
qH "0.5p
10,4 o
4
oH
e "1!1.4 ,
(14)
D
o
4
where E ,p ,o are the Young's modulus, plastic #ow stress, and mass density of solid cell wall of
4 0,4 4
the foam material, respectively. The plastic collapse stress of the foam given in Eq. (12) is obtained
from [21], while the Young's and shear moduli are obtained from [22]. The plastic shear strength is
taken to be a half of the plastic collapse stress. The tangent modulus E to capture the strain
5
hardening of the foam at the plastic stress plateau is assumed to be 2% of the elastic modulus EH for
any foam densities. There is here a room for improvement by making E depends on the foam
5
density o and amount of plastic deformation. This can only be done once the mechanism
&
responsible for hardening of the foam is well understood.

6. Quasi-static simulation
The explicit solution method is a true dynamic procedure originally developed to model
high-speed impact events in which inertia plays a dominant role in the solution. Therefore, in
a quasi-static analysis, the goal is to model the process in the shortest time period in which inertial
forces remain insigni"cant.
Two ways of achieving a quasi-static process by using the explicit dynamics procedure are
presented in this section. The "rst is scaling down the mass of the material so that the inertial forces

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521

Fig. 7. Quasi-static simulation: (a) energy, (b) crushing force response.

will be minimum. However, scaling down the mass results in smaller time step, and therefore the
analysis will take a large number of time increments. The minimum stable time increment in the
explicit dynamic analysis can be expressed as
o
*t"% ,
E
where % is the characteristic element length, E is the Young's modulus, and o is the material
density. According to the above equation, scaling down the mass density by factor of f 2 decreases
the time step increment by factor of f. Therefore to limit the large number of time step, the loading
rate is accelerated. In the analysis, the material density is decreased by 1000 times of its original
value, while the loading rate is applied with velocity of <"1500 and 2000 mm/s. The second
alternative is scaling up the mass density of the material while keeping very low velocity. Scaling up
the mass density results in larger time step, and therefore reducing the number of time step
increment for such a low loading rate. In the analysis, the material density is increased by 100 times
of its original value, while the loading rate is applied with velocity of <"1 mm/s. All of the three
numerical simulations are conducted on empty steel tubes.
Two types of tests need to be performed to verify the quasi-static process is held. First, the total
kinetic energy has to be very small compared to the total internal energy over the period of the
crushing process. Secondly, the crushing force } displacement response must be independent from
the applied velocity. Fig. 7 shows quasi-static simulations with three di!erent mass scaling and
loading rate. It shows that the kinetic energy is very small compared to the internal energy for all of
the three di!erent mass scaling and applied velocity (Fig. 7a). As a result, its corresponding
crushing force response is very similar with one another (Fig. 7b). Therefore, the numerical
simulation can be considered as a quasi static analysis. The time step size and the number of
increment for three di!erent scaling methods are given in Table 2. For all axial crushing simulation

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Table 2
Time increment for di!erent scaling methods
Scaling
method

Velocity
< (mm/s)

Time step
*t (s)

Number of
increment, N

o/1000
o/1000
ox100

2000
1500
1

5.0E-07
5.0E-07
1.5E-04

1.6E#05
1.8E#05
6.7E#05

considered in this work, the mass density of the column is scaled down by a factor of 1000 and the
applied velocity is 2000 mm/s.

7. Numerical and experimental analyses


Two groups of simulations were investigated on the foam-"lled sections. First, the simulation
was conducted on the square box column made of mild steel RSt37 with the cross section width
b"40 mm and thickness t"1.4 mm used by Seitzberger et al. [4]. The thin-walled steel column
was "lled with MEPURA aluminum foam, which has base material AlMg 0.6Si 0.3Ti, and the mass
density of 0.52 g/cm3. From uniaxial compression test [4], this foam has the crushing resistance of
p "8.2 MPa. The numerical simulations are compared with the available experimental data
&
provided in Ref. [4], and analyzed with respect to the plastic folding mode, instantaneous and
mean crushing force, and the e!ect of friction on the foam}wall column interface.
The second group of simulation were conducted on the square box column made of aluminum
extrusion (AA 6060 T4) with the cross section width b"80 mm and thickness t"1.88 mm which
correspond to the experiments conducted at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
The column was "lled with HYDRO Aluminum foam, which has base material Al Si8 Mg. Three
di!erent foam densities were simulated, which are 0.19, 0.36, and 0.53 g/cm3, to investigate the trend
of foam strength to the increase of the crushing strength of the "lled column. From the uniaxial
compression tests, the plastic collapse stress for the corresponding densities are 1, 4.8, and 12.5 MPa.
The mean crushing force of the "lled columns are then compared with the empirical and theoretical
predictions developed in Refs. [3,9]. E!ect of adhesive is also studied in the case of bonded "lling.
7.1. Plastic folding mode
Figs. 8a and b depict the deformation pattern of empty steel box columns, which show very close
similarity between the numerical simulation and the actual experiment. In both cases, the column
walls deform progressively by forming inward and outward folds in two connecting edges. This
type of deformation is referred to as asymmetric (quasi-inextensional) folding mode. Five lobes are
formed due to plastic folding on both numerical simulation and the experiment. Analytically,
half-wave plastic folding length can be calculated by using Eq. (2), which gives folding length
H"13.1 mm for t"1.4 mm and b"40 mm. From the numerical simulation, the deformed
mesh of the column gives plastic folding length of H"13.75 mm. This "ndings show that the

S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

523

Fig. 8. Deformation pattern of empty steel box column: (a) numerical simulation, (b) experiment.

Fig. 9. Deformation pattern of foam-"lled steel box column: (a) numerical simulation, (b) experiment.

theoretical prediction to calculate the plastic folding length developed from the minimum postulate
given in Eq. (2) is in a very good agreement with the numerical simulation and actual experiment.
The quasi-inextensional folding mode is still achieved in the case of non-bonded "lling, as shown
in Fig. 9. The deformation pattern obtained from the numerical simulation gives a good agreement
with the actual test. The presence of aluminum foam "ller results in shorter folding length, which is
approximately H"10 mm. For 60% crushing displacement, the plastic folding deformations form
8 lobes on the column wall, which is more than that formed in the empty column. As a result,
a much higher crushing load is needed to overcome more plastic deformation in the column wall.
The behavior of the interface between the column wall and the "ller material is shown in Fig. 10.
The encroachment of the column wall into the foam "ller allows an additional compression in the
foam, and retards the sectional collapse of the column. This behavior results in the higher strain
energy dissipation, which lead to the higher crushing resistance of the "lled columns.

524

S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

Fig. 10. Deformation pattern of foam}wall interface: (a) numerical simulation, (b) experiment.

From the direct comparison between plastic deformation obtained from the numerical simulation and actual experiments, it shows that a suitable "nite element model has been used to simulate
an actual physical problem of foam-"lled sections. The choices of element types and sizes, material
modeling, and boundary conditions in the "nite element modeling have led to a deformation
pattern which is in a good agreement with the actual test.
7.2. Instantaneous and mean crushing force
Fig. 11a presents the instantaneous crushing force of the empty and "lled-steel columns. The
interface between the foam and the steel column is modeled as frictionless sliding contact. The peak
force in the instantaneous crushing force curve corresponds to the progressive fold formation, while
the distance between two consecutive peaks corresponds to the plastic folding length. In the case of
empty column, both numerical simulation and actual experiment show a good comparison in
terms of the force level, location of the fold formation, and the plastic folding length. On the other
hand, even though the force level and the peak force distance of the "lled column for both
numerical simulation and experiments are comparable, the location of the fold formations are
di!erent. This could be explained by the fact that in the actual experiment, the location of fold
formation is triggered by foam imperfection, which is caused by inhomogeneities of the aluminum
foam, and the inward fold will be formed in the weakest lateral strength of the foam. In the
numerical simulation, the foam mechanical properties are smeared in three orthogonal directions,
and therefore no triggering imperfection is obtained.
Fig. 11b presents the mean crushing force versus the crushing distance curves. The mean
crushing force is de"ned by Eq. (6). It shows that after completing the "rst fold formation, the mean
crushing load oscillates around an `almosta constant asymptotic value. This constant value is
therefore de"ned as the mean crushing force characteristic of a column P . From this "gure, the
.
mean crushing force for empty and "lled columns obtained from both numerical simulation and
experiment compare very well.

S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

525

Fig. 11. Crushing responses of mild steel column "lled with MEPURA Aluminum foam.

7.3. Ewect of friction on the interface


In the numerical calculation, three di!erent friction conditions are simulated on the
foam}column interface. The friction condition van be varied by changing the coe$cient of friction
value, which are k"0.0, 0.2, 0.4, on the sliding contact interface. As shown in Fig. 12, the presence
of friction on the interface does not change the crushing force level. Indeed, crushing force with
the coe$cient of friction k"0.2 and 0.4 are similar with that of the frictionless condition (k"0.0).
The interface friction only appears to change the location of fold formation, which is shown by the
shift of the peak force in the instantaneous crushing force curves (Fig. 12a). The characteristic of
mean crushing force, however, does not change with di!erent friction condition, which is shown
in Fig. 12b.
It can be concluded that energy dissipation due to friction on the foam}column interface is
negligible. It is also obvious from the deformation of the interface, shown in Fig. 10, that there is
negligible adherence on the contact between the foam and the "ller, and therefore the main resisting
mechanism is the plastic folding on the column wall. Following this result, further numerical
analysis will be based on the frictionless contact interface between the foam and the column.
7.4. Ewect of foam crushing strength
The increase of crushing force due to various plastic collapse stress of the foam "ller is studied on
the aluminum extrusion. Three di!erent aluminum foam strengths are considered, which are 1, 4.8,
and 12.5 MPa. As shown in Fig. 13a, the crushing force of "lled columns increase very signi"cantly
compared to the empty column. The distance between two consecutive peaks reduces as the foam

526

S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

Fig. 12. Crushing responses for various friction coe$cients.

strength increases. This behaviors indicate that the higher the foam strength the shorter the plastic
folding length, which results in much higher strain energy dissipation in the column wall. The mean
crushing force (Fig. 13b) obtained from the numerical simulations follow closely the experimental
results.
Filling the extrusions with foam without applying adhesive, caused a change of the deformation
pattern compared to that of non-"lled extrusions. For the foam-"lled extrusions, more lobes were
created and each lobe showed a larger curvature when compared with the lobes of non-"lled
extrusions. However, the lobes created were of the same type as the ones observed for non-"lled
extrusions, namely that of a quasi-inextensional mode, although these were often more irregular in
shape. The e!ect of an increased number of lobes and a larger curvature per lobe is an increase in
the amount of energy absorbed by the component. However, the increasing number of lobes
created reduces the e!ective stroke length of the component.
7.5. Mean crushing force prediction
The mean crushing force characteristic of foam-"lled sections can be predicted by using an
uncouple method described in the preceding section. In the previous work, Santosa and Wierzbicki
[9] used an argument that the increase of the mean crushing strength due to the foam "ller depends
linearly on the foam crushing strength (p ) and the cross sectional area (b2) as given in Eq. (7).
&
However, this simple relation was developed based on the variation of low strength aluminum
foam, that was for 0.3(p (1.48 MPa. In this small range of p , the increase of mean crushing
&
&
force has a proportionality constant of 2. In the present work, the analysis is extended to larger
range of plastic collapse stresses, which varies from 0.3(p (12.5 MPa. It is found that the
&
proportionality constant appears to be 1.8, a slightly lower than the previously proposed constant

S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

527

Fig. 13. Crushing responses of AL 6060 T4 column "lled with HYDRO Aluminum foam.

of 2. Therefore, the mean crushing force of foam-"lled sections can be predicted as


P "P #1.8b2p .
(15)
.,&
.
&
The above equation can be interpreted that the increase of the mean crushing force of the
foam-"lled section is due to the direct compressive resistance of the foam (b2p ) plus the foam}wall
&
strengthening e!ect which accounts for 80% of the direct compressive resistance of the foam. The
resulting closed form solution is plotted in Fig. 14a. It can be seen that the numerical prediction
compare very well with the empirical formulation developed by Hanssen et al. given in Eq. (8).
The proposed closed form solution is also compared with the experimental results for various
types of column widths b, thicknesses t, and materials. To capture wide range of material and
geometrical parameters, one can use the increase of mean crushing force *P "P !P so that
.
.,&
.
it only involves a function of additional compressive resistance p b2. Hence, Eq. (15) can be
&
rewritten as
*P "1.8 (p b2).
(16)
.
&
The increase of mean crushing force for various geometrical and material parameters is plotted in
Fig. 14b. The mean crushing force data are obtained from three types of column material, which
includes aluminum extrusions AA 6060 T4, AA 6082 T4, and mild still Rst37, while geometrical
con"gurations are varied with cross-sectional width b"80,100,160 mm and thickness
t"1.0,1.4,1.88,1.96,2.85 mm. It can be seen that the proposed closed-form solution predicts the
experimental data very well. The cloud of the experimental data is within 8% of the proposed
solution. Therefore, previous argument that the increase of the mean crushing force of "lled column
varies linearly with respect to the direct compressive resistance (b2p ) is also con"rmed by the
&
experimental results.

528

S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

Fig. 14. Mean crushing force of foam-"lled section: (a) numerical simulation, (b) test results.

7.6. Ewect of adhesive


In the presence of adhesive, the bonded column undergoes a combination of quasi-inextensional
and extensional folding modes, as shown in Fig. 15. Initially, the column forms a extensional
folding mode. This is due to the fact that the aluminum foam bonded to the wall column provides
such a high additional sti!ness, so that the initiation of local buckling needs higher loads, which
corresponds to the extensional folding mode (Fig. 15a). Subsequent deformation shows that the
geometrical imperfections triggered by the preceding fold formation change the deformation to the
quasi-inextensional folding mode (Fig. 15b). This type of mixed deformation mode is also observed
in the experiments (Fig. 16), depending upon foam density and wall thickness.
As shown in Fig. 16, the thick-walled extrusions "lled with the two densest foams adapted the
extensional mode of deformation. In this mode, four individual lobes moved inward or outward,
together generating a ring (lobe) around the extrusion. A total number of 11 such lobes were
generated successively for each of these two test specimens.
Rupture, occurring in the axial direction, was observed for the thin walled extrusions "lled with
bonded foam (Fig. 16). However, for the lightest foam this rupture was of a local character, whereas
for the two densest foams a global rupture took place. A small local rupture was also observed in
one of the lobes of the thick-walled extrusion containing adhesive and the densest foam. The global
rupture in#uenced the energy absorbing capabilities, whereas the local ruptures probably were of
no signi"cance.
Apparently, when applying adhesive, there is a relationship between foam density and wall
thickness of the extrusion that determines whether an extension, symmetric or a combined
deformation mode will occur. If the foam is light, with a low sti!ness, the deformation behavior will
be determined by the natural buckling mode, namely the quasi-inextensional mode. This was partly

S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

529

Fig. 15. Deformation pattern of foam-"lled steel box column: (a) initial fold formation (extensional), (b) quasiinextensional fold formation.

Fig. 16. Visual observed modes of side wall buckling. Number of lobes created indicated for the thick-walled extrusions.

observed for the largest wall thickness combined with the lightest foam, but more lobes
were created compared to the same component without adhesive. In addition, the two "rst
lobes created were asymmetric, hence the indicated `S/Aa mode of Fig. 16. If the foam is rather sti!,
and adhesive is applied, the deformation patterns likely to occur are asymmetric or extensional
modes.

530

S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

Fig. 17. Crushing responses of bonded "lling: (a) instantaneous crushing force, (b) mean crushing force.

There are two mechanisms of energy dissipation in the case of bonded "lling. First mechanism is
bending and shear load transfer from the column wall to the foam through the adhesive. In this
case, the sti!ness of the column is so high that the initial load to cause local buckling initiation is
also very high (Fig. 17). In many cases, such a high crushing force will induce a extensional folding
mode.
Fig. 17 shows the instantaneous and mean crushing force of a bonded-"lled column compared to the empty case. The adhesive is modeled as a tight contact with shear and tension
strength of 150 MPa. The crushing force level obtained from the numerical simulation closely
follows the experimental data. The initially high crushing load is shown very clearly in
the numerical simulation, but not in the experiment (Fig. 17a). The inherent geometrical
imperfection of the column and the bonding interface at the actual experiments could lead to the
di!erence in the initial crushing load response. On the contrary, the geometrical model
of the foam}column interface in the numerical simulation is perfectly bonded. When the
shear or tension stress at the interface exceeds the strength of the adhesive, the bonding fails
and the interface returns to the case of unbonded "lling, where only additional compressive resistance is achieved. Therefore, the second mechanism is the peeling of the
adhesive.
In general, the crushing force responses obtained from numerical simulation follow the experiments very well, which is shown in much clear representation by the mean crushing force response
(Fig. 17b). The increase of the mean crushing force in the case of bonded "lling can reach 60%
higher than that of the unbonded case. Hence, the numerical prediction for the case of bonded
"lling can be written as
P "P #2.8p b2.
.,&'
.
&

(17)

S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

531

Fig. 18. Mean crushing force of various foam-"lled sections with adhesive.

The numerical prediction is compared with the experiments as shown in Fig. 18. For various
ranges of geometries and materials, the proposed closed-form solution gives a rather good
correlation with the experiments.
It should be noted that the bonded "lling has an advantage of such a high strengthening
mechanism, which can doubled the value of the mean crushing force of the empty column.
However, appropriate geometrical parameter b/t and foam strength should be chosen to obtain
e$cient energy absorption. This is due to the fact that very high strengthening of a thin-walled
column could lead to an excessive straining in the column wall, and as a results the thin-walled
column ruptures. This phenomena is also observed in experiments [3].

8. Discussion and conclusion


The "nite element modeling developed in the present work has shown to correctly predict the
crush behavior of foam-"lled column. The numerical simulation has indicated that the overall
behavior of the progressive crushing process follows the actual test condition. The main points of
the present numerical and experimental studies can be summarized as follows:
1. The numerical model predicted very well the instantaneous crushing force, mean crushing force,
fold formation, and folding length. Based on the above results, design of crashworthy components of foam-"lled sections can be analyzed e$ciently by using numerical model composed of
shell and cellular solid elements.
2. In the case of unbonded "lling, frictionless contact condition appears to be su$cient to
model the interface interaction between the foam and the column wall, while in the case

532

S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

of bonded "lling, adhesive with 150 MPa strength is also su$cient to model the bonded
interface.
3. One-dimensional orthotropic material modeling capable of undergoing large strain deformation appears to be appropriate to model aluminum foam material. However, new material
constitutive modeling for aluminum foam based on the biaxial or triaxial test is needed to obtain
more accurate results. This is due to the fact that during progressive crushing, aluminum foam
undergoes direct compression in the axial direction, and lateral compression from the column
wall.
4. The closed-form solution developed from the combination of analytical and numerical solution
appears to have very good agreement with the experimental results. The cloud of experimental
data in wide range of column geometries, materials, and foam strengths is within 8% of the
proposed solution. Therefore, with the ability of numerical simulation to predict the crash
behavior of "lled column, this type of analysis is expected to be highly useful in the design and
analysis of thin-walled column "lled by aluminum foam before actual destructive test is to be
carried out.

Acknowledgements
The present work was supported by the Joint MIT/Industry Consortium on Ultralight Metal
Body Structures and by Norks HYDRO ASA . The "nancial support from both sources are
gratefully acknowledged. The author would like to thank to Mr. Seitzberger of the Technical
University of Vienna for providing the experimental data and fruitful discussion. Words of
appreciation are also directed to Dr. E. Haug of ESI Paris, Dr. A. Tanavde of ESI US, and Mr. G.
Christ of Altair Computing for their continuous support with the "nite element programs of PAM
CRASHTM and mesh generator program of HYPERMESH.

Appendix
The weight of the foam specimens and component details are given in Tables 3 and 4.

Table 3
Weight of foam specimens (after drying). Estimated volume of foam specimens: 73]73]245 mm"1306 cm3
Specimen
number

Foam o
1
(g)

Foam o
2
(g)

1
2
3
4
5
6

328
254
215
246
282
245

451
392
411
465
482
467

712
556
688
603
651
572

S.P. Santosa et al. / International Journal of Impact Engineering 24 (2000) 509}534

533

Table 4
Mass and volume of components. Allocation of foam specimens
Adhesive,

Test

Wall
thickness,
thick/thin

Mass w/
adhesive
(kg)

Volume

Yes/No

Mass w/o
adhesive
(kg)

(dm3)

Combine w/foam
specimen
number

F0-1
F0-2

Thin
Thick

No
No

0.217
0.382

*
*

1.57
1.57

*
*

F1-1
F1-2
F1-3
F1-4

Thick
Thin
Thick
Thin

No
No
Yes
Yes

0.628
0.496
0.628
0.458

*
*
0.733
0.567

1.57
1.57
1.57
1.57

Foam
Foam
Foam
Foam

o
1
o
1
o
1
o
1

d4
d5
d6
d2

F2-1
F2-2
F2-3
F2-4

Thick
Thin
Thick
Thin

No
No
Yes
Yes

0.849
0.665
0.793
0.678

*
*
0.873
0.758

1.57
1.57
1.57
1.57

Foam
Foam
Foam
Foam

o
2
o
2
o
2
o
2

d6
d1
d3
d4

F3-1
F3-2
F3-3
F3-4

Thick
Thin
Thick
Thin

No
No
Yes
Yes

1.071
0.829
1.033
0.782

*
*
1.093
0.832

1.57
1.57
1.57
1.57

Foam
Foam
Foam
Foam

o
3
o
3
o
3
o
3

d3
d4
d5
d6

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