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Composite Structures 90 (2009) 438447

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Composite Structures
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/compstruct

A simple model describing the non-linear biaxial tensile behaviour


of PVC-coated polyester fabrics for use in nite element analysis
C. Galliot *, R.H. Luchsinger
EMPA Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research, Center for Synergetic Structures, Ueberlandstrasse 129, CH-8600 Duebendorf, Switzerland

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Available online 14 April 2009
Keywords:
PVC-polyester fabric
Biaxial tensile tests
Finite element analysis
Non-linear material model

a b s t r a c t
A simple model based on experimental observations of the yarn-parallel biaxial extension of PVC-coated
polyester fabric cruciform specimens is proposed. In situ loading conditions are considered. The material
behaviour is assumed to be plane stress orthotropic for a particular load ratio, while the elastic properties
can vary with the load ratio in order to represent the complex interaction between warp and ll yarns. A
linear relationship is experimentally found between elastic moduli and normalized load ratios for a wide
range of PVC-coated polyester (Type I to Type IV). Two new parameters corresponding to the moduli variations are introduced to complement the existing plane stress orthotropic model. Theoretical results
show that only ve biaxial tests are required to accurately describe the material response with the proposed material model. Finally, the model was integrated in a commercial nite element software. It is
shown that the proposed material model signicantly increases the accuracy of the nite element predictions compared to the standard orthotropic linear material model with almost identical computation
times.
2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
Coated fabrics are widely used in structural engineering for
fabric or inated structures. New developments as the recently
introduced Tensairity-technology broaden the spectrum of
applications of fabrics in civil engineering. Tensairity combines
inated structures with cables and struts leading to a tremendous
increase of the load bearing behaviour of inated beams [1,2]. First
permanent applications of this new class of fabric structure are a
roof for a parking garage or a skier-bridge with over 50 m span,
while the technology has also an enormous potential for temporary
structures such as shelters, tents or bridges. Among the fabrics
used in civil engineering, PVC-coated polyester is the most popular
material mainly due to its favourable price. Furthermore, PVCcoated polyester fabrics can easily be folded and unfolded which
is an important aspect for temporary structures.
The design and analysis of fabric structures relies on numerical
calculations. Different approaches based on the force density
method, nite element method or discrete element method have
been developed during the last years. A common feature of all
numerical methods is that the accuracy of their predictions relies
on the accuracy of the material models. Fabrics are non-isotropic
and non-linear materials. Nevertheless, often only very simple

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +41 44 823 43 72.


E-mail address: cedric.galliot@empa.ch (C. Galliot).
0263-8223/$ - see front matter 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.compstruct.2009.04.016

material models are used to model fabrics in the otherwise highly


elaborated numerical calculations. One reason for this unbalance is
that the existing non-linear material models for coated fabrics are
too involved and therefore too demanding regarding computation
time. Thus, they cannot be efciently used in the numerical treatment of complete fabric structures.
Among these elaborated fabric models are micro-mechanical
models [3,4]. In these approaches the fabric behaviour is derived
from a model of its microstructure. Such methods have already
been successfully applied to the modelling of woven fabric composites [57]. They emphasize the great inuence of local weave
geometry as well as local mechanisms on the global material
behaviour. For coated woven fabric, a micromechanical observation of the deformation of the yarns and the coating emphasizes
the following mechanisms:
crimp interchange, that represents the interaction between the
warp and ll yarns;
yarns and coating extension;
friction between the warp and ll yarns.
Generally, the micromechanical model is limited to a unit cell,
which should be therefore representative of the complete fabric
structure. Based on such a mechanical unit cell, Pargana et al. [3]
developed a material model and implemented it in a nite element
software. They calibrated it against experimental test data for a
specimen made of PTFE coated glass bre. The model consisted

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C. Galliot, R.H. Luchsinger / Composite Structures 90 (2009) 438447

in fteen parameters, fourteen of these representing the yarn-parallel behaviour and one the shear behaviour. The model was found
to faithfully represent the mechanical response of the fabric. However, its complexity led to large computation times, and the large
number of required parameters did not make it easy to use. Cavallaro et al. [4] also used the unit cell method to study the behaviour
of fabric in the case of inated beams. They showed that the material did not behave like an orthotropic material but rather like a
heterogeneous material, whose properties depended on the weave
geometry, on the contact areas of interacting tows and in this particular case also on the internal pressure of the beam. Nevertheless,
they mentioned that performing an analysis on a complete airbeam structure was computationally impossible.
The other approach is to describe the fabric behaviour directly
from experimentally determined stressstrain relationships [8
13]. In this case, a plane stress orthotropic model is generally chosen. In the simplest approach, the compliance matrix is tted to the
experimental data to obtain the material constants. While this is a
numerical efcient material model, the non-linear behaviour of the
fabric is obviously not treated in this approach. The use of three
dimensional stressstressstrain representations is a simple approach to determine the plane stress elastic properties as described
by Gosling [8]. Warp and ll strains are both represented as a function of the stresses. Then, a best plane t is used to nd the terms
of the compliance matrix and thus the elastic properties. The main
disadvantage of this procedure is that one gets four independent
parameters, i.e. two Youngs moduli and two Poissons ratios. It is
possible to force the compliance matrix to be symmetrical by averaging the interaction terms. However, this results in a loss of accuracy. Gosling [8] argued that having two independent Poissons
ratios could be admitted since the material is not homogeneous.
This model gave a good correlation with experiments performed
on different types of PTFE-glass and PVC-polyester fabrics but the
physical meaning of such an asymmetric stiffness matrix is an
open issue.
Bgner and Blum [9,10] also described a simple method to estimate the elastic moduli of coated fabrics based on plane stress
orthotropic assumptions. With the use of a special load history
where warp and ll directions are loaded separately, they calculated the elastic constants on the test interval for a particular load
ratio (the method will be presented in more detail in Section 3).
This method can also be repeated for every part of the load history
in order to obtain the variation of the elastic moduli over the range
of loading. A similar multi-linear method was proposed by Minami
[11]. The biaxial tensile behaviour of a PTFE-glass fabric was represented with three dimensional stress-stress-strain curves. The
material response surface formed by these curves was then divided
into several quadrilaterals. In each quadrilateral a plane stress linear orthotropic material model was assumed, from which the elastic constants could be calculated. Both methods can be particularly
interesting in the case of non-linear behaviour, but their main disadvantages are the high amount of required experimental data and

the large number of parameters to be calculated leading to large


computation times.
The most recent methods attempting to describe the coated fabric behaviour are based on response surfaces, which directly link
the measured strains to the applied stresses through three dimensional representations. In order to build such response surfaces,
Bridgens and Gosling [12,13] developed a new testing protocol
with three parts: the specimen was rst pre-stressed for several
hours, then conditioned in order to remove most of the residual
strains and nally tested. A specic load regime explored several
load cases so that the entire response of the fabric was tested.
The experimental results were plotted with stressstressstrain
representations. From these data, response surfaces were tted
using different methods. The correlation between the model and
the experiments was very good. However, to be accurate, these
models also require a large quantity of test data and their use in
a nite element analysis is difcult and presumably very time
consuming.
The objective of this article is to propose a simple non-linear
material model describing the biaxial tensile behaviour of PVCcoated polyester fabrics for an efcient use in nite element analysis. Thus only a typical loading of an in situ fabric structure, i.e.
from pre-stress up to maximum design stress, is here considered.
The material is assumed to be linear elastic orthotropic under a
particular load ratio. However, the elastic properties can vary along
with the load ratio in order to model the complex interaction between warp and ll yarns.
In the rst part of the paper a relationship between the elastic
properties of the fabric and the load ratios based on experimental
results of the biaxial extension of cruciform specimens is elaborated. After validation, the accuracy of the proposed non-linear
material model is compared with two simple linear models. Then,
the proposed model is integrated in the commercial nite element
software ANSYS, and the predictions and performance are compared to the standard linear orthotropic material model. Finally,
a new test protocol for PVC-coated polyester fabrics is presented
and conclusions are drawn in the last section.
2. Experimental procedure
Cruciform specimens of PVC-polyester fabric were tested on a
biaxial test machine [14]. Seven different materials were selected,
representing a wide range of mechanical behaviour (polyester Type
I to Type IV). Their main properties are listed in Table 1. Corresponding weave patterns of the selected fabrics are shown in Fig. 1.
The test setup is presented in Fig. 2. The central square of the
specimens was 500 mm wide. In each cruciform arm four slits
were made leading to ve strips. Each strip was loaded independently by an electromechanical drive mounted on linear bearings
allowing free movement of the drive transverse to the loading
direction. Tests were load-controlled by the use of 10 kN load cells
xed between every pair of drive and grip. Strains were measured

Table 1
Specications of different PVC-coated polyester fabrics.
Sample code

Manufacturer/reference

V700
V900
V1000
V1400
F702
F1002
B1617

Mehler Texnologies Valmex


Mehler Texnologies Valmex
Mehler Texnologies Valmex
Mehler Texnologies Valmex
Ferrari Prcontraint 702
Ferrari Prcontraint 1002
Verseidag Indutex B1617

FR700
FR900
FR1000
FR1400

Polyester type

Weave pattern

Yarn (dtex)

Weight
(g/m2)

Thickness
(mm)

Warp/Fill tensile
strength (N/50 mm)

Type
Type
Type
Type
Type
Type
Type

Plain
2-2 Basket
2-2 Basket
3-3 Basket
Plain
2-2 Basket
2-2 Basket

1100
1100
1670
1670
1100
1100
1100

850
900
1050
1350
750
1050
900

0.6
0.75
0.9
1.15
0.6
0.8
0.75

3000/3000
4200/4000
6000/5500
7500/6500
3000/2800
4200/4000
4400/3900

I
II
III
IV
I
II
II

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C. Galliot, R.H. Luchsinger / Composite Structures 90 (2009) 438447

Fig. 1. Weave patterns of the tested coated-fabrics.

Fig. 3. Finite element calculation of the stress distribution in the centre of the
cruciform test specimen.

Fig. 2. Biaxial test setup.

by the use of two needle-extensometers placed in the warp and ll


direction and bolted on the test specimen using small diameter
screws. Chen et al. [15] showed that small holes in the specimen
do not introduce any unacceptable errors.
The applied stress in the warp and ll direction was deduced
from the load cells. However, the stress in the fabric at the location
of the extensometer is smaller than the applied stress at the ends
of the strips as some of the stress is distributed to the transverse
arms of the specimen. This is shown in Fig. 3, where nite element
predictions of the stress distribution along a line through the centre of the specimen (dotted line) are compared to the applied stress
at the ends of the strips (solid line). Using a wide range of material
properties and loads, an average stress reduction factor of 0.985 for
the central region of the specimen was determined. This value is
close to the stress reduction factor presented by Bridgens and Gosling [12].
Specimens were rst loaded at pre-stress and then from prestress up to maximum test stress. Various load ratios were used.
Strains were set to be equal to zero at pre-stress. The maximum
test stress was set to one fth of the tensile strength in order to

avoid tearing of the fabric. One fth of the tensile strength also corresponds to a typical maximum design stress in fabric structures
[16]. The pre-stress was set to one fth of the maximum test stress.
For every load ratio, the loading/unloading cycle was repeated ve
times in order to remove the residual strains. Only the last load cycle was used to determine the material properties. The loading
time was set to 360 s for every cycle and every specimen. The loading velocity varied between 2 and 50 (N/m)/s depending on the
material and load ratio. The biaxial testing machine was installed
in a climatic room ensuring a constant temperature of 23 C and
a constant humidity level of 50%.
3. Preliminary experimental investigations
A convenient method to estimate the elastic moduli for a particular load conguration was presented by Bgner and Blum [9,10].
This method is used to study the inuence of different load ratios
on the elastic properties of the fabric.
For a plane stress orthotropic fabric, the yarn-parallel behaviour
is described by

ew
Ew
4 mwf
ef
Ew

mfw
Ef
1
Ef

3
5

rw
rf


1

The compliance matrix is symmetric

mwf
Ew

mfw
Ef

and thus determined by three independent parameters.

C. Galliot, R.H. Luchsinger / Composite Structures 90 (2009) 438447

In this paper, we adopt a simplied notation for the stress and


strain tensors. Subscripts w and f represent the fabric principal
directions with w for warp and f for ll direction. Stress values
and values of elastic moduli are given per length [kN/m] and not
per area. This is a common practise when working with fabric
materials as the thickness of these materials is not well dened.
The strainstress relationship is linear for a constant compliance matrix and increments of strains can be calculated from the
increments of applied stresses by

mfw
1
 Drw 
 Dr f
Ew
Ef
mwf
1

 Dr w  Dr f
Ef
Ew

Dew

Def

The load history and the corresponding load path used to obtain the
elastic properties for a 2:1 load ratio are presented in Fig. 4. First,
the load was only changed in the warp direction (Drf = 0) and Ew
and mwf were calculated from Def and Dew by means of Eqs. (3)
and (4). Then, in a second test, only the ll direction was loaded
(Drw = 0) and Ef and mfw were obtained. Since the Poissons ratios
mwf and mfw are not independent (Eq. (2)), ratios mwf/Ew and mfw/Ef
were averaged to determine the effective Poissons ratio.
This method was applied to a PVC-polyester sample V700 (Table. 1) for ve different load ratios (5:1, 2:1, 1:1, 1:2 and 1:5) in order to study the dependency of the elastic properties of the fabric
on the applied loads. The denition of the load ratio is of common

Fig. 4. (a) Load path and (b) load history used for a 2:1 load ratio.

441

use and denotes the ratio of the warp stress to the ll stress. Different expressions can be taken to represent the applied loads. We
use the normalized load ratios in warp and ll direction dened as

rw

cw q
r2w r2f
rf

cf q
r2w r2f

5
6

Material properties obtained from the experiments are presented in Fig. 5, where Ew and mwf are plotted as a function of cw
and Ef is plotted as a function of cf. Results show that the Youngs
moduli signicantly change with the normalized load ratios. A
higher load ratio in one direction results in a higher modulus in
that direction and a lower modulus in the orthogonal direction.
This strong interaction between warp and ll yarns is due to crimp
interchange. The yarn waviness depends on the weave geometry
(Fig. 1) as well as on the load ratio. Locally, at yarn crossing, the
contact forces balance the loads that are applied in the bre directions. As a result, increasing the load in one direction straightens
the yarns in that direction while it increases the waviness of the
orthogonal yarns. Moreover, it has been proven that yarn waviness
has a direct inuence on the in-plane moduli of woven fabric composites [17]. Such materials become stiffer, as the yarn waviness
decreases. This is why the highest value of Ew is observed for a
5:1 ratio, and the highest value of Ef for a 1:5 ratio. Fig. 5 also
shows that the Youngs modulus is higher in the warp direction.
This is a common observation with coated fabrics, because warp bres are pre-tensioned during the material manufacturing process,
resulting in a much lower initial waviness of these bres compared
to the ll bres.

Fig. 5. Inuence of the normalized load ratios on the elastic constants (V700
specimen).

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C. Galliot, R.H. Luchsinger / Composite Structures 90 (2009) 438447

Another very important observation is that the Youngs moduli


are almost linear functions of the normalized load ratios while the
Poissons ratio is rather independent of the load ratio. A similar
conclusion can be drawn for other tested PVC-coated polyester fabrics (from Type I to Type IV).
4. Proposed material model

5. Material model comparison

4.1. Model assumptions


A simple material model for PVC-polyester fabrics can be developed based on the ndings of the previous section. The model has
three main assumptions:
1. The material behaviour is linear elastic, plane stress orthotropic
for a given load ratio:

"

Dew
Def

2
6
4

1
Ew cw

mwf
Ew cw

mwf
Ew cw

1
Ef cf

the warp-ll stress space. A section of the load history is presented


in Fig. 6b for three load ratios. After testing, the model parameters
were calculated for all test specimens using the experimental
strains and the least square t procedure (Eq. (10)). A similar approach, however, based on the tting of Youngs moduli instead
of strains, is described in the Appendix.

"
#
7 Dr w
5
Dr f

2. The Youngs moduli Ew and Ef can be formulated as a linear


function of the normalized load ratios cw and cf:



1
Ew cw DEw  cw  p E1:1
w
2


1
Ef cf DEf  cf  p E1:1
f
2

8
9

3. The Poissons ratio mwf is independent of the normalized load


ratios.

The predictions of the proposed material model were compared


with those of two other linear material models:
a standard plane stress orthotropic linear material model with
three parameters, called thereafter orthotropic S, because of its
symmetrical stiffness matrix;
an orthotropic linear material model with four parameters (two
independent Poissons ratios) as presented by Gosling [8], called
thereafter orthotropic NS because of its non symmetric stiffness
matrix.
For all three models, the elastic constants were obtained once
using the data of all thirteen load ratios and once using the data
of only ve load ratios (5:1, 2:1, 1:1, 1:2 and 1:5) in the least
square t. The resulting material properties for the two linear
models based on a t with all thirteen load ratios are presented
in Table 2. The corresponding material properties for the proposed non-linear model for a t based on ve load ratios are
given in Table 3.
The model accuracy was assessed by estimating the difference
between measured and predicted strains for all data points. The
root mean square (RMS) of the strain difference is presented as a

1:1
are the refThe material model has ve parameters: E1:1
w and Ef
erence
and
ll
Youngs
moduli
given
for
the
1:1 load
 values ofpwarp


ratio cw;f 1= 2 , DEw and DEf represent the variation of warp


and ll Youngs moduli on the whole range of load ratios
(0 6 cw,f 6 1), and mwf is the in-plane Poissons ratio.

4.2. Parameter calculation


The model parameters were obtained by a least square t minimizing the deviation of experimental and modelled strains. The
modelled strains are calculated by means of Eqs. (7)(9) for all applied stresses and load ratios. The material stresses are equal to the
measured applied stresses multiplied by the stress reduction factor. The least square t is dened as

minW min

m X
n h
X

1:1
exp
emod
wkl Ew ; DEw ; mwf  ewkl

k1 l1

h
i2
1:1
1:1
exp
emod
fkl Ew ; Ef ; DEw ; DEf ; mwf  efkl

i2

!
10

with m the number of tested load ratios and n the total number of
data points measured for each load ratio. A numerical solver was
used to obtain the minimum. The initial value for the Poissons ratio
was set to zero and initial values of the moduli E1:1
w;f and DEw,f were
set to 1 (to avoid division by zero). All parameters were also
constrained to remain positive and the Poissons ratio was restricted to be less than 0.5. Seven PVC-polyester fabrics from Type
I to Type IV were tested under biaxial tension with varying load
ratios (Table 1).
To investigate the material behaviour, various load ratios were
selected so that the fabric response was explored as much as possible including the uniaxial behaviour. Thirteen load ratios were
measured, namely 1:0, 11:1, 5:1, 3:1, 2:1, 7:5, 1:1, 5:7, 1:2, 1:3,
1:5, 1:11, 0:1. The corresponding load path is shown in Fig. 6a in

Fig. 6. (a) Load path and (b) part of the load history (load ratios 5:1, 3:1 and 2:1)
used for each specimen.

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C. Galliot, R.H. Luchsinger / Composite Structures 90 (2009) 438447


Table 2
Estimated parameters based on 13 different load ratio measurements for S and NS orthotropic linear material models.
Sample code

Orthotropic NS

V700
V900
V1000
V1400
F702
F1002
B1617

Orthotropic S

Ew (kN/m)

Ef (kN/m)

mwf

mfw

Ew (kN/m)

Ef (kN/m)

mwf

657.6
922.4
1304.3
1488.7
654.5
884.3
927.8

561.3
815.7
1124.3
1304.1
673.0
1044.3
889.5

0.031
0.038
0.022
0.000
0.213
0.165
0.050

0.433
0.341
0.345
0.376
0.245
0.340
0.410

764.2
1027.3
1468.0
1714.2
660.5
917.5
1042.2

501.6
748.2
1025.8
1169.3
666.7
1001.5
804.1

0.313
0.236
0.238
0.238
0.228
0.235
0.268

percentage of the strain test range to have a better impression of


how important this difference is compared to the material response. The maximum absolute strain difference is presented as
a strain value in %. Presenting the maximum relative difference

Table 3
Estimated parameters for the proposed non-linear material model determined from 5
different load ratio measurements.
Sample code

E1:1
w (kN/m)

E1:1
(kN/m)
f

DEw (kN/m)

DEf (kN/m)

mwf

V700
V900
V1000
V1400
F702
F1002
B1617

653.2
882.0
1200.0
1374.1
635.3
830.2
865.8

444.5
679.6
881.7
1003.4
661.9
976.0
707.5

521.2
803.8
941.2
1204.7
295.0
766.7
662.9

403.7
437.6
782.5
981.7
168.5
123.9
662.5

0.327
0.263
0.318
0.314
0.196
0.213
0.308

would be meaningless, since at low strains this difference can be


easily greater than 100% but without signicant effect on the results. The maximum absolute strain difference is generally obtained at the maximum stresses and is thus much more critical
in the structural design. RMS and maxima for all tested materials
are shown in Fig. 7. Results for all three material models and for
13 and 5 load ratios are given. The RMS of the strain difference is
quite constant for the proposed model with an average deviation
of about 2.5% of the strain test range. This is more than twice less
than with a standard orthotropic S material. In this case, the RMS is
close to 67% of the strain test range, except for the Ferrari specimens. The Ferrari fabrics have a special manufacturing process
where the fabric is pre-stressed during the coating. As a result
the material is less sensitive to crimp interchange and its behaviour is more similar to a standard linear orthotropic material. The
performance of the standard orthotropic material can be improved
by the use of two independent Poissons ratios (orthotropic NS).
However, the RMS of the strain difference is still about twice as
much as the difference observed with the proposed model. The
same observations can be made for the maximum strain difference.
For both S and NS orthotropic models, there is a large difference
when 13 or 5 load ratios are considered in the t. The maximum
strain difference is particularly affected which can be reduced by
up to 25% when all 13 load ratios are used in the least square t
instead of only 5. On the contrary, the elastic properties of the proposed material model do not signicantly change when only 5 of
13 load ratio data are used. This conrms the assumed linear
dependency of the elastic properties from the normalized load ratios for all fabrics considered.
The importance of having a non-linear model can also be shown
using three dimensional stressstressstrain representations
(Fig. 8). Surfaces representing the values predicted by this model
are superimposed with experimental data from the different load
ratios (dots). It clearly appears that the experimental curves do
not lie all on a plane and thus linear models have limited capabilities. For the proposed non-linear model, a curved surface enables a
better representation of the experimental material characteristics.
6. Finite element analysis
The main goal of this study is to nd a simple non-linear material model for PVC-coated polyester fabrics for use in nite element
analysis. The material model should be accurate and computationally fast. To demonstrate the power of the new material model it
was integrated in the commercially available nite element software ANSYS.
6.1. Usermat

Fig. 7. RMS and maxima of the strain difference between experiments and
predictions due to the models.

ANSYS allows to program user dened material routines called


usermat. These routines are programmed in Fortran and can be
used in any ANSYS analysis procedure after recompilation. The
usermat is called at every time step and at every integration point.

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C. Galliot, R.H. Luchsinger / Composite Structures 90 (2009) 438447

Fig. 9. Flow chart of the usermat routine.

Fig. 8. Stressstressstrain representation of experimental data and model prediction (V700 specimen).

ANSYS passes the stresses rti , strains etj and the strain increment
Detj into the usermat for each time step. The usermat then updates
Dt
. The routine must also provide
the stresses in order to obtain rt
i
the stiffness matrix for the current time increment.
The procedure is described in Fig. 9 for the proposed non-linear
material model. Two conditions were applied. First, the Youngs
moduli are chosen to be equal to the moduli for a 1:1 load ratio
for the initial time step as the initial stresses are both equal to zero
and thus the load ratio not dened. Second, the absolute values of
the stresses are taken in order to ensure that the normalized load
ratios are between zero and one.
6.2. Modelling and results
A non-linear static analysis was performed. The biaxial specimen, as shown in Fig. 10, was modelled in 2D with 6432 four nodes
shell elements (Shell 181). The load was applied separately on each
strip. The strip connections to the grips could move transversely to
the loading direction to reproduce the experimental set up of the
biaxial test rig. All 13 experimentally investigated loading paths
were calculated.
The proposed model was compared to the linear orthotropic S
material model. The model parameters given in Tables 2 and 3
have been used. The stressstrain diagrams for the V700 specimen
(experiments, proposed model and orthotropic S material) are

shown in Fig. 11 for ve load ratios. There is only a small difference


between the proposed model and the standard orthotropic S material for the 1:1 load ratio. However, the difference between the two
models becomes signicant in the other load cases especially for
the predictions in the less loaded direction. For example, good
agreement with experimental data is found for the stressstrain
relation in ll direction with the proposed model for the 5:1 load
ratio, while the orthotropic S material predicts even negative strain
values. The overall agreement of the proposed non-linear model is
very good while the orthotropic S material model shows clearly
some deciencies.
The RMS of the strain difference and the maximal absolute
strain difference between nite element results and the experiments are presented in Fig. 12. The results are very similar to
those obtained in Fig. 7. The proposed non-linear material model
gives with only ve different load ratios in the biaxial tensile
tests very satisfying results compared to the standard orthotropic S material, where 13 different measured load ratios have
been used. The average accuracy is by more than a factor two
better for the proposed material model for all tested fabrics.
The exceptions are again the Ferrari fabrics due to their different
manufacturing process as explained before. Similar improvements are found for the maximum absolute strain difference. It
should also be emphasized that the improvement of the proposed non-linear material model does not cause a signicant increase in time required for the nite element analysis. The
computation time was found to increase by less than 3% compared to the standard linear orthotropic S material model for
these calculations.
7. Conclusion
A simple non-linear material model to describe the yarn-parallel behaviour of PVC-coated polyester fabrics under biaxial tension
has been proposed. The model is based on a standard plane stress
orthotropic material model with a constant Poissons ratio but with
Youngs moduli that are linear functions of the normalized load ratios. The material response can be accurately described with ve

C. Galliot, R.H. Luchsinger / Composite Structures 90 (2009) 438447

445

of the material ultimate tensile strength and pre-stress is


set to one fth of the maximal test stress. Loading time is

Fig. 10. Deformed nite element mesh (magnitude 4) of the cruciform V700
specimen: 1:1 load ratio, tensile load 12 kN/m.

parameters, namely the warp and ll Youngs moduli for a 1:1 load
ratio, the change in warp and ll Youngs moduli and the Poissons
ratio. Only ve different load ratios have to be measured in order to
obtain reliable parameters.
Based on these results, we propose the following procedure for
PVC-coated polyester fabrics to estimate the material mechanical
properties:
1. A cruciform test specimen as presented in Fig. 2 is cut out of a
roll of fabric so that the load directions will be parallel to the
yarn directions.
2. The specimen is loaded on a biaxial test machine from prestress up to maximal test stress with ve load ratios: 5:1,
2:1, 1:1, 1:2 and 1:5. Maximal test stress is set to one fth

Fig. 12. RMS and maxima of the strain difference between experimental strains and
nite element predictions.

Fig. 11. Stressstrain relation for the experimental data and nite element predictions for ve different load ratios (V700 specimen).

446

C. Galliot, R.H. Luchsinger / Composite Structures 90 (2009) 438447

kept constant throughout the test procedure and is chosen to


have a low loading velocity (maximum of 50 (N/m)/s in this
study).
3. For each load ratio ve cycles of loading and unloading are performed in order to remove the residual strains. To determine
the elastic properties of the material only the data of the last
loading cycle are used.
4. Strains are measured in both warp and ll directions with needle extensometers. Strains are reset to zero at pre-stress level.
Stresses are measured on each strip with a load cell. Experimental stresses in the material are obtained by multiplying the
applied stress by the stress reduction factor (equal to 0.985 in
this study).
5. The ve material model parameters (Eqs. (7)(9)) are determined from the experimental data by means of a least square
t (Eq. (10)).
The non-linear material model can be easily integrated in standard nite element codes. The accuracy compared to standard linear orthotropic models can be signicantly increased with almost
identical computation times. The Poissons ratio of the proposed
material model lies between 0 and 0.5 enabling a physically consistent interpretation of all the model parameters. Due to its simplicity and efciency, the deciencies of so far existing non-linear
material models for fabrics have been overcome. Thus, the proposed material model is very interesting for the calculation of complex and large PVC-coated polyester fabric structures. Future
perspectives are to include shear properties in the model in order
to predict the material behaviour for off-axis loading.

Table 4
Variation in stress and strain given by the experimental data of the last load cycle as
shown in Fig. 9 (V700 specimen).
Load ratio

Drw (kN/m)

Drf (kN/m)

Dew (%)

Def (%)

5:1
2:1
1:1
1:2
1:5

9.6
9.6
9.6
4.8
1.92

1.92
4.8
9.6
9.6
9.6

1.17
1.12
1.17
0.23
0.41

0.42
0.92
1.65
1.75
1.7

Fig. 13. Experimentally obtained Youngs moduli from ve load ratios and tted
moduli of the proposed material model (V700 specimen).

Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank HP Gasser Membranbau for
providing the material samples. The nancial support of Festo is
gratefully acknowledged.
Appendix.
The parameters of the proposed model were obtained by minimizing the difference between modelled and experimental strains.
A different approach is to obtain these parameters by minimizing
the difference between modelled and experimentally determined
elastic moduli. This simpler method is especially useful, when only
plots of measured stressstrain curves are available as it may happen when biaxial test results are supplied by an external laboratory. In such a case, the variation of stress between pre-stress
and maximal stress and the according variation in strain both in
warp and ll direction can still be read from the graphs with a reasonable accuracy, although the exact stressstrain relation is not
available. As an example, the maximal stress and strain variations
obtained from the curves presented in Fig. 11 are given in Table 4
(V700 specimen). From these values one can then estimate the
experimental elastic moduli in warp and ll direction for each load
ratio by means of

Drw  mwf  Drf


Dew
Drf

mwf
Def Eexp
 Dr w

Eexp
w

11

Eexp
f

12

The estimated experimental elastic moduli depend on the Poissons ratio mwf which is not known a priori and is thus also a parameter which has to be optimized. The experimental elastic moduli
are compared with the moduli of the proposed material model
1:1
(Eqs. (8) and (9)) and the parameters E1:1
w ; Ef , DEw, DEf, and mwf
are obtained by the least square t

minW min

m
X
2
1:1
exp
mod
1:1
Emod
wk Ew ; DEw  Ewk mwf  Efk Ef ; DEf
k1

2
Eexp
fk wf 

!
13

where m is the number of load ratios considered.


1:1
One obtains E1:1
407:6 kN=m, DEw = 412.8
w 605:9 kN=m; Ef
kN/m, DEf = 354.8 kN/m and mwf = 0.375 for the V700 specimen
which are close to the values given in Table 3. Experimental moduli
and the elastic moduli of the proposed material model are presented in Fig. 13 as a function of the normalized load ratios. It
can be seen again that the linear dependency of the Youngs moduli
on the normalized load ratio is a good approximation.
The RMS and the maximal absolute error between the predicted
strains of the proposed model and the experimental strains are calculated to estimate the accuracy of this approach based on minimizing Youngs moduli differences. The RMS is equal to 3.1% of
the strain test range and the maxima 0.28% in strain. With the t
procedure of Eq. (10), these values were equal to 2.3% and 0.21%,
respectively. The approach of Eq. (13) gives also very satisfying results, with an error which is still half of the error estimated with a
standard orthotropic linear material model.
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