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Materials Science and Engineering A366 (2004) 144–151

A finite element model for failure analysis

of 3D braided composites
Tao Zeng a,b,∗ , Lin-zhi Wu a , Li-cheng Guo a
a Center for Composite Materials, Harbin Institute of Technology, P.O. Box 1247, 150001 Harbin, PR China
b College of Applied Science, Harbin University of Science and Technology, 150080 Harbin, PR China

Received 13 June 2003; received in revised form 3 September 2003


The analysis of three-dimensional (3D) braided composites is more difficult due to its complex microstructure. A new type of finite element
method (FEM) is developed to predict the local stress and strength within 3D braided composites under the three-dimensional mechanical
loading. To verify the present method, the material properties predicted in this paper are compared with the previous work. By using the
model, the stress components within a unit cell are obtained and used to analyze the strength of 3D braided composites.
© 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: 3D braided composites; Finite element method; Mechanical property; Strength

1. Introduction models are called classical models since the basic assump-
tion of the classical lamination theory is valid for every
Fiber-reinforced composites have excellent mechanical infinitesimal piece of repeating unit cell of the woven-fabric
properties, such as high specific strength, high specific stiff- region. Ma et al. [5,6] first studied the effective elastic
ness, etc. In particular, laminated composite structures have performance of 3D braided composites by using the fiber
extensively been used where the in-plane properties are im- interlock model and fiber inclination model. Whyte [7] de-
portant. However, laminated composites have relatively poor veloped the ‘fabric geometry model’ by combining textile
mechanical properties in the thickness direction and are engineering methodology with a modified laminate theory.
prone to interlaminar delamination. In an attempt to over- Wang and Wang [8] reported a mixed volume averaging
coming this difficulty, three-dimensional (3D) braided com- technique to predict the mechanical behavior of 3D braided
posites have been developing in the past two decades. These composites. Naik and others [9–11] developed an analytical
materials have better out-of-plane stiffness, strength and im- model in which the yarns of the braided fabrics are divided
pact resistance and therefore have potential applications in into slices using parallel planes perpendicular to the fabric
the aerospace, automobile and marine industries. As the ap- plane. Whitcomb and Woo [12–15] gave the stress distri-
plication of 3D braided composites is becoming wider, a lot bution of woven composites using the global/local finite
of models have been developed to analyze its mechanical element method (FEM). Tang and Postle [16] discussed
properties. Due to the complicated architecture, these anal- the nonlinear deformation of 3D braided composites by the
yses are very challenging. finite element method. Huang [17,18] analyzed the elastic
In the past, most mechanical analyses of 3D braided and inelastic behavior of fabric laminates. Recently, Zeng
composites have been focused on their effective elastic et al. [19] presented a damage model to analyze the ef-
moduli. Ishikawa and Chou [1–4] proposed three types of fective modulus of 3D braided composites with transverse
models (mosaic model, fiber-undulation model and bridg- cracking.
ing model) for the analysis of textile composites. These However, there are few literatures on the stress distribution
and strength of 3D braided composites. The main purpose
∗ Corresponding author. Tel.: +86-451-86412613; of the present work is to develop a simple and accurate
fax: +86-451-86221048. numerical model for analyzing the stress field and tensile
E-mail address: (T. Zeng). strength of 3D braided composites.

0921-5093/$ – see front matter © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
T. Zeng et al. / Materials Science and Engineering A366 (2004) 144–151 145

Fig. 1. The geometrical model of a 3D braided composite unit cell.

2. Formation of the problem

Fig. 2. Discretization of a unit cell: (a) unit cell; (b) three kinds of subcells.

The 3D braided fiber construction is produced by a braid-

ing technique which interlaces and orients the yarns by an where {R} can be computed by
orthogonal shedding motion, followed by a compacting mo- M+N+L

tion in the braiding direction [20]. Therefore, the orientation {R} = {re }k (2)
of the yarns in the braided perform is controlled by the three k=1
orthogonal motions. The resultant perform is a continuous Here M, N and L is the number of yarn elements, matrix
interwoven structure composed of yarns oriented in various elements and mixed elements, respectively.
directions. A unit cell structure is constructed based upon From Eq. (2), {R} depends on the boundary condition and
the fiber bundles oriented in four body diagonal directions load applied of elements, so solving Eq. (1) is equivalent to
in a rectangular parallelepiped. The geometrical model of determining the stiffness matrix [K]. It can be expressed as
a 3D braided composite unit cell is shown in Fig. 1. The M N L
three-dimensional composite can be regarded as an assem-   
[K] = [KY ] + [KM ] + [KMix ]x (3)
blage of unit cells.
m=1 n=1 l
A systematic variation of the 3D braided composite ge-
ometry and the constituent elastic properties is extremely where [KY ], [KM ] and [KMix ] represent the stiffness matrix
difficult, time-consuming and expensive to carry out on real of yarn element, matrix element and mixed element, respec-
fabrics in practice. However, it is quite easy to implement tively. The stiffness matrix of each kind of elements can be
in a model. For the conventional finite element method, the written as

yarns and matrix are modeled discretely. This is very com-
plicated and difficult due to its complex microstructure. In [Ki ] = [B]T [Di ][B] dV
this study, the unit cell is divided into a number of rectan-  1 1 1
gular subcells as shown in Fig. 2a. This makes the analysis = [B]T [Di ][B]det[J] dξ dη dζ,
of braided composites to become simpler. According to the −1 −1 −1
material properties of the elements, three kinds of elements i = Y, M, Mix (4)
are obtained shown as Fig. 2b. The first is called the yarn
where [Di ] is the material property matrix and [B] is the
element which only contains the yarn material. The second
strain displacement matrix. In order to compute the ele-
is called the matrix element which only contains the matrix
ment stiffness matrix, the numerical integration will be used.
material. The last is called the mixed element with both the
Guass quadrature formulae are utilized to compute all ele-
yarn and the matrix. This discretization method is simple and
ment integrals in this paper. Therefore, Eq. (4) can be ex-
easy to implement. Subsequently, a finite element method
pressed as
is prescribed by using this discretization method. Let [K],
{δ} and {R} denote the stiffness matrix of the structure, the 

nodal degree of freedom and the total load of the structure, [Ki ] = Wi W̄j W̃k ([B]T
respectively. The load-displacement equation of the static i=1 j=1 k=1

elastic problem can be stated as × [Di ][B]det[J])ξ=ξi ,η=ηj ,ζ=ζk (5)

[K]{δ} = {R} (1) where (ξi , ηj , ζk ) are integration points.
146 T. Zeng et al. / Materials Science and Engineering A366 (2004) 144–151

Matrix elements are isotropic and [DM ] denotes the ma- Table 1
terial property matrix. Although yarn elements contain fiber Materials properties
and resin, they are assumed to be homogeneous and trans- Material E11 (GPa) E22 (GPa) G12 (GPa) G23 (GPa) γ 12
versely isotropic. The corresponding material property ma- Carbon fiber 230 40 24 14.3 0.25
trix [DY ] can be written as Epoxy 3.5 0.35
[DY ] = [T ]T [DY
][T ] (6)
where [DY
] is the stiffness matrix in the material coordinate respectively. [T] is the transformation matrix. Since mixed
system elements are nonhomogeneous, the material property ma-
trix [DMix ] varies with the coordinates of Gauss intergration
] = [SY
]−1 points. If the intergration point is in the yarn volume, the

1 γ12 γ12 −1 material property matrix [DY ] is taken; otherwise the mate-
− − 0 0 0 rial property matrix [DM ] is taken.
 E1 E1 E1 
  According to the above strategy, a Fortran computer code,
 γ12 1 γ23 
− −  labeled BCAD, is developed for computing the stiffness,
 E E2 E2
0 0 0 
 1  stress field and predicting the strength of 3D braided com-
 
 γ12 γ23 1  posites.
− − 0 0 0 
 E1 E2 E2 

 0 1 
 0 0 0 0  3. Results and discussions
 G23 
 
 1 
 0 0 0 0 0  This section will numerically calculate the stiffness prop-
 G12 
  erties, stress distribution and strength of 3D braided com-
 1  posites using BCAD program. All the analyses in the present
0 0 0 0 0
G12 study are done for 3D braided composites by the four-step
(7) 1 × 1 procedure, which consisted of 12 K T300 carbon yarns
and TDE-85 epoxy resin. The mechanical properties of fiber
Here E1 , E2 , γ12 , γ23 , G12 and G23 are Young’s moduli, and resin are given in Table 2.
Poisson’s ratio and the shear moduli of the yarn material,
respectively, and they are given as follows [21]: 3.1. Effective properties
E1 = Vf Ef 11 + (1 − Vf )Em (8a)
It is very important to get a convergent solution for the
Em present finite element method. A convergent test is carried
E2 = (8b)
1 − Vf (1 − Em /Ef 22 ) out in this paper. A unit cell is meshed by different num-
ber of elements. The calculated elastic constants of 3D car-
G23 = (8c) bon/epoxy braided composites are shown in Table 1. It can
1− Vf (1 − Gm /Gf 23 ) be found that there is nearly no obvious difference for the
Gm calculated effective elastic constants when the number of the
G12 = (8d) elements is more than 2057. Therefore, it can be concluded
1− Vf (1 − Gm /Gf 12 )
that the results are reasonable and convergent if the element
γ12 = Vf γf 12 + (1 − Vf )γm (8e) number is more than 2057.
Fig. 3 shows the variation of the predicted Young’s moduli
γ23 = −1 (8f) of 3D braided composites with the braid angle. From Fig. 3
2G23 it can be seen that Young’s modulus Ez decreases monoton-
where Vf is fiber volume fraction, Ef 11 , Ef 22 , Gf 12 , Gf 23 , ically with increasing of the braid angle and has a difference
γf 12 , Em and γm are the elastic constants of fiber and rein, between the present result and one given by Chen et al. [22].

Table 2
Influence of the elements number on the calculated elastic constants of 3D carbon/epoxy braided composites (braid angle θ = 45◦ )
Sum of elements 12 96 324 1053 2057 3042 4116

Ez (GPa) 10.985 13.153 12.462 12.603 12.612 12.609 12.611

Ex (GPa) 8.8517 9.1626 9.0899 9.1066 9.1070 9.1103 9.1098
Gyz (GPa) 13.155 14.325 15.155 15.033 14.999 15.057 15.057
Gxy (GPa) 9.4913 10.233 10.747 10.672 10.645 10.675 10.671
γ xz 0.0557 0.0601 0.0579 0.0583 0.0584 0.0583 0.0583
γ yx 0.2642 0.2707 0.2752 0.2746 0.2743 0.2744 0.2745
T. Zeng et al. / Materials Science and Engineering A366 (2004) 144–151 147

Fig. 3. Influence of braid angle on the Young’s modulus of 3D braided composites.

However, Young’s moduli Ex and Ey almost uniform and Fig. 5 shows the variation of Possion’s ratio with the braid
are consistent with results given by Chen et al. [22]. angle. With increasing the braid angle, γyx first decreases and
Fig. 4 illustrates the variation of shear moduli with the then increases; γxz and γyz first increase and then decrease.
braid angle. From Fig. 4, it can be found that the shear
modulus Gxy increases monotonically with the increasing 3.2. Stress field
of the braid angle and Gzx , Gyz firstly increase and then
decrease. When the braid angle is equal to 45◦ , Gzx , Gyz The stress distribution of the unit cell is very important
have the maximum values. because it is used to analyze the failure of 3D braided com-

Fig. 4. Influence of braiding angle on the shear modulus of 3D braided composites.

148 T. Zeng et al. / Materials Science and Engineering A366 (2004) 144–151

Fig. 5. Influence of braiding angle on the Poisson’s ratio of 3D braided composites.

posites. Without loss of generally, a uniform longitudinal equivalent stress

stress (σzUC = 1) is considered when the mechanical be-

havior of materials is analyzed. Fig. 6 depicts the variation σVM = 21 [(σI − σII )2 + (σII − σIII )2 + (σIII − σI )2 ] (9)
of the stress σz on the plane z = c/4 of a unit cell in the
z-direction. It is seen that the stress σz in the yarn regions where σI , σII and σIII are the principal stresses. Fig. 7 shows
is much higher than that in the matrix region and the largest the equivalent von Mises stress in the composite unit cell.
tensile stress σz in the yarn regions gets to 239% of the Subsequently, let us consider a unit shear stress (τzx = 1)
applied stress. This indicates that the yarns in 3D braided on the composite unit cell. Fig. 8 depicts the variation of
composites share most of the tensile load. the stress component τzx on the plane z = c/4 of a unit cell.
For the isotropic matrix, it is well known that the direc- From this figure, the smaller shear stress τzx at each point
tion of principal stress or strain has no significance. The of the matrix region is predicted. On the contrary, the larger
stress field of matrix can be characterized by the von Mises shear stress τzx occurs in the yarn regions. In addition, the
equivalent von Mises stress is calculated for the unit cell.
Fig. 9 shows the locations where high equivalent stresses

Fig. 6. Prediction of σz on the plane z = c/4 of a unit cell under tensile Fig. 7. Prediction of the equivalent von Mises stress σVM on the plane
stress σzUC = 1. z = c/4 of a unit cell under tensile stress σzUC = 1.
T. Zeng et al. / Materials Science and Engineering A366 (2004) 144–151 149

Fig. 8. Prediction of τzx on the plane z = c/4 of a unit cell under shear Fig. 10. Schematic of a yarn in global and local coordinate.
stress τzxUC = 1.

positive and negative limits of the six local stress compo-

occur. The four peaks correspond to the yarn areas in braided
nents in the material direction as follows:
S11c < σ11 < S11t (11a)
3.3. Failure analysis
S22c < σ22 < S22t (11b)
The failure analysis is carried out by comparing the local S33c < σ33 < S33t (11c)
stress with the permissible one. This needs to transform
the stress calculated in the previous section from the global |σ12 | < S12 (11d)
coordinate system (x y z) into the local coordinate system
(1 2 3), where the 1-direction coincides with the longitudinal |σ23 | < S23 (11e)
direction of yarn and 123 accords with a right-handed system |σ31 | < S31 (11f)
as shown in Fig. 10. The local stresses σ123 are given by
[σ123 ] = [T ][σxyz ] (10) where S11t is the longitudinal tensile strength of yarn, S11c
the longitudinal compressive strength of yarn, S22t the trans-
where [T] is the transformation matrix. verse tensile strength of yarn, S22c the transverse compres-
Every increment of the applied stress, local stresses and sive strength of yarn, S33t the transverse tensile strength
strains are computed and failure criteria can be used in or- of yarn, S33c the transverse compressive strength of yarn,
der to determine when failure occurs in the unit cell. Here, S12 the 12 plane shear strength of yarn, S23 the 23 plane
13th failure criterions are used to predict the yarn dominated shear strength of yarn, S13 the 13 plane shear strength of
failure. The first 12 failure criterions are associated with the yarn.

Fig. 9. Prediction of the equivalent von Mises stress τzx on the plane z = c/4 of a unit cell under shear stress τzxUC = 1.
150 T. Zeng et al. / Materials Science and Engineering A366 (2004) 144–151

Fig. 11. Effect of braid angle on the strength of 3D braided composites.

The Tsai–Wu second-order tensor polynomial is adopted Table 3

as the thirteenth failure criterion, i.e. Strength parameter of yarn and resin
Material S11t S11c S22t S22c S12 S23
Fi σi + Fij σi σj = 1, i, j = 1, 2, . . . , 6 (12) (MPa) (MPa) (MPa) (MPa) (MPa) (MPa)
Yarn [24] 1168 740 99 99 68.6 450
where Fi and Fj are the second and fourth rank strength
Resin [24] 99 99
Because the positive or negative on-axis shear stress
makes no difference to the strength of the unit cell [23], F55 = F66 = 21 S12
some strength parameters should be zero:

F13 = F12 = − 21 F11 F22
F4 = F5 = F6 = 0, F14 = F15 = F16 = 0,

F24 = F25 = F26 = 0, F34 = F35 = F36 = 0, F23 = − 21 F22 F33
F44 = F45 = F46 = 0 (13) The von Mises criterion is used to predict the failure in the
Therefore, Eq. (12) can be rewritten as matrix.
The longitudinal strength of 3D braided composites has
F11 σ12 + F22 σ22 + F33 σ32 + F44 σ42 + F55 σ52 + F66 σ62 been studied. The yarn and resin properties are given in
Table 3. Fig. 11 shows the effect of the braid angle on the lon-
+ 2F12 σ1 σ2 + 2F13 σ1 σ3 + 2F23 σ2 σ3 + F1 σ1 gitudinal tensile strength of 3D braided composites. When
+ F2 σ2 + F3 σ3 = 1 (14) the braid angle increases, the tensile strength decreases. The
influence of braid angle on the tensile strength is remarkable
where Fij and Fj are determined as follows: and the corresponding strength has a reduction of 36.9%
when the braid angle varies from 20 to 50◦ .
F11 = 21 S11t S11c

F1 = 21 S11t − 21 S11c
4. Conclusions
F22 = F33 = 2 S22t S22c
A simplified numerical model of 3D braided composites
F2 = F3 = 21 S22t − 21 S22c is presented. The unit cell is discretized into a number of
rectangular elements and this is different with conventional
F44 = 21 (S23 )2 FEM method. By using this method, the mechanical prop-
T. Zeng et al. / Materials Science and Engineering A366 (2004) 144–151 151

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