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Applied Mathematics and Mechanics (English Edition), 2006, 27(12):17091718

c
Editorial
Committee of Appl. Math. Mech., ISSN 0253-4827

ANALYSIS OF COMPOSITE LAMINATE BEAMS USING


COUPLING CROSS-SECTION FINITE ELEMENT METHOD
JIANG Wen-guang (

1,2

, John L. Henshall3

(1. School of Mechanical Engineering, Yanshan University,


Qinhuangdao 066004, Hebei Province, P. R. China;
2. Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Bristol, BS8 1TR, UK;
3. Department of Mechanical Engineering and Manufacturing Engineering,
Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, NG1 4BU, UK)
(Communicated by FU Ming-fu)

Abstract: Beams and plates manufactured from laminates of composite materials have
distinct advantages in a signicant number of applications. However, the anisotropy arising from these materials adds a signicant degree of complexity, and thus time, to the
stress and deformation analyses of such components, even using numerical approaches
such as nite elements. The analysis of composite laminate beams subjected to uniform
extension, bending, and/or twisting loads was performed by a novel implementation of
the usual nite element method. Due to the symmetric features of the deformations,
only a thin slice of the beam to be analysed needs to be modelled. Conventional threedimensional solid nite elements were used for the structural discretization. The accurate
deformation relationships were formulated and implemented through the coupling of nodal
translational degrees of freedom in the numerical analysis. A sample solution for a rectangular composite laminate beam is presented to show the validity and accuracy of the
proposed method.
Key words: composite material; beam; coupling equation; nite element method; extension; bending; torsion
Chinese Library Classification: O343.68
2000 Mathematics Subject Classification: 65Y10; 74S05; 74K10; 74G15
Digital Object Identifier(DOI): 10.1007/s 10483-006-1213-z

Introduction
Laminated composite materials have been developed over the last three decades to have
mechanical and other properties that make them attractive alternatives to the conventional
structural materials such as metallic alloys. These materials were initially used in structures
such as high-performance aircraft which exploited their high strength-to-weight ratio, but they
are increasingly being used in structural applications across all engineering industries. The
stiness mismatch between the contiguous plies, which present very steep stress gradients in
the free edge region, may cause delamination with a consequent lose in the laminate mechanical
properties and possible failure at loads that are lower than those expected according to classical
failure theories. An accurate prediction of the interlaminar stresses is therefore crucial for design
purposes. Due to the complex nature of the problem, numerical techniques have been usually
employed, such as the nite dierence method[1,2] , boundary element method[3] , nite element
Received Jul.1, 2005; Revised Aug.8, 2006
Corresponding author JIANG Wen-guang, Professor, Doctor, E-mail: W.jiang@bristol.ac.uk;
wenguang jiang@yahoo.co.uk

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JIANG Wen-guang and John L. Henshall

method[4,5] requiring domain discretization, series expansion in conjunction with boundary


collocation[6], or variational methods[79] .
In this paper, accurate and rapid analyses of stress and strain are achieved by using the
coupling cross-section nite element method presented herein. The coupling cross-section
method has been successfully used to model the extension-torsion coupling of helically symmetric components[1016] . In this paper, this methodology is extended to analyse the general
uniform deformation of composite laminate beams.
Consider a long prismatic beam with arbitrary
cross-section, referred to a coordinate system (x, y, z),
which is such that the z-direction is parallel to the
longitudinal direction of the beam as shown in Fig.1.
The material behaviour is only a function of x- and
y-coordinates, and not dependent on z. The applied
stress distribution on the ends of the beam is statically
equivalent to an applied extensional force Fz that acts
along the axial z-direction and a couple with components Mx , My and Mz about the x-, y-, and z-axes,
respectively. Assuming that the body forces are negligible in comparison to the applied stress distribution,
suciently far from the beam ends, end eects can
also be neglected according to the St Venant principle and only the small deformation case is considered,
therefore a uniform deformation of the beam will occur. Under such a deformation mode, the warping
and distortion of all cross-sections, and the stress distributions over all cross-sections of the beam will be
identical. In other words, the problem may be reduced
to an analysis of a typical small slice of the beam as
shown in Fig.1. Precise boundary conditions are enforced by using the constraint equations which relate
Fig.1 A model cross-sectional slice taken
from a prismatic beam subjected the degrees of freedom of the corresponding nodes on
the opposite articial beam cross-sections of the nite
to uniform deformations
element model, as will be detailed in the following sections. The advantages of the method are not only its conceptual conciseness, but also its high
accuracy and easy of implementation.

Kinematic Deformation Relationships

Consider the kinematic relationship between general pairs of corresponding nodes n(x, y, 0)
and n (x, y, h), and an arbitrarily pre-selected specic pair of reference corresponding nodes
n0 (x0 , y0 , 0) and n0 (x0 , y0 , h), see Fig.2.
In the undeformed conguration, the relative position vectors L and L are

T

 
Ln
0 n = (x x0 , y y0 , 0) = L n0 n .

(1)

In the deformed conguration, the corresponding relative position vectors are

and

= L + u u0
L

(2)

 = L + u u0 ,
L

(3)

Coupling Finite Element Method of Composite Laminate Beams

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in which,
u = (ux , uy , uz )T ,

u = (ux , uy , uz )T ,

u0 = (u0x , u0y , u0z )T ,

u0 = (u0x , u0y , u0z )T (4ad)

are the displacement vectors of nodes n, n , n0 and n0 ,


respectively.
Owing to the symmetrical nature of the beam, the
class of innitesimal deformations, for which the stresses
are independent of the z-coordinate, is related to a displacement eld having the following general form:
 = RL,

L
where

1
R = z
y

z
1
x

(5)

y
x
1

(6)

Fig.2

Diagram showing displacement vectors between pairs


of corresponding nodes on
the corresponding crosssections of the slice model

is the linear rotational matrix, in which, x and y are


the bending angles between the cross-sections about the
x- and y-axes, respectively, and z is the twisting angle
between the cross-sections about the z-axis. These can
be expressed in terms of x and y , the bending curvatures about x- and y-axes, respectively,
and z , the twisting curvature about the z-axis (i.e., twist angle in radians per unit length):
x = x h,

y = y h,

z = z h,

(7a,b,c)

in which h is the slice thickness (see Fig.1).

Finite Element Implementation

To make use of the formulated kinematic deformation relationships in the nite element
analysis, only a representative small slice of the beam needs to be analysed. The nite element
mesh must be established in such a way that there are matching pairs of corresponding nodes
n(x, y, 0) and n (x, y, h) on the two corresponding articial cross-sections. With an arbitrarily
pre-selected pair of corresponding nodes n0 (x0 , y0 , 0) and n0 (x0 , y0 , h) specied as reference
corresponding nodes, the kinematic deformation relationships as discussed in the previous section can be established. Conventional three-dimensional solid brick elements are used for the
structural discretization. The nodes of the elements each have three degrees of freedom, i.e.
translations in the x-, y-, and z-directions. Due to the nature of uniform deformation, only
one element division is required in the axial direction of the beam. By substituting Eq.(6) into
Eq.(5), the deformation relationships can be explicitly expressed as


ux u0x + (x x0 )
ux u0x + (x x0 )
1
z y
uy u0y + (y y0 ) = z
1
x uy u0y + (y y0 ) .
(8)
uz u0z
y x
1
uz u0z
This equation adequately describes the required deformation eld patterns including arbitrary
rigid body movements. To avoid singularity of the system of equations, rigid body movement
must be restrained. In 3-D space, six degrees of freedom need to be constrained in order to keep
a deformed body completely xed in space. When introducing constraints, a basic requirement

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JIANG Wen-guang and John L. Henshall

is that the constraints must not come into conict with the deformation eld (Eq.(8)). A
practical way of realizing this is illustrated as follows:
(a) All of the three translational degrees of freedom of the reference node n0 are completely
constrained, i.e.,
(9)
u0 = (u0x , u0y , u0z )T = (0, 0, 0)T .
With these constraints, the model can still rotate freely around this pivoting node n0 .
(b) The x and y degrees of freedom of the corresponding reference node n0 are also constrained, i.e.,
(10a,b)
u0x = 0, u0y = 0.
With Eqs.(9) and (10a,b), Eq.(8) can be further simplied to


ux
y
1
z
x x0
ux + (x x0 )
uy = z
1
x uy + (y y0 ) y y0 .

y x
1
u0z
uz
uz

(11)

Under these constraints the model can still rotate about the xed line n0 n0 .
(c) The rigid body rotation about line n0 n0 may be removed by constraining an arbitrarily
selected node n1 (x1 , y1 , 0), which diers from n0 , from rotating relative to n0 .
This can be realized by the constraint equation:
u1y = u1x tan 01 = u1x (y1 y0 )/(x1 x0 )

(12)

and the constraints on its corresponding node, n1 (x1 , y1 , h), can be derived by substituting
Eq.(12) into Eq.(11), i.e.,


u1x
1
z y
x1 x0
u1x + (x1 x0 )
u1y = z
1
x u1x tan 01 + (y1 y0 ) y1 y0 .
(13)
y x
1
u0z
u1z
u1z
With these constraints, the nite element model is completely xed in the space, and the system
of equations has a unique solution.
In the present method, the loading process is realized by applying bending angles x and
y , and twisting angle z between the cross-sections. When these values are given, the
formulated constraint equations become linear relationships between nodal translational degrees
of freedom, and can be conveniently incorporated into the global system equations. The degrees
of freedom on the left-hand side in Eqs.(11), (12) and (13) can be expressed in terms of the
degrees of freedom on the right-hand side, and therefore eliminated during the solution of the
system equations. After solution, the eliminated degrees of freedom can be recovered from
these constraint equations. The resultant moments of bending and torsion can be derived by
the summation of the reaction nodal forces on one of the cross-sections of the nite element
model of the beam. The total axial force can be applied as a nodal force to the degree of
freedom u0z of the node n0 . By means of the coupling equations, the axial force will actually
be distributed to all the nodes over the cross-section.

Numerical Example

A (45 / 45 )s composite laminate beam, as shown in Fig.3, is analyzed here using the
proposed algorithm. The plies are perfectly bonded along the interfaces of the laminate. Each
layer is assumed to be a homogeneous and linear elastic medium obeying the generalized orthotropy constitutive law[17] with one of the orthotropic directions parallel to its thickness

Coupling Finite Element Method of Composite Laminate Beams

1713

direction. The laminates consist of plies with rectangular cross-section having thickness h and
width b = 16h. The material properties of individual layer in the principal material coordinates
are taken to be E1 = 137.9 GPa, E2 = E3 = 14.5 GPa, G12 = G31 = G23 = 5.99 GPa, and
12 = 23 = 31 = 0.21. Conventional 20-noded quadratic iso-parametric brick elements were
used. The nite element meshes used are shown in Fig.4.

Fig.3

Geometry and lamination scheme of the (45 / 45 )s composite laminate analysed

Fig.4

Finite element meshes used for the composite


laminate beam analyses

Being an elastic body, the constitutive relationship relating the axial extension strain (z ),
bending curvatures (x , y ), and twisting curvature (z ) to the resultant axial force (Fz ),
bending moments (Mx , My ), and twisting moment (Mz ) may be expressed in the general form:

k11
k21

k31
k41

k12
k22
k32
k42

k13
k23
k33
k43


k14
z
Fz

k24
x = M x ,
k34 y My
k44
z
Mz

(14)

where k is symmetric based upon reciprocity.


To use the present method, the loading can be realised by explicitly specifying set of values
of (z , x , y , z ). Any four sets of linearly independent solutions, for example, pure extension
deformation (Fz = 0, x = y = z = 0), pure bending deformations (x = 0, Fz = y = z =
0) and (y = 0, Fz = x = z = 0), and pure torsion deformation (z = 0, Fz = x = y = 0)
may be performed to derive all of the stiness constants kij , i, j = 1, , 4. In practice, these
four fundamental deformation modes themselves are of primary interest. After the derivation
of all of the stiness constants, in the case that Mx , My , Mz and z are primarily known values,
the values of Fz , x , y , z can be derived from Eq.(14).
The stiness matrix predicted by the present analysis for the composite beam with dimen-

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JIANG Wen-guang and John L. Henshall

sions of b = 16h = 16 mm is given as

1287 kN
0.000 Nm 0.000 Nm
0.000 Nm
2
2
0.000 Nm
1.701
Nm
0.000
Nm
0.723
Nm2
k=
2
2
0.000 Nm
0.000 Nm 26.49 Nm
0.000 Nm2
2
2
0.000 Nm 0.723 Nm 0.000 Nm
5.596 Nm2

(15)

It is worth noting that the relative discrepancy of the stiness coecients between the two
sets of results predicted using a ne mesh and coarse mesh is well below 0.1 percent, and the
symmetric relationship kij = kji is very precisely satised. The o-diagonal non-zero values
k24 = k42 = 0.723 Nm2 indicate that coupling exists between bending about the x axis and
torsion about the z-axis.
The stress elds over the beam cross-section predicted using the ne mesh are depicted in
Figs.58, respectively, for the pure extension, pure bending about the x- and y-axes, and the
pure twisting loading cases.

Fig.5

Fig.6

Stress eld for the (45 /45 )s laminate beam under pure extension (Fz = 0, x =
y = z = 0)

Stress eld for the (45 / 45 )s laminate beam under pure bending deformation about
the x-axis (x = 0, Fz = y = z = 0)

Coupling Finite Element Method of Composite Laminate Beams

1715

Fig.7

Stress eld for the (45 / 45 )s laminate beam under pure bending deformation about
the y-axis (y = 0, Fz = x = z = 0)

Fig.8

Stress eld for the (45 / 45 )s laminate beam under pure torsion about the z-axis
(z = 0, z = x = y = 0)

The interlaminar stresses along the interface y = h are shown in Figs.912, and the results
are compared with the solutions of Wang and Choi[6] , Ye[4] and Dav` and Milazzo[3] . Excellent
agreement has been found with the corresponding results from the above authors. It is also
worth noting that the analysis performed using the coarse mesh yielded reasonably accurate
results. Stress singularities can be observed between the contiguous plies in the free edge region
for all of the loading modes addressed above.
The selection of parameters used in the models such as slice thickness h (varying from 0.1%
to 10% of the maximum dimension of the cross-section), arbitrary locations of the reference
node and rotational constraint node n1 , were all extensively tested. The inuences on the
induced torque and stress eld were found to be negligible. This indicates that, as desired, the
model is not sensitive to these parameters.

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Fig.9

JIANG Wen-guang and John L. Henshall

Interlaminar stress distributions along the y = h interface of the laminate under pure extension
(Fz = 0, x = y = z = 0)

Fig.10

Interlaminar stress distributions along the y = h interface of the laminate under pure bending
deformation about the x-axis (x = 0, Fz = y = z = 0)

Fig.11

Interlaminar stress distributions along the y = h interface of the laminate under pure bending
deformation about the y-axis (y = 0, Fz = x = z = 0)

Coupling Finite Element Method of Composite Laminate Beams

Fig.12

1717

Interlaminar stress distributions along the y = h interface of the laminate under pure torsion
about the z-axis (z = 0, Fz = x = y = 0)

Concluding Remarks

The analysis of composite beams subjected to uniform extension, bending and torsion can
be solved by the analysis of only a representative slice sector of the beam. Precise boundary
conditions have been formulated and implemented. The proposed method is conceptually simple
and mathematically rigorous. No extraneous assumptions have been introduced. The method
is straightforwardly applicable to prismatic beams with arbitrary cross-sectional shapes and
material stacking sequences.

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