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Composite Structures 111 (2014) 259270

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

Buckling analysis of stiffened variable angle tow panels

Broderick H. Coburn , Zhangming Wu, Paul M. Weaver
Advanced Composites Centre for Innovation and Science, University of Bristol, Queens Building, Bristol BS8 1TR, United Kingdom

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Variable angle tow (VAT) laminates have previously shown enhanced buckling performance compared to
Available online 31 December 2013 conventional straight bre laminates. In this study, an analytical method is developed for the buckling
analysis of a novel blade stiffened VAT panel to allow this potential to be more fully exploited. The pre-
Keywords: buckling and buckling analysis, performed on a representative section of a blade stiffened VAT panel, are
Buckling based on a generalised RayleighRitz procedure. The buckling analysis includes a rst order shear defor-
RayleighRitz mation theory by introducing additional shape functions for transverse shear and is therefore applicable
Stiffened panel
to structures with thick skins relative to characteristic length. Modelling of the stiffener is achieved with
Transverse shear
Variable angle tow
two approaches; idealisation as a beam attached to the skins midplane and as a rigidly attached plate.
Comparing results with nite element analysis (Abaqus) for selected case studies, local buckling errors
for the beam model and plate model were found to be less than 3% and 2% respectively, whilst the beam
model error for global buckling was between 3% and 10%. The analytical model provides an accurate
alternative to the computationally expensive nite element analysis and is therefore suitable for future
work on the design and optimisation of stiffened VAT panels.
2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction to FEA which are accurate, robust and computationally efcient

and hence suitable for optimisation studies.
In recent decades the ability to tailor the stiffness and strength Although there has been a signicant amount of research in the
of composite structures has seen their increased use in aerospace area of VAT laminates, in most studies the application is limited to
applications [1]. Traditional tailoring is achieved by treating the simple geometries, i.e. plates and shells, with general boundary
bre orientation of each ply as a variable and optimising the stack- conditions. A large gap exists between the current understanding
ing sequence for laminate performance. Recent advancements of and analysis techniques of VAT and that required to apply a very
automated tape/bre laying technologies has led to the possibility promising technology to practical structural congurations.
of having variable angle tow (VAT) laminates where the bre A potential application, exploiting the enhanced buckling per-
orientation can change over the plane of a ply. This results in formance, is to use a VAT laminate as the skin of a stiffened panel.
laminates with varying in-plane and out-of-plane stiffnesses in Here, the VAT skin would redistribute in-plane loads to the stiffen-
the xy-plane providing designers with additional degrees of free- ers which are then required to act as panel breakers forcing a no-
dom and tailorability. Previous research on VAT plates has shown dal line. Expected gains are an increased buckling performance
signicant improvement in the stress distribution around holes allowing the design of lighter structures.
[24] and buckling and post-buckling performance [57]. Increases Stiffened panels are commonly used on aircraft as primary
in buckling load are primarily attributed to a redistribution of load structures such as wing covers and fuselage panels [11]. Stiffened
to boundaries where the structure is constrained in out-of-plane panels typically consist of a plate braced by longitudinal stiffeners
displacement. and are an efcient conguration for carrying compressive loads,
The majority of work to date on the design and optimisation of particularly when buckling is a design driver as is the case for air-
VAT laminates has utilised nite element analysis (FEA). Although craft wing covers [11]. A stiffened panel can fail via a variety of
relatively accurate, the ne meshes required to capture the mode mechanisms including skin-stiffener debonding [12], material
shapes makes FEA of VAT laminates computationally expensive strength failure and buckling. Buckling failure predominantly
[8,9]. occurs in one of two modes as shown in Fig. 1; local, where the
Recently, the differential quadrature method [10] and Rayleigh stiffeners act as panel breakers forcing the skin to buckle locally
Ritz energy method [7] have been shown to be viable alternatives between the stiffeners and global, where both plate and stiffeners
buckle out-of-plane. Conning the buckling mode to be local is
Corresponding author. Tel.: +44 7869681735. preferential to global as it, in general, leads to lighter designs
E-mail address: broderick.coburn@bristol.ac.uk (B.H. Coburn). and greater post-buckling stiffness. The local modes higher

0263-8223/$ - see front matter 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
260 B.H. Coburn et al. / Composite Structures 111 (2014) 259270

where the boundary conditions at the ends are enforced using

either polynomial or trigonometric shape functions.
Most research on the buckling of stiffened panels idealises both
the skin and stiffener as thin plates neglecting transverse shear ef-
fects. However, stiffened panels in aerospace applications often
have thick skins, relative to characteristic length, where transverse
shear effects must be considered. For isotropic materials, a ratio of
thickness to characteristic length of 1/10 results in approximately a
5% error by neglecting transverse shear [33]. For composite mate-
rials the ratio of in-plane to transverse shear moduli can be a factor
of ten or more than isotropic materials and deformations due to
transverse shear become important at even lower ratios of thick-
ness to characteristic length [33,34].
Fig. 1. Stiffened panel local and global buckling mode shapes (yz-plane). (a) Full Consideration of shear deformation was rst proposed by Tim-
panel. (b). Representative section. oshenko [35] for a one-dimensional beam and later extended to
plates by Reissner [36] and Mindlin [37]. The rst order shear
post-buckling stiffness is due to the unbuckled stiffeners carrying deformation theory (FSDT) used by Timoshenko, Reissner and
load in the post-buckling regime. Mindlin requires the use of a shear correction factor to approxi-
Buckling of stiffened panels has received considerable attention mate the distribution of transverse shear strain through the thick-
dating as far back as 1921 by Timoshenko [13] who used the Ritz- ness. A FSDT has successfully been incorporated into the buckling
method to analyse isotropic longitudinally and transversely stiff- analysis of sandwich structures and thick plates using Rayleigh
ened plates subject to compression, shear and bending. Continued Ritz energy methods by Libove and Bartdorf [38], Dawe and Roufa-
interest in this eld has seen many publications in the past century eil [39] and Ko and Jackson [40] by assuming shape functions for
with current research focussing heavily on composite stiffened the shear strain in the xz- and yz-direction.
panels [1430]. Local buckling analysis methods can be split into The FSDT provides accurate solutions to moderately thick plates
three categories based on the consideration of the stiffener. The and is therefore useful for practical cases of stiffened panels used in
rst method treats the stiffener as a simple support which facili- aerospace applications, however it is strictly only applicable to iso-
tates fast closed-form solutions to be obtained but assumes null tropic materials and may have signicant error for very high thick-
torsional restraint and hence underestimates the buckling load ness to width ratios. Recently the effect of transverse shear
[14]. The second method models the torsional restraint by replac- deformations on VAT plates was investigated by Groh et al. [33]
ing the stiffener blade with an equivalent torsional spring or beam by extending the equivalent single layer approach of Weaver and
attached to the skins midplane [1520]. This method is often suf- Cosentino [41]. VAT plates were found to be more affected by
ciently simple to obtain accurate closed-form solutions, however transverse shear than corresponding homogeneous quasi-isotropic
is strictly only valid for an unloaded stiffener and assumes no stiff- laminates.
ener blade buckling or warping. Correction factors reducing the To the best of the authors knowledge, the buckling of a VAT
effective restraint in the case of an axially applied load to the stiff- laminate at a structural level remains unexplored. The current con-
ener have been proposed and provide improved solutions when tribution extends the work of Wu et al. [7] to develop an analytical
load is carried by the stiffener [16,17]. The third method models model with a generalised RayleighRitz approach to solve the pre-
both the skin and stiffener as plates [21,23,24] allowing local buck- buckling and buckling problem of a blade stiffened VAT panel
ling modes of the stiffener and the interaction between the skin including transverse shear deformations. Prebuckling analysis is
and stiffener to be captured. This higher delity approach has an rst required to determine the varying stress eld in the skin
increased computational cost but provides a more robust solution and constant stress in the stiffener. Restricting the model to pris-
than the elastic restraint method. matic sections enables the skin and stiffener to be treated in isola-
The analysis of global buckling modes can be approached by tion for prebuckling. The buckling analysis is performed with two
either replacing the stiffeners with an equivalent smeared layer approaches for modelling the stiffener; a beam stiffener model
or by treating the stiffeners as discrete elements. The smeared ap- and a plate stiffener model. In both cases the effect of transverse
proach [25,27] replaces the stiffeners with a distributed A-, B- and shear in both the skin and stiffener and the axial loading applied
D-matrix over the entire panel. This approach is only valid for wide to the stiffener is explored and quantied. It should be noted, that
panels consisting of several closely spaced stiffeners. Alternatively, although the method presented in this paper is referred to as ana-
treating the stiffeners as discrete elements enables local interac- lytical it is, strictly speaking, a semi-analytical method; analytical
tion effects between the skin and stiffener to be captured and in formulation but requiring numerical integration. The numerical
has no restrictions on stiffener spacing [23,2528]. This is com- routine for the pre-buckling and buckling analysis was imple-
monly achieved by replacing the stiffener with a beam element at- mented in MATLAB R2012a.
tached to the skins midplane. The paper is structured as follows. Section 2 provides an over-
In all approaches for both local and global buckling the Ray- view of the analytical method including the assumptions and
leighRitz method is used extensively due to the ease of including boundary conditions. Section 3 introduces the VAT orientation dis-
the stiffener into the formulation and applying boundary condi- tribution. Section 4 details the prebuckling analysis of the VAT skin
tions [13,1926]. and straight bre blade stiffener. Section 5 details the buckling
Several analysis and optimisation packages have been proposed analysis of the stiffened panel with two approaches for capturing
to solve the linear buckling problem for stiffened panels. PANDA2 the stiffener behaviour; a beam stiffener model and a plate stiff-
[31] uses simple models for the prebuckling, buckling and post- ener model. Section 6 outlines the FEA model developed and used
buckling of composite stiffened panels to obtain optimal solutions for comparison and validation of the analytical method. Section 7
under a variety of loading conditions. Local and general buckling presents results and a discussion of the analytical model and FEA
loads are calculated with the use of either closed-form expressions for different stiffened panel congurations showing the applicabil-
or discretised models of panel cross sections. The VICONOPT pro- ity of the model to realistic stiffened panel congurations with
gram [32] uses an exact nite strip theory for prismatic strips thick sections and nally the paper is concluded in Section 8.
B.H. Coburn et al. / Composite Structures 111 (2014) 259270 261

2. Analysis overview valid for global buckling. Despite not representing global jy , local
jy behaviour between stiffener elements is still captured in global
During ight an aircraft wing is subject to bending resulting in buckling modes.
the upper wing cover experiencing compressive loading which can The use of a representative section signicantly reduces the
be approximated by uniform end-shortening. In reality, a linear in- problem complexity whilst maintaining sufcient detail to allow
crease in compressive strain from the tip of the stiffener to the results to be applicable to full, multi-stiffener, panels. Reduction
skins outer surface would be present, however as the distance of of the problem complexity additionally allows a deeper under-
the stiffened skin from the wing box global neutral axis is signi- standing and physical insight to be obtained for buckling of stiff-
cantly larger than the depth of the stiffened panel this variation ened VAT panels. Despite the suitability and advantages of the
is considered negligible. Wing covers in general are supported by representative section with the symmetric boundary condition it
spars in the longitudinal direction and ribs in the transverse direc- seldom appears in literature.
tion as shown in Fig. 2. The restraint on the stiffened panel by the Boundary conditions for the representative section are summa-
spars and ribs is complex, however for simplicity they are both as- rised in Fig. 2 and can be split into prebuckling boundary condi-
sumed to provide a simply supported boundary condition (pre- tions and buckling boundary conditions. Further details are
venting out-of-plane displacement of the skin) resulting in provided for the prebuckling and buckling boundary conditions
conservative results. In this study, the spars are additionally as- in Sections 4 and 5 respectively.
sumed to prevent any translation in the y-direction hence inducing
biaxial loading in the panel. Only the skin is assumed to be con- 3. VAT laminates
nected to the ribs which provide a simply supported boundary con-
dition, the stiffener is free to rotate about the skins midplane at In this study, the blade stiffener laminate is constrained to
the location of the ribs. straight bres only and VAT laminates are only considered for
Wing covers supported between spars and adjacent ribs are the skin with the bre orientation variation in the y-direction.
generally wide and contain several equally spaced stiffeners. When The non-linear bre orientation for each ply is expressed using
local buckling occurs, under compressive loading, repeating dis- the Lagrange polynomials method proposed by Wu et al. [7] in
placement modes occur between stiffener elements thus allowing the form,
the entire stiffened panel to be modelled by a representative sec- !
N1 Y y  yj
tion containing a single stiffener element and half a stiffener bay hy Tn 2
either side [42] as shown in Figs. 1 and 2. n0 nj
yn  yj
A symmetry condition is required to be enforced along the
skins longitudinal edges to model the repeating mode shape, this where yj and yn are the y-coordinates of reference points and the
is achieved by setting coefcient of each term, T n , is the bre angle at the specic refer-
ence point, yn . For simple interpretation of results all cases used
dw=dy 0 for model validation only consider a linear variation of bre angle
1 and hence the bre orientation reduces to
cyz 0
where w is the out-of-plane displacement of the skin in the z-direction hy T 0 2T 1  T 0 3
and cyz the transverse shear of the skin in the yz-direction. This new
boundary condition is henceforth referred to as the symmetric bound- where T 0 and T 1 are the bre orientations of the skin at the location
ary condition. It should be noted that the use of this representative sec- of the stiffener and symmetric boundary condition respectively and
tion with the symmetry condition is not valid for in-plane shear b is the width of the representative section (distance between stiff-
loading cases or skin laminates with extension-bending (B-matrix), eners) as shown in Fig. 3. The bre orientation of a VAT ply is des-
extension-shear (A16 ; A26 ) or bending-twisting (D16 ; D26 ) coupling. ignated by hT 0 jT 1 i.
When global buckling occurs the representative section no
longer represents a repeating unit as the boundary condition from 4. Prebuckling analysis
the spar creates a shallow curvature in the y-direction, jy (Fig. 1a).
Global buckling behaviour is, however, dominated by x-direction Herein, the bre orientation is limited to variations in the y-
curvature, jx , due to the energy required to bend the stiffener, direction only and the stiffened panel is therefore prismatic. For
and the shallow jy has minimal inuence on the buckling load. the loading case of end-shortening no coupling or interaction ef-
Hence, the representative section used for the local buckling is also fects exists between the skin and the stiffener and they can be

Fig. 2. Representative section in stiffened panel analysis. Coordinate systems shown are the local skin or global (xyz) and local stiffener (x0 y0 z0 ). Boundary conditions and
loadings with a are only used for determining the prebuckling stress eld and are removed for the buckling analysis.
262 B.H. Coburn et al. / Composite Structures 111 (2014) 259270

The total complementary energy is expressed in normalised

coordinates, n 2x=a and g 2y=b, and the stress function, U, is
assumed to have the following form:
Un; g U0 n; g U1 n; g 8
where U0 satises the stress distribution along the boundaries and
U1 the stress distribution in the interior region. The form of U0 is as-
sumed to be
Fig. 3. VAT linear bre angle variation for h0 j  45 i. T 0 is the bre variation along
x 0 (centre line underneath stiffener) and T 1 along y b=2 (panel longitudinal U0 n; g f1 n f2 g 9

treated separately in the prebuckling analysis. The approach for @ 2 U0 X K1

ck wck g 10
determining the skins stress distribution used herein is the same @g 2
as in Wu et al. [43] where the in-plane equilibrium equations are
expressed using Airys stress function and the condition of compat- @ 2 U0 X

ibility and prescribed displacement boundary conditions are dk wdk n 11

@n2 k0
satised through minimisation of the total complementary energy.
A brief overview of the procedure is now provided, full details can where K is the number of terms in the series, ck and dk are coef-
be found in [43]. cients of the stress function along the boundaries and wck and wdk
For the prebuckling analysis the skins loaded transverse edges are admissible functions, here Legendre polynomials are chosen
are subject to uniform end-shortening and the boundary condi- for the admissible functions. Legendre polynomials were chosen be-
tions are cause they enable localised behaviour, due to VAT, to be captured
ux a=2 Dx =2 accurately with less terms relative to periodic trigonometric func-
4 tions [45]. The interior regions stress function is expressed in the
ux a=2 Dx =2
where a is the length of the panel in the x-direction (distance be- X
P1 X
Q 1
tween rib bays), u is the skin in-plane displacement in the x-direc- U1 n; g /pq X p nY q g 12
tion and Dx the end-shortening applied to both the stiffener and p0 q0
skin. Similarly, the same uniform end-shortening is applied to the
where P and Q are the number of terms and X p and Y p are admissi-
stiffeners loaded transverse edges which have the boundary
ble functions in the x and y-directions respectively. To satisfy the
stress free condition for U1 Legendre polynomials are used with cir-
u0 x0 a=2 Dx =2 culation functions [7,46,47] for X p and Y p ,
u0 x0 a=2 Dx =2 2
X p n 1  n2 Lp n 13
0 0
where u is the stiffener in-plane displacement in the x -direction.
The skins longitudinal edges, y b=2, are constrained in y-direc- Y q g 1  g2 Lq g
tion translation, inducing biaxial compression and the boundary
condition applied is where Li is the ith term of the Legendre polynomial. Substituting
Eqs. (8)(14) into Eq. (7), evaluating the integrals with numerical
v y b=2 0 6
integration and minimising the total complementary energy with
where v is the skin in-plane displacement in the y-direction. The respect to the unknown coefcients the following set of linear equa-
stiffeners longitudinal edges along the y0 -direction are free to tions, expressed in matrix form, are obtained,
expand. 2 3
U// U/c U/d 2 / 3 2 0 3
The VAT skin considered is conned to laminates with null 6 T 76 7 6
6 U/c Ucc Ucd 7 7
B-matrix terms. The total complementary energy of the VAT skin 4 54 c 5 4 Px0 5 15
can be expressed using Airys stress function [44] as UT/d UTcd Udd d 0
2 !2 !2
ZZ 2 2 2 2
1 4a11 @ U 2a12 @ U @ U a22 @ U where for example, U/c is the factor of the unknown coefcient c
2 S @y2 @x2 @y2 @x2 that arises from minimising the total complementary energy with
!2 3 respect to / and Px0 is the constant that arises when minimising
@2 U @2 U @2U @2U @2 U 5 the total complementary energy with respect to c. Further details
a66  2a16 2  2a26 2 dydx
@x@y @y @x@y @x @x@y regarding the terms in Eq. (15) can be found in Wu et al. [43]. Solv-
0 1 ing for the coefcients the prebuckled stress distribution of the VAT
Z b=2 " 2 # Z b=2 " 2 #
@ @ U @2 U @ U @2U skin subject to uniform end-shortening is obtained.
u v dy 2
u v dyA
b=2 @y @x@y b=2 @y @x@y As the stiffener is constrained to contain only straight bre lam-
xa=2 xa=2
0 1 inates the prebuckled stress distribution is constant. The free edge
Z a=2 " 2 2
# Z a=2 " 2 2
@ U @ U @ U @ U ensures no biaxial stress state is induced in the stiffener and the
@ 2
v u dx 2
v u dxA
a=2 @x @x@y a=2 @x @x@y prebuckling stress resultant in the x-direction, N x;st: , is simply ob-
yb=2 yb=2

7 tained using the stiffener laminate equivalent Youngs modulus,

1 Ex;st: Ast: Dx
where aij are terms of the skin a A matrix and U is Airys stress Nx;st: 16
function. The in-plane displacements, u and v, along the panel
boundaries in Eq. (7) are dened as per the in-plane loading and where Ex;st: is the equivalent Youngs modulus of the stiffener
boundary conditions provided in Eqs. (4)(6). laminate in the x-direction given by Ex;st: 1=a11;st: t st: ; Ast: the
B.H. Coburn et al. / Composite Structures 111 (2014) 259270 263

M1 N1 Z
cross-sectional area of the stiffener in the yz-plane and h the height @Ln
of the stiffener blade. w Amn n2  1Lm  g2  1 dg 1 21
m0 n0

5. Buckling analysis where M and N are the number of terms in the x- and y-directions
respectively and Amn the unknown coefcients. The constant of inte-
The RayleighRitz energy method is used to solve the buckling gration of the indenite integral is zero. This series expansion en-
problem for the stiffened panel using the stress distribution ob- sures null out-of-plane displacement at the transverse edges
tained in the prebuckling analysis. The skin is modelled as a thick (n 1) and null rotation, @w=@ g 0, along the longitudinal edges
plate and the stiffener is considered with two approaches; a beam (g 1).
model and a plate model. The unknown functions for the transverse shear, cxz and cyz , are
The boundary conditions applied to the skin are identical for similarly given by:
both the beam model and plate model. In both cases the prebuck- X
E1 X
ling boundary conditions on u; u0 and v are removed for the buck- cxz Bef Le Lf 22
ling analysis. During the buckling analysis the skins loaded e0 f 0

transverse edges, x a=2, are simply supported and constrained

to have null transverse shear in the yz-direction such that X
G1 X
cyz C gh n2  1Lg g2  1Lh  23
wx a=2 cyz x a=2 0 17 g0 h0

where cyz is the transverse shear of the skin in the yz-direction. The where for cxz ; E and F are the number of terms in the x- and y-direc-
skins longitudinal edges, y b=2, are subject to the symmetric tions respectively and Bef the unknown coefcients, and for cyz ; G
boundary condition where rotation along the y-direction and trans- and H are the number of terms in the x- and y-directions respec-
verse shear in the yz-direction are null, hence we have tively and C gh the unknown coefcients.

dw 5.1. Beam stiffener model

y b=2 cyz y b=2 0 18
The total potential energy of the skin is the sum of the bending, The total potential energy of the panel when modelling the stiff-
transverse shear (xz- and yz-direction) and in-plane potential ener as beam is given by the sum of the skin and stiffener
energy, contributions,
  PTPE PTPE;skin PTPE;beam-stiffener 24
PTPE;skin Pbend: Ptrans: shear Pinplane skin
where the total potential energy of the beam stiffener is expanded
Due to the thickness, t sk: , to width, b, ratio of practical stiffened
panels potentially being as large as 1/20 transverse shear effects
can be signicant [33]. A FSDT is included in the analysis by using PTPE;beam-stiffener PEI;bend: PAG; trans: shear PGJ;tors: PEA;in-plane stiffener
a reduced bending energy term and a transverse shear energy term 25
in the total potential energy [3840,48]. Eq. (19) expanded for the
case of a VAT laminate with a FSDT is: The beam stiffeners energy terms in Eq. (25) represent an
2 !2 !2 equivalent beam that lies on the skins midplane and are the bend-
1 a=2 b=2 4 @ 2 w @ cxz @ 2 w @ cyz ing, transverse shear (xz-direction), torsional due to twisting and
PTPE;skin D11  D 22 
2 a=2 b=2 @x2 @x @y2 @y potential due to in-plane loads. The skin and the stiffener are as-
! ! sumed to be rigidly attached and no slipping is allowed between
@ w @ cxz 2
@ w @ cyz the two components. Hence, the boundary conditions applied to
@x2 @x @y2 @y the skin along this attachment line translate to the stiffener when
!2 modelled as a beam. The beam is simply supported at its ends,
@ 2 w @ cxz @ cyz
D66 2   x a=2, allowing the stiffener to rotate about the skins midplane
@x@y @y @x for global buckling modes.
! !
@ w @ cxz @ 2 w @ cxz @ cyz The bending potential energy of a Timoshenko beam is given by
2D16  2   2 3
@x2 @x @x@y @y @x
Z !2

! !# 1 a=2
6 @ 2 w @ cxz;st:
@ w @ cyz 2
@ w @ cxz @ cyz PEI;bend 4Ex;st: Ist: 
5dx 26
2D26  2   dxdy 2 @x2 @x

@y2 @y @x@y @y @x a=2

1 a=2 b=2 h  i
where Ex;st: Ist: is the exural rigidity of the beam about the y-axis
kt sk: Gxz c2xz Gyz c2yz dxdy
2 a=2 b=2 and cxz;st: the transverse shear deformation of the beam in the xz-
Z Z "  2  2 #
k a=2 b=2 @ 2 U @w @ 2 U @w @ 2 U @w @w direction. The displacement of the stiffener is constrained to be
 dxdy equal to the displacement of the skins midplane, however, the nor-
2 a=2 b=2 @y2 @x @x2 @y @x@y @x @y
mal to the midplane rotation, /xz;st: , and transverse shear displace-
ment, cxz;st: are free. In reality, the transverse shear displacement
where w is the deected shape of the skin, cxz and cyz the shear at the interface of the skin and the stiffener must be equal but for
strain in the xz- and yz-directions respectively, Dij the plate bending a FSDT an average over the depth of the section is considered and
stiffness matrix terms which vary over the skin, k the Timoshenko this is not required to be equal for the skin and stiffener.
shear factor which is taken as 5=6 for rectangular sections [39,48], Determination of the stiffeners equivalent Ex;st: Ist: requires esti-
Gxz and Gyz the transverse shear stiffness in the xz- and yz-directions mation of local neutral axis location. The neutral axis lies some-
respectively and k the loading factor. The total potential energy is where between the midplane of the skin and the mid-height of
then expressed in normalised coordinates. The unknown function the stiffener depending on the relative in-plane and exural stiff-
w, is represented by a series expansion containing Legendre polyno- ness of the skin and stiffener [49]. For most practical cases the loca-
mials and circulation functions to enforce boundary conditions, tion of the stiffener neutral axis is only slightly above the skins
264 B.H. Coburn et al. / Composite Structures 111 (2014) 259270

midplane and the assumption that the neutral axis lies on the tion factor. The stiffener buckling strain is calculated with the fol-
skins midplane is valid [25]. Thus, lowing closed-form solution [51]
tst: h
3 1 n2waves p2 D11;st: 12D66;st:
Ex;st: Ist: Ex;st 27 crit:;st:;s:s: 2
3 Ex;st: t st: a2 h
where nwaves is the number of half waves in the longitudinal direc-
The transverse shear strain energy of the beam is given by
tion and D11;st: and D66;st: are in the stiffeners local coordinate sys-
Z a=2 h i tem (x0 y0 z0 ). Determination of crit:;sk:;s:s: is not possible with a
PAG;trans:shear kAst: Gxz;st: c2xz;st: dx 28 closed-form solution and a full prebuckling and buckling analysis
2 a=2
on the unstiffened VAT skin is required. However, all stiffness
where Gxz;st: is the transverse shear stiffness of the stiffener in the matrices computed for the unstiffened VAT skin are reused in the
xz-direction. The value of Gxz;st: is in the xz-direction for the global full stiffened panel analysis and the computational costs due to this
coordinate system, however when considering the local coordinate additional step are minor.
system of the stiffener as a laminate it is the in-plane shear stiffness The potential energy due to the in-plane loading is simply given
Gx0 y0 ;st: where x0 and y0 are local coordinates of the stiffener laminate by
0 1
(Fig. 2). The layup of the stiffener web signicantly inuences the Z a=2  2

stiffeners ability to resist global transverse shear deformation, k @Ex;st: Ast: @w

PEA;inplane: 37
Gxz;st: can vary from 5 GPa (0 n ) up to 50 GPa (45 n ) for a typical 2 a=2 @x

aerospace grade prepreg. Additionally, the section over which this
shear acts is very stubby, transverse shear deformations for com- where Ex;st: Ast: is the stiffener axial stiffness.
posite plates is considered important for ratios larger than 1/20, The introduction of a beam into the model only requires one
for the case of blade stiffeners the ratio can be larger than 5/1 additional shape function, compared to an unstiffened panel, for
and transverse shear effects in the xz-direction can signicantly re- the stiffener transverse shear in the xz-direction, cxz;st: , which is gi-
duce global buckling loads. ven in series expansion by
The torsional restraint of the stiffener is taken into account by X

treating the stiffener as a De Saint Venant torsion bar [48] and cxz;st: Dt Lt 38
determining the energy due to the beam rotation,
0 1 where T is the number of terms and Dt the unknown coefcients.
Z a=2   2

1 @GJ @ @w  c
Adx Substituting Eqs. (19)(23)and (25)(38) and the prebuckling solu-
PGJ;tors: yz
2 a=2 @x @y
tions, U and N x;st: , into Eq. (24), evaluating the integrals with numer-
ical integration and minimising with respect to all coefcients of
where GJ is the effective torsional restraint. For thin blade stiffeners the four shape functions, Amn ; Bef ; C gh ; Dt , a set of linear equations
(t st: =h < 1=10 GJ is given by is obtained which are expressed in matrix form,

t st: h Ksk: Kst: kLsk: Lst: A 0 39

GJ Gxz;st: 30
3 where Ksk: contains bending and transverse shear stiffness matrices
For thick blade stiffeners GJ is given by Nemeth [50] as of the VAT panel, Kst: the bending, transverse shear and torsional
stiffness matrices of the stiffener, Lsk: and Lst: the stability matrices
GJ Geq:;st: J eq:;st: 31 of the skin and stiffener due to the in-plane stress elds respectively
with and the vector A the coefcients of all the shape functions,
q A Amn Bef Cgh Dt T 40
Geq: Gxz;st: Gxy;st: 32
The critical buckling load is given by the lowest eigenvalue of
 12  12 Eq. (39) which is then used with the prebuckling solutions to
Gxz;st: t3st: h 96 tst: Gxz;st:
J eq: 1 5 determining the buckling load.
Gxy;st: 3 p h Gxy;st:
"  1 !#! 5.2. Stiffener plate model
1  1p pph Gxy;st: 2
 tanh 33
p5 2t st: Gxz;st:
p1;2;3;... The stiffener plate model is only applicable to local buckling
modes, with the attachment line connecting the skins midplane
where xy- and xz-directions are in the global coordinate system. Ne-
and stiffeners midplane constrained in out-of-plane displacement.
meths formulation for determining GJ takes into account shear
Modelling the stiffener as a plate the total potential energy is ex-
deformation in the xy-direction of the stiffener and is used, unless
pressed as the sum of the contributions from the skin and stiffener
otherwise stated, for all cases presented in this study.
with an additional penalty term,
The above expressions for GJ are strictly only valid when no ax-
ial load is applied to the stiffener, to account for an axial stiffener PTPE PTPE;skin PTPE;platestiffener PTPE;penalty 41
load a reduction factor is applied to GJ [1517],
The penalty term is required to enforce compatibility of rotation
GJred: GJ  r 34 at the line of attachment between the skin and stiffener plate ele-
ments. The total potential energy of the stiffener, similarly to the
skin, is the sum of the potential energy terms for the bending,
crit:;sk:;s:s: transverse shear and in-plane loads,
r 1 35
crit:;st:;s:s: PTPE;platestiffener Pbend: Ptrans:shear Pinplane stiffener 42

where crit:;st:;s:s: and crit:;sk:;s:s: are the buckling strains of the stiffener As the stiffener is now being modelled as a plate additional
blade and skin respectively assuming both are simply supported boundary conditions are required. The loaded stiffeners edges,
along the skin-stiffener attachment line and r is the torsional reduc- x0 a=2, are simply supported in the stiffeners local coordinate
B.H. Coburn et al. / Composite Structures 111 (2014) 259270 265

system, see Fig. 2, and constrained to have null transverse shear in where I  J; !  Z and U  V are the number of terms in the x0 - and
the y0 z0 -direction. This boundary condition simulates the stiffened y0 -directions for the wst: ; cx0 z0 ;st: and cy0 z0 ;st: series respectively and
panel being connected to another stiffened panel section in the Xij ; btz and suv are the unknown coefcients for the wst: , cx0 z0 ;st:
x-direction and is given by and cy0 z0 ;st: series respectively.
wst: x0 a=2 cy0 z0 ;st: x0 a=2 0 43 The penalty term in Eq. (41) is analogous to a torsional spring
located along the skin-stiffener attachment line [24,25] and is gi-
where wst: is the stiffener plate out-of-plane displacement in the ven by
z0 -direction and cy0 z0 ;st: the stiffener transverse shear in the 2 3
y0 z0 -direction. Along the skin-stiffener attachment line, y y0 0, kpenalty a=2 4 dw
dw st:

Ppenalty  cyz

  cy0 z0 ;st:

5dx 49
both the skin and stiffener are constrained in out-of-plane 2 a=2 dy y0 dy0 y0 0
where kpenalty is the spring torsional stiffness. The value of kpenalty
wy 0 0;
44 was determined by increasing the order of kpenalty until convergence
wst: y 0 0 was achieved, in this study 1:0  106 N was found to be sufcient to
To force a node in the skin at y 0 the constant 1 in the force the compatibility condition.
deected shape function, Eq. (21), is replaced with a 0. The solution procedure hereafter is the same as for the beam
The plate stiffener total potential energy, Eq. (42), is expanded stiffener model. Substituting Eqs. (19)(23)and (42)(49) and the
to prebuckling solutions, U and N x;st: , into Eq. (41), evaluating the
2 !2 integrals with numerical integration and minimising with respect
Z Z 2
1 a=2 h @c
PTPE;platestiffener 4D11;st: @ wst:  x0 z0 ;st: to all six coefcients of the shape functions, Amn ; Bef ; C gh ,
2 a=2 0 @x02 @x0 Xij ; btz ; suv , a set of linear equations in the matrix form of Eq.
!2 (39) are obtained, where Kst: now contains the bending and trans-
@ 2 wst: @ cy0 z0 ;st: verse shear stiffness matrices of the stiffener modelled as a plate
D22;st:  and Lst: is the stiffener stability matrix due to the in-plane stress
@y02 @y0
! ! eld. The vector A contains the coefcients of all the shape
@ 2 wst: @ cx0 z0 ;st: @ 2 wst: @ cy0 z0 ;st: functions,
@x02 @x0 @y02 @y0
!2 A Amn Bef Cgh Xij btz suv T 50
@ 2 wst: @ cx0 z0 ;st: @ cy0 z0 ;st:
D66;st: 2 0 0   The critical buckling load is given by the lowest eigenvalue of
@x @y @y0 @x0 Eq. (39).
@ wst: @ cx0 z0 ;st:
2D16;st:  6. Finite element analysis
@x02 @x0 45
@ 2 wst: @ cx0 z0 ;st: @ cy0 z0 ;st: FEA for the prebuckling and buckling analysis was performed
 2 0 0  
@x y @y0 @x0 with Abaqus. A script was developed to allow specication of bre
! orientation for individual elements as per Eq. (2), simulating a VAT
@ 2 wst: @ cy0 z0 ;st:
2D26;st:  laminate. The S4R shell element was chosen for the skin and the
@y02 @y0 compatible S4 shell element for the stiffener. The S4 element
@ 2 wst: @ cx0 z0 ;st: @ cy0 z0 ;st: was required for the stiffener due to S4R elements experiencing
0 0
 2 0 0   dx dy hour-glassing when subject to in-plane bending as is the case for
@x y @y0 @x0
Z Z stiffener global buckling.
1 a=2 h h  i
0 0 Uniform end-shortening to the skin and stiffener transverse
ktst: Gx0 z0 ;st: c2x0 z0 ;st: Gy0 z0 ;st: c2y0 z0 ;st: dx dy
2 a=2 0 edges was applied as stress perturbation only, thereby allowing
Z Z " 2 # the stiffener to rotate about the skins midplane during the buck-
kNx0 ;st: a=2 h @wst: 0 0
dx dy ling analysis. The boundary conditions applied as stress perturba-
2 a=2 0 @x0
tion only (prebuckling) were
where cx0 z0 ;st: and cy0 z0 ;st: are the shear strain in the x0 z0 - and y0 z0 -direc- ux a=2 u0 x0 a=2 Dx =2
tions respectively, Dij;st: the stiffener plate bending stiffness matrix ux a=2 u0 x0 a=2 Dx =2 51
terms (constant) and Gx0 z0 ;0 st: and Gy0 z0 ;st: the transverse shear stiffness
in the x0 z0 - and y0 z0 -directions respectively, all in the stiffeners local
v y b=2 0
coordinate system. Similarly to the analysis procedure for the skin, For the buckling analysis all stress perturbation (prebuckling)
the total potential energy is expressed in normalised coordinates, boundary conditions were relaxed. Simply supported boundary
n0 2x0 =a and g0 y0 =h, and the unknown functions wst: , cx0 z0 ;st: conditions were applied on the loaded skin transverse edges and
and cy0 z0 ;st: are expanded into the following series, satisfying the re- additionally the rotation of the normal to the midplane in the yz-
quired boundary conditions, direction, /yz , was set to zero. Boundary conditions for the trans-
I1 X
J1 verse shear proles were unable to be directly assigned in Abaqus,
wst: Xij n02  1Li g0 Lj  46 instead the rotation of the normal to the midplane in conjunction
i0 j0 with the out-of-plane displacement along edges were used to
achieve the same effect. The boundary conditions along the skin
!1 X
Z 1
transverse edges were
cx0 z0 ;st: btz Lt Lz 47
t0 z0 wx a=2 /yz x a=2 0 52
U1 X
V1 The skins longitudinal edges, y b=2, are subject to the symmet-
cy0 z0 ;st: suv n02  1Lu g0 Lv  48 ric boundary condition where /yz is set to zero
u0 v 0
266 B.H. Coburn et al. / Composite Structures 111 (2014) 259270

/yz y b=2 0 53 7. Results and discussion

For the cases neglecting transverse shear effects setting /yz to zero
The stiffened panel dimensions used for model validation were
is equivalent to setting dw=dy to zero. The loaded stiffeners edges,
based on Nagendra et al. [29,30]; width (distance between stiffener
x0 a=2, are simply supported in the stiffeners local coordinate
bays) 200 mm, length 750 mm and stiffener height 60 mm. Mate-
system and constrained to have null rotation of the normal to the
rial properties of the carbon bre unidirectional prepreg selected
midplane in the y0 z0 -direction, /y0 z0 ;st: and the boundary conditions
for the study are provided in Table 1. A FEA mesh density of
320  60  20 elements in the x-, y- and z-directions respectively
wst: x0 a=2 /y0 z0 ;st: x0 a=2 0 54 was selected to achieve converged results. Four layups were con-
sidered for the skin, 45 , quasi-isotropic (QI), VAT h0 j  45 i
The prebuckling stiffness and buckling loads were determined by and VAT h0 j  90 i and three layups for the stiffener 45 , QI
summing nodal forces along the skin and stiffener shell edges at and 0 . Skin and stiffener thicknesses were xed by rst designing
the location of the applied displacement. a 45 skin and QI stiffener panel aiming for local and global buck-
ling to occur at N x;smeared  1:0 kN/mm where N x;smeared is the total
Table 1 load taken by the skin and stiffener per unit panel width. The cho-
Carbon bre unidirectional prepreg mechanical properties used for case studies. sen thickness for the skin and stiffener was 8 mm.
E11 (GPa) E22 (GPa) m12 () G12 (GPa) G13 G23 (GPa) The layups used for the VAT and 45 laminates were specially
161 11.38 0.32 5.17 3.98 orthotropic h; hAS consisting of eight 1 mm thick layers, thus
eliminating extension-shear (A16 ; A26 ), bending-stretching (Bij )
and bending-twisting couplings (D16 ; D26 ). For QI laminates equiv-
alent smeared properties were used to remove stacking sequence
The analytical model initially used 5 terms for prebuckling
shape functions P  Q  K, 7 terms for skin and stiffener out-of-
plane deected shape functions M  N; I  J and 5 terms for skin
and stiffener transverse shear shape functions
E  F; G  H; T; !  Z; U  V. However, for cases where conver-
gence was not achieved the number of terms was increased.
The speed of the current semi-analytical method is implemen-
tation and platform specic, however, for all cases in this paper
the computation of the results with the analytical method imple-
mented in MATLAB R2012a was found to require less computa-
tional time than Abaqus FEA. The number of degrees of freedom
used in the analytical model for the buckling analysis ranged from
as little as 49M  N 7) for straight bre cases neglecting trans-
verse shear with the beam stiffener model up to
1026M  N; I  J 15 and E  F; G  H; !  Z; U  V 12 com-
pared to the FEA having 156,006 degrees of freedom.

7.1. Prebuckling
Fig. 4. Normalised in-plane stress resultant distribution along skin and stiffener
edges for VAT h0 j  45 i skin and 0 stiffener case. Analytical results are obtained
The analytical prebuckling stiffness for all congurations was
using K 5 and K 10 for the number of terms in the stress function, U0 , along the
boundary. Due to the sections being prismatic there is no variation in the central found to be in close alignment with FEA with less than 0.3% error
region and results are independent of the number of terms of P and Q. The following in all cases. Due to all cases being prismatic, the in-plane forces
stress resultants not shown on the plot are: N xy;sk: N y;st: N xy;st: 0. per unit length in the y- and xy-direction, N y and N xy respectively,

Table 2
Comparison of local buckling loads between analytical models and FEA.

Layup FEA Analy.: Beam with GJ Analy.: Beam with GJ red: Analy.: Full plate model
N x;local N x;local r N x;local N x;local
Skin Stiff. (kN/mm) (kN/mm) Error () (kN/mm) Error (kN/mm) Error (%)
45 45 0.96 0.97 +0.99% 0.95 0.96 +0.63% 0.96 0.06
45 QI 1.14 1.16 +1.80% 0.70 1.14 +0.43% 1.14 0.01
45 0 1.53a a a a a a
1.53a +0.03a
QI 45 2.34 2.38 +2.05% 0.91 2.37 +1.49% 2.33 0.23
QI QI 2.53 2.70 +6.77% 0.47 2.55 +1.16% 2.52 0.07
QI 0 2.49a a a a a a
2.51a,b +0.92a,b
h0 j  45 i 45 1.88 1.94 +3.03% 0.96 1.93 +2.20% 1.90b +0.70b
h0 j  45 i QI 1.91 2.01 +4.99% 0.75 1.94 +1.65% 1.92 +0.39
h0 j  45 i 0 1.98a a a a a a
1.99a,b +0.31a,b
h0 j  90 i 45 2.69 2.76b +2.57%b 0.89b 2.73b +1.15%b 2.68b 0.43b
h0 j  90 i QI 2.92 3.13b +7.15 %b 0.34b 2.96b +1.45%b 2.92b 0.01b
h0 j  90 i 0 2.10a a a a a a
2.14a,c +1.70a,c
Error: <8% <3% <2%
Local buckling of the stiffener blade occurred prior to skin buckling, this buckling mode is not predicted with the beam model.
Number of terms increased for convergence, PQK 10, MNIJ 10 and EFGH!ZUVT 8.
Number of terms increased for convergence, PQK 12; MNIJ 15 and EFGH!ZUVT 12.
B.H. Coburn et al. / Composite Structures 111 (2014) 259270 267

Fig. 5. Local buckling mode shapes for VAT h0 j  45 i skin and QI stiffener panel. (a) FEA. (b) Analytical model with beam stiffener (GJred: ). (c) Analytical model with plate

are constant over the planform and only a variation in N x occurs

along the y-direction. Fig. 4 shows the N x distribution over the skin
planform for the VAT h0 j  45 i skin and 0 stiffener case for the
analytical model and FEA. The analytical model error for constant
in-plane stress resultants was less than 0.3%. Whilst the error in
the maximum N x;skin for the VAT laminates was less than 3% and
1% for 5 and 10 terms in the prebuckling shape functions

7.2. Local buckling

Local buckling results for different congurations are provided

in Table 2 for the beam stiffener model (with and without the GJ
reduction factor), the plate stiffener model and FEA. The rst local
buckling mode shape for the VAT h0 j  45 i skin and QI stiffener
panel is provided in Fig. 5 for FEA and analytical models. The rst
local buckling mode for all 0 stiffener cases was due to stiffener
blade buckling and is not captured with the beam stiffener model.
The skin and stiffener transverse shear proles obtained with the
plate stiffener model and FEA are provided in Figs. 6 and 7 respec-
tively for the VAT h0 j  45 i skin and QI stiffener panel rst local
buckling mode. Qualitatively it can be seen that the analytical
model accurately captures the FSDT proles compared to the
FEA. The transverse shear prole in the y0 z0 -direction for the stiff-
ener was largely dominated by numerical noise for both the ana-
lytical model and FEA.
The beam model using the thick laminate and unreduced, due
to axial loading, GJ (Eq. (31)) has less than <8% error in local buck-
ling for all cases, the highest error being for cases where the stiff-
ener blades buckling eigenvalue, as per Eq. (36), was close to the
skins critical eigenvalue as indicated by values of r less than 1 in
Table 2. In these cases, the consideration of the stiffener blade hav-
ing a tendency to buckle out-of-plane in the local coordinate sys-
Fig. 6. Transverse shear prole for the rst local buckling mode of the VAT
tem is not considered. Including the reduction factor and using h0 j  45 i skin and QI stiffener panel in normalised coordinates. (a) Analytical plate
GJ red: (Eq. (35)) in the analyses reduced the local buckling error stiffener model cxz . (b) FEA cxz . (c) Analytical plate stiffener model cyz . (d) FEA cyz .
for all cases below 3%, those with the lowest r and corresponding
highest error being most affected. The analytical model, consider-
ing both the skin and stiffener as plates, predicted all local buckling with FEA, removing in turn each of the aforementioned effects with
loads to within 2% error and was able to capture buckling modes results provided in Table 3.
originating from stiffener blade buckling. The plate stiffener model The effect of removing the torsional restraint, simulated by
has an increased computational cost compared to the beam stiff- replacing the stiffener with a simply supported line, decreased
ener model due to the additional shape functions and larger stiff- the local buckling load by up to 18%. All analytical models, being
ness matrix. However, the plate stiffener model is expected to be identical for null torsional restraint, captured this behaviour within
accurate for a wider range of congurations and different plate 1% of FEA results. This indicates that the current model is able to
boundary conditions when compared to the beam stiffener model accurately capture the buckling of simply supported thick VAT
and can allow VAT laminates in both the skin and stiffener to be plates where shear deformations are signicant and any error in
explored. the full model with the stiffener is not due to FSDT in the skin.
To gain an understanding of the magnitude of the stiffener tor- Removing the FSDT for the skin or stiffener was achieved with
sional restraint, skin transverse shear and stiffener transverse FEA by using a combination of S3 (thick shell) and STRI3 (thin
shear effects on the local buckling load, analyses were performed shell) elements in Abaqus. Removing transverse shear of the skin
268 B.H. Coburn et al. / Composite Structures 111 (2014) 259270

considered, however, it is expected that the validity of this simple

method may not hold for a wider range of cases. The stiffener plate
model is expected to be applicable for a wide range of cases, albeit
with increased computational costs.

7.3. Global buckling

Global buckling analytical results are obtained using the beam

stiffener model which captures out-of-plane (global z-direction)
stiffener displacement by replacing the stiffener with a one-dimen-
sional beam attached on the skins midplane. During prebuckling
analysis both the skin and stiffener are subject to the uniform
end-shortening, however for the buckling analysis the stiffener is
free rotate about the skins midplane. Global buckling results com-
Fig. 7. Stiffener x0 z0 -direction transverse shear, cx0 z0 ;st: , prole for the rst local pared to FEA are provided in Table 4 and the rst global mode
buckling mode of the VAT h0 j  45 i skin and QI stiffener panel in normalised
shape for the VAT h0 j  45 i skin and QI stiffener case illustrated
coordinates. (a) Analytical plate stiffener model. (b) FEA.
in Fig. 8.
For cases with matching stiffener laminates changing the skin
only increased the buckling load by up to 4% and was captured laminate had little effect on the global buckling load, N x;smeared ,
accurately by the beam stiffener model, with GJ red: , and plate stiff- which differed by less than 9% between the skin laminates. How-
ener model within 2% and 1% respectively. However, the beam ever, the difference in buckling eigenvalue (end-shortening) dif-
stiffener model error using the unreduced GJ was up to 7%. Remov- fered between cases of xed stiffener laminate by up to 90%. This
ing the FSDT from the stiffener resulted in an increase in buckling
load by up to 6% for the FEA. Removing transverse shear from the
beam stiffener model was achieved by using the thin laminate
expression for GJ provided in Eq. (30). The beam stiffener model Table 4
using the reduced GJ was able to match FEA within 4% when stiff- Comparison of global buckling results between the analytical beam model and FEA.

ener transverse shear was neglected, whilst the plate stiffener Layup FEA (kN/mm) Analytical (kN/mm)
model within 1%. Skin Stiff. kglo: N x;glo: N x;glo: Error (%)
All three effects investigated (torsional restraint, skin transverse
45 45 1.54 0.92 0.95 +3.21
shear and stiffener transverse shear) introduce signicant error if
45 QI 3.46 2.54 2.67 +5.07
disregarded and should be captured for practical cases of stiffened 45 0 3.72 3.92 4.13 +5.37
panels. The beam stiffener model using GJred: has less error in all QI 45 1.19 0.94 0.97 +3.20
cases compared to the beam stiffener model using the unreduced QI QI 2.91 2.70 2.87 +6.34
GJ, indicating that neglecting stiffener loading when considering QI 0 3.31 4.13 4.46 +8.00
h0 j  45 i 45 0.80 0.97 1.01 +3.48
torsional restraint can be a signicant source of error. h0 j  45 i QI 1.95 2.64 2.81a +6.54a
The majority of the local buckling error for the beam stiffener h0 j  45 i 0 2.31 3.87 4.23a +9.46a
model is expected to be due to difculty in accurately capturing h0 j  90 i 45 1.28 0.95 0.98a +3.36a
the stiffener torsional restraint. More specically, determining a h0 j  90 i QI 3.15 2.75 2.94a +6.91a
h0 j  90 i 0 3.53 4.21 4.67a +8.46a
value for GJ which is valid for axially loaded stiffeners with trans-
verse shear deformations. Nemeths GJ formulation (Eq. (35)) for Error <10%
thick sections used in conjunction with a linear reduction factor a
Number of terms increased for convergence, PQK 10; MN 10 and
due to axial loading provides accurate results for the cases EFGHT 8.

Table 3
Effect of stiffener torsional restraint, skin transverse shear and stiffener transverse shear on FEA local buckling results. The value in the parenthesis is the error compared to the
full FEA including all effects.

Layup N x;local (kN/mm)

Skin Stiff. Full model No torsional restraint No skin transverse shear No stiffener transverse shear
45 45 0.96 0.90 (6.23%) 0.98 2:74% 0.98 2:16%
45 QI 1.14 1.10 2:83% 1.17 2:66% 1.14 1:02%
45 0 1.53a 1.57 (+2.48%)a 1.53 (+0.14%)a
QI 45 2.34 2.07 11:58% 2.43 3:93% 2.40 2:70%
QI QI 2.53 2.42 3:97% 2.61 3:29% 2.58 2:17%
QI 0 2.49a 2.52 (+1.27%)a 2.57 (+3.14%)a
h0 j  45 i 45 1.88 1.56 17:02% 1.91 1:26% 1.99 5:38%
h0 j  45 i QI 1.91 1.74 8:93% 1.93 1:18% 1.96 2:80%
h0 j  45 i 0 1:98a 2.00 (+1.21%)a 2.00 (+1.15%)a
h0 j  90 i 45 2.69 2.41 10:46% 2.77 2:84% 2.80 3:82%
h0 j  90 i QI 2.92 2.86 1:84% 2.99 2:49% 2.98 1:98%
h0 j  90 i 0 2.10a 2.11 (+0.51%)a 2.19 (+4.45%)a
Error range from full FEA 18% ! 1% 0% ! 5% 0% ! 6%
Analytical error beam stiffener (GJ) <1% <7% <7%
Analytical error beam stiffener (GJred: ) <1% <2% <4%
Analytical error plate stiffener <1% <1% <1%
Local buckling of the stiffener blade occurred prior to skin buckling. Analytical model errors are compared to FEA when neglecting effects.
B.H. Coburn et al. / Composite Structures 111 (2014) 259270 269

Fig. 8. Global buckling mode shapes for VAT h0 j  45 i skin and QI stiffener panel. (a) FEA. (b) Analytical model with beam stiffener.

behaviour indicates that whilst the stiffener alone primarily dic- Results for the analytical models and FEA (Abaqus) were ob-
tates the buckling load it is the overall in-plane stiffness of the pa- tained for selected cases of straight bre and VAT laminates. For
nel (skin and stiffener) which must be considered when practical congurations the capturing of transverse shear and tor-
determining the buckling strain. sional restraint effects where found to be necessary in obtaining
The inclusion of transverse shear deformation in the xz-direc- accurate results. The beam stiffener model local buckling error
tion (global coordinate system) for the stiffener signicantly af- was less than 3% compared to FEA whilst the plate stiffener model
fected results. The transverse shear modulus (xz-direction) of the error was less than 2% compared to FEA. The plate model enabled
stiffener in Eq. (28) is the local in-plane shear modulus (x0 y0 -direc- local modes originating from stiffener blade buckling to be cap-
tion) of the stiffener laminate and hence is dependant on stacking tured and allows the possibility of VAT blade stiffener laminates
sequence. For the material system used this shear modulus can to be explored. However, the plate stiffener model has addtional
range from 5 GPa for a 0 laminate up to 42 GPa for a 45 lami- shape functions and consequently an increased computational cost
nate. Maximising Ex;st: Ist: for global buckling, for xed geometry, compared to the beam model. Global buckling analysis was per-
is achieved by increasing the proportion of 0 plies in the laminate formed using the beam stiffener model with error for the analytical
and hence transverse shear deformations can become signicant. model ranging from 3% to 10% compared to FEA.
For the case of 0 stiffeners the transverse shear deformation re- The developed analytical model provides an accurate alterna-
duces the buckling load by up to 50%. tive to the computationally expensive FEA and is therefore suitable
The assumption of the stiffeners neutral axis being located at for design and optimisation of stiffened VAT panels. Future work
the skins midplane is expected to be the main source of error in will be undertaken to include the stiffener foot in the analysis, im-
global buckling results. In reality, it can be located anywhere be- prove the estimation of the location of the stiffener local neutral
tween the skins midplane and mid-height of the stiffener. For axis, trial a wider range of cases and boundary conditions and per-
xed dimensions and skin laminate the neutral axis shifts away form optimisation studies on the buckling of stiffened VAT panels.
from the skins midplane with increasing Ex;st: resulting in an in-
creased error in the global buckling load for the current model. This Acknowledgements
is evidenced by switching, for any xed skin laminate, from a 45
to QI to 0 stiffener laminate, i.e. increasing Ex;st: , in Table 4. Im- The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the EPSRC
proved estimations of Ex;st: Ist: may be obtained by extending the ap- under its ACCIS Doctoral Training Centre Grant, EP/G036772/1.
proach of Seide [49] who considered the relative stiffness and
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