Capturing the Energy Absorbing Mechanisms of Composite Structures under Crash Loading
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As fiber reinforced composite material systems become increasingly utilized in primary aircraft and automotive structures, the need to understand their contribution to the crashworthiness of the structure is of great interest to meet safety certification requirements. The energy absorbing behavior of a composite structure, however, is not easily predicted due to the great complexity of the failure mechanisms that occur within the material. Challenges arise both in the experimental characterization and in the numerical modeling of the material/structure combination. At present, there is no standardized test method to characterize the energy absorbing capability of composite materials to aide crashworthy structural design. In addition, although many commercial finite element analysis codes exist and offer a means to simulate composite failure initiation and propagation, these models are still under development and refinement. As more metallic structures are replaced by composite structures, the need for both experimental guidelines to characterize the energy absorbing capability of a composite structure, as well as guidelines for using numerical tools to simulate composite materials in crash conditions has become a critical matter. This body of research addresses both the experimental characterization of the energy absorption mechanisms occurring in composite materials during crushing, as well as the numerical simulation of composite materials undergoing crushing. In the experimental investigation, the specific energy absorption (SEA) of a composite material system is measured using a variety of test element geometries, such as corrugated plates and tubes. Results from several crush experiments reveal that SEA is not a constant material property for laminated composites, and varies significantly with the geometry of the test specimen used. The variation of SEA measured for a single material system requires that crush test data must be generated for a range of different test geometries in order to define the range of its energy absorption capability. Further investigation from the crush tests has led to the development of a direct link between geometric features of the crush specimen and its resulting SEA. Through micrographic analysis, distinct failure modes are shown to be guided by the geometry of the specimen, and subsequently are shown to directly influence energy absorption. A new relationship between geometry, failure mode, and SEA has been developed. This relationship has allowed for the reduction of the element-level crush testing requirement to characterize the composite material energy absorption capability. In the numerical investigation, the LS-DYNA composite material model MAT54 is selected for its suitability to model composite materials beyond failure determination, as required by crush simulation, and its capability to remain within the scope of ultimately using this model for large-scale crash simulation. As a result of this research, this model has been thoroughly investigated in depth for its capacity to simulate composite materials in crush, and results from several simulations of the element-level crush experiments are presented. A modeling strategy has been developed to use MAT54 for crush simulation which involves using the experimental data collected from the coupon- and element-level crush tests to directly calibrate the crush damage parameter in MAT54 such that it may be used in higher-level simulations. In addition, the source code of the material model is modified to improve upon its capability. The modifications include improving the elastic definition such that the elastic response to multi-axial load cases can be accurately portrayed simultaneously in each element, which is a capability not present in other composite material models. Modifications made to the failure determination and post-failure model have newly emphasized the post-failure stress degradation scheme rather than the failure criterion which is traditionally considered the most important composite material model definition for crush simulation. The modification efforts have also validated the use of the MAT54 failure criterion and post-failure model for crash modeling when its capabilities and limitations are well understood, and for this reason guidelines for using MAT54 for composite crush simulation are presented. This research has effectively (a) developed and demonstrated a procedure that defines a set of experimental crush results that characterize the energy absorption capability of a composite material system, (b) used the experimental results in the development and refinement of a composite material model for crush simulation, (c) explored modifying the material model to improve its use in crush modeling, and (d) provided experimental and modeling guidelines for composite structures under crush at the element-level in the scope of the Building Block Approach.