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Compuws & Sfructures Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 397-403, 1990 004s7949/90 s3.00 + 0.

Printed in Gnat Britain. PergFmm Press plc



K. H. I-IA
Centre for Building Studies, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3G lM8

(Receiued 17 October 1989)

Abstract-Many finite element models have been proposed for the analysis of sandwich plates. In general,
these elements can be classified into two broad streams. The first is based on the assumed filament
approach, and the second on the assumed-stress hybrid approach. Within each stream, the characteristics
of the elements vary greatly in terms of the formulation complexity, accuracy and applicability. An
overview is given of the state-of-the-art finite element analysis applied to sandwich plate structures.

INTRODUCTION The paper will progress in the following manner.

First, some general considerations in the analysis will
Sandwich construction is a special class of laminates be discussed, then the existing finite element models,
where the inner layers are often thicker and com- classified in accordance with their formulation
posed of more flexible materials. Common con: approach and functional use, will be presented.
figurations may consist of a single core bonded to two Undoubtedly, a survey of this type will not do justice
stiff facings, or multiple cores with multiple facings. to al1 contributions, particularly with the theoretical
Half-sandwich or open faced canstruction has only developments in the wider field of laminate construc-
one core and one facing. The structural efficiency tion, and for which the author apologizes.
achieved by separating the stiff facings with a thick
core of low density material exacts a certain toll in
terms of increased transverse (thickness) shear fiexi-
bility and increased susceptibility to local instability; This section discusses the various aspects that
these are two issues among many that confront the underlie the choice of a particular analysis technique
designer. or element.
Transverse shear deformations are associated with
the bending behaviour of sandwich plate structures, Efects of transverseshear deformations
pa~icularly when the inner layers are thick and of Transverse shear defo~ations occur to a certain
more flexible material. Because of this characteristic, extent in any plate subjected to transverse loading,
classical thin plate ‘KirchhofI’ elements are not but they are more significant in thick isotropic or
applicable. Many finite element models have been laminated composite plates and in sandwich plates
proposed for the analysis of sandwich plates. In with soft cores. It is well known that they have no
general, these elements can be classified into two effects on the stress resultants in simply supported
broad streams. The first is based on the assumed rectangular isotropic sandwich plates subjected to
displa~ment approach, and the second on the uniform loading or edge moments. In most
assumed-stress hybrid approach. Within each stream, other situations, the stress distributions can be very
the characteristics of the elements vary greatly different from those obtained with thin plate
in terms of formulation complexity, accuracy and Kirchhoff theory.
applicability. Before embarking on a complex analysis, the
It is the purpose of this paper to give an overview analyst is well advised to ascertain whether the effects
of the state-of-the-art finite element analysis of of transverse shear deformations are significant
sandwich plate structures. The underlying assump- enough to warrant the extra analysis-effort. A rule of
tions of the elements will be discussed and their range thumb for preliminary design is that such effects can
of applicability indicated. The information presented be neglected if eqn (1) is satisfied [l].
will be of use to researchers in the field as well as to
designers interested in a particular type of sandwich SL2
- > loo,
construction. The primary interest will be on the D
analysis of the overail behaviour of sandwich plates
and shells rather than on the local instability where S and D are the shear and bending stiffnesses,
phenomena. respectively, and L is the length of the beam or plate.

398 K. H. HA

These material parameters can be derived for any plates of isotropic facings. The various degrees of
configuration of sandwich construction (see, for approximation are classified below to facilitate later
example, [2, 9). reference.
1. General assumptions. These are common to
The type of nodal degrees of freedom
most formulations: (a) the transverse deflection is
Simple finite elements, possessing only the basic constant across the thickness; and (b) perfect bonding
geometrical nodal degrees of freedom (e.g. mid-plane between layers (the effects of ‘elastic interlayer slips’
translations and section rotations which are easily on sandwich beam-columns were discussed by Fazio
transformed) are suitable for the analysis of three- et a1.[5]).
dimensional systems composed of panels meeting 2. Materialproperties. Materials for the facing and
at an angle, e.g. folded plates, and panelized core can be: (a) isotropic; (b) orthotropic; or (c)
construction. Finite element models with additional anisotropic.
degrees of freedom such as curvatures, higher order 3. Stress distribution in facing section. (a) Thin
derivatives of displacements or shear strains are facing theory: the face is treated as a solid membrane,
therefore more suitable for the analysis of flat plates i.e. constant a,, by, Tag. (b) Thick facing theory: the
or shells. Also, these elements can be very accurate, face is treated as a classical thin plate to allow for
particularly when interlaminar shear stresses are of stretching and local bending, i.e. linear distribution of
special interest. Q,, aY, rxY.(c) All five StreSS components o,, au, txy,
Txz3 tyl are defined, and are often allowed to vary
Special problems
across the layer thickness.
Since interlaminar shear stresses are continuous 4. Stress distribution in the core section. (a) Flexible
across layers, they should not be evaluated using an core: constant transverse shear stresses T,,, Tag. (b)
individual layer’s elastic constants, but rather by Stiff core: similar to 3(c) above.
other means, such as equilibrium consideration, or 5. Displacement variation. The approximations so
by using higher order assumed-stress elements. A far are concerned with individual layer behaviour.
different problem, involving ‘concentrated’ forces, Since the layers are bonded together, certain quan-
where the local transverse shear stresses are discon- tities such as interlaminar shear stresses and displace-
tinuous, can also be tackled by more sophisticated ments are continuous across layers. This, combined
elements. with the need to enforce strain compatibility within
An additional complication arises in the case of the layers (as required in the displacement finite
sandwich construction with unsymmetrical layers, element formulation), necessitates an assumed kin-
of which half-sandwich is the simplest type, where ematic deformation mode for the plate section. (a)
bending and in-plane stretching are coupled Linear variation (Fig. 1): the normal remains straight
(although such coupling tends to reduce the plate across the entire cross-section of the plate, but not
effective stiffness, other considerations may prevail). necessarily perpendicular to the middle plane. (b)
In finite element analysis, this coupling must be Piece-wise linear variation with partial continuity
included at the formulation stage, since a simple (Fig. 2). (c) Piece-wise linear variation with full
superposition of the bending and stretching continuity (Fig. 3). (d) Quadratic or cubic variation
behaviours is invalid for this case. to allow for warping of the cross-section.
In general, finite element solutions for transverse The discontinuity of the inplane displacements at
shear stresses and edge reactions are less accurate the layer interface shown in Fig. 2 arises from the
than those for deflections and moments; this is neglect of transverse shear deformations in the stiff
particularly true in the displacement formulation of layers. In addition, if the small displacement u* in the
sandwich and Mindlin plate elements. stiff layers is considered then we have the so-called
The specification of boundary conditions for many thick facing theory [i.e. assumption 3(b)], otherwise
refined elements can be complicated because of the the theory is for thin facings [i.e. assumption 3(a)].
numerous degrees of freedom assigned across the This discussion also illustrates the interdependency
plate thickness. For sandwich construction with rigid between the various assumptions.
edge inserts or stiffeners, compatibility requires
special consideration. It is unfortunate that develop-
ers of finite element models rarely address these
practical matters.

Assumptions in sandwich plate formulations
The variety of assumptions used in sandwich plate
formulation can be confusing. Obviously, the more uo -
sophisticated formulations make fewer assumptions
at the cost of more complexity and analysis-effort.
A paper by Cook [4] investigates the effects of _TW,X

some of these assumptions for three-layer sandwich Fig. 1. Linear displacement variation.
Finite element analysis of sandwich plates 399

laminated plates. Because the Reissner-Mindlin

element type forms part of the library of most large
scale structural analysis packages, it is worthwhile
to review its basic mechanism for the inclusion of
transverse shear deformations. With the assumption
5(a) described before, the displacement field is

Fig. 2. Piece-wise linear displacement with partial continuity. w(x, y, z) = w(x, Y), (2)

where the subscript 0 denotes the displacements of

6. Consideration of equilibrium. In the finite the reference plane z = 0, and 8,, 0, are the average
element formulation based on assumed stresses, rotations of the normals. The transverse shear strains
equilibrium may be enforced on: (a) the stresses at the are
layers’ level; or (b) the resultant moments and forces;
and (c) the conditions of continuity of interlaminar yXI= w,++
U,= w,+ex
stresses and traction-free at the laminate exterior
surfaces. ~~~=w~+~,~=w,~+e~, (3)
Confusion is caused by the variety of combinations
of the above approximations, especially when the where the comma denotes partial differentiation with
assumptions underlying a particular formulation are respect to the variable that follows. To account for
not explicitly stated. As an example, the combination the non-uniform distribution of transverse shear
of the preceeding 2(c), 3(c), and 4(b) seems to be stresses, correction factors are introduced. In the case
highly sophisticated; however, when it is combined of a homogeneous plate, the correlation factor of 1.2
with S(a), the resultant formulation may be accept- is included in the definition of the transverse shear
able for a composite laminate of similar material stiffness
stiffnesses, but may not be suitable for sandwich
construction of multiple cores with different (4)
where G is the shear modulus, and h is the plate
For the analysis of laminated or sandwich plates,
Early theoretical work considering the effects of
transverse shear deformations on homogeneous it is necessary to provide the proper material con-
plates was carried out by Reissner [6] and Mindlin [7], stants, expressed in terms of stress-strain relations for
and on sandwich plates by Libove and Batdorf [8]. the individual layers, or in terms of the plate resultant
The body of existing analytical theories is large, as forces and moments. Correction factors for this class
shown by the extensive surveys carried out by were derived by Whitney [ 15,161 based on energy
Habip [9, lo], Bert and Francis [ll], and Bert [12]. consideration.
The popularity of the Reissner-Mindlin element
Reissner-Mindlin elements type arises partly from the simplicity in the
References [6] and [7j and their subsequent exten- formulation which requires only Co displacement
sion by Medwadowski [13], Yang et al. [14], and continuity, and partly from its general applicability
many others, provide the basis for the development to both thin and thick plates. The first order
of finite element models of both homogeneous and Reissner-Mindlin elements may work well for lami-
nated plates, but Khatua and Cheung [17] have
shown that the assumption of constant shear strain
may not be suitable for sandwich construction of
multiple cores having large differences in stiffnesses.
Because many of these elements (mostly for homo-
geneous plates, but also for the approximate analysis
of sandwich plates by means of equivalent stiffnesses)
have been reviewed by Hrabok and Hrudy [18],
the emphasis here will be on elements which were
either designed specifically for sandwich construction
Ui or developed after 1983. We may add to the list
compiled in [ 181 the following recently developed
Fig. 3. Piece-wise linear displacement with full continuity. homogeneous thick plate elements, mainly of the
400 K. H. HA

first order Reissner/Mindlin type, contributed by Higher order displacement elements

Ghosh and Buragohain [19], Yuan and Miller [20],
Most of the elements discussed above are charac-
Zienkiewicz and Lefebvre [21], and Bhashyam
terized by assumed linear or piece-wise linear dis-
and Gallagher [22]. These elements do not seem to
placements in the cross-section, and where the nodal
suffer from the shear lock problem which plagues
degrees of freedom include only displacements or
earlier elements. For laminated plates, we may
rotations. Higher order elements for thick laminated
include some earlier developments: those of Noor and
plates, in the present context, allow for non-linear
Mathers [23], Panda and Natarajan [24], Reddy [25],
warping of the plate cross-section by using extra
and Lakshminarayana and Murthy [26]. Ding [27]
degrees of freedom. This warping function is often
adapted the Mindlin formulation to the optimum
selected to achieve a more realistic distribution of
design of three-layer unsymmetrical sandwich con-
transverse shear stresses vanishing at the exterior
struction with a honeycombed core [combination
surfaces. Since transverse shear stresses are no longer
2(b), 3(c), 4(b) and WI. assumed to be uniform, shear correction factors are
With the assumption 5(b), whereby the core’s
generally not required for this type of element.
normal rotations 0, and 0, are expressed in terms of
In addition to the use of extra degrees of freedom,
the facing middle plane displacements, three-layer
higher order elements involve higher order resultant
sandwich elements for curved beams and shells were
moments and shears which have little physical
developed by Abel and Popov [28], Monforton and
Schmit [29], and Ahmed [30,31]. This approach was
Quadratic warping functions were used by
extended in [17] and by Ha and Fazio [32] to cover a
Engblom and Ochoa [41], with shear stresses being
large variety of sandwich constructions composed of
obtained by integration of the equilibrium equation.
thick or thin orthotropic multiple facings and flexible
Parabolic variation of transverse shear strains was
cores. The generality of this approach [combination
assumed by Phan and Reddy [42] for plates, and by
2(b), 3(b), 4(a) and 5(b)] is achieved at the cost of
Bhimaraddi et al. [43] for shells of revolution. Since
introducing in-plane displacements at all stiff layers
the warping functions chosen contain first derivatives
as degrees of freedom, which effectively allow for
of w, both of these elements require C’ displacement
variation of transverse shear stresses from one core to
continuity, i.e. the set of degrees of freedom includes
another. A variation of this theme was used by
w as well as the normal rotations. In contrast,
Chaudhuri [33] for the analysis of homogeneous
plates. By expressing the normal rotations in terms of
k’ fo&ulation proposed by Pandya and Kant [44],
also of parabolic shear distribution, is Co continuity.
the in-plane displacements of the bottom surface,
Furthermore, by assuming linear variation of
Chaudhuri claimed that the terms w, and wg in eqn
the thickness normal stress [approximation l(a)
(3) for the shear strains could be omitted. Whilst the
abandoned], all six stress components can be found.
transverse shear strains would then be excessive even
A more complex three-dimensional formulation was
for the case of thin plates, the results still seem to
presented by Kim and Lee [45], and by Hwang and
converge. Sun [46]; the latter, in particular, rely on a mixed
Refined elements based on piece-wise linear layers’ field iterative scheme for accurate determination of
inplane displacements with full layer-compatibility
interlaminar stresses.
[approximation 5(c)] were developed by Mawenya
and Davies [34] for static analysis and by Owen and
Assumed stress and hybrid elements
Li [35, 361 for static, vibration and stability analysis.
These isoparametric elements are more general than The assumed-stress hybrid approach was pioneered
the one in [17] in that all five stress components are by Pian [47], and its variational basis was established
considered in the individual layers [combination by Pian and Tong [48]. The approach is characterized
2(b)/(c), 3(c), 4(b) and 5(c)]. Reference [34] uses the by independently assumed stress and displacement
normal rotations of layers as degrees of freedom, fields, and hence construction of the element stiffness
whereas references [35,36] use the inplane displace- matrix is more complex than its equivalent displace-
ments at both faces of the layers. These displacements ment-based counterpart.
can be eliminated layer by layer, thus leaving those Early application of this approach to sandwich
associated with the top surface of the plate as master plate analysis was carried out by Lundgren [49]
degrees of freedom. (whose formulation, however, used wr, wg as
Standard Mindlin element formulation has been degrees of freedom, and therefore the results do not
used for large deflection analysis by Rajogopal ei converge [48]), and by Barnard [50] and Ha 1511.The
al. [37,38] and by Kumar and Rao [39] for free last two elements use 17 independent stress par-
vibrations of shells. An interesting variation of the ameters with nodal deflections and normal rotations
Mindlin formulation for moderately thick homo- as degrees of freedom. The effectiveness of this type
geneous plates was given by Bergan and Wang 1401, of element for the analysis of three-dimensional
where the normal rotations were found in terms of panelized sandwich plate structures was demon-
the derivatives of w by enforcing the homogeneous strated by Fazio and Ha [52, 531. The triangular
differential plate equilibrium equation. elements developed by Bartelds and Ottens [54] and
Finite element analysis of sandwich plates 401

by Cook [55] were found to produce spurious is, perhaps, necessary in order to match the variety of
zero energy modes. Overall buckling analysis was requirements in practical design situations.
carried out by Cook [56] and Luo [57]. The simplest The simple elements will suffice for symmetric
rectangular elements, containing 9 and 11 stress three-layer sandwich construction of flexible core
parameters in combination with linear edge displace- and thin facings. Construction with multiple thin
ments, without zero energy mode, were presented by stiff faces and cores possessing similar stiffnesses
Fazio et al. [58]. can be transformed to standard three-lay& con-
All the elements previously mentioned, apart from struction by means of equivalent stiffnesses [671.
the elements of [55] which are essentially for homo- When interlaminar stresses are of prime consider-
geneous plates, art! for three-layer symmetric sand- ation, the three-dimensional formulation should be
wich plates with thin facings and flexible core considered.
[combination 2(b), 3(a), 4(a), 5(a) and 6(b)]. A Major emphasis has been given to the displace-
three-layer sandwich element with thick facings was ment-based and hybrid stress-based elements in
developed by Kraus [59] by su~rimposing thin facing this review. However, one should be aware that
action with local bending in the faces [combination alternative formulation approaches exist, which can
2(b), 3(b), 4(a) and 5(b)]. The nodal degrees of provide certain specific advantages. As examples,
freedom are then the deflection, its slopes and normal Gellert (681 used mixed/hybrid formulation, whereas
rotations. Haas and Lee [69] used assumed strain formulation,
The first application of hybrid formulation to the to develop locking-free composite plate and shell
general class of thick laminated plates was by Mau ef elements.
al. [60], who developed a four-node element where Other aspects pertaining to sandwich construction
transverse shear stresses were assumed to be constant and amenable to numerical treatment have not
span-wise but allowed to vary parabolically within received much attention. Among these, one may list:
individual layers with full interlaminar continuity and constitutive relations for core and facing materials;
the laminate surface traction-free [combination 2(c), Iocal instability; delamination due to thermal or
3(c), 4(b), 5(c), 6(a) and 6(c)]. The number of degrees hu~dity effects; influence of stiffeners; loss of bond;
of freedom per node is 2(n + 1) + 1 (where n is the creep, etc. Perhaps it is along these directions that
nutnber of layers), consisting of a transverse dis- future developments will take place.
placement and in-plane displacements at the layers’
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