Size effect on strength of laminate-foam sandwich plates: Finite element analysis with interface fracture

Ferhun C. Caner*, Zdeněk P. Bažant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Recent three-point bend tests of size effect on the strength of geometrically scaled sandwich beams of three types - with no notches, and with notches at the upper or lower skin-foam interface, which were previously evaluated using simplified sandwich beam theory and equivalent linear elastic fracture mechanics, are now reanalyzed more accurately by finite elements. Zero-thickness interface elements with a softening cohesive law are used to model fractures at the skin-foam interface, in the fiber composite skins, and in the foam. The fracture energy and fracture process zone length of a shear crack in foam near the interface are deduced by fitting an analytical expression for size effect to the test data. Numerical simulations reveal that small-size specimens with notches just under the top skin develop plastic zones in the foam core near the edges of the loading platen, and that small-size specimens with notches just above the bottom skin develop distributed quasibrittle fracture in the foam core under tension. Both phenomena, though, are found to reduce the maximum load by less than 6%. Further it is shown that, in notch-less beams, the interface shear fracture is coupled with compression crushing of the fiber-polymer composite skin. For small specimens this mechanism is important because, when it is blocked in simulations, the maximum load increases. The size effect law for notch-less beams is calibrated such that beams of all sizes fail solely by interface shear fracture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-348
Number of pages12
JournalComposites Part B: Engineering
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2009


  • A. Polymer composite
  • A. Sandwich plate
  • B. Interface fracture
  • Size effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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