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Crashworthiness modelling of thin-walled composite structures.

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This thesis is concerned with the study of the crashworthiness of thin-walled composite structures. Composites are being used more and more in different fields of engineering, particularly, in aerospace and automotive industries because of their high strength-to-weight and stiffness-to-weight ratios, quality and cost advantages. More and more metal parts in cars for instance become or are already replaced by new advanced materials. Composite materials are included in these new advanced materials with the following advantages: weight reduction, corrosion resistance, aesthetics and style, isolation and the ability to integrate several parts into one single structural component. The introduction of new composite structural components (body panels, bumpers, crash absorbers, etc.) requires the development and implementation of new approaches to structural analysis and design. Crashworthiness is one of the foremost goals of aircraft and automotive design. It depends very much on the response of various components which absorb the energy of the crash. In order to design components for crashworthy structures, it is necessary to understand the effects of loading conditions, material behaviour, and structural response. Due to the complexity of the material structure (matrix reinforced with fibres) and specific mechanical properties the nature of transforming the collision kinetic energy into material deformation energy differs from that of conventional metal alloys. The energy absorption mechanics are different for the advanced composites and depend on the material structure (type of reinforcement) and structural design. The primary function of the energy absorption for the composites belongs to the progressive crushing of the materials themselves and structural components (beams, tubes, etc.) made of such materials. Since the mechanics of composite materials and structural components differs substantially from the conventional applications there is a need to develop an appropriate way of modelling and analysis relevant to this problem. Currently there are a large variety of design approaches, test results, and research investigations into the problem under consideration depending on the type of composite material and design geometry of the parts. It has been found that in general an application of fibre reinforced plastics (FRP) to vehicle compartments can satisfy the structural requirements of the passenger compartment including high strength and light weight. Implementation of new advanced composite materials provides the opportunity to develop designs of reliable structural composite parts in high volume for improved automotive fuel economy. Structural optimisation and crashworthiness of composite components should be incorporated into design calculations to control the mechanical performance. The introduction which follows describes the aims of the present study of the crashworthiness modelling and simulation of the structural response of thin-walled composite components which are subjected to various loading conditions relevant to vehicle design. The research programme undertaken within the framework of this project includes development and validation of the modelling and simulation methodology applicable to the crashworthiness analysis of thin-walled composite structures. Development of computerised dynamic modelling of structural components offers the capability of investigating the design parameters without building the actual physical prototypes. In this approach, the dynamic behaviour of the structure is simulated for specified external inputs, and from the corresponding response data the designer is able to determine its dynamic response characteristics, and estimate the crashworthiness of the structure in vehicle engineering applications.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of Natal, Durban, 2003.


Composite materials--Testing., Composite materials--Fracture., Thin-walled structures--Testing., Theses--Mechanical engineering.