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Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 174–185


Three-dimensional stress analysis and Weibull statistics based

strength prediction in open hole composites
E.V. Iarve , R. Kim a, D. Mollenhauer b

University of Dayton Research Institute, 300 College Park Avenue, Dayton, OH 45469-0168, United States
US Air Force Research Laboratory, AFRL/MLBC, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433-7750, United States

Received 6 January 2005; received in revised form 5 January 2006; accepted 7 January 2006


The critical failure volume (CFV) method is proposed. CFV is defined as a finite subvolume in a material with general nonuniform
stress distribution, which has the highest probability of failure, i.e. loss of load carrying capacity. The evaluation of the probability of
failure of the subvolumes is performed based on the lowest stress and thus provides an estimate of the lower bound of the probability of
local failure. An algorithm for identifying this region, based on isostress surface parameterization is proposed. It is shown that in the case
of material with strength following Weibull weak link statistics such a volume exists and its location and size are defined both by the
stress distribution and the scatter of strength. Moreover the probability of failure predicted by using the CFV method was found to
be close to that predicted by using traditional Weibull integral method and coincide with it in the case of uniform stress fields and in
the limit of zero scatter of strength. Experiments performed on homogeneous epoxy resin plaques with and without holes showed that
the predictions bound the experimentally measured open hole strength. The Weibull parameters used for prediction were obtained from
testing only unnotched specimens of different dimensions. The effect of the hole size on tensile strength of heterogeneous materials such as
quasi-isotropic carbon–epoxy composite laminates was considered next. Fiber failure was the only failure mechanism taken into account
and a strain-based failure criterion was used in the form of a two parameter Weibull distribution. The stacking sequence was selected to
minimize the effect of stress redistribution due to subcritical damage. Not unexpectedly an up to 30% underprediction of the strength of
the laminates with small (2.54 mm diameter) holes was observed by using classical Weibull integral method as well as Weibull based CFV
method. It was explained by examining the size of the CFV, which appeared to be below Rosen’s ineffective length estimate. The CFV
method was modified to account for the presence of a limit scaling size of six ineffective lengths, consistent with recent Monte-Carlo
simulations by Landis et al. [Landis CM, Beyerlin IJ, McMeeking RM. Micromechanical simulation of the failure of fiber reinforced
composites. Mech Phys Solids 2000;48:621–48] and was able to describe the experimentally observed magnitude of the hole size effect
on composite tensile strength in the examined range of 2.54–15.24 mm hole diameters.
 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: A. Laminates; B. Stress concentrations; C. Statistical properties/methods; C. Numerical analysis; Open hole

1. Introduction [2], emerged to address the pressing needs of notched com-

posite design in the aerospace industry. Both approaches
Strength of composite materials with stress concentra- are two-parameter models, where the notched strength is
tions is a central design issue often dictating the design predicted based on the unnotched strength and an addi-
allowables for the entire structure. In 1970s two empirical tional parameter having a dimension of length. In Waddo-
methods, Waddoups et al. [1] and Nuismer and Whitney ups et al. [1] the length parameter represents an inherent
flaw size, and in the Whitney and Nuismer model, it is the
characteristic distance from the edge of the hole. It should
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 937 2559075; fax: +1 937 2588075. be mentioned that the inherent flaw concept used in the first
E-mail address: endel.iarve@wpafb.af.mil (E.V. Iarve). model is not a physical model of inherent flaw evolution but

1359-835X/$ - see front matter  2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
E.V. Iarve et al. / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 174–185 175

a fracture mechanics-based phenomenological model where strength prediction is highly mesh dependent. Shahid and
the size of this ‘‘fictitious flaw’’ is determined based on Chang [9] offered a practical solution to alleviate the severe
notched strength. Once the size of the fictitious flaw is deter- mesh dependency of the tensile failure prediction by mak-
mined for a given laminate for one hole size, the model is ing the property degradation coefficient dependent upon
capable of predicting the hole size effect, i.e. a significant the area of the region where tensile fiber failure is detected.
increase of net tensile strength with hole size reduction. In Nevertheless it still did not address the underprediction of
the second model a characteristic distance is also deter- fiber failure initiation.
mined based on a notched strength for a given hole size, Weibull’s statistical theory of strength [10] provides an
so that the stress at this distance away from the hole edge integral form allowing one to calculate the upper bound
would reach the unnotched strength at failure. Besides this of probability of failure in brittle materials in the presence
approach, called the point stress failure criterion, an aver- of stress gradients based on distribution of strength
age stress criterion was also proposed where the stress obtained for uniformly stressed samples. In this case the
was averaged over a certain (characteristic) distance from Weibull modulus, characterizing the scatter of strength,
the hole edge. Similar to the fracture mechanics approach, becomes the parameter defining the notch sensitivity. Wu
the point and average stress criterion were able to predict [11] for the first time applied the integral form of the Wei-
the hole size effect on strength of notched composites. How- bull distribution to predict the notched strength in the
ever, none of the additional scaling parameters proved to quasi-isotropic composites. A tensor polynomial function
represent a material property across a family of composite [12] was used in the Weibull integral to account for com-
laminates with different layups. Nevertheless, both models plexity and interaction of the failure modes. It was shown
are widely used in the industry for sizing design. A key that the predictions are in agreement with the experimental
aspect of these models is that no notched strength predic- data of Nuismer and Whitney [2], showing the hole size
tion can be made based on the data determined by testing effect on the notched tensile strength. Wetherhold and
unnotched composites only. The knowledge of notched Whitney [13] applied the integral form of Weibull’s distri-
strength is required to calculate the value of the additional bution to predict the hole size effect in quasi-isotropic lam-
length parameter. inates. A one-dimensional approximation of the Weibull
A significant body of work has been devoted to strength volume integral in the radial direction was introduced. As
prediction in notched composites based on finite element a result of this simplification, the predicted mean values
methods combined with element property degradation of stress appeared significantly lower than the experimental
rules. Lee [3] performed the first 3D finite element stress data, however the hole size effect trend was clearly demon-
analysis combined with the property degradation technique strated. In later works Wetherhold [14] extended their work
for damage modeling and strength prediction in open hole to include interactive failure criterion (see [15]). Gurvich
composites. The property degradation was performed by and Pipes [16] developed the theoretical aspects of reliabil-
fully degrading (multiplying by D = 106) the stiffness ity of composites in random stress states considering full
component responsible for the type of damage for which anisotropy of random strength properties. A generalization
the stress component exceeded its ultimate value. Although of this approach was also proposed by Gurvich [17] to
far preceding its time in its level of analysis fidelity, the account for the strength size effect and moderate nonuni-
application of such intuitive property degradation rules formity of 3D distributions of random stresses. The stress
leads to strong mesh sensitivity of the strength prediction distribution in the cited works was based on lamination
for notched laminates and unrealistic strength predictions theory. No estimate of the size of the critical region of most
if applied to unnotched laminates. The latter was addressed likely failure was performed.
by developing laminate level property degradation tech- In the pioneering work of Kortshot and Beaumont [18],
niques based on internal damage variables methods devel- the strength of laminates with a through-the-thickness
oped by Talreja [4] and Lee et al. [5]. Nguen [6] extended crack was considered. Two types of damage, namely longi-
this methodology [4] and applied it for 3D strength predic- tudinal splitting and delamination, were parametrically
tion of open hole composite strength. Simplified algorithms introduced into the so-called 212D analysis method, where
for notched strength prediction, where the damage vari- each delaminated portion as well as the intact laminate
ables are determined a priori and fixed, were proposed by were considered as a separate plain stress plates. Account-
Tan [7]. A stiffness reduction coefficient D1 (0.007) was ing for these two types of damage was critical to predict the
used to reduce the longitudinal modulus inside the finite stress relaxation in the fiber direction in the 0 ply. The
element, for which the tensile fiber failure criterion was laminate failure load was then predicted by applying the
reached. Camanho and Matthews [8] extended this integral form of Weibull scaling. The authors also reported
approach to 3D analysis in composite fastener joints. The that in calculation of the Weibull’s integral, most of the
common shortcoming of these methods in the problems contribution came from a small region near the stress con-
dealing with stress concentration is the lack of strength centration. The method of stress analysis used by the
scaling mechanisms. The failure criteria significantly authors, although not 3D in nature, provided accurate fiber
(30–40%) underpredicts the fiber failure origination loads stresses in these regions of the delaminated section of the 0
in the elements adjacent to the hole, and the subsequent plies.
176 E.V. Iarve et al. / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 174–185

Recently de Morais [19] performed 3D/2D global local where dv = det(J) dx dy dz in Cartesian coordinates and J is
finite element analysis in quasi-isotropic composite lami- the Jacobian matrix. Integral (2) is derived by subdividing
nates with open holes. His results showed significant differ- the nonuniformly loaded specimen into an infinite number
ence between the stress concentration factor (in-plane stress of infinitesimal cells, each being loaded by stress r(x),
in the fiber direction at the edge of the hole) calculated by which can be assumed constant within the cell. The expo-
using lamination theory and the average stress concentra- nent in Eq. (2) expresses the probability of simultaneous
tion factors in individual plies computed by the global– survival of all mesh cells (each under a different stress),
local approach. To predict the strength of the notched assuming that the probability of failure of each mesh cell
composite, a simple relationship was introduced for the is given by (1). Physically F can be interpreted as the prob-
strength of the notched composite ruN as ability of damage initiation anywhere in the volume of the
vf ruf specimen and therefore interpreted as an upper bound of
ruN ¼ ; the probability of failure. Eqs. (1) and (2) relate events
K t1
on the same scale. Indeed if the specimens tested to define
where vf is the fiber volume fraction, Kt1 is the stress con- the function B(r) were unnotched quasi-isotropic lami-
centration in the 0 ply calculated by using the global–local nates, then Eq. (2) can be used to estimate the upper bound
approach, and ruf is the average tensile strength of the fi- of the probability of failure of the same notched quasi-iso-
bers on a length scale linked to the hole diameter. The tropic laminate. In this case the volume integration is re-
apparent consequence of this assumption results in predic- duced to 2D in-plane integral since the thickness
tion of the same scatter in their distribution, whereas the direction in both cases is the same. The integrand in Eq.
fiber strength is characterized by much larger scatter than (2) is generally a very nonuniform function of coordinates
that of the composites for reasons explained by Rosen [20]. and often dominated by the contribution of only a small
The focus of the present paper is on predicting the volume near the stress concentration. We shall discuss
catastrophic fiber failure in the presence of stress concen- the physical meaning of such a critical volume in the next
tration. As shown by Iarve et al. [21], even in the quasi- section. It is conceivable that this volume is small as com-
isotropic composites, significant redistributions of the pared to the characteristic size of the scale at which the
stress magnitude due to splitting in the 0 ply are possible problem is considered. In the example at hand, i.e. notched
for certain stacking sequences, in particular with the outer strength of the quasi-isotropic laminates, the characteristic
0 plies. By selecting the experimental data from the open scale size is the thickness of the laminate. Indeed, if most of
literature, we tried to avoid such stacking sequences and the contribution to integral (2) is coming from a small re-
assumed that the stress field in the pristine composite gion near the hole edge with a characteristic dimension of
defines its strength. We shall consider the highly stressed less than a laminate thickness, the accuracy of the predic-
near-hole volume, introduce a measure of critical failure tion is questionable, because of the 3D stress distribution
volume and discuss its physical meaning. Two types of in this region, which is neglected in the 2D (lamination the-
stress analysis will be considered: two-dimensional analy- ory) analysis.
sis, based on lamination theory, and three-dimensional In the case of the shape function B(r) in traditional
ply level stress analysis based on displacement spline power form
approximation developed by Iarve [22].  a
BðrÞ ¼ ; ð3Þ
2. Determination of the critical failure volume
one can rewrite Eq. (2) in the form
rw a
2.1. Definitions and traditional Weibull integral F ¼ 1  e ð b Þ ; ð4Þ
Consider a population of test samples each having a vol- where
ume V0 and loaded so that the state of stress in each sample  Z 1=a
is uniform. Set r the single stress component or a combina- 1 a
rw ¼ ðrðxÞÞ dv ð5Þ
tion, such as the tensor polynomial function in Wu [11], V0 V
which controls the strength of that sample. Weibull weak is called the Weibull stress [29]. A direct observation which
link statistics is then based on the assumption that the can be made from (5) is that in linear elasticity, Weibull
probability of failure for a sample of similar specimens of stress is proportional to loading, and thus the distribution
arbitrary volume is (4) and consequently (3) will have exactly the same shape
f ðr; V Þ ¼ 1  e
0 . ð1Þ parameter a as (1). This was shown earlier by Wetherhold
and Whitney [13], where instead of introducing the Weibull
Eq. (1) can also be generalized [10] for nonuniform stress stress, a similar manipulation was applied to recalculate b.
fields as In the case of multiaxial stress state failure in composites is
R described by a failure criteria, i.e. Tsai and Wu [12]. Such
1 BðrðxÞÞ dv
F ¼ 1  e V0 V ; ð2Þ formal extensions of Eqs. (1) and (2) are discussed by
E.V. Iarve et al. / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 174–185 177

Wu [11]. However, the conceptual difficulty is that different This function is equal to the volume of the specimen with
failure modes in composite materials do not exhibit similar stress higher or equal to qrm. In this case
statistical/scaling properties as reviewed by Wisnom [30]
V c ¼ vðqc Þ; rc ¼ qc rm ; ð10Þ
and thus no physical basis was established to application
of Eqs. (1) and (2) in general multiaxial loading cases. where
f ðqc rm ; vðqc ÞÞ ¼ max f ðqrm ; vðqÞÞ. ð11Þ
2.2. Critical failure volume in Weibull media q

The probability value (11) will be denoted fc for brevity

In this section we shall discuss the physical meaning of
the critical or most likely local failure region in the presence fc ¼ f ðqc rm ; vðqc ÞÞ. ð12Þ
of stress concentration. As mentioned previously, integral
(2) provides the probability of failure initiation, i.e. failure Without limitation of generality one can assume that the
of an infinitesimal volume. We shall determine below the stress distribution is continuous, which means that the
probability of failure of a finite volume and its size. function f(qrm, v(q)) is as well. Depending upon the stress
The failure or loss of load carrying capacity was defined distribution which defines the volume function v(q), this
only for uniformly loaded specimens as their apparent function can have complex shape. For a typical open hole
strength, described by distribution function (1). Transition- problem and shape function B(r) in the form (3), one ob-
ing to a nonuniform stress state is based on the assumption tains f = 0 for q = 0 and q = 1, meaning that the function
that the probability of failure P of a nonuniformly stressed f(qrm, v(q)) will have at least one local maximum (f P 0)
specimen with stress distribution r(x) and the probability for 0 < q < 1. The fact that f = 0 for q = 1 follows from
of failure (1) of the same specimen under uniform state the premise that the maximum stress is attained at a point
of stress ru are related associated with zero volume, i.e. v(1) = 0.
For an arbitrary volume Vq with an isostress qrm
P P f ðru ; V Þ; ð6Þ boundary, one can write
if BðrðxÞÞ dv P Bðqrm ÞV q ;
ru ¼ minðrðxÞÞ. ð7Þ
where B(r) is a monotonic function, and qrm is the mini-
The estimate given by Eq. (6) is not very useful when ap- mum value of stress in the integration volume. Thus the
plied to the entire volume of the specimen. On the other probability F calculated by integral (2) always satisfies
hand, one can select a finite region in the nonuniformly the inequality
loaded specimen, which has a volume Vi and minimum
F P fc . ð13Þ
stress of ri, and calculate the probability of failure for this
subvolume f(ri, Vi). Suppose that we have found a subre- Direct calculation shows that for homogeneous state of
gion with volume Vc and minimum stress rc, for which this stress, F and fc reduce to (1), where v(q) = V (total volume)
probability is the highest, i.e. for any q.
As will be shown in examples, the probabilities F and fc
f ðrc ; V c Þ ¼ max f ðri ; V i Þ; ð8Þ will be close and approach each other for a ! 1. Besides
the probability of failure, we will be interested in the aver-
where index i scans all subregions of the specimen. Then age values of strength resulting from criteria (2) and (12).
the subregion Vc will have the highest probability of local As mentioned before, both criteria will result in Weibull-
failure, and we will call it critical failure volume (CFV). type stress distributions with the same shape parameter a.
Identification of the CFV and calculation of its failure For Weibull distribution (1) with shape function (3), the
probability is easily performed in the case of finite maxi- average value of strength ra and the coefficient of variation
mum stress. Although two-parameter function (3) is used x (standard variation divided by average value) are given
in this study, other more complex distributions may be by well known equations:
considered as well. Such distributions, e.g. Gurvich et al.
[28], may be helpful to capture more sophisticated nonlin- V0 1
ear size effects, i.e. where relationships between logarithms ra ¼ b C 1þ ; ð14aÞ
V a
of average strength and size parameter are nonlinear sffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
functions. Cð1 þ 2=aÞ
x¼  1; ð14bÞ
Denote the finite maximum stress magnitude as rm. C2 ð1 þ 1=aÞ
Introduce a set of isostress surfaces qirm, q0 = 1 > q1 >
q2 > q3    > 0. Consider a continuous function v(q), where C-denotes the gamma function. By using Eqs. (1), (3)
0 6 q 6 1: and (14a), one can find the average strength value for a
  known a if the probability of failure is known for just
vðqÞ ¼ volðV q Þ; x 2 V q () rðxÞ P qrm . ð9Þ one value of r, i.e. f is equal to f1 for r = r1. In this case
178 E.V. Iarve et al. / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 174–185
1=a 1 ble problem if using standard finite element programs. A B-
ra ¼ r1 ð lnð1  f1 ÞÞ C 1þ . ð15Þ
a spline displacement approximation approach developed by
Iarve [22] was shown to provide highly accurate stress solu-
Eq. (15) will be used to calculate the average strength for
tions in the immediate vicinities of the ply interface and
both the upper F and lower fc estimates of the probability
hole edge intersections, where there is singular stress
of failure, which will inversely result in lower and upper
average strength estimates. Finally, it is worth mentioning
Three-dimensional approximation is built by using the
that Eq. (14a) provides a formal way to calculate the Wei-
tensor product of one-dimensional approximations. Con-
bull modulus a for a set of experimental data with known
sider an elementary cube [0, 1]3 in local x1, x2, x3 coordinate
coefficient of variation by solving a nonlinear equation.
system, then the 3D displacement approximation can be
written as
3. Stress analysis and v(q) function calculation XXX
uðx1 x2 x3 Þ ¼ X i ðx1 ÞY j ðx2 ÞZ k ðx3 ÞUijk ; ð19Þ
Consider a rectangular orthotropic plate containing a i j k

circular hole having a diameter D, as shown in Fig. 1. where u is the displacement vector and Uijk are vectors of
The plate consists of N plies of total thickness H in the z- displacement approximation coefficients not necessarily
direction and has a length L in the x-direction and width associated with nodal displacements, and indexes i, j and
A in the y-direction. The following displacement boundary k in Eq. (19) change from 1 to the total number of approx-
conditions were applied to the specimen on lateral sides imation functions in each direction. Depending upon the
 ux ð0; y; zÞ ¼ ux ðL; y; zÞ ¼ e0 L=2; application and geometry, different orders of splines (from
ð16Þ 1 to 8) can be used in each direction. Besides changing the
uy ð0; 0; 0Þ ¼ uz ðx; y; 0Þ ¼ 0.
order of splines, one can also change their defect (maxi-
Traction-free boundary conditions are present on all other mum number of discontinuous derivatives) in the node,
surfaces. The dimensionless loading parameter e0 corre- thus being able to apply standard linear or a higher order
sponds to relative elongation of the specimen. The z-direc- p-type finite element approximation if desired. Curvilinear
tion displacement component on the bottom surface is coordinate transformation x = x(x1x2x3), xT = (x, y, z)
constrained due to symmetric lay-up of the laminates con- with Jacobian matrix J(x1x2x3) is used to map the unit vol-
sidered, which allows one to model only half of the speci- ume into the global x, y, z, coordinate system. The Gauss-
men. The constitutive relations of each ply are as follows: ian integration procedure is used to calculate the
rij ¼ C pijkl ðekl  apkl DT Þ; i ¼ 1; . . . ; N ; components of the stiffness matrix. For the details of vari-
ational formulation and detailed verification of stress pre-
where C pijkl
and apkl
are elastic moduli and thermal expan- diction accuracy, the reader is referred to Iarve [22]. For
sion coefficients of the pth orthotropic ply, and DT is the purposes of the present study, we shall describe the proce-
temperature change. The average applied traction was then dure of calculating the overstressed volume function v(q).
calculated as After the solution is completed and all vectors Uijk are
Z determined, a post-processing step is performed when each
r0 ¼ rxx ð0; y; zÞ dy dz. ð17Þ integration point of the structure is examined twice. First
the stress and strain components are computed, and the
A cylindrical coordinate system is defined originating from maximum value rm of the component of interest is found
the center of the hole: by searching through all integration points. A large num-
x ¼ r cos h þ xc ; y ¼ r sin h þ y c ; z ¼ z; ð18Þ ber M (in our analysis M = 101 and 201) is then prescribed,
and a sequence
where xc, yc are the coordinates of the center of the hole.
Three-dimensional ply level stress analysis in realistic qi ¼ 1  i=M; i ¼ 0; . . . ; M
composite laminates containing holes represents a formida- defined. The overstressed volume function v(q) is then cal-
culated in M points as
vðqi Þ ¼ wg1 wg2 wg3 det J ðxg11 ; xg22 ; x33 Þgðr  qi rm Þ
g1 g2 g3

by using the Heaviside step function

1; r > 0;
gðrÞ ¼ ð21Þ
0; r 6 0.
In Eq. (20) indexes gi, i = 1, 2, 3 denote Gauss integration
points in x1, x2 and x3 directions, respectively, and wgi are
Fig. 1. Schematics of the open hole tension specimen. respective Gaussian weights. Step function (21) cuts off the
E.V. Iarve et al. / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 174–185 179

contribution from all integration points where the stress is Function f(qrm, v(q)) in Eq. (11) for the specimen at
lower than the threshold qirm. For low values of the thresh- hand is shown in Fig. 3 for two different values of Weibull
old value, v(q) will include almost all integration points in modulus a. For a = 5 (hypothetic material with very large
(20) and become close to the entire volume. The probability 23% coefficient of strength variation) qc = 0.261, which
fc is then calculated according to Eqs. (11) and (12) by corresponds to the uniformly loaded large area away from
scanning through all f(qi) values. The integral in Eq. (2) the hole, meaning that most failures of the open hole spec-
can be calculated directly by using a formula similar to imen will not happen throughout the hole at all. The CFV
(20), where the step function is replaced by corresponding to this case is very large, and according to
Bðrðxg11 ; xg22 ; x33 ÞÞ. Fig. 2 (solid curve) is comparable to the volume of the spec-
imen. For a less variable material with a = 9
4. Homogeneous plate with a hole (c.v.  13.2%), we find qc = 0.838, which corresponds to
the near hole area. In this case Vc is on the order of less
4.1. Variation of CFV location and size and comparison with than 0.001V0, as can be seen in Fig. 2.
Weibull integral method The average values of notched strength predicted by
Weibull integral criterion (2) and CFV criterion (11) and
The size and location of the CFV as functions of scatter (12) are compared in Fig. 4 as functions of Weibull modu-
of strength will be investigated in homogeneous isotropic lus a. In both cases the average strength was calculated by
plates with an open hole. The specific size and elastic mod- using Eq. (15) and normalized to average strength of the
ulus of the material are not of essence for this study, unnotched specimens. The error bars show +/ one stan-
although the properties were those of neat epoxy resin pla- dard deviation bounds. The percentage values correspond-
ques considered in the next section. ing to selected values of Weibull modulus a are the
The overstressed volume function v(q) normalized to respective values of the coefficient of variation. As
specimen volume for a typical open hole coupon under uni- expected, the Weibull integral (2) and the CFV criterion
axial loading with boundary conditions (18) is shown in converge to each other with increasing a (decreasing the
Fig. 2. Two scales are used: the solid line depicts the func- c.v.). Only for the smallest a the predicted means are just
tion for the entire specimen (left scale), and the dashed line outside the one standard variation bounds from each other.
shows the same function on the smaller scale (right-hand The deterministic 1/KT estimate is approximately 20%
side scale), which corresponds to higher stress regions near more conservative than the statistics-based prediction even
the hole. Step-like behavior in the proximity of q = 0.261 for a = 50 (c.v. = 2.5%).
means that a significant volume of the specimen is experi-
encing a homogeneous state of stress. The fact that q is 4.2. Experimental data
lower than 1/3 reflects the finite geometry of the plate,
resulting in stress concentration equal to KT = 3.84 for Prior to considering the strength of laminated compos-
the present geometry. ites, a set of experiments on neat epoxy plaques cured
according to manufacturer’s recommendations was con-
ducted. All specimens were cut out of 3.0 mm-thick panels.
Two sets of 20 unnotched specimens having dimensions of
1 0.01
L = 5.08 cm long · W = 1.27 cm wide and L/2 · W/2 were
function v(q) for near hole region
function v(q) for entire specimen

0.8 0.008 0.6

f(qσm,v(q)), α=9 (c.v.=13.2%)
f(qσm,v(q)), α=5 (c.v.=23%)
0.6 v(q)/V0 0.006 q=0.261
Probability of failure


0.4 0.004 0.3

0.2 v(q)/V0 0.002

0 0 0
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1
q q

Fig. 2. Function v(q) for an isotropic plate with a hole, overall shape Fig. 3. Probability of finite volume failure function f(qm, v(q)) for two
shown with solid line and the near-hole shown with dashed line. values of Weibull modulus.
180 E.V. Iarve et al. / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 174–185

1 1
F, β β=84.1MPa
Mean Notched strength and variation


unnotched strength, V
0.8 fc

notched strength

Probability of Failure

unnotched strength, V
fc, βfc



20% 10% 5% 2.5%
0 1
0 10 20 30 40 50 60
Weibull modulus - α
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2 1.4
Fig. 4. Average failure load and standard deviation estimated by using
Weibull integral (2)—F and estimated by using CWV criterion (11), (12)— Normalized Strength
fc. Fig. 5. Experimental data and predictions of tensile strength in neat resin
plaques with and without open hole. Test points: j—control volume
unnotched specimens, m—small volume unnotched specimens, s—open
tested in tension in the direction of length. In addition a set hole specimens. All solid curves are Weibull distributions with a = 10.7.
Strength is normalized by that of the unnotched specimens XT.
of 20 notched specimens with in-plane dimensions L · W,
containing a D = 5.08 mm center hole were also tested.
In all cases the length given is equal to the gage section
length, whereas the specimens contained additional control volume and small volume specimens respectively.
2.54 cm tabs on each end. The elastic stiffness properties The open circles show experimentally measured strength
were E = 3.79 GPa and m = 0.39. The average tensile of the specimens with open holes. The continuous curves
strength of the control volume V0 = 1.93 cm3 (L · W) spec- in Fig. 5 are Weibull distributions with the same shape
imens was XT = 80 MPa with a coefficient of variation parameter a = 10.7. The one closely fitting the control vol-
(c.v.) of 13.4% (corresponds to a = 9). The second set of ume unnotched data has b = 84.1 MPa, and the one closely
unnotched specimens of smaller dimension and volume fitting small volume unnotched data has b1 = bXT/xT. The
V1 = V0/4 had an average strength of xT = 91 MPa and predicted open hole specimen strength distributions
c.v. of 12% (corresponds to a = 10). Three panels were pro- (bF = 47.5 MPa, bfc = 53.7 MPa) appear to bound the
duced and showed similar coefficient of strength variation experimental data.
and average strength. A particular difficulty in definition A note must be taken that the results of strength predic-
of the unnotched strength distribution is defining the Wei- tion are highly sensitive to values of Weibull modulus a. An
bull shape parameter, which reflects the intrinsic variation accurate determination of the Weibull modulus requires a
of strength rather than that caused by experimentation. In significant number of unnotched specimens to be tested,
present work we are following the methodology described avoiding strength values, which result from grip failures.
by Bazant [27] and determine a from the average strength In principle, however, the question of predicting notched
values of the two sets of specimens of different volumes as strength based on testing exclusively unnotched samples
is answered. Overall, the Weibull statistics-based strength
a ¼ lnðX T =xT Þ= lnðV 1 =V 0 Þ. prediction provides a physically sound indisputable
It results in a = 10.7, which corresponds to c.v. of 11.3% improvement upon the stress concentration factor-based
and is quite close to the c.v. of the experimental values value of XT/KT, which is also shown in Fig. 5.
for either set of unnotched data. The strength of the open
hole specimens was predicted by using the unnotched 5. Notched strength prediction in quasi-isotropic laminates
strength distribution with b = 84.1 MPa, a = 10.7 and
V0 = 1.93 cm3, where the parameter b was calculated from The present section is devoted to evaluation of probabil-
Eq. (14a) based on the average strength value of XT. The ity of failure in quasi-isotropic laminates with open holes.
average open hole strength predicted by using Weibull inte- Experimental data reported by Whitney and Kim [26] were
gral method and CFV was rave,F = 44.7 MPa and rave,fc = used in the present study. The T300/934 composite and two
52.4 MPa, respectively, whereas the average value of exper- stacking sequences, [±45/0/90]s and [90/0/±45]s, were con-
imental data is rave = 46.9 MPa. sidered. Unnotched strength, open hole strength with three
The experimental data and predictions are shown in different hole sizes of D = d, D = 3d and D = 6d, where
Fig. 5. The solid squares and triangles correspond to exper- d = 2.54 mm (0.100 , 0.300 and 0.600 ), and strength with three
imentally measured strength of unnotched specimens of sizes of through-the-thickness cracks were evaluated on a
E.V. Iarve et al. / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 174–185 181

Table 1 iation of strength obtained experimentally for unnotched

Material stiffness properties used in the analysis and notched specimens with different hole sizes varies sig-
[0] [90/0/45/45]s nificantly. There is no monotonic trend, which can be
EL (GPa) 146.7 54.9 established for the coefficient of variation as a function of
ET (GPa) 11 hole size, except that it is lower than for unnotched speci-
Ez (GPa) 11 mens. Based on the range given in Table 2, the analysis
vLT 0.3 0.3
vLz 0.3
was carried out for the following values of a = 14.7, 18,
vzT 0.33 24 and 30.
GLT (GPa) 4.82 20.7 The failure prediction was performed by using maxi-
GLz (GPa) 4.82 mum fiber direction strain. Eq. (1) was replaced with
GzT (GPa) 4.82  a
V e
The data reported in Ref. [26] is typed in bold, and the data added for 3D f ðV ; eÞ ¼ 1  e V 0 be . ð22Þ
analysis is typed in regular font.
Weibull parameter be was obtained as be = b/Equasi, where
Equasi is the laminate tensile modulus given in Table 1. The
total of 296 tests. Both stacking sequences showed very value of b was calculated for each value of a by using Eq.
similar notched strength with 10% difference in the unnot- (14a) for ra = 499.2 MPa. The dimensions of the unnot-
ched strength due to reportedly extensive delamination in ched specimens were assumed to be the same as in Ref.
final stages of failure of the unnotched [±45/0/90]s lami- [2] and were L = 10.125 cm, W = 1.905 cm.
nates. The stress–strain curves reported for the unnotched Three-dimensional distribution of the stress–strain fields
[90/0/±45]s laminate were linear until failure, and that is at the hole edge has been extensively studied analytically
why this stacking sequence was chosen for the present anal- [21–23] and experimentally Mollenhauer et al. [24]. Exper-
ysis. The ply and laminate stiffness properties used for ply imental investigation of the strain distribution at the hole
level analysis and for lamination level analysis are shown in edge was performed by means of Moiré interferometry
Table 1. The data reported in Ref. [26] are shown in a bold developed by Mollenhauer and Reifsnider [25]. Ply level
font, and the additional data added by the authors for stiff- (3D) stress analysis based on the displacement spline
ness properties in the out-of-plane z-direction are shown in approximation approach Iarve [22] described above was
a normal font. The geometry of the specimens had a gage performed for the [90/0/ ± 45]s laminates with all three
length of L = 22.86 cm in the x-direction and a width of hole sizes. Fig. 6 illustrates the nonuniformity of the fiber
W = w, W = 1.5w and W = 2w in the y-direction, where strain distribution at the hole edge at the h = 90 location,
w = 2.54 cm for hole sizes of d, 3d and 6d, respectively. where the angle h was defined by Eq. (18) and shown in
All notched strength data in the cited report were reported Fig. 6. At this location the fiber direction strain coincides
after the finite width correction factor was applied to exper- with the circumferential strain ehh. The strain value is nor-
imental data. For the purposes of present comparison the malized to the specimen elongation e0 defined in Eq. (16).
actual experimental values were restored by using the cor- A significant strain increase in the 0 plies for both
rection factors from Ref. [2] and dividing the reported cor-
rected values of strength by 1.01, 1.05 and 1.12 for the hole
diameter to width ratios of D/W = 0.1, 0.2 and 0.3, top surface 1
respectively. [90/0/45/-45]s
In order to perform the strength predictions one needs [45/-45/0/90]s
to define the Weibull parameters for strength in the fiber
direction. The experimental data from Whitney and Kim 0.75
[26] for unnotched and notched strength relevant to present 2-D solution
0 - ply
analysis is summarized in Table 2. As in the previous sec- z/H
tion the difficulty is in obtaining the shape parameter of
the strength distribution, which characterizes the intrinsic
strength variation. As seen in Table 2 the coefficient of var- 0 - ply


Table 2
Experimental data from Ref. [26] on unnotched and uncorrected notched
strength for [90/0/45/45]s laminate
midsurface 0
ravg (MPa) c.v. (%) a 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5
Unnotched 500.2 7.8 14.7 Normalized circumferential strain
0.100 Hole 315.8 5.6 20.1
Fig. 6. Through the thickness distribution of the circumferential strain
0.300 Hole 259.2 4.2 27.2
component at open hole edge of quasi-isotropic laminates with D = d hole
0.600 Hole 208.0 6.2 18.1
at h = 90 circumferential location.
182 E.V. Iarve et al. / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 174–185

quasi-isotropic stacking sequences over the lamination the- corresponding to different values of a are shown. The
ory-based 2D constant value of 3.02 can be seen. At the trends which can be seen on the two graphics in Fig. 7a
same time the strain distributions in the 0 plies of the and b show that for larger hole sizes the 3D and 2D anal-
two laminates are the same, which is in agreement with ysis based strength predictions are very close especially for
the practically equal notched strength values reported for low values of a. The second trend, namely that the Weibull
the two laminates in Ref. [26]. integral and CFV based predictions converge with increas-
The comparison of the average strength values predicted ing a can also be seen. However, the more important trend,
by using ply level (3D) analysis and lamination theory which is unambiguously observed, is that all predictions
based (2D) analysis with the experimentally obtained aver- significantly underestimate the hole size effect on strength.
age values is shown in Fig. 7. All strength values are nor- This observation can be explained by examining the size
malized by average unnotched strength value of of the CFV as a function of hole diameter and a. We shall
ra = 499.2 MPa. Thick solid lines connect the experimental introduce a linear measure lc of the CFV by assuming it to
data and the thin lines connect the predicted values. The have a square in-plane cross-section and span through the
predictions based on Weibull integral (2) are marked with thickness of the ply so that
F on the left and contain triangle symbol pointing up, pffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
whereas the CFV prediction contains triangle symbol lc ¼ V c =h=2. ð23Þ
pointing down. Four pairs of curves of predicted values
Estimation of the linear dimension of the CFV is important
in order to compare it with micromechanical scale param-
eters such as fiber diameter and ineffective length intro-
fc duced by Rosen [20]. The size lc, defined by Eq. (23) for
different holes sizes is shown in Table 3, where the fist num-
F ber corresponds to 2D analysis and the second (after for-
2D stress analysis
fc ward slash) to 3D analysis. The values of lc decrease
from around 0.8 mm to as small as 0.01 mm for small holes
Normalized Strength

and large values of a. The latter value is significantly below
fc α=14.7 the estimate of so called ineffective length d [20], where
fc α=24 α=18 sffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffirffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
0.5 F 1 Ef
α=30 d ¼ 1:14d f pffiffiffiffi  1 . ð24Þ
mf Gm

For the T300/934 material we estimate the value of
d = 0.0538 mm for fiber modulus Ef = 206.8 GPa (T300),
0.3 matrix shear modulus Gm = 1.31 GPa (934 Epoxy), fiber
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 volume fraction vf = 0.6 and fiber diameter of df = 7 lm.
(a) Normalized Hole diameter D/d The strength of the unidirectional composite cannot be
0.8 scaled by using Eq. (22) down to dimensions of less than
2d, because for such ultra short composites the process of
fiber macrocrack formation will no longer be self similar
0.7 3D stress analysis to larger composites. However, even 2d appears to be be-
low the limit of applicability of Eq. (22) . A Monte-Carlo
Normalized Strength

simulation and shear lag stress analysis based study of limit

0.6 sizes for Weibull scaling of unidirectional composite
fc α=14.7 strength was recently performed by Landis et al. [31]. It
F α=18 was shown that for composites with fiber strength scatter
0.5 corresponding to Weibull modulus of a = 10 (carbon fibers
fc 5–6) and length l0 = 3d significantly over predict the
F strength of longer composites with l0 = 6d and l0 = 9d,
0.4 fc
F α=30 when Weibull scaled. The intermediate value of l0 = 6d
(46df) was considered as the minimum scalable length.
It is also worth mentioning that Landis et al. [31] investi-
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 gated the size of the minimum Weibull scalable cross-sec-
(b) Hole diameter D/d tion, which was on the order of 30 · 30 fibers. Thus these
Fig. 7. Weibull integral and CFV based predictions of average strength of
are the particular dimensions in the fiber direction and in
quasi-isotropic laminates for four values of a. Solid curves correspond to the direction perpendicular to fibers which matter rather
a = 18 and 30, whereas dashed lines to a = 14.7 and 24. than the volume. The CFV method allows in principle to
E.V. Iarve et al. / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 174–185 183

Table 3
Linear size in mm of CFV for notched laminates (2D/3D)
a = 14.7 a = 18 a = 24 a = 30
0.1 Hole 0.140/0.0813 0.106/0.056 0.0933/0.0424 0.0718/0.0105
0.300 Hole 0.422/0.263 0.353/0.183 0.289/0.137 0.220/0.0320
0.600 Hole 0.848/0.707 0.707/0.462 0.572/0.299 0.420/0.079

obtain its individual dimensions in different directions. values of such ultra small volumes is to evaluate the prob-
However, in the present study we are using a simple esti- ability of failure of a larger volume, which has a linear
mate given by Eq. (23) and comparing it to the largest of dimension of l0 = 6d (6d = 0.323 mm). Now we follow
the scalable volume dimensions from Landis et al. [31]. the dashed horizontal line from left to right and find a
The CFV method can be readily modified to account value of q = 0.78, which corresponds to l0 = 6d and then
for additional physical considerations, such as presence the associated probability of failure f(l0) = 0.175, which
of a limit scaling volume and define the probability of fail- yields the average failure strength value of 241.3 MPa.
ure as Revised predictions by using the criterion (25) for all
( hole sizes and values of a are shown in Fig. 9a–c. The
f c ; lc P l0 ;
f ðl0 Þ ¼ pffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi ð25Þ results obtained by using 2D analysis (up pointing trian-
f ðvðq0 Þ; q0 Þ; l0 ¼ vðq0 Þ=h=2; lc < l0 . gles, dashed line) and 3D ply level analysis (down pointing
triangles, solid lines) are shown for l0 = 3d, 6d, and 9d
So that when CFV has a linear dimension larger then l0
respectively. In all cases the Weibull modulus values of
then the probability of failure coincides with Eq. (11) and
a = 14.7, 18, 24 and 30 were examined. It is apparent that
else with that of the volume corresponding to dimension
the introduction of l0 = 6d as a limiting size of Weibull
l0. In the present study we will consider the same values
scaling yields results that capture the magnitude of experi-
of l0 = 3d, 6d, and 9d as in Landis et al. [31].
mentally observed strength increase with the hole size
The evaluation of f(l0) is illustrated in Fig. 8 showing the
reduction. The values of a in the mid 20s range, are also
probability of local failure f(v(q),pq)) and the linear size of
ffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi consistent with the 23–29 values cited for similar materials
the corresponding volume l ¼ vðqÞ=h=2 as functions of
by Wisnom [30]. It is not surprising that criterion (25)
q. The hole diameter is 7.62 mm and a = 24. The original
yields practically similar results for stress analysis per-
CFV is defined on the bell-shaped f(v(q), q) curve by its
formed by using lamination theory as well as ply level anal-
maximum and corresponds to qc = 0.8775, which yields
ysis, since 6d  3h. It is also important to point out that no
fc = 0.34 and the average failure stress of 216.5p MPa. The
ffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi subcritical damage such as matrix cracking and delamina-
size of the CFV can be obtained from the l ¼ vðqÞ=h=2
tions were taken into account. In most laminates, however,
curve at q = qc and is equal to lc = 0.137 mm, which is
modeling of such damage is critical and can only be accom-
apparently smaller then l0 = 6d (6d = 0.323 mm). Accord-
plished by using 3D ply level stress analysis.
ing to Ref. [31] the strength of such a small volume cannot
It is worth mentioning that similar correction of the pre-
be estimated based on Weibull scaling and is in fact higher.
dictions based on Weibull integral (2) by taking into
The best one can do without precise knowledge of strength
account micromechanical process zone is not equally
straight forward and leads to considerations such as non-
local Weibull theory by Bazant [27], which was proposed
in the 1990s.
Linear Representation of Volume (mm)

1.6 The appearance of an additional parameter, such as the

0.4 length scale l0 = 6d in the present analysis is certainly dis-
f(v(q),q) appointing from the stand point that its direct measure-
Probability of Failure

1.2 fc
l=(v(q)/h/2)^0.5 0.3 Failure ment is problematic. It is however, interesting to compare
Probability its magnitude l0 = 0.323 mm with the size of the character-
0.8 f(lo)
Difference istic distance d0 = 1.016 mm in the point stress failure crite-
rion applied by Whitney and Kim [26] to the hole size effect
analysis of the same problem. The latter dimension is not
0.4 l0=0.323mm
0.1 unexpectedly higher because it combines the effects of Wei-
lc=0.137mm bull scaling of unidirectional composite strength as well as
0 0 microscopic fiber failure process zone effect. The proposed
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 method in some way separates the ply level effects and the
q-argument fiber level effects, which are responsible for collective or
Fig. 8. Modification of the CFV to take into account micromechanics nonlocal type of failure, requiring certain finite volume to
based limit of Weibull scaling. be overstressed in order to occur.
184 E.V. Iarve et al. / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 174–185

0.8 6. Conclusions
l0 =3δ
The critical failure volume method is proposed. The CFV
0.7 was defined as a subvolume, which has the highest probabil-
ity of local failure. The failure in this case is defined as loss
Normalized Strength

of load carrying capacity of this subvolume, rather than a

0.6 point failure event. An algorithm for identifying this region,
based on isostress surface parameterization was proposed.
It was shown that the probability of the subvolume failure
at a given load is always lower then the probability of failure
predicted by Weibull integral criterion for the same subvo-
lume. The two coincide for uniform stress fields and con-
verge to each other when the scatter of strength reduces.
Notched strength of homogeneous neat epoxy resin pla-
ques was studied experimentally and predicted based on
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Weibull integral and CFV methods. The open hole strength
(a) Normalized hole diameter D/d was predicted exclusively based on strength data measured
on unnotched specimens. The average strength of open hole
specimens predicted by the two methods differed by approx-
imately 11% and provided a good agreement with average
0.8 strength measured experimentally. Experimental data was
α=18 tightly bounded by two predictions, with the tail of distribu-
tion being closer to CFV method and the high probability
Normalized Strength

of failure data to that predicted by Weibull integral. Overall
in the case of homogeneous material the traditional Weibull
0.6 α=30 integral method performed very satisfactory and the CFV
provided a tight lower bound on the failure probability.
0.5 The effect of the open hole size on strength of quasi-iso-
tropic graphite-epoxy laminates was considered. The Wei-
bull integral method and classical Weibull strength based
CFV showed that both methods are not capable of describ-
ing the experimentally observed magnitude of the hole size
0.3 effect on strength. However, the analysis based on CFV
0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7
(b) identified the size of the most likely failure region for small
Normalized hole diameter D/d
hole sizes to be smaller then the estimated lower limit of
1 length scale at which the unidirectional composite strength
α=14.7 can be scaled. The stress contour based framework of CFV
0.9 method was modified to include such a limit scaling volume
α=18 l0 =9δ
and the revised results showed good correlation with exper-
0.8 imental data. Similar modifications of the Weibull integral
Normalized Strength

α=24 method are not equally straight forward and lead to non-
0.7 α=30 local formulations, see Bazant [27].

0.6 Acknowledgments

0.5 This work was sponsored by the Air Force Research

Laboratory, under contract number F33615-00-D-5006.
0.4 The authors are grateful to Prof. O. Ochoa for considerable
revision of the manuscript and Dr. N. Pagano and Dr. M.
Gurvich for comments and discussion.
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
(c) Normalized hole diameter D/d
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