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Journal of Mechanical Science and Technology 22 (2008) 871~878

A finite element formulation based on an enhanced first order shear

deformation theory for composite and sandwich structures
Jinho Oh1, Maenghyo Cho1,*, Jun-Sik Kim2 and Michel GrϹdiac3
Seoul National University, San 56-1, Shillim-Dong, Kwanak-Gu, Seoul 151-744, Korea
The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, U.S.A.
Campus de Clermont-Ferrand-Les CϹzeaux, BP265-613175 AUBIÈRE CEDEX-France

(Manuscript Received December 28, 2007; Revised January 4, 2008; Accepted January 4, 2008)

h finite element formulation based on an enhanced first order shear deformation theory is developed to accurately
and efficiently predict the behavior of laminated composite and sandwich structures. An enhanced first order shear
deformation theory is systematically derived by minimizing the least-squared energy error between the first order shear
deformable plate theory and a higher order shear deformable plate theory. In this way, the strain energy of a higher
order theory is transformed to that of the Reissner-Mindlin plate theory. This minimization procedure yields a relation-
ship between them that is also used to improve the accuracy of predicted stresses and displacements. The key feature of
the proposed theory is in that it can be implemented to commercial FEM packages by simply changing the input, and
the results obtained can be also enhanced by post-processing them via a differential quadrature method. Thus, a pro-
posed finite element formulation can be widely used in various application problems. Through numerical examples, the
accuracy and robustness of the present formulation are demonstrated.
Keywords: Reissner-mindlin plate theory; Enhanced first order shear deformation theory; Laminated composites; Sandwich plates;
Stress recovery

However, a higher order zig-zag theory requires

1. Introduction
C1 shape functions (slope continuity condition along
Various analysis models have been developed to the boundary of the element) for the finite element
predict the behaviors of composite and sandwich realization in general. These shape functions are not
structures efficiently and accurately. Among many available in most commercial finite element packages
proposed models, a higher order zig-zag theory [1, 2] especially for a shear deformable plate theory. Thus it
is known to be one of the most efficient theories to is difficult to implement a special zigzag plate ele-
compute the through-the-thickness distributions of ment with conventional isoparametric elements to
displacements and stresses for laminated composite those commercial packages. A variational–asymptotic
structures. This higher-order zigzag theory (HOZT) approach based on the first order shear deformation
satisfies the continuity condition at interfaces as well Mindlin-Reissner plate theory was proposed by Yu et
as the traction conditions at top and bottom surfaces al [3].
of transverse shear stresses. It employs the degrees of To overcome this drawback, an enhanced first or-
freedom defined at the reference plane only but pro- der shear deformation theory (EFSDT) [4] is devel-
duces accurate results as demonstrated in Refs. [1, 2]. oped, which requires C0 shape functions only for a
* finite element realization. In this study, we implement
Corresponding author. Tel.: +82 2 880 1693, Fax.: +82 2 886 1693
E-mail address: mhcho@snu.ac.kr an EFSDT to the commercial package (ANSYS)
DOI 10.1007/s12206-008-0103-8 routine. This will improve the prediction of deforma-
872 J. Oh et al. / Journal of Mechanical Science and Technology 22 (2008) 871~878

tions and stresses through the thickness of plates via where aDJ( k ) are constants and computed from the
postprocessing the results obtained from ANSYS. interface continuity conditions. This is a modified
Through several numerical examples, the accuracy version of the displacement field given in Refs. [1, 2].
and robustness of the present FE method based on The in-plane warping functions can be simply ob-
EFSDT are demonstrated. tained from the in-plane displacements given in Eq.
(3), which gives us a good approximation to those of
2 Formulation of an enhanced first order the 3D warping functions. The displacements can be
shear deformation theory then expressed in compact form

In this section, an enhanced first order shear defor-

uD ( xi ) uDo ( xD )  u3,o D ( xD ) x3  )DJ ( x3 )IJ ( xD )
mation theory is obtained by applying the strain en- (4)
ergy transformation to the strain energy of a higher u3 ( xi ) u3o ( xD )
order zig-zag theory. A way to recover the stresses
and displacements via the differential quadrature where WD )DJ ( x3 )IJ ( xD ) , and )DJ ( x3 ) can be
method is then developed, which can be directly ap- computed from Eq. (3). Subsequently the correspond-
plied to the results obtained from the commercial ing in-plane strains are given by
finite element software.
(o) (1) ( w)
H DE ( xi ) H DE ( xD )  x3H DE ( xD )  H DE ( xi ) (5)
2.1 Displacement formulation

In this paper, a linear elastic plate theory is consid- in which the detailed expression of strain components
ered for laminated plates made of a monoclinic mate- can be found in Ref. [4], and the transverse shear
rial. The reference plane is represented by xD and the strains are given as
through-the-thickness position is denoted by x3 ,
where x3  > h 2,  h 2@ . As long as the interior solu- J D ( xi ) uD ,3  u3,D )DJ ,3 ( x3 )IJ ( xE )  W3,D (6)
tion is concerned, the general form of displacements
can be expressed by where the warping function W3 is very small as
compared to the effective transverse shear strains, IJ ,
uD ( xi ) uDo ( xE )  u3,o D ( xE ) x3  WD ( xi ) (1)
for moderately thick plates in general. The transverse
u3 ( xi ) u ( xE )  W3 ( xi )
3 (2) shear strains are then approximated as follows:

in which, uD0 and u3 are in-plane and out-of-plane J 3D # )DJ ,3 ( x3 )IJ ( xE ) (7)
displacements in the reference plane, respectively.
WD ( xi ) and W3 ( xi ) represent warping functions.
2.2 Relationship between two plate theories
The in-plane displacement fields of the HOZT are
constructed by superimposing a linear zig-zag dis- In order to derive the relationship between the
placement to a smooth globally cubic varying dis- aforementioned two plate theories, one can apply
placement. The final displacement fields are ex- least square minimization to strains and displace-
pressed in terms of the five primary degrees of free- ments obtained from Reissner-Mindlin theory and the
dom by applying the interface continuity conditions HOZT. Consequently, this can be summarized as
as well as the bounding surface conditions for trans- follows:
verse shear stresses. These are then written as fol-
lows: 1
min ¢|| H DE  H DE ||2 ² 0 o H DEo (0)
H DE (8) ( w)
 ¢ H DE ²
H DE h
1 h2
uD uDo  u3,o D x3  x33 ID  x3ID (1) 12 ( w)
3 4 min ¢|| HDE  HDE ||2 ² 0 o NDE HDE  3 ¢ x3HDE ² (9)
x3 N 1 ( k ) 1 N 1
 ¦ aDJ IJ  x32 ¦ aDJ( k )IJ (3) 1
2 k 1 2h k 1 min ¢|| uD  uD ||2 ² 0 o uDo uDo  ¢WD ² (10)
N 1
uDo h
(k )
 ¦ aDJ IJ ( x3  x3( k ) ) H ( x3  x3( k ) ) 12
min ¢|| uD  uD ||2 ² 0 o TD u3,o D  3 ¢ x3WD ² (11)
k 1 TD h
J. Oh et al. / Journal of Mechanical Science and Technology 22 (2008) 871~878 873

1  J T *ˆ T G*ˆ J  2 H 0  C N h
¢|| u 3  u3 ||2 ² 0 o u3o u3o  ¢W3 ²
(12) EN h (14)
 2 N o  * N h FN h  N hT H N h
where the averaged in-plane strains, curvatures and
displacements are denoted by H DE , NDE and uD , in which C and * are the relationship matrices that
which are taken from Reissner-Mindlin theory. The 1 ( w) 12 ( w)
are associated with ¢ H DE ² and 3 ¢ x3H DE ² , respec
h h
symbol < is defined by < ³ < d x3 . These tively. After rearranging Eq. (14), one can obtain the
h / 2
energy of Reissner-Mindlin like theory and the trun-
equations, Eqs. (8)-(12), minimize the errors of the in-
cated energy as follows:
plane stresses in the least-square sense, which can be
also derived by transforming the strain energy of the 2U H 0T AH 0  2H 0T BN 0  N 0T DN 0  J T Gˆ J  2U (15)
HOZT into that of Reissner-Mindlin like theory.
The strain energy of the HOZT based on Eq. (4) is where the truncated energy U is given by
written in a compact form.

2U 2H0T AC  B*
2U H 0T AH 0  2H 0T BK 0  K 0T DK 0
 I T GI  2H 0T EK h  2 K 0T FK h (13) 0
 2N B C  D*
h (16)

 K hT HK h
 NhT C T AC  2CT B*
 2CT E * T D*
 2* T F  H N
where stiffness matrices A, B, D, G, E , F , H and strain This truncated energy should be minimized with
vectors H 0 ,K 0 ,I , K h are defined in Ref. [4]. Substi- respect to the relationship matrices to obtain the best
tuting Eqs. (8)-(12) into the above yields approximation to the HOZT. In this way, the strain
energy of the HOZT can be successfully expressed in
2U H  CN A H  CN
0 h 0 h terms of the variables of Reissner-Mindlin theory.
T Once the relationship matrices are found, which
 2 H  C N B N  * N
0 h o h
minimize Eq. (16), the effective transverse shear stiff-
 N  * N D N  * N
o h o h
ness can be obtained by

Fig. 1. Flowchart of the enhanced first order shear deformation method.

874 J. Oh et al. / Journal of Mechanical Science and Technology 22 (2008) 871~878

*ˆ T G*ˆ
Ĝ (17)
f y( m) ( xi , y j ) ¦C ( m)
jk f ( xi , yk ) m 1, 2, ..., ( N y  1) (21)
k 1
where *ˆ is the inverse of the sub-matrix of * . Here Nx Ny
one can see that an EFSDT is different only from f xy( n  m ) ( xi , y j ) ¦C ¦C (n)
( m)
jl f ( xk , yl )
Reissner-Mindlin theory in terms of the shear stiff- k 1 l 1 (22)
ness matrix. This implies that an EFSDT can be easily i 1, 2, ..., N x and j 1, 2, ..., N y
implemented to most commercial finite element
packages, which have Reissner-Mindlin type ele- where N x is a grid point x-direction and N y in the
ments, with virtually no effort. y-direction. The numbers n and m represent the order
of the derivatives with respect to x and y direction.
2.3 Recovery process Cij( n ) and Cij( m ) are weighting coefficients, which are
computed as follows:
In this subsection, the recovery process using the
§ Cij( n 1) ·
outputs of commercial finite element packages is Cij( n )
n ¨ Cii( n 1)Cij(1)  ¸¸
¨ xi  x j
described, which improves significantly the predicted © ¹
displacements and stresses via the relationship be- for i, j 1, 2, ... , N x (23)
tween an EFSDT and the HOZT. Explicit relations j z i and n 2,3, ... , N y  1
between the HOZT and Reissner-Mindlin like theory
§ Cij( m 1) ·
are derived via the strain energy transformation pre- Cij( m )
m ¨ Cii( m 1)Cij(1)  ¸¸
¨ yi  y j
sented in previous section. © ¹
In the post-processing phase, one can recover the for i, j 1, 2, ... , N y (24)
displacements using the variables of Reissner- j z i and m 2,3, ... , N y  1
Mindlin like theory denoted by the overbars in Eq. Nx
(18) as follows: Cii( n )  ¦ Cij( n ) for i, j 1, 2, ... , N x
j 1, j z i (25)
uD uD0  u3,0D x3  CDJ IJ  )DJ x3 *ˆ JP J 3 P , and n 1, 2,3, ... , N x  1
(18) Ny
u3 u30 Cii( m ) Cij( m ) for i, j 1, 2, ... , N y
j 1, j z i (26)
Similarly, the strains are recovered by and m 1, 2,3, ... , N y  1

1 e in which
H DE H DEo  )DJ ( x3 )*ˆ J , E
h (19)
 s ( x )*ˆ J M (1) (xi )
H 3D ) DE 3 Cij(1) i, j 1,2, ... , Nx but j z i (27)
(xi  x j )M (1) (x j )

in which the values with overbars are obtained from P(1) ( yi )

Cij(1) i, j 1,2, ... , Ny but j z i (28)
the outputs of the commercial FE software ANSYS. ( yi  y j )P(1) ( y j )
The derivatives of nodal variables are calculated by
using the differential quadrature method [5], which is A summary of the proposed finite element formula-
a simple numerical approach to solve partial differen- tion is given as follows: First, the effective shear
tial equations. In this method, the partial derivatives stiffness matrix is obtained by using the in-plane
of a function with respect to a variable at any discrete warping functions dependent on the layer material
point are approximated by weighted linear sums of and geometric properties taken from the HOZT and
the function values at all the discrete points in the applying the strain energy transformation process via
overall chosen domain. For instance, the partial de- the least square minimization. Second, after the shear
rivatives with respect to in-plane coordinates are cal- stiffness is replaced with the effective one, the model-
culated by ing and analysis of composite and sandwich struc-
tures is performed by ANSYS [6]. Lastly, in order to
get the detailed through-the-thickness distributions of
f x(n) ( xi , y j ) ¦C ( n)
ik f ( xk , y j ) n 1, 2, ..., ( Nx  1) (20)
k 1 displacements and stresses, the recovery procedure is
J. Oh et al. / Journal of Mechanical Science and Technology 22 (2008) 871~878 875

applied to the output of ANSYS, which is carried out the present approach (i.e., the finite element formula-
by the in-house code. A detailed flowchart of the tion based on an EFSDT) agrees very well with those
enhanced first order shear deformation method is of the HOZT. The displacement contour of a rectan-
given in Fig. 1. gular composite plate is plotted in Fig. 2, and the in-
plane stress V xx distributions through the thickness
of a plate at the center are depicted in Figs. 3(a) and
3. Numerical results
3(b) for S=4 and S=10, respectively. The transverse
The finite element formulation based on an EFSDT shear stresses obtained by FSDT, EFSDT, and HOZT
is applied to ANSYS. In this commercial software, are plotted and compared in Fig. 4. The legend in Figs.
the SHELL99 element is selected to implement the 3-4 is given as follows. The legend ‘EFSDT_ansys’
proposed finite element formulation based on an indicates an ansys finite element solution based on
EFSDT, which utilizes the C0 - shaped functions. In EFSDT. The legend ‘HOZT_FEM’ represents a finite
what follows, it will be demonstrated that the present element solution based on higher order zig-zag theory
approach (an EFSDT together with the recovery (HOZT). The legend ‘FSDT’ indicates a finite ele-
process) is simple yet accurate throughout the nu- ment solution based on a first order shear deformation
merical examples. theory. One can see the discrepancy between an
The ply material properties [7] in cross-ply lami- EFSDT and the FSDT, because the shear stiffness of
nated plates are given as an EFSDT was improved over that of the FSDT via
the least-square minimization process. Throughout
EL / ET 25, GLT / ET 0.5, examples consi-dered for Case I, the results of an
GTT / ET 0.2,Q LT vTT 0.25 EFSDT are well correlated with those of the HOZT.
Case (2): An eight-layer stiffened laminated com-
where L denotes a fiber direction and T denotes a posite panel [0/90/45/-45/-45/45/90/0] with clamped
perpendicular direction to the fiber. For a sandwich boundary condition at one side edge under the dis-
plate, the material properties of a face sheet are the tributed uniform pressure loading. The dimension of
same as Eq. (29), and the core material properties [8] the stiffened composite panel is length a=20 m, width
are given by b=14 m, and thickness h=1. Fig. 5 shows the dis-
placement contour of a stiffened composite panel,
Ex 1.0 u 108 Pa 0.145 u 105 psi , E2 E3 which is obtained by ANSYS. In Fig. 6, the trans-
verse shear stresses are plotted. It can be seen that the
G13 0.4 u 10 Pa 0.58 u 10 psi ,
8 4

(30) conventional Mindlin-Reissner type shell element

G23 G12 G13 , v12 0.25 denoted by FSDT_anysis in Fig. 6 cannot accurately
predict the transverse shear stresses through the
The length-to-thickness ratio, S, is assumed to be 4 thickness of a plate for angle-ply layers. In contrast,
or 10, in which S=4 represents a very thick plate and an EFSDT and its recovery routine are capable of
S=10 does a moderately thick plate. Only two cases computing the through-the-thickness distributions of
are evaluated, since these are challengeable problems transverse shear stresses accurately.
due to the significant shear deformation effect, espe- Case (3): A simply supported [0o / Core / 0o ]
cially for a sandwich plate. The through-the-thickness sandwich plate with the thickness of each face sheet
distributions of in-plane stresses and transverse shear equal to h/10 is considered to investigate significant
stresses are investigated and discussed, which are shear deformation effects. The uniform pressure load-
important from the strength and stiffness design ing is distributed over the whole x-y plane. The in-
points of view. plane normal and transverse shear stresses are plotted
Three cases are considered to assess the accuracy in Figs. 7(a) and 7(b), respectively, for a very thick
and efficiency of the present approach. plate of S=4. The results from an EFSDT are signifi-
Case (1): An eight-layer rectangular plate [90/0/ cantly improved over those from the FSDT, as shown
90/0/0/90/0/90] with simply supported boundary con- in Fig. 7. From this example, one can clearly see that
ditions along the edge under the distributed uniform the FSDT is not adequate at all for the analysis of
pressure loading. The comparison of center deflec- sandwich plates. For more accurate prediction of the
tions is made in Table 1, where one can confirm that transverse shear stresses of a sandwich plate, the ef-
876 J. Oh et al. / Journal of Mechanical Science and Technology 22 (2008) 871~878

fect of a transverse normal deformation should be
NOV 16 2006
SUB =1
considered. The reason of this is that the core material

DMX =.709E-05
of a sandwich plate is very flexible as compared to
SMX =.709E-05
that of the face sheet. Although the proposed ap-
proach does not consider the transverse normal effect,
it has merit in that it always gives better results than
the FSDT while it retains the same computational cost.

Table 1. Center deflection u 3 under distributed loading.

.709E-05 4 2.78 2.77 2.32 2.054

10 1.025 1.025 0.96 0.915

Fig. 2. Displacement contour of rectangular composite plate u3 3
u3100 E2 h /( Pa ) 4

under uniform loading (S=4).


0.5 0.4
0.4 [90/0/90/0/0/90/0/90] 0.3

0.3 0.2

0.2 EFSDT_ansys 0.1 EFSDT_ansys




-0.5 -0.05 0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20 0.25 0.30 0.35 0.40 0.45 0.50
-1.25 -1.00 -0.75 -0.50 -0.25 0.00 0.25 0.50 0.75 1.00 1.25
(a/h)=4 Normalized Stress zx
(a/h)=4 Normalized Stress xx
Fig. 4(a). Nondimensional in-plane stress V xx V x V x / q0S 2
Fig. 3(a). Nondimensional in-plane stress Vxx V x Vx / q0S2 under uniform loading.
under uniform loading.

0.4 [90/0/90/0/0/90/0/90]
EFSDT_ansys 0.2
FSDT 0.1 EFSDT_ansys



-0.1 -0.1

-0.2 -0.2

-0.3 -0.3

-0.4 -0.4

-0.5 -0.5
-1.00 -0.75 -0.50 -0.25 0.00 0.25 0.50 0.75 1.00 -0.05 0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20 0.25 0.30 0.35

(a/h)=10 Normalized stress xx (a/h=10) Normalized stress zx

Fig. 3(b). Nondimensional in-plane stress V xx V x V x / q0S 2 Fig. 4(b). Nondimensional transverse shear stress V zx V zx
under uniform loading. V zx / q0 S under uniform loading.
J. Oh et al. / Journal of Mechanical Science and Technology 22 (2008) 871~878 877

1 0.5
NOV 16 2006
STEP=1 21:16:52
SUB =1 0.4
RSYS=0 0.3
DMX =.836E-05 MN
SMX =.836E-05
0.2 EFSDT_ansys



MX -0.2



0 .186E-05 .371E-05 .557E-05 .743E-05
.929E-06 .279E-05 .464E-05 .650E-05 .836E-05 -1.0 -0.8 -0.6 -0.4 -0.2 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0
Stress yy

Fig. 5. Displacement contour of stiffened laminated compos- Fig. 7(a). Nondimensional in-plane stress V yy V y V y / q0S 2
ite panel. of sandwich plate under uniform loading.

0.1 FSDT_ansys

0.0 -0.1 FSDT_ansys

-0.1 -0.2

-0.2 -0.3

-0.3 -0.4

-0.4 -0.5
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 1.2 1.4
Sigma zx
-3.0e-3 -2.5e-3 -2.0e-3 -1.5e-3 -1.0e-3 -5.0e-4 0.0 5.0e-4

Stress zx
Fig. 7(b). Nondimensional transverse shear stress V zx V zx
V zx / q0 S of sandwich plate under uniform loading.
Fig. 6(a). Nondimensional transverse shear stress V zx under
uniform loading.

4. Conclusions

A finite element formulation based on an EFSDT
has been developed to predict the behavior of sand-
[0/90/45/-45/-45/45/90/0] wich plates as well as laminated composite plates
efficiently and accurately. The displacement fields of
the HOZT [1], which is selected for its simplicity and
accuracy, are utilized to approximate the through-the-

FSDT_ansys thickness warping functions.
The key feature of the present paper is that the ap-
plicability of an EFSDT to the commercial software
-0.3 with virtually no effort is demonstrated. A post-
-0.4 process scheme is developed to calculate the higher
-0.5 order derivatives with respect to in-plane coordinates
-4.0e-4 -2.0e-4 0.0 2.0e-4 4.0e-4 6.0e-4 8.0e-4 1.0e-3 1.2e-3 1.4e-3 1.6e-3
via the differential quadrature method. This is suc-
Stress zy
cessfully applied to ANSYS. The accuracy and ro-
Fig. 6(b). Nondimensional transverse stress V zy under uni- bustness of the present approach is also demonstrated
form loading. by analyzing plates with various lay-up configura-
878 J. Oh et al. / Journal of Mechanical Science and Technology 22 (2008) 871~878

tions including a sandwich plate. The results obtained Struc., 20 (1985) 113-123.
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observed that the FSDT severely underestimates the composite plate theory for general lamination con-
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numerical examples considered, one can conclude totic construction of Reissner-like composite plate
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