Failure Prediction of Honeycomb Panel Joints using Finite Element Analysis
Spacecraft structures rely on honeycomb panels to provide a light weight means to support the vehicle. Honeycomb panels can carry significant load but are most vulnerable to structural failure at their joints where panels connect. This research shows that predicting sandwich panel joint capability using finite element analysis (FEA) is possible. This allows for the potential elimination of coupon testing early in a spacecraft design program to determine joint capability. Linear finite element analysis (FEA) in NX Nastran was used to show that adhesive failure can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by including a fillet model on the edge of the fitting. Predicting the ultimate failure of a joint using linear FEA requires that engineering judgment be used to determine whether failure of certain bonds in a fitting will lead to ultimate joint failure or if other bonds will continue to carry the joint's load.
The linear FEA model is also able to predict when the initiation of core failure will begin. This has the limitation that the joint will still be able to continue to carry significantly more load prior to joint ultimate failure even after the core has begun to buckle. A nonlinear analysis is performed using modified Riks' method in Abaqus FEA to show that this failure mode is predictable. The modified Riks' analysis showed that nonlinear post-buckling analysis of a honeycomb coupon can predict ultimate core failure with good accuracy. This solution requires a very high quality mesh in order to continue to run after buckling has begun and requires imperfections based on linear buckling mode shapes and thickness tolerance on the honeycomb core to be applied.