On the crushing of honeycomb under axial compression

Wilbert, Adrien
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This thesis presents a comprehensive study of the compressive response of hexagonal honeycomb panels from the initial elastic regime to a fully crushed state. Expanded aluminum alloy honeycomb panels with a cell size of 0.375 in (9.53 mm), a relative density of 0.026, and a height of 0.625 in (15.9 mm) are laterally compressed quasi statically between rigid platens under displacement control. The cells buckle elastically and collapse at a higher stress due to inelastic action. Deformation then first localizes at mid-height and the cells crush by progressive formation of folds; associated with each fold family is a stress undulation. The response densifies when the whole panel height is consumed by folds. The buckling, collapse, and crushing events are simulated numerically using finite element models involving periodic domains of a single or several characteristic cells. The models idealize the microstructure as hexagonal, with double walls in one direction. The nonlinear behavior is initiated by elastic buckling while inelastic collapse that leads to the localization observed in the experiments occurs at a significantly higher load. The collapse stress is found to be mildly sensitive to various problem imperfections. For the particular honeycomb studied, the collapse stress is 67% higher than the buckling stress. It was also shown that all aspects of the compressive behavior can be reproduced numerically using periodic domains with a fine mesh capable of capturing the complexity of the folds. The calculated buckling stress is reduced when considering periodic square domains as the compatibility of the buckles between neighboring cells tends to make the structure more compliant. The mode consisting of three half waves is observed in every simulation but its amplitude is seen to be accented at the center of the domains. The calculated crushing response is shown to better resemble measured ones when a 4x4 cell domain is used, which is smoother and reproduces decays in the amplitude of load peaks. However, the average crushing stress can be captured with engineering accuracy even from a single cell domain.