Date of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics


Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Wenbin Yu

Committee Chair

Wenbin Yu

Committee Member 1

Vikas Tomar

Committee Member 2

Arun Prakash


Advanced composite materials have broad, proven applications in many engineering systems ranging from sports equipment sectors to components on the space shuttle because of their lightweight characteristics and significantly high stiffness. Together with this merit of composite materials is the challenge of improving computational simulation process for composites analysis. Composite structures, particularly composite laminates, usually consist of many layers with different lay-up angles. The anisotropic and heterogeneous features render 3D finite element analysis (FEA) computationally expensive in terms of the computational time and the computing power. ^ At the constituent level, composite materials are heterogeneous. But quite often one homogenizes each layer of composites, i.e. lamina, and uses the homogenized material properties as averaged (smeared) values of those constituent materials for analysis. This is an approach extensively used in design and analysis of composite laminates. Furthermore, many industries tempted to use smeared properties at the laminate level to further reduce the model of composite structures. At this scale, smeared properties are averaged material properties that are weighted by the layer thickness. Although this approach has the advantage of saving computational time and cost of modeling significantly, the prediction of the structural responses may not be accurate, particularly the pointwise stress distribution. Therefore, it is important to quantify the loss of accuracy when one uses smeared properties. In this paper, several different benchmark problems are carefully investigated in order to exemplify the effect of the smeared properties on the global behavior and pointwise stress distribution of the composite beam. ^ In the classical beam theory, both Newtonian method and variational method include several ad hoc assumptions to construct the model, however, these assumptions are avoided if one uses variational asymptotic method. VABS (Variational Asymptotical Beam Sectional Analysis) is a code implementing the theory of classical beam modeling based on the variational asymptotic method. We will also show in this thesis that using VABS with the same set of benchmark examples enables efficient and high fidelity analysis of composite beams by comparing to the detailed 3D FEA using a commercial finite element software.