A comparative analysis of numerical approaches to the mechanics of elastic sheets

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Elsevier B. V.


Numerically simulating deformations in thin elastic sheets is a challenging problem in computational mechanics due to destabilizing compressive stresses that result in wrinkling. Determining the location, structure, and evolution of wrinkles in these problems has important implications in design and is an area of increasing interest in the fields of physics and engineering. In this work, several numerical approaches previously proposed to model equilibrium deformations in thin elastic sheets are compared. These include standard finite element-based static post-buckling approaches as well as a recently proposed method based on dynamic relaxation, which are applied to the problem of an annular sheet with opposed tractions where wrinkling is a key feature. Numerical solutions are compared to analytic predictions of the ground state, enabling a quantitative evaluation of the predictive power of the various methods. Results indicate that static finite element approaches produce local minima that are highly sensitive to initial imperfections, relying on a priori knowledge of the equilibrium wrinkling pattern to generate optimal results. In contrast, dynamic relaxation is much less sensitive to initial imperfections and can generate low-energy solutions for a wide variety of loading conditions without requiring knowledge of the equilibrium solution beforehand.