Flexural Behaviour of Sandwich Panels Composed of Polyurethane Core and GFRP Skins and Ribs
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This study addresses the flexural performance of sandwich panels composed of a polyurethane foam core and glass fibre-reinforced polymer (GFRP) skins. Panels with and without GFRP ribs connecting the skins have been studied. While the motivation of the study was to develop new insulated cladding panels for buildings, most of the work and findings are also applicable to other potential applications such as flooring, roofing and light-weight decking. The study comprises experimental, numerical, and analytical investigations. The experimental program included three phases. Phase I is a comprehensive material testing program of the polyurethane core and GFRP skins and ribs. In Phase II, six medium size (2500x660x78 mm) panels with different rib configurations were tested in one-way bending. It was shown that flexural strength and stiffness have increased by 50 to 150%, depending on the rib configuration, compared to a panel without ribs. In Phase III, two large-scale (9150x2440x78 mm) panels, representing a cladding system envisioned to be used in the field, were tested under a realistic air pressure and discrete loads, respectively. The deflection under service wind load did not exceed span/360, while the ultimate pressure was about 2.6 times the maximum factored wind pressure in Canada. A numerical study using finite element analysis (FEA) was carried out. The FEA model accounted for the significant material nonlinearities, especially for the polyurethane soft core, and the geometric nonlinearity, which is mainly a reduction in thickness due to core softness. Another independent analytical model was developed based on equilibrium and strain compatibility, accounting for the core excessive shear deformation. The model also captures the localized deformations of the loaded skin, using the principals of beam-on-elastic foundation. Both models were successfully validated using experimental results. Possible failure modes, namely core shear failure, and compression skin crushing or wrinkling were successfully predicted. A parametric study was carried out to explore further the core density, skin thickness, and rib spacing effects. As the core density increased, flexural strength and stiffness increased and shear deformations reduced. Also, increasing skin thickness became more effective as the core density increased. The optimal density was 95-130 kg/m3. Reducing the spacing of ribs enhanced the strength up to a certain level; It then stabilized at a spacing of 2.9 times the panel thickness.