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The initial energy release rate for a branch crack propagating at an arbitrary angle from an existing crack tip is obtained
in a simple fashion and in closed form by using a continuity assumption. It is then postulated that the branch crack
propagates in the direction which causes the energy release rate to be a maximum and that initiation occurs when the
value of this release rate reaches a critical value. It is shown that these postulates yield results identical to the maximum
stress theory, since the direction in which the maximum circumferential stress occurs is also the direction causing the
maximum energy release rate.

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Noordhoff International Publishing - Leyden

Printed in The Netherlands

R. J. N U I S M E R *

Research Associate, Nonmetallic Materials Division, Air Force Materials Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,

Dayton, Ohio 45433, U.S.A.

(Received September 30, 1973)

ABSTRACT

The initial energy release rate for a branch crack propagating at an arbitrary angle from an existing crack tip is obtained

in a simple fashion and in closed form by using a continuity assumption. It is then postulated that the branch crack

propagates in the direction which causes the energy release rate to be a maximum and that initiation occurs when the

value of this release rate reaches a critical value. It is shown that these postulates yield results identical to the maximum

stress theory, since the direction in which the maximum circumferential stress occurs is also the direction causing the

maximum energy release rate.

1. Introduction

Although in practice the fracture of materials under mixed mode loading is not uncommon,

until recently the approach of fracture mechanics to this problem has been largely to ignore it.

Thus it is of no small interest that two new approaches to this problem, both based on energy

concepts, have recently evolved. The first approach is that of Sih [1 ], [2], in which he formulates

a strain energy density function, S, which is a measure of the strength of the elastic energy field

in the vicinity of a crack tip. This function, S, is a quadratic form of the Mode I and Mode II

stress intensity factors, and varies with the angle, 0, measured from the plane of the crack.

It is then postulated that: 1) crack initiation will occur at the crack tip in a radial direction

along which the strain energy density, S, is a minimum ; and 2) the crack will begin to propagate when the density, S, reaches some critical value, Scr, which is considered to be a material

constant determined from experiment. Although for rather limited data, initial comparisons of

these hypotheses to experimental data seem to warrant further investigation of the theory.

The second approach to the problem of mixed mode fracture is the energy release rate

method recently demonstrated by Palaniswamy [3]. In this approach, Kolosov-Muskhelishvili

stress functions were used to obtain an approximate numerical solution to the difficult problem

of a branched crack. These results were then used to calculate energy release rates for the branch

propagating at various angles to the original crack. It was then hypothesized that: 1) crack

propagation will occur at the crack tip in a radial direction along which the energy release is a

maximum ; and 2) the crack will begin to propagate when the energy release rate reaches some

critical level.

Although both of these theories for mixed mode fracture seem plausible, the criterion gaining

the most acceptance will undoubtedly be that which is able to make the better predictions.

However, sufficient data for this comparison is, at present, lacking. The one factor which, for

the moment, would seem to favor the energy release rate theory is simply the fact that for purely

Mode I fracture this theory has developed a considerable acceptance among people working

in the field of fracture. Thus, the emphasis of the present paper is on the energy release theory.

The application of the energy release rate theory in Ref. [-3], although ponderous, has led to

some interesting results. For the single problem considered, that of a crack inclined at an angle fl

to a uniform uniaxial tension field at infinity, it was found that the predicted direction of crack

propagation was nearly identical to that predicted using the maximum stress theory [4].

* Currently on leave from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.

246

R . J. N u i s m e r

Likewise, the k l - k 2 fracture envelope predicted by the energy release rate theory agreed within

a few percent of that obtained by the maximum stress theory. The question then arises as to

whether there is some relation between the two theories or if some unusual coincidence has

occurred for this particular problem. Unfortunately, because the results of Ref. [-3] are presented

numerically, such a comparison is impossible. It will be shown in the present paper that, for

the problem of the initial propagation of a branch crack from an existing crack, the energy

release rate can be obtained in closed form in a very simple fashion by means of a continuity

assumption. The relation between the energy release rate theory and the maximum stress theory

is then examined.

2. Calculation of the energy release rate

For plane problems, the stresses at the tip of a line crack have the form [5]

ao -

cos (8/2)

2(2r)~ [kl(1 +cos 0 ) - 3 k 2 sin 8]

(1)

cos (0/2)

at0 - 2(2r)~---T- [kl sin 0+k2(3 cos 8 - 1)]

(2)

where kl and k2 are the Mode I and Mode II stress intensity factors, respectively, and r and 0

constitute the usual polar coordinate system with origin attached to the crack tip. As the load

on an existing crack increases to an appropriate level, the crack will begin to propagate,

although not necessarily in its own plane. Consider, then, a branch crack to propagate from

the existing crack tip in an arbitrary radial direction, 0 = 00, as shown in Fig. 1. Denoting all

quantities associated with the branch crack by placing a bar over those quantities, it is clear that

at the tip of the br___anchcr__ackthe stresses are of the form of Eqns. (1) and (2) with r, 8, kl and k 2

replaced by ~, 0, kl and k2, repectively. Here, it should be noted that the stress intensity factors

associated with the original crack, ka and k2, are, in general, different from those of the branch

crack, ka and k2, with the latter being dependent on the branched geometry.

Y

.~

~x

Fig. 1. Geometryand coordinatesystemsfor the branched crack.

Considering the energy release rate, it has been shown that for a crack propagating in its

the energy release rate, Go, is given by [-6]

o w n plane,

Go - rc(~+ 1) (k 2 +k2)

(3)

8~

where kl and k 2 are the stress intensity factors for the crack in question and ~ = 3 - 4 v for

plane strain and K= (3 - v)/(1 + v) for generalized plane stress. The energy release rate for the

branch crack we are considering must then be given by

Go

n(~c+ 1) ( ~ + k 2)

8#

(4)

since, after initiation, propagation takes place in the plane of the branch crack. To obtain values

for this release rate, however, one needs to know the stress intensity factors for the branched

Int. Journ. of Fracture,

11 (1975) 245-250

247

crack and this, in general, involves the solution of a complicated boundary value problem [3].

Fortunately, however, if we are concerned only with the initiation of fracture, an easier method

of obtaining these stress intensity factors is available by making a continuity assumption.

Consider the length of the branch crack, fi, to approach zero. It is assumed that in the limit as

shrinks to zero, the stress field at the tip of the branch crack must approach the stress field at the

tip of the original crack before propagation began.* Thus, in the limit as ~ shrinks to zero, we

equate the normal and shear stresses, fly and 5~, at the tip of the branch crack to those at the tip

of the original crack, a o and at0, along the ray, 0 = 00. In equation form, this can be written as

lim 5 y = a o

O=Oo

.~o~

(5)

~-o+

(6)

Substituting the appropriate expressions into Eqns. (5) and (6) results in the stress intensity

factors for the branch crack at its initiation. These are

]~1o =

~ 0

~ 0

(7)

(8)

Having the stress intensity factors, the energy release rate, Go~ due to the branch crack at

the instant that that crack begins to propagate from the original crack in the direction 0 = 00

is given from Eqn. (4) as

Goo-

7r(x+ 1)

8p (~z+ ~)

(9)

where J~to and J~2oare given by Eqns. (7) and (8). A quick perusal of Eqn. (9) reveals that, for a

particular material, the energy release rate due to the initiation of a branch crack is solely a

function of the stress state before fracture begins and the path the branch crack chooses to

follow.

3. Fracture criteria

Since for Mode I fracture the energy release rate has been considered to be a "driving force"

for crack propagation it is only natural to postulate the fracture criteria as follows : 1) the crack

will propagate in the direction which causes the maximum energy release rate to occur; and

2) the fracture will initiate when the release rate in that direction reaches a certain specified

level. These are the same hypotheses used in Ref. [3]. Combined with the energy release rate as

given in Eqn. (9), these criteria imply that, for a particular material, the initiation of fracture

and the direction it takes are dependent only on the state of stress at the existing crack tip.

Considering the initial direction of propagation, the first fracture hypothesis of the preceding

paragraph makes it clear that this direction is predicted to be the solution of the equation

~(K+ 1)( k O~,o

Ok2,,)

O0o = " ~

\ lo~

+ keg ( 3 0 o / = 0

dGoo

(10)

that causes Goo to attain a maximum value. Eqn. (10) can be rewritten in a form more conducive

to its interpretation by comparing the crack tip stresses, ao and a,o of Eqns. (1) and (2), with the

stress intensity factors, i~1o and/~2o of Eqns. (7) and (8). Thus we see that Eqn. (10) can be rewritten equivalently as

* The stress singularity at point 0 due to the sharp corner will be of a smaller order t h a n the square root singularity

associated with a sharp crack tip since the included wedge angle of the bend is always greater than zero [7]. Thus, it

is a s s u m e d to have no contribution to either the stress intensity factors or the energy release rate at the tip of the

branch crack, 0. This is further substantiated by a comparison of the results of the present paper with those of Ref. [3].

R. J. Nuismer

248

Oao

~3ar0] I

= 0

0-o 00- + aro 80 / O=Oo

(11)

An examination of Eqn. (12) reveals that it has three roots, two resulting from causing a~0

to vanish and one from letting the term in parentheses vanish. Considering first the latter root,

writing the term in parentheses out explicitly shows this root to be a solution of

0o

0o

kl cos -~- - k2 sin -~- = 0.

(13)

0o

~- = arc tan(kl/k2).

(14)

The energy release rate corresponding to this direction can then be obtained by substituting

Eqn. (14) into Eqns. (7) and (8), and those in turn into Eqn. (9), to arrive at

n(x+l)(

k~ "~

G 8 ~ \k~ + k~/ "

(15)

If the crack were simply to propagate in its own plane, however, rather than the direction given

by Eqn. (14), the initial energy release r a t e w o u l d be

Go -

~ ( x + 1) (k 2 +k2)"

8--7

(16)

Since it is easily verified that Go of Eqn. (16) is greater than Goo of Eqn. (15), it is clear that

the root given by Eqn. (14) cannot possibly cause Goo to achieve a maximum value. Thus, we

discard this root from consideration as a direction of propagation.

The predicted initial direction of crack growth has now been narrowed down to the solution

of the equation

z dao

-- 3 - ' ~

0=0o

= arolO=Oo= 0

(17)

that makes G0o a maximum. Thus, we see that the directions, 0 o = Oo, which yield stationary

values of the circumferential stress, ao, also result in stationary values of the energy release

rate. Since Eqn. (17) implies that along these directions ~2o = 0, the energy release rate in these

directions is given from Eqn. (9) as

G,,o-

re(x+ 1)

0o=0o

rc(~c+ 1)

0"0] 2

(18)

I

10= o.

Because the energy release rate (18) involves only the square of the circumferential stress, a0,

we see that the predicted direction of crack propagation takes place in the direction of the circumferential stress of maximum absolute value, since this is the direction of the maximum

energy release rate. In the event that the maximum absolute value of a0 occurs for a0 > 0,

the predicted direction of crack growth is precisely the same as that predicted by the maximum

stress theory first postulated by Griffith [8] and later re-examined by Erdogan and Sih [4].

If, however, the maximum absolute value of a o occurs for a0 < 0, the energy release rate theory

Int. Journ. of Fracture, 11 (1975)245-250

249

appears to predict propagation in the direction of the largest compressive circumferential stress:

This prediction, which conflicts with reality, can easily be explained by observing that the maximum absolute value of go is always greater than zero for problems in which kl >0, i.e., for

problems in which no interpenetration of opposing crack faces occurs.

We summarize as follows: for problems in which kl >i0, the energy release rate theory

predicts the initial direction of crack propagatiot~ to be in the direction of the maximum positive

value of the circumferential stress, tre,since it is this direction which results in the greatest energy

release rate. For problems in which kl < 0, a new boundary value problem must be solved

which takes into account the contact of opposing crack faces. However, once the stress distribution at the tip of such a crack is found, the method applied here to obtain the energy release

rate is again applicable. It should be noted here that the restriction on kl applies as well to the

strain energy density theory of Refs. [-1] and [-2].

Turning now to the conditions necessary to initiate crack propagation, the second hypothesis implies that fracture will progress when

Goo = Gcr

(19)

where t9 o is now taken to be the direction of the maximum tensile circumferential stress near

the crack tip, and Get is assumed to be a material constant. Noting the relation between the

critical energy release rate, G~, and the critical Mode I stress intensity factor, klor,

Get

rt(x+ 1) k2

8-----~

(20)

1 ~r

klol0o=O o = k l

(21)

Finally, in terms of the original stress intensity factors, this can be written as

cos (Oo/2)[,k~ (1 + cos 6}0)- 3k2 sin 6}0] = k~or.

(22)

Eqn. (22) is a particularly attractive form of the initiation criterion in view of the vast amount

of experimentally obtained values of k ~or available.

4. Discussion and conclusions

The initial energy relea e rate for a branch crack propagating at.an arbitrary angle from an

existing crack tip has been obtained in a simple fashion and in closed form by using a continuity

assumption. It was then postulated that the branch crack propagates in the direction causing

the maximum energy release rate and is initated when the value of this release rate reaches a

critical value, Gcr. For problems in which the opposing faces of the existing crack are not in

contact before the branch propagates, it has been shown that this energy release rate criterion

for mixed mode fracture yields exactly the same results as the maximum stress theory [-4].

This was found to occur because the direction in which the circumferential stress at the crack

tip, ae, attains a maximum value is also the direction of propagation causing the maximum

energy release rate. Since the direction is also the direction in which the shear stress, a~0,

vanishes, it is clear that the branch crack is predicted to propagate in a Mode I manner. These

results then imply that fracture will be initiated when the maximum ao reaches a critical value.

This, of course, was also assumed to be the initiation criterion in the maximum stress theory.

The results obtained agree within a few per cent with the numerical results obtained in [-3].

Acknowledgements

The author gratefully wishes to acknowledge the support of the National Science Foundation,

Research Initiation Grant GK-27783, and of the National Research Council through a Resident

Research Associateship.

Int. Journ. of Fracture, 11 (1975)245-250

250

R. J. Nuismer

REFERENCES

[-1] G.C. Sih, A special theory of crack propagation, Methods of Analysis and Solutions of Crack Problems, Noordhoff

International Publishing (1973).

I2] G. C. Sih, Some basic problems in fracture mechanics and new concepts, Engng. Fracture Mech., 5 (1973) 365.

1'3] K. Palaniswamy, Crack propagation under general in-plane loading, Ph.D. Thesis, California Institute of Technology (1972).

[4] F. Erdogan and G. C. Sih, On the crack extension in plates under plane loading and transverse shear, Trans.

ASME, J. Basic Engng., 85 (1963) 519.

[5] M. L. Williams, On the stress distribution at the base of a stationary crack, Trans. ASME, J. Appl. Mech., 24 (1957)

109.

1'6] G. C. Sih and H. Liebowitz, Mathematical theories of brittle fracture, Fracture, An Advanced Treatise, Vol. 2,

Academic Press (1968).

1'7] M. L. Williams, Stress singularities resulting from various boundary conditions in angular corners of plates in

extension, Trans. ASME, J. Appl. Mech., 74 (1952) 526.

1'8] A. A. Griffith, The phenomena of rupture and flow in solids, Phil. Trans. R. Soc., A221 (1921) 163.

RI~SUMI~

La vitesse de relaxation de r6nergie initiale d'une fissure arborescente qui se d6veloppe suivant un angle arbitraire

au d6part de l'extr6mit6 d'une fissure prOexistante est obtenue sous une presentation simple et une forme ferrule en

utilisant une hypoth~se de continuit6. On postule doric que la fissure lat6rale se propage dans la direction correspondant

/l un maximum de relaxation de l'6nergie, et que l'amorqage se produit lorsque la vitesse de relaxation atteint une valeur

critique. On montre que ces postulats conduisent/l des r~sultats identiques/~ ceux de la th6orie de la contrainte maximale, puisque la direction suivant laquelle se prOsente la contrainte circonf~rentielle maximum est 6galement celle

suivant laquelle la vitesse de relaxation de l'6nergie est maximale.

ZUSAMMENFASSUNG

Die Anfangsgeschwindigkeit der Energiefreilassung fiir einen ZweigriB, der sich unter einem willkiirlichen Winkel von

einer bestehenden RiBspitze ausbreitet, wird unter einer einfachen DarsteUung und in einer geschlossenen Form

durch Gebrauch einer KontinuiRitsannahme aufgestellt. Es wird dann vorausgesetzt dass der ZweigriB sich in der Richtung ausbreitet welche ein Maximum der Energiefreilassungsgeschwindigkeit bewirkt und dass die RiBausl6sung

eintritt wenn der maximum Wert dieser Energiefreilassungsgeschwindigkeit einen kritischen Wert erreicht. Es wird

gezeigt dass diese Annahmen zu den selben Ergebnissen wie die der maximalen Spannungstheorie fiihren, da die Richtung der maximalen Kreisspannung dieselbe ist als die der maximalen Energiefreilassungsgeschwindigkeit.

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