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Composite materials have been extensively used in engineering thanks to their lightweight, superior mechanical performances and possibility to tailor the structural behavior, increasing the available design space. Variable Angle Tow (VAT) structures exploits this advantage by adopting a curvilinear patterns for the fibers constituting the lamina.
This work, for the first time, extends the Generalized Unified Formulation (GUF) to the case of fourth-order triangular shell elements and VAT composites. Functionally graded material properties in both the thickness and in-plane directions are also possible. The finite element has been formulated with layers of variable thickness with respect to the in-plane coordinates.
GUF is a very versatile tool for the analysis of Variable Stiffness Composite Laminates (VSCLs): it is possible to select generic element coordinate systems and define different types of axiomatic descriptions (Equivalent Single Layer, Layer Wise, and Zig-Zag enhanced formulations) and orders of the thickness expansions. Each displacement is independently treated from the others. All the infinite number of theories that can be generated with GUF are obtained by expanding six theory-invariant kernels (formally identical for all the elements), allowing a very general implementation. Finally, the possibility of tailoring the theory/order to increase the accuracy in desired directions makes the GUF VAT capability a very powerful tool for the design of aerospace structures.