Published in Int. J. Numer. Anal. Meth. Geomech. Vol. 30 (12), pp. 1173-1199, 2006.
This paper briefly reviews the formulations used over the last 40 years for the solution of problems involving tensile cracking, with both the discrete and the smeared crack approaches. The paper focuses on the smeared approach, identifying as its main drawbacks the observed mesh‐size and mesh‐bias spurious dependence when the method is applied ‘straightly’. A simple isotropic local damage constitutive model is considered, and the (exponential) softening modulus is regularized according to the material fracture energy and the element size. The continuum and discrete mechanical problems corresponding to both the weak discontinuity (smeared cracks) and the strong discontinuity (discrete cracks) approaches are analysed and the question of propagation of the strain localization band (crack) is identified as the main difficulty to be overcome in the numerical procedure. A tracking technique is used to ensure stability of the solution, attaining the necessary convergence properties of the corresponding discrete finite element formulation. Numerical examples show that the formulation derived is stable and remarkably robust. As a consequence, the results obtained do not suffer from spurious mesh‐size or mesh‐bias dependence, comparing very favourably with those obtained with other fracture and continuum mechanics approaches.
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