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Materials and Structures (2013) 46:11431154

DOI 10.1617/s11527-012-9960-9

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Pre-buckling and post-buckling failure at web-flange


junction of pultruded GFRP beams
Yu Bai Thomas Keller Chao Wu

Received: 1 June 2012 / Accepted: 16 October 2012 / Published online: 23 October 2012
RILEM 2012

Abstract Separation at the web-flange junction is a


common failure mode of pultruded glass fiber-reinforced (GFRP) beams subjected to bending. The
causes of this separation appear to depend on the
presence of lateral supports to prevent lateral buckling.
To clarify the driving mechanisms, four-point bending
experiments were carried out on pultruded GFRP
girders. Lateral buckling was prevented by using
lateral supports. Web-flange separation failure due to
exceeding the shear strength was observed before any
buckling was seen. Furthermore, nonlinear FEA was
performed to identify the critical stress states of GFRP
beams from the research literature, without any lateral
supports in the post-buckling phase. In this case, based
on numerical calculation, the critical stress states and
their locations depended significantly on the shape of
initial imperfections. The ultimate loads, with or
without lateral supports, were predicted by a modified

Dr. Yu Bai is the recipient of the Australian Research Council


Discovery Early Career Researcher Award.
Y. Bai (&)  C. Wu
Department of Civil Engineering, Monash University,
Melbourne, Australia
e-mail: yu.bai@monash.edu
T. Keller
Composite Construction Laboratory CCLab, Ecole
Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne EPFL, BP 2225,
Station 16, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
e-mail: thomas.keller@epfl.ch

von Mises criterion applied to the stress states at the


web-flange junction.
Keywords Fiber-reinforced polymer  Pultrusion 
Web-flange junction  Bending  Buckling 
Initial imperfection

1 Introduction
Glass fiber reinforced polymer (GFRP) composite
materials are increasingly used for load-bearing
structures because of their excellent physical and
mechanical properties, including low weight, high
strength-to-weight ratio and corrosion resistance [1].
However, some less advantageous properties also
exist, which may hinder more widespread use. One
unfavorable aspect is the relatively low Youngs
modulus of these materials, which makes the serviceability of GFRP structures the most significant design
parameter and prevents full use of the material
strength [2]. Furthermore, the low modulus also
increases possibility to buckling failure, in general
and in particular due to more significant second order
effects [3]. Another characteristic of concern is the
low ratio of shear to compressive strength due to
the materials orthotropic nature [4]. Especially at the
web-flange junction of pultruded GFRP profiles, a
much lower shear strength has been reported [5, 6]
because of the presence of a roving-rich core at the
heart of the web and flange junction.

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Concerning GFRP profiles under axial compression, a low shear-to-compressive strength ratio and
significant second order effects induce shear failure
prior to material compressive failure or even buckling
[7, 8]. The results support the hypothesis that global/
local buckling-interaction failure modes observed in
open thin-walled cross sectionssuch as I-profiles
[911]can be induced by shear failure in the webflange junction. Formulations to take shear failure into
account have been developed in [4] for the prediction
of the ultimate loads of columns made of pultruded
GFRP profiles. Based on the above results, similar
delamination shear failure at the web-flange junction
may also occur in the compressive zone of pultruded
GFRP beams subjected to bending because of similar
stress states at the junction to those in columns.
Various failure modes of pultruded GFRP beams
are identified and summarized in [11]. In addition to
longitudinal material failure because of compression
or tension (bending failure), particular failure modes
such as lateral-torsional buckling [1214], web crushing and web buckling in transverse direction at
concentrated loads or reactions [15], and local buckling of walls due to in-plane compression [16, 17] have
been reported. Elements that significantly influence
the stress state and failure mode are lateral supports,
which prevent global lateral buckling. In practice,
such supports are provided in many cases by slabs that
are connected to the upper (compressed) flanges. In the
presence of lateral supports, a GFRP beam subjected
mainly to a bending deformation may fail because of
the maximum tensile or compressive stress at flanges.
However, due to a low shear-to-compressive (or
tensile) strength associated to GFRP materials, shear
failure is more likely to occur. In a recent study [18],
pultruded GFRP I-beams were subjected to concentrated loads at the mid-span in the plane of the web.
The beams were constrained in the lateral direction to
avoid any lateral/torsional instability. All beams
exhibited a wedge-like shear failure at the upper
web-flange junction. On the other hand, pultruded
GFRP I-beams loaded without lateral supports exhibited separation of the flange and web during lateral
post-buckling [17]. The failure mode was numerically
analyzed and traced back to high transverse tensile
stresses [19]. A certain shape of the initial imperfection was assumed in the analysis. However, the
sensitivity of the numerical results to the selection of
this shape was not investigated and, based on [6], it is

Materials and Structures (2013) 46:11431154

possible that prior shear failure at the junction also led


to the separation of flange and web and the subsequent
lateral buckling of the web and flange. It therefore
becomes necessary to study more comprehensive
failure criterion to include stress components other
than the transverse tensile stress.
The aim of this paper is to contribute to the
clarification of the mechanisms that occur at the webflange junction of pultruded GFRP beams subjected to
simultaneous shear and axial compression. Four-point
bending tests were performed on laterally-constrained
GFRP girders with different cross-sections. The load
deflection responses and ultimate loads were recorded,
and the corresponding failure modes were carefully
examined. The stress states were identified at critical
locations to further examine the tested girders (with
lateral supports) and the above-mentioned [17, 19]
beams (without lateral supports), assuming different
initial imperfection shapes. The resulting stress states
at the critical locations were compared with a failure
criterion to derive the structural failure mechanisms
(before or after global buckling) through web and
flange separation.

2 Pre-buckling failure with lateral supports


2.1 Experimental investigation
The experiments described below were performed in
1998 for the design validation of the five-storey GFRP
Eyecatcher building in Basel, Switzerland, which
remains the tallest FRP building in the world. The
primary load-carrying structure of this building consists of three parallel trapezoidal GFRP frames
composed of pultruded shapes and connected by
wooden decks, as shown in Fig. 1 [20]. The structural
joints in the frame were bolted in order to facilitate
dismantling of the re-usable structure. Based on recent
findings concerning potential shear failure at the webflange junctions of pultruded GFRP composites [6, 8],
the former four-point bending experiments on single
span girders were re-analyzed in this regard.
Because the selection of cross-sectional shapes and
sizes of the girders was limited at that time, projecttailored cross-sections were designed by assembling
individual standard pultruded shapes. Three crosssections were built up using adhesive bonding
[20]. The same sections were used in the full-scale

Materials and Structures (2013) 46:11431154

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Fig. 1 Eye-catcher
building and its three
structural GFRP frames

experiments (see Fig. 2) and Table 1. Sections T1


were identical to the floor girder sections, sections T2
to the column sections, and sections T3 to the floor
girder sections at the bolted connections (crossing
points of girders and columns), and additional plates
were bonded to the webs to reinforce the shear
capacity in this case (T3).
The pultruded GFRP shapes were provided by
Fiberline Composites, Denmark. They consisted of
E-glass fibers embedded in an isophthalic polyester
resin. The fiber fractions were *50 % per volume or
70 % per weight, whereof *70 % were rovings and
30 % combined mats. The Youngs Modulus was
28 GPa in pultrusion direction and the shear modulus
3.0 GPa. The axial compressive strength and transverse tensile strength were 240 MPa and 51 MPa
respectively, and the interlaminar shear strength
31 MPa, according to the design manual [21] and

Fig. 2 Built-up cross-sections for girders T1T3

certificate [22] of the manufacturer. The connections


of the built-up sections were bonded using two
different two-component epoxy resin-based adhesives: Sikadur 330VP and the more liquid and more
easily processable Sk-8LVP from Sika AG, Zurich
(see Table 1). Curing of the bonded connections was
achieved in only two hours at 80 C in a paint drying
oven. Six girders were examined, two of each crosssection, and denominated as Tx-1 or Tx-2. Tx-1 girders
were bonded with the first, and Tx-2 girders with the
second adhesive, as shown in Table 1.
As members of the three frames, the girders and
columns of the building are subjected to significant
bending moments. Accordingly, all the specimens
were examined under a four-point bending set-up, as
shown in Fig. 3. The span was 5.68 m for girders T1
and T2, while 2.64 m was used for T3. A wooden plate
(140 9 180 mm2) was placed under each jack to

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Materials and Structures (2013) 46:11431154

Table 1 Parameters for girders T1T3


Girder

Pultruded shapes

Adhesive

Web area ratio (%)a

I (9106 mm4)

Span (length) (m)

Jack spacing (m)

45.0

110.1

5.68 (6.00)

1.52

T1-1

U 240 9 72 9 12

Sikadur 330VP

T1-2

P 144 9 10

Sk-8 LVP

T2-1
T2-2

U 240 9 72 9 12
I 160 9 80 9 8

Sikadur 330VP
Sk-8 LVP

10.4

95.8

5.68 (6.00)

1.52

60.7

124.3

2.64 (3.00)

1.28

T3-1

U 240 9 72 9 12

Sikadur 330VP

T3-2

P 144 9 10

Sk-8 LVP

P 192 9 12
U U-shaped cross-section, I I-shaped section, P plate section, dimensions in (mm)
a

Web area ratio was obtained by area of webs over area of whole cross-section

allow better force distribution. Since the buildings


floors prevent the global lateral buckling of the frame
elements, timber posts were installed at 2.08 m (T1
and T2) and 0.68 m (T3) from the adjacent ends to
prevent global lateral instability of the girders. A load
control mode at loading rates of 424 kN/min was
adopted up to the final structural collapse. The midspan deflections were measured and the failure modes
were recorded.
2.2 Experimental results and discussion
The load-dependent deflections at mid-span of all
girders are shown in Fig. 4. The responses were linear
up to the failure, which occurred before any buckling
phenomena were observed. The effect of the adhesive
type on the composite action between the pultruded
shapes could not be observed, as the corresponding
curves almost overlap. The resulting slopes of the
loaddisplacement curves and the ultimate loads and

Fig. 3 Experimental set-up for girders T2

deflections are compared in Table 2. Girders T3


showed a much higher slope and ultimate load because
of a much shorter span and the additional shear
reinforcements, while girders T1 and T2 exhibited
very similar responses because of similar moments
of inertia and the same span. However, the T2
girders failed at a much lower load level than the T1
girders.
The failure modes are shown in Fig. 5. The T1
girders exhibited a separation of the top flange from
the web of the U-shape below the jack, followed by the
detachment of the upper plate and buckling of the web,
as depicted in Fig. 5a. T2 girders separated between
the web and upper flange of the I-shape, as shown in
Fig. 5b. The crack started from the support point and
extended to the loading point. The failure mode of T3
girders was similar to that of the T2 girders. As shown
in Fig. 5c, delamination occurred between the top
flange and the web of the U-shape on one side from the

Fig. 4 Load-displacement responses for girders T1T3

Materials and Structures (2013) 46:11431154

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Table 2 Experimental results and comparison of deflections at ultimate load to FEA results
Girder

Ultimate
load (kN)

Experim.
deflection (mm)

Experim. slope
(kN/mm)

Calculated
deflection (mm)

T1-1

103

253

0.41

247.8

T1-2

112

275

0.41

268.8

97.7

T2-1

64

177

0.36

205.6

126.0

T2-2

62

175

0.35

199.1

113.8

T3-1

268

56

4.8

51.1

89.5

T3-2

308

61

5.0

58.7

96.2

support to the loading point. Separation was also


observed in the middle of the other web, followed by
the detachment of the inner plate.
An analysis of these failure modes revealed that
failure always occurred at locations of highest shear
stresses or high shear stresses in combination with
high axial (compression) stresses. With the exception
of T1, where the primary failure was limited to the
location below the jack, the separations always
initiated at one support point and propagated up to
the adjacent loading point, therefore covering the
length of constant shear loading.
Assuming webs are the main components of shear
resistance for I- or box-shaped cross-sections, the
critical shear stress could be estimated using the shear
force (i.e. the ultimate load from one load jack of the
four-point bending set-up) divided by the web area.
Plotting the ultimate load per jack against the web
area, shown in Fig. 6, resulted in an almost linear
relationship, which was confirmed by also taking
results from [17, 18, 23] into account. This result
suggests a similarity of the failure mechanism in all
those beam experiments as well as comparable shear
strength of the webs for those different pultruded
GFRP materials in bending. Therefore, in the following, simple beam theory was used to identify the stress
components at the critical positions for the experimental girders where lateral buckling was excluded, in
order to better understand the commonality of failure
modes. More advanced nonlinear FE analysis was
performed in Sect. 3 for beams loaded without any
lateral supports.

dE



aP PL3 3a 4a3


GA 24EI L
L3

Deflection
ratio (%)
97.9

where P is the applied load, L the span, a the distance


between one load and the support, A the crosssectional area of the webs, E the Youngs modulus,
G the shear modulus, and I the moment of inertia of the
section. The first term on the right side of Eq. (1) is the
deflection due to shear and the second is deflection due
to bending. Considering the material properties introduced in Sect. 2.1 and the geometric parameters in
Table 1, the calculated mid-span deflection at the
ultimate load for all the scenarios are summarized in
Table 2 and compared with the experimental measurements. Overall, simple beam theory is able to
reasonably predict the deflections. Good agreements
can be found for the scenario T1 and T3 (underestimation less than 5 %, except T3-1 with an underestimation of 10.5 %). Comparing to the experimental
results, the deflections of specimens T2-1 and T2-2 are
overestimated by 26 and 13.8 % respectively, because
the plane strain assumption may not be fully valid in
this scenario especially for the top and bottom parts of
the flanges made from U sections.
Based on the beam theory, the interlaminar shear
stress, sxy can be expressed as
R
Q A0 y  dA
sxy y
2
I
where A0 the area above the y-position of the shear
stress; Q is the shear force.
The axial normal stress, rx, can be calculated by the
following Eq. (3):
M
y
I

2.3 Stress analysis and discussion

rx y

Beam theory (Eq. 1) can be used to calculate the


elastic mid-span deflection, dE:

where M is the bending moment and y is the distance


from the position of axial normal stress to the neutral

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Fig. 5 Failure modes: a girder T1-1; b girder T2-1; c girder T3-1

axis, being the middle of depth because of the


symmetric cross section.
The resulting values of shear stress and axial
normal compressive stress at the web-flange junctions
of the critical locations (loading points) are summarized in Table 3. The scenarios T2 and T3 showed
relatively high level of shear stresses (38.5 and

36.4 MPa respectively, average values of two specimens) in comparison to strength, indicating the
potential shear failure there. The scenario T1 possessed a high level of normal axial stress (221.2 MPa,
average values of two specimens) in combination with
still significant shear stress (15.3 MPa) at the webflange junction.

Materials and Structures (2013) 46:11431154

Fig. 6 Ultimate load versus web area of girders T1T3 and


results from research literature
Table 3 Stress state at upper web-flange junction
Girder

Shear stress (MPa)

Axial normal stress (MPa)

T1-1

14.7

-212.1

T1-2

15.9

-230.2

T2-1

39.1

-75.4

T2-2

37.8

-73.1

T3-1

33.8

-163.0

T3-2

38.9

-187.3

3 Post-buckling failure without lateral supports


3.1 Experimental scenario from the research
literature
As mentioned above, Bank et al. [17] carried out a
series of experiments on GFRP wide-flange I-beams
with a cross-section of 203 9 203 9 9.5 mm. A total
of seven beams were examined with a 2,743 mm span
under a four-point bending set-up without lateral
supports; the two loading points were symmetrical and
610 mm from the center. The transverse tensile
strength, ry, and axial compressive strength, rx, were
reported as being 69 and 207 MPa respectively, and
the interlaminar shear strength, sxy, was 43 MPa.
During the experiments, noticeable lateral deformation was observed between the loading points because
of global lateral buckling. In the post-buckling
process, the deformation increased significantly while
the applied load was sustained. Failure occurred
through separation at the web-flange junction. Unfortunately, the observed location of failure initiation was

1149

not clearly specified, possibly because the exact


location of initiation was not observable due to the
velocity of the process. Taking geometric nonlinearity
into account and considering a shape of initial
imperfections as shown in Fig. 7a, FE analysis was
performed in [19] to identify the stress state at failure.
From the results it was concluded that the transverse
tensile stress, ry, at the web-flange junction at midspan caused the separation between web and flange.
In the following section, the sensitivity of the FEA
results in [19] to the selection of the shape of the initial
imperfections is investigated. A simple lateral out-ofstraightness, with a maximum mid-span value of span/
300 was selected, as shown in Fig. 7b, in order to
compare the results with those obtained from shape 1
in Fig. 7a. The effect of this imperfection shape 2 on
the stress state was calculated using nonlinear FEA.
3.2 Stress analysis and discussion
3-D FE models were developed based on the commercial software ANSYS 9.0 (anisotropic solid elements
Solid64), according to the experimental and material
parameters given in [17]. Particularly, no lateral
supports were taken into account. In total, 3,308 Solid64
elements with 7,624 nodes were resulted in one FE
model, which was simply supported with two concentrated loading. Such a mesh was validated as a further
refined mesh resulted in identical loaddisplacement
responses. The material properties reported in [19] were
used as Ex = 24.3 GPa, Ey = Ez = 10 GPa, Gxy =
Gyz = Gzx = 3.7 GPa, vxy = 0.33, vyz = vzx = 0.3
(where E is the Youngs modulus, G is the shear
modulus, v is Poissons ratio, x is the longitudinal
direction of the beam, y and z are transverse directions of
the beam). Two different shapes of initial imperfections
were assumed according to Fig. 7a, b as described
above. Geometric nonlinearity was considered using the
arc-length method. Figure 8 shows the resulting postbuckling deformations.
Stresses from two cross sections as indicated in
Fig. 8a, sections AA (the mid-span, with the maximum flange out-of-plane deformation) and BB (the
middle between the loading point and the support),
were reported [19]. By employing the same initial
imperfection as in [19], see shape 1 in Fig. 7a, the
transverse tensile stress at the web-flange junction of
section AA in Fig. 8a was 64.1 MPa (see Fig. 9a),
corresponding to 103 % of the value given in [19] at

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Materials and Structures (2013) 46:11431154

Fig. 7 Assumed initial


imperfections in nonlinear
FEA: a shape 1; b shape 2

Fig. 8 Post-buckling
deformation based on initial
imperfections: a for shape 1;
b for shape 2

the same location and to 93 % of the transverse tensile


strength of 69 MPa. At the same location of section
AA, the corresponding shear stress and axial normal
stress were 7.0 and -91.3 MPa, respectively. At
section BB (see Fig. 8a), within the maximum shear
force range, the shear stress at the web-flange junction,
shown in Fig. 9b, resulted in 33.4 MPa (with corresponding transverse tensile stress of 5.8 MPa and axial
normal stress of -12.9 MPa), i.e. 107 % of the value
given in [19] and 78 % of the material strength
(43 MPa). It should be noted that all the above stress
values identified from Fig. 9 were obtained from the
web with a distance of 1.5 cm below the bottom
surface of the top flange to avoid any stress concentration at the sharp corner at the web flange junction.
For the imperfection shape 2, two critical cross
sections (AA and CC, see Fig. 8b) were defined, of
which stresses at the web-flange junction are evaluated. AA is the mid-span section at which the
maximum out-of-plane buckling deformation of the
top flange is observed in the FE analysis. Section CC
is at the loading point at which the maximum shear
stress and axial normal stress are expected. Figure 10
shows the resulting transverse tensile and shear
stresses at failure at sections AA and CC (see
Fig. 8b) based on imperfection shape 2. The transverse

tensile stresses reduced from 64.1 (shape 1 section


AA) to 50.8 MPa (shape 2 section AA, 74 % of
strength). At the same location of section AA in
shape 2, the corresponding shear stress and axial
normal stress are 12.1 and -58.5 MPa, respectively.
The maximum shear stress increased from 33.8 (shape
1 section BB) to 41.7 MPa (shape 2 section CC,
97 % of strength). The corresponding transverse
tensile stress and the axial normal stress at the same
location of CC are 13.3 and -73.1 MPa. Therefore,
changing from imperfection shape 1 to 2 changed the
critical type and location of stress from transverse
tensile at mid-span (shape 1, section AA) to shear
stress at the loading section (shape 2, section CC),
which also may change the causes of the web-flange
separation.
In order to highlight the effect of lateral supports, a
second FEA run was performed which included lateral
supports for the beams in [19] (continuous lateral
supports along the beam side with initial imperfection
shape 2 shown in Fig. 7b). The shear stress at the webflange junction of section CC amounted to 40.0 MPa
(94 % of strength) and the corresponding axial normal
stress and transverse tensile stress were -112.3 and
5.5 MPa respectively. The lateral supports therefore
did not obviously change the shear stress (41.7 vs.

Materials and Structures (2013) 46:11431154

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Fig. 9 Stress distribution at


failure initiation based on
initial imperfection shape 1:
a transverse normal stress at
section AA; b shear stress
at section BB

Fig. 10 Stress distribution at failure initiation based on initial imperfection shape 2: a transverse normal stress at section AA; b shear
stress at section CC

40.0 MPa) but did increase the axial normal stress


(-73.1 vs. -112.3 MPa). In either case (with or
without lateral supports) for initial imperfection shape
2, transverse tensile stresses reduced considerably.

4 Failure criterion and failure mode


Based on knowledge of the stress states at the critical
locations of pre- and post-buckling GFRP beams (with
and without lateral supports), an appropriate failure
criterion may help in understanding the failure mechanism. This failure criterion should take axial compressive stress (rx), interlaminar shear stress (sxy) and
transverse tensile stress (ry) into account. A quadratic

delamination criterion proposed by Brewer and


Lagace [24] is able to consider both interlaminar
shear and interlaminar normal (i.e. transverse) stresses. However, it does not include in-plane axial normal
stress. Axial normal stresses are taken into account in
the modified von Mises criterion proposed by Fenske
and Vizzini [25] to indicate delamination in laminates.
This criterion was applied as follows:
 2  2  2
rx
sxy
ry

1
4
fcx
fs
fcy
where fs is the interlaminar shear strength, fcx is the
axial compressive strength and fcy is the transverse
normal strength; sxy, rx, and ry are the corresponding
stresses. The resulting normalized failure criterion

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Materials and Structures (2013) 46:11431154

Fig. 11 Comparison of
critical stress states with
failure criterion for girders
T1T3, post-buckled beams
[17] with two shapes of
initial imperfections, and
laminates in compression
from [7] (solid symbols are
projections of hollow
symbols on coordinate
planes)

envelope, formed by curves intersecting with the


coordinate planes, is shown in Fig. 11.
The critical stress states (values normalized by the
corresponding material strengths) obtained for girders
T1T3 are shown in Fig. 11 (transverse normal
stresses resulted as zero from simple beam theory).
The failure at the web-flange junction resulted from
the high level of shear and/or axial normal stresses (rx
and sxy, see projections into the xz plane). The failure
criterion can therefore be reduced to a second-order
interaction equation taking only the terms of axial
normal stress and interlaminar shear stress into
account, i.e., the intersection line in the xz plane,
where overall, a satisfactory comparison (1.09 vs. 1
based on Eq. 4) between stresses and failure criterion
was found. The deviation of stresses T2 (1.63 vs. 1
based on Eq. 4) and T3 (1.90 vs. 1 based on Eq. 4)
from the criterion may imply that an initiation of
delamination shear failure at the web-flange junctions
occurred before the final structural collapse.
Post-buckling stress states from the FEA of beams
in [17] with imperfection shapes 1 and 2 are also
indicated in Fig. 11. A high level of transverse tensile
stress corresponds to imperfection shape 1 (see
projection into xy plane). For imperfection shape 2,

the transverse tensile stress is much less, while the


interlaminar shear stress approaches the failure criterion (see projection into xz plane).
To further validate the selection of the failure
criterion, results from axial compressive experiments
conducted on pultruded GFRP laminates (provided by
the same manufacturer as the Eyecatcher girders) were
also included in Fig. 11. Laminates of different
lengths (100, 200 and 300 mm), corresponding to
different non-dimensional slenderness (0.67, 1.37 and
2.68 respectively) were used [7]. Independent of the
non-dimensional slenderness, delamination was
observed, either when the load was approaching the
Euler load for slender laminates or far below the Euler
load for compact laminates. The critical interlaminar
shear and axial normal compressive stresses (as the
main stress components) were extracted from [7] and
compared with the failure criterion in Fig. 11 (see
xz plane). The reasonable agreement points to a
similar failure mechanism as for the pultruded GFRP
girders and beams.
The results summarized in Fig. 11, including the
significant effect of the selection of the initial imperfection shape, may suggest that in all the casesand
even in the case presented in [17]web-flange

Materials and Structures (2013) 46:11431154

separation occurred due to exceeding the combined


shear/axial compressive strength of the material,
which can be approached by a quadratic failure
criterion as follows:
 2  2
rx
sxy

1
5
fcx
fs
It is important to mention that in most practical
cases lateral supports are present, for example in the
form of a slab that is connected to the upper girder
flange, which prevents lateral buckling and the
accordingly high transverse tensile stresses at the
web-flange junction, which arise in the post-buckling
phase. In all the cases with lateral supports investigated above, however, web-flange separation occurred
due to high combined shear/axial compressive stresses
in the pre-buckling phase, whereby shear dominated in
most cases (with the exception of girders T1).

1153

(3)

another selection, however, separation occurred


at the loading point through exceeding the
combined shearaxial compression strength.
Unfortunately the exact location of experimental
failure initiation was not specified.
A modified von Mises criterion, which incorporates stress components including normal axial
stress and shear stress in addition to transverse
tensile stress, is used to describe the failure of
GFRP beams with or without lateral supports.
The agreement is reasonable taking the limited
available experimental results into account.
Measurements of the stress state at web-flange
junctions at critical failure positions are recommended for future research to further validate the
failure mechanism.

References
5 Conclusions
Four-point bending experiments were carried out on
pultruded GFRP girders with built-up cross-sections.
Lateral buckling was prevented by the use of lateral
supports. Web-flange separation failure was observed
for all beams before any buckling was observed. Beam
theory was used to identify the critical stress states at
the failure locations. Furthermore, nonlinear FEA was
performed to identify the critical stress states of GFRP
beams from the research literature, without any lateral
supports in the post-buckling phase. Based on this
work, the following conclusions can be drawn:
(1)

(2)

In cases with lateral supports, high shear stresses


occurred at the web-flange junction between
supports and loading points. In the loading point
region they were combined with high axial
compression stresses. In most cases, flange-web
separation occurred through exceeding of the
shear strength.
In cases without lateral supports, where failure
occurred during the (lateral) post-buckling phase,
the critical stress state from numerical calculation
and its location significantly depended on the
selection of the shape of initial imperfections.
Depending on this selection, flange-web separation was caused in one case at mid-span through
exceeding of the transverse tensile case. For

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