This paper presents the numerical study of double-lap bolted joint behavior. This type of joint is mainly used in aeronautical structures to transfer the given loads (by both adhesion and by deformation-shearing). Recent articles, based on experimental fatigue tests conducted by AIRBUS, have shown the beneficial effects of preloading on the fatigue life of these joints.

Finite element analyses were performed using ABAQUS® to study the behavior of a double-lap single-bolted joint with different plate thicknesses (joint thickness = 0.5d, 1d, 1.5d, 2d 2.5d, 3d, 3.5d and 4d, where d is the bolt diameter).

The numerical model provides several important results. In the case of static loads, elasto-plastic constitutive laws of the bolt and the plate materials allowed the process to be simulated on the basis of tension tests.

Mechanical aspects of this type of assembly are numerically identified; from the initial state of adhesion to the state of plastic deformation of parts in contact including the stage of generalized slippage. We note that the fracture load increases slightly when the bolted joint is preloaded while the failure area remains the same. In the case of large plate thickness, the connection is subjected to significant bending stresses and this involves strong local plasticization associated with the loss of preload.

In the case of cyclic loading, we consider a numerical model based on the simulation of one loading/unloading cycle. A noticeable decrease in initial preload is observed for certain configurations, in particular those with the largest plate thickness. This phenomenon is related to the effect of strain hardening of the bolt during the first loading cycles. Some experimental work by AIRBUS has shown that the fatigue life of assemblies is dependent on the material plate thicknesses.

An extension to the case of a multiple-bolted joint (three rows of three bolts) is finally discussed and highlights the evolution of the rate of load transmission with respect to the applied load.

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