The modeling of naturally curved and twisted beams undergoing arbitrarily large displacements and rotations, but small strains, is a common problem in numerous engineering applications. This paper has three goals: (1) present a new formulation of this problem which includes transverse shearing deformations, torsional warping effects, and elastic couplings resulting from the use of composite materials, (2) show that the small strain assumption must be applied in a consistent fashion for composite beams, and (3) present some numerical results based on this new formulation to assess its accuracy, and to point out some distinguishing feature of anisotropic beam behavior. First, the predictions of the formulation will be compared with experimental results for the large deflections and rotations of an aluminum beam. Then, the distinguishing features of composite beams that are likely to impact the design of rotating blades (such as helicopter blades) will be discussed. A first type of extension-twisting coupling introduced by the warping behavior of a pretwisted beam is discussed, then, a shearing strain squared term, usually neglected in small strain analyses, is shown to introduce a coupling between axial extension and twisting behavior, that can be significant when the ratio E/G is large (E and G are Young’s and shearing moduli of the beam, respectively). Finally, the impact of inplane shearing modulus changes and torsional warping constraints on the behavior of beams exhibiting elastic couplings is investigated.

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