- Research article
- Open Access
Membrane wrinkling revisited from a multi-scale point of view
© Damil et al.; licensee Springer. 2014
Received: 5 August 2013
Accepted: 12 December 2013
Published: 29 January 2014
Membrane modeling in the presence of wrinkling is revisited from a multi-scale point of view. In the engineering literature, wrinkling is generally accounted at a macroscopic level by nonlinear constitutive laws without compressive stiffness, but these models ignore the properties of wrinkles, such as their wavelength, their size and spatial distribution.
A new multi-scale approach is discussed that belongs to the family of Ginzburg- Landau bifurcation equations. By using the method of Fourier series with variable coefficients, several nonlinear macroscopic models are derived that couple the membrane response with equations governing the evolution of the wrinkles.
Contrary to previous approaches, these macroscopic models are completely deduced from the “microscopic” shell model without any phenomenological assumptions. Some analytical and numerical solutions are discussed that prove the relevance of the presented modeling.
A new class of models has been established. It permits to predict the characteristics of the wrinkles and their influence on membrane behavior.
This paper deals with macroscopic modeling of very thin shells, also called membranes in the scientific literature and in everyday life. Membranes have increasing application fields such as spacecraft structures (antenna, telescope lenses, Gossamer structures…), civil structures, life jackets, electronics, biological tissues, textile composites [1–6]. The appearance of wrinkles is a major feature in the mechanical behavior of membrane, due to their vanishing bending stiffness.
Membrane wrinkling is a multi-scale phenomenon, but it is generally described by one-scale models that can be “microscopic” or “macroscopic”. Microscopic models are simply based on elastic shell theory; see for instance [7–11]. Nowadays many commercial finite element codes permit to carry out such nonlinear shell computations. Shell analyses are able to describe the details of the membrane response: size, wavelength, orientation of the wrinkles, instability threshold, etc., but this leads to large scale numerical models that are moreover very difficult to be controlled in cases with a large number of wrinkles and therefore with a large number of equilibrium solutions. Indeed wrinkling can be seen as a small wavelength buckling phenomenon and, in such a case, there are several neighbor bifurcation modes and it is well known that this leads to compound response curves involving secondary bifurcations, see for instance [12, 13] among an extensive literature. Even if the complexity of wrinkling patterns requires numerical treatments, one can mention several papers by Coman et al. [14–16] that were able to find analytically wrinkling modes in cases with inhomogeneous pre-bifurcation stresses.
The second group of numerical descriptions are pure membrane models that account for the effect of wrinkling on membrane behaviour. The bending stiffness is neglected and the compressive stresses are dropped: this yields nonlinear constitutive laws that are of unilateral type, the tensile behaviour being about linear and the compressive states being forbidden. This has led to many numerical studies; see for instance [17–22]. In most of these papers, the constitutive law relates simply membrane stress and strain and it distinguishes three states: slack, wrinkled and taut. Some authors prefer the method of Roddeman [23, 24] that splits the deformation gradient into consistent membrane part and wrinkling part [25–28]. The partial differential equations deduced from these membrane models are not elliptic (or hyperbolic in the dynamical case) in the presence of a non-positive principal stress so that this problem is mathematically ill-posed. A well-posed problem can be obtained if the macroscopic model includes an internal length, for instance within Cosserat theory [29, 30]. However this regularisation may be not necessary for an explicit dynamic computation. All these membrane models have a phenomenological character, the only mention to full shell models being the vanishing of the membrane compressive stress. A variant has been introduced by  and used for buckling problems of sheets under residual stresses generated by manufacturing processes .
The aim of this paper is to revisit membrane modelling from a multi-scale point of view. It will be clearly established that a consistent wrinkling model depends both on microscopic quantities (wavelength, orientation of the wrinkles…) and macroscopic data like boundary conditions, size and shape of the structure… In this respect, a new multi-scale membrane model was briefly presented  that couple a nonlinear 2D membrane model with an amplitude equation governing the evolution of wrinkles. Amplitude equations to describe spatial pattern formation follow generally from the asymptotic bifurcation analyses of Ginzburg-Landau type [34–37]. Here a slightly different method will be applied, where the nearly periodic fields are represented by Fourier series with slowly varying coefficients [38–41]. In other terms, we use a multi-scale modelling method whose result is a generalised continuum including an internal length and where the macroscopic stresses are Fourier coefficients of the microscopic stress.
In this paper, the new membrane model of  is discussed in detail. Some additional variants, several analytical and numerical solutions and the corresponding numerical schemes will be presented. The new membrane models including wrinkling will be deduced from Föppl-Von Karman plate theory. These analyses will be carried out by applying standard techniques of multi-scale bifurcation analyses: asymptotic multi-scale method for the linear bifurcation analysis and multi-scale Fourier approach leading to nonlinear models valid away from the wrinkling threshold. Note that, contrarily to most of macroscopic membrane models, the present models are deduced from the shell equations without any phenomenological assumptions. The bending stiffness effects are included not only to define the wrinkling wavelength, but also to predict the macroscopic evolution of the buckling pattern.
The paper is organized as follows. In section “About the origin of short wavelength instabilities”, the origin of the wrinkling instability is briefly recalled, in order to underline its multi-scale origin and the generic character of this instability mechanism. section “Multi-scale nonlinear models for membrane wrinkling” is devoted to deducing new nonlinear wrinkling models from Föppl-Von Karman plate theory. Then two analytical solutions of these models will be presented (section “Two analytical solutions for clamped rectangular membranes”), the first one for defining the bifurcation features (bifurcation stress, wavelength and shape of the envelope) and the second one for a post-bifurcation analysis characterizing the evolution of the size of the wrinkles as a function of the applied load. The numerical analysis is presented in section “Numerical implementation” (techniques of implementation) and section Two numerical solutions where two examples of plate wrinkling will be solved. Finally, in section “Linear wrinkling analysis revisited by a double scale asymptotic analysis”, a more classical asymptotic multi-scale analysis will be performed in a special case and the results will be compared with those arising from the multi-scale Fourier approach.
About the origin of short wavelength instabilities
Spatially periodic instability patterns are encountered in a lot of physical problems. The instability often occurs in domains whose dimension is smaller than the others, typically in rectangles or parallelepipeds with a small aspect ratio. The instability wavelength can be of the same order as the smallest dimension of the domain as in Rayleigh-Bénard convection [42, 43].
In this problem, the coefficients of (1) are related to Young moduli and thickness’s of the layers (, B ≅ E M /h M ), the microbuckling wavelength is related to the width of the fiber and of the matrix by the following formula: . Quite similar wrinkling phenomena with a small wavelength can be found in studies about thin films coupled with compliant substrate, see for instance [52–55], or in the buckling of sheets due to residual stresses and forming processes [56, 57]. In this second class of instability problems, the wavelength is larger than the microscopic lengths h F , h M because of a large stiffness ratio. Here is the origin of the multi-scale behavior: the characteristic distance in the width is smaller than the longitudinal wavelength and moreover these longitudinal waves are generally modulated on larger distances.
The instability modes are in the form V(Y)cos(QX+φ) and their instability wavelength 2π/Q is generally small with respect to the characteristic length in the transverse direction. The Equations (1) and (4) can be related by assuming that the coefficient B is an eigenvalue of the differential operator − C∂2/∂Y2, or equivalently , where L Y is a macroscopic characteristic length in the transverse direction.
In the problem of a plane membrane of thickness h submitted to a tensile stress σ Y in the transverse direction, A≅Eh 3 , C = σ Y h and σ X = − λ/h is a compressive stress in the X-direction so that the wrinkling wavelength is . Hence this wavelength is much smaller than the transverse length L Y because a membrane is very thin (h < <LY) and it decreases when the tensile stress increases. From Equation (3), one can deduce the critical compressive stress that is much smaller than the prescribed tensile stress σy if this stress σy is not too small. It is worth to mention that the wrinkling stress depends both on the microscopic length h and on the macroscopic transverse one LY.
Note that the Equation (4) seems to be more or less generic. It has also been established in the antisymmetric microbuckling of long fiber composite [51, 58], with A≅E F hF3, C≅E M h F (this antisymmetrical mode occurs when the thickness of the fiber and of the matrix are of the same order h M ≅h F ). Hence the instability wavelength is where the transverse length L Y can be associated with the composite plate thickness or to the ply thickness . Note that the nonlinear versions of these fiber microbuckling models permit to predict the compression failure of long fiber composite materials [59–61].
Hence a wrinkling mode follows from two stiffness’s: first the bending stiffness A, that is very small for a thin membrane or a fiber in a composite material, second a transverse stiffness C that can be purely elastic in the antisymmetrical microbuckling or the so called geometric stiffness due to the tensile stress in the wrinkling of a membrane. Clearly, all these instability problems involve several length scales. That is why we propose several multi-scale approaches to analyze the behavior of membranes in the presence of wrinkling.
A family of nonlinear membrane models is presented that is based on a multi-scale approach. Unlike macroscopic models of the literature, there is no phenomenological assumption and the models are completely deduced from the full plate model. The deduction method relies on the concept of Fourier series with slowly varying coefficients [38, 40], whose principle is to work with envelopes of the spatial oscillations. These envelopes are solutions of systems of nonlinear partial differential equations established in the next sections “Multi-scale nonlinear models for membrane wrinkling”. These equations can be solved, sometimes analytically and in general numerically, as sketched in the section “numerical implementation”.
Multi-scale nonlinear models for membrane wrinkling
The method of Fourier series with slowly variable coefficients
A new multiple scale approach: the method of Fourier series with slowly variable coefficients
The first envelope U 0 (X) is real-valued while the next ones are complex. In the whole paper, we limit ourselves to two envelopes U 0 (X) and U1 (X). Most of the time, we shall assume that they are real.
It was established [38, 40] that it is necessary to keep some spatial derivatives of the envelopes, despite of the assumption of slowly varying envelopes d/dX < <Q. This will be re-discussed in the membrane case. At first all the derivatives are kept as in (7) (8), but some ones can be dropped later.
Application to the membrane constitutive law
Let us mention the last two terms are positive, what means that the membrane stretches out when it wrinkles.
Hence the membrane law (15-b) accounts for the wrinkling oscillation v 1 (X) that is governed by a sort of bifurcation Equation (15-c) looking like a Ginzburg-Landau equation. The full model is a nonlinear system coupling membrane behavior and evolution of wrinkles. It has been established [38, 40] that the Fourier approach generalizes the asymptotic Ginzburg- Landau method, but it is not limited to the neighborhood of the bifurcation.
This modeling by few Fourier envelopes can be applied with several levels of approximation. The system (15) is the simplest possible with an internal length. It can still be simplified by neglecting the derivatives of v1 in (15-c): this leads to a nonlinear relation between membrane stress and strain, see  § 4.4. This pure membrane model will be extended in the 2D case in the following. It is also possible to include more harmonics, see  § 3.2, with obviously the cost of a greater complexity. The model with a complex envelope v1(X) has been evaluated in : it permits for instance a better account of the phase in the bulk and improves the response near the boundary.
The previous approach can be considered as a multi-scale method or a computational homogenization technique. The account of the local behavior is very simplified by the assumption of a harmonic local variation and it is described only by the instability wavenumber Q. If the Equation (15-c) is reduced to its linear version without modulation of the envelope, ones recovers the classical approach (2) (3) that gives the wavenumber at the first bifurcation by minimizing the critical load. When solving a nonlinear macroscopic problem such as (15), the wavenumber Q has to be prescribed and this could be considered as a weak point of the present macroscopic approach. Nevertheless it is known that, in a cellular bifurcation problem, many solutions can exist [45, 46, 63], each one being characterized by its wavelength. Furthermore a model with a complex envelope permits to predict a wavelength slightly deviating from the one a priori prescribed . Higher order harmonics could also be accounted: for instance, it was established in  that a rough account of the second harmonic is sometimes necessary to recover a consistent post-bifurcation behavior. But this will be not necessary in the case of membrane wrinkling.
In the next parts, the interaction membrane-wrinkling will be modelised in a bi-dimensional case within a framework similar to (14) (15), the starting model being the Föppl-Von Karman equations.
Föppl-Von Karman plate equations as a microscopic model
Macroscopic modeling of membrane strain
As explained previously, the unknown fields U(X,Y) are expressed in terms of two harmonics: the mean field U0(X,Y) and the first order harmonicsr, , . The second harmonic should be taken into account to recover the results of the asymptotic Ginzburg-Landau bifurcation approach, see . Nevertheless the second harmonic does not contribute to the membrane energy in the present case, because the rapid one-dimensional oscillations e iQX are inextensional so that N2 = 0, w2 = 0. Hence the second harmonic does not influence the simplest macroscopic models. For simplicity, the details of this calculation are omitted.
A unique direction OX for the wrinkling oscillations is chosen in the whole domain. Of course this assumption is a bit restrictive and should be removed in the future. A true multi-scale approach should include two levels of modelisation as in the FE2 method , but with a basic cell that is not a priori known , what should require a rather intricate management. Thus a more realistic goal is to first discuss the multi-scale approach with a given wrinkling wavelength and a given direction of the wrinkles.
As in formula (10), the strain is split into a classical part γ FK that has the same form as the original Föppl-Von Karman model (16) and a wrinkling part γ wr which depends only on the envelope of the deflection w1.
The simplified membrane strain formula (21) (22) is quite similar to that of the initial Von Karman model. It is split, first in a linear part ϵ(u) that is the symmetric part of the mean displacement gradient corresponding to the pure membrane linear strain, second in a nonlinear part γ wr (w) more or less equivalent to wrinkling stain of . The main difference with the initial Föppl-Von Karman strain (16) is the extension Q2w2 in the direction of the wrinkles. This wrinkling strain is always positive and this corresponds to a stretching. In the case of a compressive membrane strain, this wrinkling term leads to a decrease of the true strain.
Macroscopic bending energy
Three macroscopic membrane wrinkling models
In this section, one establishes the Partial Differential Equations of the macroscopic models associated with the strain energies previously presented. In fact, we have not defined a closed model, but a family of models that can depend on the number of harmonics and various other assumptions, such as the assumption of a real wrinkling envelope or the hypothesis w0 = 0, which means no bending before wrinkling. Three cases will be considered. First the model presented in  couples a linear membrane behavior with a real envelope governed by a sort of Ginzburg-Landau equation. It corresponds to (15) in the 1D case and can be considered as a reference model because it is simple and able to account for the influence of wrinkling on membrane behavior. Next a pure membrane model will be derived by neglecting the dependence with respect to the derivatives of the envelopes. Last we shortly describe a model with a complex envelope, as the one studied in  in the 1D case that is a relatively simple improvement of the reference model.
A reference macroscopic membrane model
The nonlinear model (30) (31) (32) couples nonlinear membrane equations with a bifurcation Equation (32) satisfied by the envelope of wrinkling pattern. It extends the previous analysis of the 1D case that couples a beam membrane with a one-dimensional Ginzburg-Landau equation. Hence the bifurcation Equation (32) is a sort of bi-dimensional Ginzburg-Landau equation, but it differs from the amplitude equation of Segel-Newell-Whitehead [42, 43] who consider cases where the pre-bifurcation state is invariant under rotation. We shall see that finite element discretisation of (30) (31) (31) is straightforward. Two analytical solutions will be also presented in the section “Two analytical solutions for clamped rectangular membranes”.
Within the nonlinear model (30) (31) (32), one recovers two ideas of classical macroscopic membrane models. First the splitting between membrane and wrinkling strain of Roddeman theory  has been deduced from Föppl-Von Karman Equation, see (31), without any phenomenological assumption. Then the final bifurcation Equation (32) includes an internal length, which permits to retrieve the multi-scale instability analysis of Part 2. Finally this model can be qualitatively compared with the models of Banerjee et al. [29, 30], where an internal length is introduced via Cosserat theory. Body forces and boundary forces can be introduced easily by the same procedure. This requires that these forces can also be put in the form of Fourier series with slowly variable coefficients. For instance if these forces vary slowly at the scale of the wrinkles, this leads to a classical body force in the membrane Equation (30), as well as in the corresponding boundary conditions. In the same way, transverse forces can also be accounted for within the more complete model entitled “A more sophisticated macroscopic membrane model with a complex envelope”.
A pure membrane model
The model (34) is consistent with the pure membrane theories of the literature, see for instance , because N X cannot be lower than the wrinkling stress − DQ2.Generally, this wrinkling threshold is approximated by zero so that the membrane does not admit compressive stresses. In sections “Two analytical solutions for clamped rectangular membranes” and “Two numerical solutions”, this model will be compared with our reference model (30) (31) (32).
A more sophisticated macroscopic membrane model with a complex envelope
This system is only presented as an example of the multi-scale procedure and it will not be discussed further in this paper.
Two analytical solutions for clamped rectangular membranes
Classically, we start with a “linear stability analysis” that is quite simple due to the stress state depending linearly on the applied force. This will establish unambiguously the multi-scale character of membrane wrinkling. Next a classical nonlinear bifurcation analysis will be done, in the same manner as for a classical post-buckling computation [68, 69]. This will provide a relation between the applied compressive stress and the size of the wrinkles.
An analytical solution for wrinkling initiation
This simple calculation brings out the multiple scale character of the wrinkling phenomenon: indeed, the wrinkling threshold depends on the wavelength that is a microscopic quantity, but this wavelength depends of the width of the plate that is a macroscopic length. Thus a full wrinkling analysis has to associate micro and macro scales.
Recent experimental results  have established that the wavelength increases when the thickness h increases and decreases when the tension σ Y increases. The scaling law seems qualitatively consistent with experimental results.
The wrinkling stress can also be written in terms of the wavenumber by N X = − 2DQ2, to be compared with the bifurcation load N X = − DQ2 of the pure membrane model (34), but of course the pure membrane model is not able to predict the wavenumber.
Initial post-bifurcation analysis
Now we try to connect the applied loads and the size of the wrinkles. As in any plate buckling, the deflection is proportional to the square root of the difference between the current load and its critical value. This post-bifurcation analysis will be done by starting from the new reference membrane model (22) (30) (31) (32) in order to illustrate its ability to characterize the evolution of the wrinkles beyond the instability threshold.
The membrane model (22) (30) (31) (32) is a macroscopic one already simplified by a multi-scale analysis. Therefore there is no need to come back to a multiple scale bifurcation analysis of Ginzburg-Landau type. A standard post-bifurcation analysis as in [68, 69] will be sufficient to predict the amplitude of wrinkles.
To avoid any ambiguity with Fourier expansion (Ui), the terms of the Taylor expansions have been denoted with a superscript U(i). This straightforward bifurcation analysis leads to Partial Differential Equations at each order.
The Dirichlet boundary conditions in (55) are deduced from (49-c) (49-d) by integration along the boundary, by a quite well known calculation when dealing with a stress function.
Note that this analytical formula comes from a structural analysis. Hence the results depend on the domain via the coefficient and on the boundary conditions. The formula (62) is illustrated by numerical values in the case of a square membrane in Table 1 and Figure 4, for four values of the tensile force.
Membrane response for different tensile loads as a function of the tensile stress: wrinkling compressive load, wrinkling wavenumber, size of the wrinkles when the compressive load is twice the wrinkling load
N Y (N/mm)
We describe now the discretisation techniques and the solving algorithm for the reference model (30) (31) (32). Because this system is a second order partial differential system, any classical C0 finite element is acceptable. In the applications, quadratic quadrilateral finite elements (Q8) will be used. The resulting nonlinear discrete equations will be solved by the Asymptotic Numerical Method . Some numerical tests will be performed with the pure membrane model (34); its discretisation being straightforward, the details will be omitted.
Matrix form of the bending virtual work
Matrix form of the membrane virtual work
The external virtual work is quite classical and the details will be omitted.
Two numerical solutions
The procedure described in the previous section has been applied to two numerical tests: the wrinkling of a rectangular membrane submitted to a compressive-tensile loading studied previously in section “Clamped rectangular membrane submitted to tension and compression” and the wrinkling of long rectangular membrane submitted to a uniaxial traction that was studied by several authors in the literature. The main question is to evaluate the validity range of the reduced model (30-32) and (34).
Clamped rectangular membrane submitted to tension and compression
A rectangular membrane submitted to uniaxial traction
Linear wrinkling analysis revisited by a double scale asymptotic analysis
To distinguish from the coefficients of the Fourier expansion (6) Ui(X), the indices of the asymptotic expansions (83) have been denoted by λ(i),w(i).
If one goes back to the corresponding initial quantities , and to , one recovers exactly the classical wrinkling stress and wavelength of (44). The wrinkling wavelength is defined at this level by minimizing the critical load λ(2)(q) with respect to the wavenumber.
Nonetheless the correction is generally small for very thin membranes, i.e. , . This correction depends mainly on the bending effects, as this can be seen from (95) or (96). It depends also on the boundary condition on the four sides, while the first order term depends only on boundary conditions on X = 0, L.
Last comments about the asymptotic modeling
The asymptotic modeling splits the modal analysis into several steps. First a harmonic fast evolution is obtained at the scale of the wrinkle wavelength, see (87). Then the differential Equation (88) yields a first approximation of the wrinkling load, the wavelength and the variation of the envelope in the transverse direction. Finally the mode is completely characterized if one takes into account its evolution along OX via (94), the latter equation being an eigenvalue problem that provides a small correction λ(2) to the wrinkling load.
This splitting of the governing envelope equation corresponds to a consistent account of the different levels of applied stresses and of length scales. This cumbersome multi-scale analysis does not exist within the Fourier series that only distinguishes the Fourier coefficients of the response. Unlike the purely asymptotic approach, Fourier method leads to consistent bi-dimensional models as (30) (31) (32) that are easier to handle numerically. Nevertheless the two approaches are not contradictory and an asymptotic procedure could be applied by starting from the reduced models (30-32)(34) or (36-39).
Membrane wrinkling has been re-discussed from multi-scale approaches. Basically, a local wrinkling wavelength is chosen and macroscopic models are deduced, whose unknowns are envelopes of the fastly varying oscillations of the wrinkles. This amounts to coupling a membrane model or a shell model with a sort of bifurcation equation that governs the appearance of wrinkles. This new class of models leads to well-posed partial differential systems that are easy to be solved numerically. These models have been studied in details, by computing several numerical and analytical solutions. This new approach is rather different from those classically used in the literature, but it permits to recover their main features: a quite different behavior of the membrane with or without wrinkling, a splitting into macroscopic strain and wrinkling strain and the presence of an internal length that proves to be necessary to get a consistent distribution of the wrinkles. A main originality is the ability to predict the main characteristics of the wrinkles from macroscopic models and coarse meshes. Likely the weakest point is the necessity to choose a priori the wavelength in the case of a nonlinear analysis, but this could be improved by coming back to a true multi-scaled approach as in FE2 method.
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