Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) based on Acoustic Emission (AE) is dependent on both the sensors to detect an impact event as well as an algorithm to determine the impact location. The propagation of Lamb waves produced by an impact event in thin composite structures is affected by several unique aspects including material anisotropy, ply orientations, and geometric discontinuities within the structure. The development of accurate numerical models of Lamb wave propagation has important benefits towards the development of AE-based SHM systems for impact location estimation. Currently, many impact location algorithms utilize the time of arrival or velocities of Lamb waves. Therefore the numerical prediction of characteristic wave velocities is of great interest. Additionally, the propagation of the initial symmetric (S0) and asymmetric (A0) wave modes is important, as these wave modes are used for time of arrival estimation. In this investigation, finite element analyses were performed to investigate aspects of Lamb wave propagation in composite plates with active signal excitation. A comparative evaluation of two three-dimensional modeling approaches was performed, with emphasis placed on the propagation and velocity of both the S0 and A0 wave modes. Results from numerical simulations are compared to experimental results obtained from active AE testing. Of particular interest is the directional dependence of Lamb waves in quasi-isotropic carbon/epoxy composite plates. Numerical and experimental results suggest that although a quasi-isotropic composite plate may have the same effective elastic modulus in all in-plane directions, the Lamb wave velocity may have some directional dependence. Further numerical analyses were performed to investigate Lamb wave propagation associated with circular cutouts in composite plates.

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