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A finite element analysis of impact damage in composite laminatesIn this work, stress-based and fracture mechanics criteria were developed to predict initiation and evolution, respectively, of intra- and inter-laminar cracking developed in composite laminates subjected to low velocity impact. The Soutis shear stress-strain semi-empirical model was used to describe the nonlinear shear behaviour of the composite. The damage model was implemented in the finite element (FE) code (Abaqus/Explicit) by a user-defined material subroutine (VUMAT). Delamination (or inter-laminar cracking) was modelled using interface cohesive elements and the splitting and transverse matrix cracks that appeared within individual plies were also simulated by inserting cohesive elements between neighbouring elements parallel to the fibre direction in each single layer. A good agreement was obtained when compared the numerically predicted results to experimentally obtained curves of impact force and absorbed energy versus time. A non-destructive technique (NDT), penetrant enhanced X-ray radiography, was used to observe the various damage mechanisms induced by impact. It has been shown that the proposed damage model can successfully capture the internal damage pattern and the extent to which it was developed in these carbon fibre/epoxy composite laminates.