Two Decades of Critical Plane Analysis

It has been 20 years since Critical Plane Analysis for rubber was first conceived and validated.  There were early signs of its significance.  It won awards wherever I presented it. At the 1999 SAE Fatigue Design and Evaluation meeting, it won the Henry Fuchs award.  At the 2000 Tire Society meeting, it won the Superior Paper award. At the Fall 2000 ACS Rubber Division meeting, it won the Best Paper award.  Upon completing my 2001 doctoral thesis, we applied for and received a US patent (2003) on it.

The strongest early sign was that I soon found myself in company with others pursuing similar thinking.  The earliest was Dr. Nicolas Saintier.  As far as I know, neither of us was aware of the other’s work until 2006.  That was when he published an account similar enough to my own that when it came across my desk and I first started to read it, I felt certain he would cite my 2001 work as a source.  I have to admit to initially feeling let down when I reached the end of his paper and found no mention of my work.  I immediately looked for his other papers and found his 2001 doctoral thesis titled “Fatigue multiaxiale dans un élastomère de type NR chargé: mécanismes d’endommagement et critère local d’amorçage de fissure.” (Multiaxial fatigue life of a natural rubber: crack initiation mechanisms and local fatigue life criterion).  There it was – the same founding principle of Critical Plane Analysis that I had worked so hard to articulate and validate – the idea that cracks develop on a material plane, specifically the most critical material plane, and that their localized experience drives their evolution.  That we both articulated this beautifully simple and powerful principle in the same year with complete independence from each other, when no one else working on elastomers had yet spoken of this approach (there were precedents in the field of metal fatigue analysis), just shows that it was an idea whose time had come.

Although the foundational principle of Critical Plane Analysis was the same, there were also important differences between our accounts.  We differed on 1) how the critical plane is selected, 2) what criterion is used to quantify the severity of loading experience by the critical plane, 3) how damage on the critical plane evolves under solicitation.  The following table summarizes the key differences:


Table 1. Comparison of the Mars and Saintier Frameworks for Critical Plane Analysis.

Mars 2001 Saintier 2001
Critical Plane Selection Method Minimize the computed life after evaluation of damage on all planes Maximize the principal stress prior to evaluation of damage
Multiaxial Criterion Energy release rate estimated via cracking energy density on every plane Stress traction on the assumed critical plane
Damage Evolution Law Integration of crack growth rate law Power law Wohler curve
Strain Crystallization Law Treated as R ratio dependence of the crack growth rate law Treated as a modifier of the stress experienced on the critical plane

It may be said that Saintier’s approach followed more closely the precedents for Critical Plane Analysis in metal fatigue, particularly with respect to the method used to select the critical plane.  Selecting the plane is the first step in his method (identify the plane in order to compute the damage), but it is the last step in our method (compute the damage on each plane first and lastly pick the plane with the most damage).  Saintier’s approach also depends on a Wohler curve style characterization of fatigue behavior, where ours is defined via a crack growth rate law.  We have previously discussed the pros and cons of Wohler curves vs. fracture mechanics.  In our approach, we placed a high priority on taking advantage of the very large pre-existing body of knowledge on the fracture mechanical behavior of elastomers, and on the economic and operational advantages that crack growth experiments enjoy.

Since my and Saintier’s first steps, there have now been many others who have contributed in various forms to the overall method, its validation and/or its application.  It is safe to say that Critical Plane Analysis is here to stay, and set to continue expanding for many years (there are now several hundred research papers!).

For our part, Endurica is now in year 12 of delivering commercial grade fatigue analysis solutions built on this method.  Today, Critical Plane Analysis is a production analysis workflow used by many engineering organizations to solve critical durability issues.  It is the heart of the Endurica fatigue solver, and there are hundreds of trained users (look up the #fatigueninjas on twitter!).  It is unrivaled for its reliability, speed and accuracy in computing the impacts of multiaxial loading on durability.

What do the next 20 years hold?  We are going to see a transition in how fatigue analysis is used.  OEM organizations that manage durability and risk across rubber component supply chains will transition away from receiving fatigue simulation results on an optional basis towards requiring fatigue simulations by default on every part at the inception of new programs.  Expectations and achievement of cost-reduction, light weighting and sustainability initiatives will increase as product optimization begins to fully account for actual product use cases.  Critical Plane Analysis has already laid the foundation for these things to happen.  Older fatigue analysis methods that do not compete well against critical plane methods will become obsolete.  On the research side, there will be further development of material models for use in the critical plane framework.  Ageing, inelasticity, rate and anisotropy effects still need further development, for example.  In 20 years, durability will be just one more thing that engineers do well every day, whether or not they know that Critical Plane Analysis was how they did it.

Mars, W. V,  Multiaxial fatigue of rubber. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Toledo, 2001.

Mars, W. V. “Multiaxial fatigue crack initiation in rubber.” Tire Science and Technology 29, no. 3: 171-185, 2001.

Mars, W. V. “Cracking energy density as a predictor of fatigue life under multiaxial conditions.” Rubber chemistry and technology 75, no. 1: 1-17, 2002.

Mars, W. V., “Method and article of manufacture for estimating material failure due to crack formation and growth.” U.S. Patent No. 6,634,236. 21 Oct. 2003.

Saintier, N, “Fatigue multiaxiale dans un élastomère de type NR chargé: mécanismes d’endommagement et critère local d’amorçage de fissure.” Ph. D Dissertation., Ecole des Mines de Paris, 2001.

Saintier, N, G. Cailletaud, R. Piques. “Crack initiation and propagation under multiaxial fatigue in a natural rubber.” International Journal of Fatigue 28, no. 1: 61-72, (2006).


Conservatism and Tradition in Fatigue Analysis

Slide Rule

Because Endurica’s Critical Plane Analysis is a relatively new approach to fatigue analysis of elastomers (introduced in 2001), new users often ask whether its predictions are conservative.  Ie, does its predictions reliably lean in favor of safety? And is it more or less conservative than the traditional approaches it supplants?

Fatigue analysis for elastomers follows two distinct traditions.  The earliest tradition traces to Sidney Cadwell’s work in 1940 which followed the even earlier ideas of metal fatigue pioneer August Wohler.  This tradition is based on matching up empirical crack nucleation curves to corresponding in-service operating conditions via convenient parameters such as stress or strain.  It is typically the first approach that engineers encounter in their undergraduate training, as it is often effective and relatively simple to apply.  A later tradition, Fracture Mechanics, traces to the post-WWII work of Ronald Rivlin and Alan Thomas in 1953 which extended Griffith’s seminal 1921 work on rupture to elastomers.  In this tradition, the energy requirements for growing a given crack provide the core organizing principle for analysis.  Combined with empirical crack growth rate curves, this approach can make high accuracy life predictions for a very broad range of application scenarios. This approach is typically first encountered in graduate-level engineering programs, and due to somewhat more complicated mathematics, usually requires specialized calculation software to apply it.

There are a few big holes in the Wohler curve approach.  For elastomers, perhaps the biggest limitation is that this approach assumes a priori that damage is associated with the maximum principal stress or strain.  This is sometimes true for simple cases, but not always: 1) strain crystallization is known to produce off-axis cracking not aligned with the principal stress, 2) compression is known to produce cracks on planes of maximum shearing, and 3) out-of-phase multiaxial loading cases do not even possess a unique, well-defined principal direction – the directions vary in time.  It is also well known that Wohler curves for rubber depend strongly on mode of deformation.  Fatigue experiments in simple tension, biaxial tension, simple shear, and simple compression do not simply resolve to a single universal curve, as the Wohler approach takes for granted.  To use this approach conservatively then requires that the most damaging mode of deformation – simple tension – be used as the baseline.

Perhaps the biggest limitation of the traditional Fracture Mechanics approach is that it typically focuses on only one crack at a time.  In fatigue, structures begin with many microscopic cracks distributed randomly throughout.  Most of the fatigue life of the structure is spent growing many small cracks.  Only towards the very end of life do one or a few large cracks finally emerge as worst cases.  True conservatism would mean tracking the growth of all of possible large cracks, and finding out which one(s) grow the fastest.  But traditional fracture mechanics tools are not well adapted for this task.  They require up front assumptions about the location and shape of the worst case crack.  How can you find a worst case without considering many alternatives?

Critical Plane Analysis is simply the idea that a crack could occur anywhere in a structure, and it could occur in any orientation.  It checks all of the possibilities, and it finds the worst ones.  It looks at the specific loading experiences of each individual crack plane that might occur.  It takes account of material behavior like strain crystallization.  It takes account of crack closure conditions.  It takes account of the fracture mechanical behavior of small cracks.  It does not make unwarranted assumptions about the orientation of cracks.  It correctly predicts the orientation of cracks for all modes of deformation.  It is the most exhaustive and conservative fatigue analysis that you can do.

Don’t mistake traditional approaches with the conservative approach.  Critical Plane Analysis is, by definition, the most conservative approach because it doesn’t make any assumptions about crack location or orientation, and because it checks all of the possible ways a crack might occur.


Integrated Durability Solutions for Elastomers

Will the durability of your new rubber product meet the expectations of your customers? 

Do you have a comprehensive capability that fully integrates all of the disciplines required to efficiently achieve a targeted durability spec?

Your engineers use finite element analysis (FEA) to model the elastomer component in the complex geometry and loading cycle for the desired product application.  One traditional approach to predicting durability is to develop a rough estimate of lifetime by looking at maximum principal strain or stress in relation to strain-life or stress-life fatigue curves obtained for the material using lab specimens in simple tension.  The difficulties and uncertainties with this method were discussed in a recent blog post.


A modern approach to elastomer durability is to use the Endurica CL™ durability solver for FEA.  This software uses rubber fracture mechanics principles and critical plane analysis to calculate the fatigue lifetime – which is the number of times the complex deformation cycle can be repeated before failure – for every element of the model.  This provides engineers with the ability to view lifetime throughout the FEA mesh, allowing them to modify design features or make material changes as needed to resolve short-lifetime areas.

A sound finite element model of the elastomer product in the specified loading situation and fundamental fatigue material parameters from our Fatigue Property Mapping™ testing methods are the two essential inputs to the Endurica CL software.  This is illustrated in the figure below.

The requisite elastomer characterization methods can be conducted by us through our testing services or by you in your laboratory with our testing instruments.  For some companies, consulting projects are a route to taking advantage of the software before deciding to license the unique predictive capabilities.  The following diagram shows how our products and services are integrated.

For companies that are just getting started with implementing our durability solutions, the following is a typical testing services and consulting project:

  1. We use our Fatigue Property Mapping™ testing methods, through our collaboration with Axel Products Physical Testing Services, to characterize the properties of cured sheets of rubber compounds sent to us by the client. The minimum requirements for fatigue modeling are crack precursor size and crack growth rate law, and these are quantified within our Core Fatigue Module.  Special effects like strain-induced crystallization and aging/degradation are accounted for using other testing modules when applicable.
  2. The client sends us the output files from their finite element analysis (FEA) of their elastomer part design for the deformation of their complex loading cycle. It is common for the goal to be a comparison of either two designs, two distinct loading profiles, two different rubber compounds, or combinations of these variations.  Our software is fully compatible with Abaqus™, ANSYS™, and MSC Marc™, so the simulations can be conducted on any of these FEA platforms.  In some situations where a client does not have their own FEA capabilities, one of Endurica’s engineers will set up the models and perform the analyses instead.
  3. The fatigue parameters and FEA model are inputted to Endurica CL fatigue solver to calculate values of the fatigue lifetime for every element of the model. The lifetime results are then mapped back onto the finite element mesh in Abaqus, ANSYS, or MSC Marc so that the problem areas (short lifetime regions) within the geometry can be highlighted.
  4. We review the results with the client and discuss any opportunities for improving the fatigue performance through design and material changes.

Advanced implementors of our durability solutions have licensed the Endurica CL software and are using our rubber characterization methods in their laboratories on a routine basis, with instruments provided through our partnership with Coesfeld GmbH & Co. (Germany).  One recently publicized example of a company using the Endurica approach to a very high degree is Tenneco Inc., which you can read about here.

We want to help you #GetDurabilityRight, so please contact me at if you would like to know more about how Endurica’s modern integrated durability solutions for elastomers can help enable a product development path that is faster, less expensive, and more confident.


Tire Society 2017 – Best Question

Every year, the top minds from academia, government and industry gather in Akron to share their work at the Tire Society annual meeting, and to enjoy a few moments of professional camaraderie.  Then we all return to fight for another year in the trenches of the technology wars of our employers.

This year, the meeting offered the latest on perennial themes: modal analysis, traction, materials science, noise, simulation, wear, experimental techniques for material characterization and for model validation.  Too much to summarize with any depth in a blog post.  If you are interested, you should definitely resolve to go next year.  Endurica presented two papers this year.

I presented a demonstration of how the Endurica CL fatigue solver can account for the effects of self-heating on durability in a rolling tire.  Endurica CL computes dissipation using a simple microsphere model that is compatible, in terms of discretization of the shared microsphere search/integration domain, with the critical plane search used for fatigue analysis.  In addition to defining dissipative properties of the rubber, the user defines the temperature sensitivity of the fatigue crack growth rate law when setting up the tire analysis.  In the case considered, a 57 degC temperature rise was estimated, which decreased the fatigue life of the belt edge by a factor of nearly two, relative to the life at 23 degC.  The failure mode was predicted at the belt edges.  For 100% rated load, straight ahead rolling, the tire was computed to have a life of 131000 km.

The best audience question was theoretical in nature: are the dissipation rates and fatigue lives computed by Endurica objective under a coordinate system change?  And how do we know?  The short answer is that the microsphere / critical plane algorithm, properly implemented, guarantees objectivity.  It is a simple matter to test: we can compute the dissipation and fatigue life for the same strain history reported in two different coordinate systems.  The dissipation rate and the fatigue life should not depend on which coordinate system is used to give the strain history.

For the record, I give here the full Endurica input (PCO.hfi) and output (PCO.hfo) files for our objectivity benchmark.  In this benchmark, histories 11 and 12 give the same simple tension loading history in two different coordinate systems.  Likewise, 21 and 22 give a planar tension history in two coordinate systems.  Finally, 31 and 32 give a biaxial tension history in two coordinate systems.  Note that all of the strain histories are defined in the **HISTORY section of the .hfi file.  In all cases, the strains are given as 6 components of the nominal strain tensor, in the order 11, 22, 33, 12, 23, 31.  The shear strains are given as engineering shear components, not tensor (2*tensor shear = engineering shear).

The objectivity test is successful in all cases because, as shown in the output file PCO.hfo, both the fatigue life, and the hysteresis, show the same values under a coordinate system change.  Quod Erat Demonstrondum.




Durability Analysis in CAE: panel discussion of metals vs. polymers at the SAE World Congress

The relationship between crack nucleation and fracture mechanics experiments for polymers was first documented in 1964 by Gent, Lindley and Thomas (Journal of Applied Polymer Science, 8, 455, 1964.) 

Some weeks ago, I attended the WCX 2017 SAE World Congress and Exhibition, where a Technical Expert Panel Discussion on the topic of Durability Analysis in CAE was held.  The panel was moderated by Yung-Li Lee (FCA US LLC), and included topic experts Abolhassan Khosrovaneh (General Motors LLC), Xuming Su (Ford Motor Co., Ltd.), and Efthimio Duni (FCA EMEA). The discussion was excellent and wide ranging, owing both to the panelists, and also to the audience, which (judging by the high engagement) was very well versed with the core of the topic, as well as its frontiers. I will not attempt to give a complete summary of the event, but I do want to highlight a memorable discussion thread, and to offer a few thoughts.

I do not know who raised the topic.  It could have been a doctoral student or young professional.  Clearly, it was a person wanting to align his own efforts well relative to larger industry trends.  He started out with the observation that the classical crack nucleation methods (in which fatigue behavior is defined by a stress-life or strain-life curve) are quite popular in the automotive sector for analyzing fatigue of metals.  He also observed that modern tools for rubber take a different approach based upon a fracture mechanics method (in which fatigue behavior is defined by a crack growth rate curve). He then asked (I’m paraphrasing from memory here):

  • Which method (nucleation vs. fracture mechanics) is preferred for analysis of polymers?
  • Should we try to unify all testing and analysis efforts for metals and polymers under the same method?

The panelists made several points in responding to this prompt. They started with the point that differences in methodology may be hard to avoid, if only because metals and polymers are so different in composition, molecular structure, and microstructure.  Of course, it is possible to use fracture mechanical methods with metals, although there are some limitations implied by the granular crystalline structure of metals when cracks are very small.  Likewise, it is also possible to use stress-life methods with polymers, although certain aspects of the material behavior may be incompatible with the usual procedures, leading to questionable results.  From a practical standpoint, it would be quite difficult to change the methods used by the industry for metal fatigue analysis – the methods are quite mature at this point, and they have been implemented and validated across so many codes and projects that it is hard to imagine what could be gained by making a change.  For polymers, CAE durability methods are newer, and we should use what works.

There is a final point that I believe will ultimately define how this all plays out.  It is that 1) fatigue analysis for polymers is usually driven by multiple “special effects”, and that 2) the economics of the testing required to characterize these effects scales very differently between the two approaches.

Let me illustrate with a typical example:  we have a Natural Rubber compound used in a high temperature application, for an extended time, under nonrelaxing loads.  Let’s compare our options:


Option 1

Stress-Life Method

Option 2

Fracture Mechanics + Critical Plane Method

To use the stress-life method, we will need to develop curves that give the effect of 4 parameters on the fatigue life: 1) strain amplitude, 2) mean strain, 3) temperature, and 4) ageing.  The experiment is a simple cycle-until-rupture procedure, with one test specimen consumed per operating condition tested.


Let’s assume that we measure each of the four parameters at only 3 levels, and that we will require 3 replicates of each experiment.  The total number of fatigue experiments we need is therefore:


N = 3 amplitudes x 3 means x 3 temperatures x 3 ageing conditions x 3 replicates = 35 = 243 fatigue to failure tests


With the fracture mechanics method, a single run of the experiment solicits the crack at many different operating conditions, enabling observation of the crack growth rate at each condition.  Using Endurica’s standard testing modules, the example testing program (including replication) would require the following procedures:


Core module: 9 experiments (amplitude effect)

Nonrelaxing module: 3 experiments (mean effect)

Thermal module: 12 experiments (temperature effect)

Ageing module: 30 experiments (ageing effect)


243 tests required 54 tests required


In this example, the fracture mechanics method is almost 243/54 = 4.5x more efficient than the stress-life method!  If you need more than 3 levels, or if you have more than 4 key operating parameters, the experimental cost for the stress-life method quickly becomes completely impractical, relative to the fracture mechanics method. Based on these scaling rules, and on the fact that polymers exhibit so many special effects, you can now appreciate why the fracture mechanics method must prevail for polymers.  For metals, the case is less compelling: there aren’t as so many special effects, and the industry testing norms are already well established.

Bottom line: for fatigue of polymers, the economics of testing for ‘special effects’ strongly favors a fracture mechanics approach.  This fact is certain to shape the future development of fatigue life prediction methods for polymers.

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