THE VIRTUAL ELEMENT METHOD FOR EFFICIENT CRACK TIP LOADING ANALYSIS AND CRACK GROWTH SIMULATION
To precisely model crack growth, accurate calculations of crack front loading and crack deflection angles are essential. These calculations require solutions of the underlying boundary value problems (BVPs), which are typically obtained by applying numerical methods, e.g., the finite element method (FEM). However, since accuracy and computational cost of the analyses are in general competing aspects, compromises often have to be made in order to generate satisfactory results in acceptable times. In contrast, the use of more efficient methods, both for the solution of the BVP as well as for the subsequent crack tip loading analyses, can substantially lower the computational effort while maintaining desired accuracies. The virtual element method (VEM) is a fairly new discretization scheme for the numerical solution of BVPs, and can be interpreted as a generalization of the FEM. Since the VEM can handle arbitrary polytopal meshes in a straightforward manner, it provides a higher degree of flexibility in the discretization process than the FEM, which turns out to be profitable in terms of both computing times and accuracy. This holds in particular for the simulation of crack growth in 2D and 3D, sparing adaptive re-meshing or the construction of discontinuous element shape functions.