This paper investigated the effect of sensor density and alignment for three-dimensional shape sensing of an airplane-wing-shaped thick panel subjected to three different loading conditions, i.e., bending, torsion, and membrane loads. For shape sensing analysis of the panel, the Inverse Finite Element Method (iFEM) was used together with the Refined Zigzag Theory (RZT), in order to enable accurate predictions for transverse deflection and through-the-thickness variation of interfacial displacements. In this study, the iFEM-RZT algorithm is implemented by utilizing a novel three-node C°-continuous inverse-shell element, known as i3-RZT. The discrete strain data is generated numerically through performing a high-fidelity finite element analysis on the wing-shaped panel. This numerical strain data represents experimental strain readings obtained from surface patched strain gauges or embedded fiber Bragg grating (FBG) sensors. Three different sensor placement configurations with varying density and alignment of strain data were examined and their corresponding displacement contours were compared with those of reference solutions. The results indicate that a sparse distribution of FBG sensors (uniaxial strain measurements), aligned in only the longitudinal direction, is sufficient for predicting accurate full-field membrane and bending responses (deformed shapes) of the panel, including a true zigzag representation of interfacial displacements. On the other hand, a sparse deployment of strain rosettes (triaxial strain measurements) is essentially enough to produce torsion shapes that are as accurate as those of predicted by a dense sensor placement configuration. Hence, the potential applicability and practical aspects of i3-RZT/iFEM methodology is proven for three-dimensional shape-sensing of future aerospace structures.
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