A parametric investigation of the effect of impactor stiffness as well as environmental and operational conditions on impact contact behaviour and the subsequently generated lamb waves in composite structures is presented. It is shown that differing impactor stiffness generates the most significant changes in contact area and lamb wave characteristics (waveform, frequency, and amplitude). A novel impact localisation method was developed based on the above observations that allows for variations due to differences in impactor stiffness based on modifications of the reference database method and the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC) time of arrival (ToA) picker. The proposed method was compared against a benchmark method based on artificial neural networks (ANNS) and the normalised smoothed envelope threshold (NSET) ToA extraction method. The results indicate that the proposed method had comparable accuracy to the benchmark method for hard impacts under various environmental and operational conditions when trained only using a single hard impact case. However, when tested with soft impacts, the benchmark method had very low accuracy, whilst the proposed method was able to maintain its accuracy at an acceptable level. Thus, the proposed method is capable of detecting the location of impacts of varying stiffness under various environmental and operational conditions using data from only a single impact case, which brings it closer to the application of data driven impact detection systems in real life structures.
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