The present work focuses on the formulation and numerical assessment of a family of C0
quadrilateral plate elements based on the refined zigzag theory (RZT). Specifically, four quadrilateral plate elements are developed and numerically tested: The classical bi-linear 4-node element (RZT4), the serendipity 8-node element (RZT8), the virgin 8-node element (RZT8v), and the 4-node anisoparametric constrained element (RZT4c). To assess the relative merits and drawbacks, numerical tests on bending (maximum deflection and stresses) and free vibration analysis of laminated composite and sandwich plates under different boundary conditions and transverse load distributions are performed. Convergences studies with regular and distorted meshes, transverse shear-locking effect for thin and very thin plates are carried out. It is concluded that the bi-linear 4-node element (RZT4) has performances comparable to the other elements in the range of thin plates when reduced integration is adopted but presents extra zero strain energy modes. The serendipity 8-node element (RZT8), the virgin 8-node element (RZT8v), and the 4-node anisoparametric constrained element (RZT4c) show remarkable performance and predictive capabilities for various problems, and transverse shear-locking is greatly relieved, at least for aspect ratio equal to 5 × 102
, without using any reduced integration scheme. Moreover, RZT4c has well-conditioned element stiffness matrix, contrary to RZT4 using reduced integration strategy, and has the same computational cost of the RZT4 element.
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