This paper presents the preliminary results of an ongoing computational and experimental study of common impact situations in mechanical systems involving both rigid and flexible bodies. It is demonstrated that a characterization diagram that shows the relationship of three non-dimensional parameters with the normalized maximum impact force, can be used to fully describe the impact response. The governing non-dimensional parameters can be obtained a priori by analytical, experimental, or computational means. Impact situations having the same non-dimensional parameters, have dynamic similarity and have the same non-dimensional response. Furthermore, they can be placed in appropriate dynamic regions in which simplified dynamic models can be used to predict the response. Therefore, the characterization methodology has the potential to identify the most suitable model for a given impact situation.

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