Structural health monitoring (SHM) is the process of damage identification in structural systems which have been an area of interest and a well-recognized field of technology in the past decade. Such systems involve the integration of smart materials, sensors and decision-making algorithms into the structure to detect damage, evaluate the structural integrity and predict the remaining life time. These systems have the potential to replace traditional non-destructive evaluation (NDE) of structures.

This study focuses on presenting an automated structural health monitoring (SHM) system based on detecting shifts in natural frequencies of the structure. The damage detection technique is implemented on a cracked composite beam vibrating in coupled bending-torsion where the crack is assumed open. Modal analysis is conducted on the composite beam in order to predict the natural frequency and the associated mode shapes. Based on this analysis, a database of information related to the specific composite beam being analyzed such as layups and natural frequencies are stored. The natural frequency will be measured and compared to that database for damage detection. A finite element model is also presented and compared with the analytical results. It is observed that the variation of natural frequencies in the presence of a crack is affected by the crack ratio, crack location and fiber orientation. In particular, the variation pattern is different as the magnitude of bending-torsion coupling changes due to different fiber angles.

A simple circuit containing a microcontroller is implemented to simulate the automated SHM concept. The microcontroller serves as the data storage device as well as the decision maker based on the instantaneous comparison between the healthy and the damaged structure. The proposed system may be implemented in many structural components such as aircraft frames and bridges. This SHM technology may help replace the current time-based maintenance scheme with a condition-based one. The condition-based maintenance scheme relies on the ability to monitor the condition of the system and supply information of damage detection to allow a corrective action to be taken.

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