Use of the finite element method to treat two and three-dimensional linear elastic fracture mechanics problems is becoming common place. In general, the behavior of the displacement field in ordinary elements is at most quadratic or cubic, so that the stress field is at most linear or quadratic. On the other hand, the stresses in the neighborhood of a crack tip in a linear elastic material have been shown to be square root singular. Hence, the problem begins by properly modeling the stresses in the region adjacent to the crack tip with finite elements. To this end, quarter-point, singular, isoparametric elements may be employed; these will be discussed in detail. After that difficulty has been overcome, the stress intensity factor must be extracted from either the stress or displacement field or by an energy based method. Three methods are described here: displacement extrapolation, the stiffness derivative and the area and volume J-integrals. Special attention will be given to the virtual crack extension which is employed by the latter two methods. A methodology for calculating stress intensity factors in two and three-dimensional bodies will be recommended.

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