This paper presents a methodology for the characterization and scaling of the response of structures having different shapes, sizes, and boundary conditions that are under impact by spherical objects. The objectives are to demonstrate the accuracy of a new bilinear contact law that accounts for permanent indentation in the contact zone, and to show the efficacy of a characterization diagram in the analysis and design of structures subject to impact. The characterization diagram shows the normalized functional relationship between the maximum impact force and three nondimensional parameters that cover the complete dynamic spectrum for low-velocity impact. The validity of using the bilinear elastoplastic contact law is demonstrated by both finite element (FE) and Rayleigh-Ritz discretization procedures for simply-supported plates. The efficacy of the characterization diagram, which was developed using simple structural models, is demonstrated by the FE simulations of more complicated and realistic structures and boundary conditions (clamped, stiffened plates, and cylindrical panels). All of the necessary parameters needed for the characterization are ‘measured’ using the FE models simulating real-world experiments. Impact parameters are varied to cover the complete dynamic spectrum with excellent results.

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