A three-dimensional, elastic-plastic finite element program is developed and applied to analyze the stress field in a plate containing a through crack. The center cracked plate is subjected to uniform tensile loading which results in mode I opening of the crack surfaces. Transverse variations of the opening tensile stress component and of the effective stress (von Mises) in the vicinity of the crack front are presented. They clearly demonstrate the three-dimensional nature of this problem with distributions that depend on specimen thickness. For thinner plates, the plastic deformation concentrates near the plate surfaces while the normal stress is largest in the plate interior. In thicker plates the deformation and normal stress fields are more uniform in the plate interior near the crack front, but they develop a rapid boundary layer-type variation in the vicinity of the plate surfaces.

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