A hybrid experimental and 3-D dynamic nonlinear finite element approach was used to study damage in 101.6mm × 101.6mm composite panels subject to drop-weight impact up to 50 J. The specimens tested were made of hybrid woven S2-glass-IM7 graphite fibers/toughened epoxy (cured at 177°C). The composite panels were damaged by impacts using a pressure-assisted Instron-Dynatup 8520 instrumented drop-weight impact tester. During the low velocity impact tests, the time-histories of impact-induced dynamic strains and impact forces were recorded. Two types of drop-weight impact tests were conducted. The first focused on the effect of different shapes of the impactor and the second involved progression of the damage in the composite when impacted repeatedly. The commercially available 3-D dynamic nonlinear finite element software, DYNA, was then used to simulate the experimental results of drop-weight tests using different shapes of the impactor. Good agreement between experimental and FEM results has been achieved when comparing dynamic force, strain histories and damage patterns from experimental measurements and finite element simulations.

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