Role of microstructures in the compression response of three-dimensional foam-formed wood fiber networks
High-porosity, three-dimensional wood fiber networks made by foam forming present experimentally accessible instances of hierarchically structured, athermal fiber networks. We investigate the large deformation compression behavior of these networks using fiber-resolved finite element analyses to elucidate the role of microstructures in the mechanical response to compression. Three-dimensional network structures are acquired using micro-computed tomography and subsequent skeletonization into a Euclidean graph representation. By using a fitting procedure to the geometrical graph data, we are able to identify nine independent statistical parameters needed for the regeneration of artificial networks with the observed statistics. The compression response of these artificially generated networks and the physical network is then investigated using implicit finite element analysis. A direct comparison of the simulation results from the reconstructed and artificial network reveals remarkable differences already in the elastic region. These can neither be fully explained by density scaling, the size effect nor the boundary conditions. The only factor which provides the consistent explanation of the observed difference is the density and fiber orientation nonuniformities; these contribute to strain-localization so that the network becomes more compliant than expected for statistically uniform microstructures. We also demonstrate that the experimentally manifested strain-stiffening of such networks is due to development of new inter-fiber contacts during compression.