[en] Griffiths crack ; energy minimisation ; variational fracture ; stability of cracks ; competing crack growth ; stiffness derivative ; comparison of crack growth criteria ; extended finite element method ; XFEM implementation ; multiple cracks ; crack intersections ; linear elastic fracture
[en] The three-part paper deals with energy-minimal multiple crack propagation in a linear elastic solid under quasi-static conditions. The principle of minimum total energy, i.e. the sum of the potential and fracture energies, which stems directly from the Griffith's theory of cracks, is applied to the problem of arbitrary crack growth in 2D. The proposed formulation enables minimisation of the total energy of the mechanical system with respect to the crack extension directions and crack extension lengths to solve for the evolution of the mechanical system over time. The three parts focus, in turn, on (I) the theory of multiple crack growth including competing cracks, (II) the discrete solution by the extended finite element method using the minimum-energy formulation, and (III) the aspects of computer implementation within the Matlab programming language. The key contributions of Part-I of this three-part paper are: (1) formulation of the total energy functional governing multiple crack behaviour, (2) three solution methods to the problem of competing crack growth for different fracture front stabilities (e.g. stable, unstable, or a partially stable configuration of crack tips), and (3) the minimum energy criterion for a set of crack tip extensions is posed as the criterion of vanishing rotational dissipation rates with respect to the rotations of the crack extensions. The formulation lends itself to a straightforward application within a discrete framework for determining the crack extension directions of multiple finite-length crack tip increments, which is tackled in Part-II, using the extended finite element method. In Part-III, we discuss various applications and benchmark problems. The open-source Matlab code, documentation, benchmark/example cases are included as supplementary material.