It is in general challenging to characterize planar mechanical properties of extremely soft tissues such as cell-seeded collagen gels. One of the difficulties is related to premature failure of specimens. This issue may be resolved by employing fillets on stress-concentrated spots of the specimen. The existence of fillets, however, complicates the estimation of stress at the center of the specimen where stiffness data are collected. In this study, cruciform rubber specimens with two types of fillets (general vs. cut-in fillets) at the intersections of perpendicular arms were prepared and subjected to planar biaxial mechanical testing, aiming at investigating how the fillets affect the estimation of mechanical properties of cruciform specimens. Digital image correlation was used to analyze full-field deformation in the central region of the specimens. Finite element analysis with a Neo-Hookean model was performed to simulate the full-field deformation under the same experimental boundary conditions. The strain distribution for each specimen geometry obtained by finite element analysis was found to be in good agreement with that analyzed by digital image correlation, validating the finite element models. Finite element simulation showed that the greatest value of the maximum principal strain decreased with increasing the fillet radius regardless of the fillet type. Increasing the fillet radius, in general, also reduced the strain field uniformity in the central region. Compared with general fillets, however, the use of cut-in fillets provided greater strain field uniformity given the same fillet radius. Finite element analysis was also used to estimate effective transverse length required to convert tensile force at the boundary to local stress at the center. It was found that the effective transverse length for each specimen geometry remained relatively constant if the specimen was not excessively deformed (i.e., global equibiaxial stretch ≤ 1.2). We suggest using cut-in fillets at the intersections of perpendicular arms when preparing cruciform specimens for testing extremely soft tissues.
- Digital image correlation
- Finite element method
- Planar biaxial mechanical testing
- Soft tissues
- Specimen geometry