Theoretical and experimental non-linear vibrations of thin rectangular plates and curved panels subjected to out-of-plane harmonic excitation are investigated. Experiments have been performed on isotropic and laminated sandwich plates and panels with supported and free boundary conditions. A sophisticated measuring technique has been developed to characterize the non-linear behavior experimentally by using a Laser Doppler Vibrometer and a stepped-sine testing procedure. The theoretical approach is based on Donnell's non-linear shell theory (since the tested plates are very thin) but retaining in-plane inertia, taking into account the effect of geometric imperfections. A unified energy approach has been utilized to obtain the discretized non-linear equations of motion by using the linear natural modes of vibration. Moreover, a pseudo arc-length continuation and collocation scheme has been used to obtain the periodic solutions and perform bifurcation analysis. Comparisons between numerical simulations and the experiments show good qualitative and quantitative agreement. It is found that, in order to simulate large-amplitude vibrations, a damping value much larger than the linear modal damping should be considered. This indicates a very large and non-linear increase of damping with the increase of the excitation and vibration amplitude for plates and curved panels with different shape, boundary conditions and materials.
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