In the seismic design of structures according to the dissipative structural behaviour, the connection ductility is crucial in order to ensure the desired level of energy dissipation of the overall structure. Therefore, in case of ductile zones composed of dowel-type fasteners arranged in series, it is important to ensure that all the fasteners can fully develop their energy dissipation capacity by plastic deformations. However, when different types of connections made of two symmetrical and serially arranged assemblies of dowel-type fasteners are tested, it often appears that only few fasteners fully work in the plastic region while most of the remaining ones exhibit very low yielding.
Looking at the causes of this dysfunction, a possible explanation is due to the fact that the rules for the seismic design of dissipative zones in timber structures given in international codes and used in common practice often make reference only to the steel quality of the dowel-type fasteners specifying a minimum tensile strength or sometime, like is the case of the current version of Eurocode 8, only to maximum values of the dowel-type fastener diameter and of the thickness of the connected timber or wood-based members. Also, the research conducted so far about the ductile behaviour of serially arranged connections was not focused on the post-elastic properties of steel. However, for the seismic design of ductile zones of other materials, such as for example is the case of reinforced concrete walls, post-elastic characteristics of steel are required for the reinforcing bars, in order to achieve the desired dissipative behaviour.
Inspired by this fact, timber connections composed of serially arranged dowels made of steel grades with different hardening ratio and elongation at maximum tensile stress were fabricated and tested. The purpose of this work is to understand if the use of steel with significant post-elastic properties may help to solve the problem of limited yielding in serially arranged dowel-type connections.
The tested specimens were composed of two symmetrical timber members made of Glulam and LVL connected to two 6 mm thick slotted-in steel plates by means of 9 steel dowels with a diameter of 6.0 mm, which were subjected to monotonic and cyclic tests carried out by implementing dowels made of steel with favourable post-elastic properties.
The results showed that the simultaneous yielding of two serially arranged dowelled assemblies is possible, although not fully. Moreover, assuming as reference the steel grade with the lowest post-elastic properties, the connection ductility and strength measured through monotonic and cyclic tests increased by about 30% for the steel grades with the highest hardening ratio and elongation at maximum tensile stress, whereas the displacement at maximum strength was about five times higher.
In addition, it was found that confinement of the timber members and shaping of holes were crucial in order to avoid undesired and premature brittle failures and to increase the connection strength and ductility.
The results obtained may be useful in order to bring a reassessment of the code requirements regarding the steel properties of ductile connections as well as of certain principles of dimensioning and detailing.