The equations for the equilibrium of a thin elastic ribbon are derived by adapting the classical theory of thin elastic rods. Previously established ribbon models are extended to handle geodesic curvature, natural out-of-plane curvature, and a variable width. Both the case of a finite width (Wunderlich’s model) and the limit of small width (Sadowksky’s model) are recovered. The ribbon is assumed to remain developable as it deforms, and the direction of the generatrices is used as an internal variable. Internal constraints expressing inextensibility are identified. The equilibrium of the ribbon is found to be governed by an equation of equilibrium for the internal variable involving its second-gradient, by the classical Kirchhoff equations for thin rods, and by specific, thin-rod-like constitutive laws; this extends the results of Starostin and van der Heijden (2007) to a general ribbon model. Our equations are applicable in particular to ribbons having geodesic curvature, such as an annulus cut out in a piece of paper. Other examples of application are discussed. By making use of a material frame rather than the Frénet-Serret’s frame, the present work unifies the description of thin ribbons and thin rods.

M. A. Dias and B. Audoly, Journal of Elasticity (2014) Arxiv and Journal.

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