AbstractThe present article proposes a mortar-type finite element formulation for consistently embedding curved, slender beams into 3D solid volumes. Following the fundamental kinematic assumption of undeformable cross-section s, the beams are identified as 1D Cosserat continua with pointwise six (translational and rotational) degrees of freedom describing the cross-section (centroid) position and orientation. A consistent 1D-3D coupling scheme for this problem type is proposed, requiring to enforce both positional and rotational constraints. Since Boltzmann continua exhibit no inherent rotational degrees of freedom, suitable definitions of orthonormal triads are investigated that are representative for the orientation of material directions within the 3D solid. While the rotation tensor defined by the polar decomposition of the deformation gradient appears as a natural choice and will even be demonstrated to represent these material directions in a $$L_2$$
L
2
-optimal manner, several alternative triad definitions are investigated. Such alternatives potentially allow for a more efficient numerical evaluation. Moreover, objective (i.e. frame-invariant) rotational coupling constraints between beam and solid orientations are formulated and enforced in a variationally consistent manner based on either a penalty potential or a Lagrange multiplier potential. Eventually, finite element discretization of the solid domain, the embedded beams, which are modeled on basis of the geometrically exact beam theory, and the Lagrange multiplier field associated with the coupling constraints results in an embedded mortar-type formulation for rotational and translational constraint enforcement denoted as full beam-to-solid volume coupling (BTS-FULL) scheme. Based on elementary numerical test cases, it is demonstrated that a consistent spatial convergence behavior can be achieved and potential locking effects can be avoided, if the proposed BTS-FULL scheme is combined with a suitable solid triad definition. Eventually, real-life engineering applications are considered to illustrate the importance of consistently coupling both translational and rotational degrees of freedom as well as the upscaling potential of the proposed formulation. This allows the investigation of complex mechanical systems such as fiber-reinforced composite materials, containing a large number of curved, slender fibers with arbitrary orientation embedded in a matrix material.