This 2007 Book Chapter on the basics of plasticity theory reviews the terminology and governing equations of plasticity, with emphasis on amending misconceptions, providing physical insights, and outlining computational algorithms. Plasticity theory is part of a larger class of material models in which a pronounced change in material response occurs when the stress (or strain) reaches a critical threshold level. If the stress state is subcritical, then the material is modeled by classical elasticity. The bound- ary of the subcritical (elastic) stress states is called the yield surface. Plasticity equations apply if continuing to apply elasticity theory would predict stress states that extend beyond this the yield surface. The onset of plasticity is typically characterized by a pronounced slope change in a stress–strain dia-gram, but load reversals in experiments are necessary to verify that the slope change is not merely nonlinear elasticity or reversible phase transformation.

The threshold yield surface can appear to be significantly affected by the loading rate, which has a dominant effect in shock physics applications.

In addition to providing a much-needed tutorial survey of the governing equations and their solution (defining Lode angle and other Lode invariants and addressing the surprisingly persistent myth that closest-point return satisfies the governing equations), this book chapter includes some distinctive contributions such as a simple 2d analog of plasticity that exhibits the same basic features of plasticity (such as existence of a “yield” surface with associative flow and vertex theory), an extended discussion of apparent nonassociativity, stability and uniqueness concerns about nonassociativity, and a summary of apparent plastic wave speeds in relation to elastic wave speeds (especially noting that non-associativity admits plastic waves that travel faster than elastic waves).

For the full manuscript with errata, click 2007 Book Chapter on the basics of plasticity theory.