Bioinspired helicoidal composite structure featuring functionally graded variable ply pitch

Michele Meo, Francesco Rizzo, Mark Portus, Fulvio Pinto

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3 Citations (SciVal)
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Composite laminated materials have been largely implemented in advanced applications due to the high tailorability of their mechanical performance and low weight. However, due to their low resistance against out-of-plane loading, they are prone to generate damage as a consequence of an impact event, leading to the loss of mechanical properties and eventually to the catastrophic failure of the entire structure. In order to overcome this issue, the high tailorability can be exploited to replicate complex biological structures that are naturally optimised to withstand extreme impact loading. Bioinspired helicoidal laminates have been already studied in-depth with good results; however, they have been manufactured by applying a constant pitch rotation between each consecutive ply. This is in contrast to that observed in biological structures where the pitch rotation is not constant along the thickness, but gradually increases from the outer shell to the inner core in order to optimise energy absorption and stress distribution. Based on this concept, Functionally Graded Pitch (FGP) laminated composites were designed and manufactured in order to improve the impact resistance relative to a benchmark laminate, exploiting the tough nature of helicoidal structures with variable rotation angles. To the authors’ knowledge, this is one of the first attempts to fully reproduce the helicoidal arrangement found in nature using a mathematically scaled form of the triangular sequence to define the lamination layup. Samples were subject to three-point bending and tested under Low Velocity Impact (LVI) conditions at 15 J and 25 J impact energies and ultrasonic testing was used to evaluate the damaged area. Flexural After Impact (FAI) tests were used to evaluate the post-impact residual energy to confirm the superior impact resistance offered by these bioinspired structures. Vast improvements in impact behaviour were observed in the FGP laminates over the benchmark, with an average reduction of 41% of the damaged area and an increase in post-impact residual energy of 111%. The absorbed energy was similarly reduced (−44%), and greater mechanical strength (+21%) and elastic energy capacity (+78%) were demonstrated in the threepoint bending test.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5133
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2021


  • Bioinspiration
  • Composite
  • Helicoidal
  • Impact resistance
  • Residual strength

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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