Analysis and optimisation of postbuckled damage tolerant composite laminates

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Barely Visible Impact Damage (BVID) can occur when laminated composite material is subject to impact, i.e. from runway debris or dropped tools, and may result in a significant reduction in the compressive strength of composite structures. A component containing BVID subjected to compression may fail via a number of mechanisms. However, it is assumed that the impact damage problems to be modelled will fail by delamination buckling leading to propagation of damage away from the original site. This precludes problems where the initial mechanism of failure is via kink banding or buckling of the full laminate. An analytical model is presented, for application to various composite structures, which predicts the level of compressive strain below which growth of BVID following local buckling of a delaminated sublaminate will not occur. The model is capable of predicting the critical through-thickness level for delamination, the stability of delamination growth, the sensitivity to experimental error in geometric measurements of the damage area and additionally establishes properties desirable for laminates optimised for damage tolerance. Problems treated with the model are split into two impact categories; ‘face’ (i.e. an out-of-plane skin impact) and ‘free edge’ (i.e. an in-plane stiffener edge impact) and two compressive loading regimes; ‘static’ and ‘fatigue’. Analytical results for static and fatigue compression of face impacted plates show an agreement of threshold strain to within 4% and 17% of experimental values respectively. In particular, for impacts to the skin under a stiffener subject to static loading the model is accurate to within 5%. An optimised laminate stacking sequence has shown an experimental increase of up to 29% in static strength can be achieved in comparison to a baseline configuration. Finally, compression testing has been undertaken on three coupons in order to validate an analysis of static free edge problems. Analytical results are, on average, within 10% of experimental results. An optimised laminate is theoretically predicted to increase static compression after free edge impact strength by at least 35%.
Date of Award1 Nov 2009
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorGiles Hunt (Supervisor)


  • damage tolerance
  • compression
  • fatigue
  • impact
  • composite

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