Design of Aerospace Laminates for Multi-Axis Loading and Damage Tolerance

  • Mark Nielsen

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Acknowledging the goal of reduced aircraft weight, there is a need to improve on conservative design techniques used in industry. Minimisation of laminate in-plane elastic energy is used as an appropriate in-plane performance marker to assess the weight saving potential of new design techniques. MATLAB optimisations using a genetic algorithm were used to find the optimal laminate variables for minimum in-plane elastic energy and/or damage tolerance for all possible loadings.The use of non-standard angles was able to offer equivalent, if not better in-plane performance than standard angles, and are shown to be useful to improve the ease of manufacture. Any standard angle laminate stiffness was shown to be able to be matched by a range of two non-standard angle ply designs. This non-uniqueness of designs was explored.Balancing of plus and minus plies about the principal loading axes instead of themanufacturing axes was shown to offer considerable potential for weight saving as the stiffness is better aligned to the load.Designing directly for an uncertain design load showed little benefit over the 10% ply percentage rule in maintaining in-plane performance. This showed the current rule may do a sufficient job to allow robustness in laminate performance. This technique is seen useful for non-standard angle design that lacks an equivalent 10% rule.Current use of conservative damage tolerance strain limits for design has revealed the need for more accurate prediction of damage propagation. Damage tolerance modelling was carried out using fracture mechanics for a multi-axial loading considering the full 2D strain energy and improving on current uni-axial models. The non-conservativeness of the model was evidenced to be from assumptions of zero post-buckled stiffness. Preliminary work on conservative multi-axial damage tolerance design, independent of thickness, is yet to be confirmed by experiments.
Date of Award10 Jul 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAndrew Rhead (Supervisor) & Richard Butler (Supervisor)


  • Laminate
  • Design
  • Composites
  • Optimization
  • Damage tolerance
  • stiffness tailoring
  • Design Rules
  • Forming
  • Minimum mass
  • Uncertainty
  • Robust Design

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