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Fatigue of Composite Materials

Fatigue of Composite Materials

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7. F
ATIGUE OF
C
OMPOSITE
M
ATERIALS
 
This section is aimed at introducing the basics of fatigue testing nomenclature and procedures. It is not by any means intended to cover all the basics of fatigue in general or for composite either for that matter, but rather to serve as an introduction to the concept and someinitial thoughts about fatigue in composite laminates. The basics of fatigue theories and procedures are described in textbooks such as Fuchs and Stephens (1980), Suresh (1991) andReifsnider (1991).First of all, the fatigue life of classical engineering materials are difficult to predict. For composites it is then not surprisingly even more difficult. There are several reasons for this. Acomposite lamina or laminate has many failure modes and failure mechanisms. Thesemechanisms will respond differently to fatigue loading. The stress distribution in a compositelamina may be several orders of magnitude different in different directions even tough thestrains may be of the same order, due to a strong anisotropy. This in turn highlights the problem of using some generalised stress measure, like the von Mises stress commonly usedfor metals, in predicting the fatigue life.
7.1 The Stress Life Approach
The basic fatigue characteristics for an emerging material or material combination areessential to gain confidence in the durability of the material and its structural application. Thestress life approach to fatigue was first introduced in the 1860s by Wöhler. Out of his work evolved the concept of an “endurance” limit, which characterises the applied stress amplitude below which a material is expected to have an infinite fatigue life. This empirical method hasfound widespread use in fatigue analysis although it does not account for plastic deformationduring the cyclic loading. The basis for the creation of Wöhler curves or 
S/N 
curves isconstant amplitude testing of smooth specimens, i.e. the test specimens are cyclically loaded between a maximum and minimum stress (or strain) level,
max
and
min
until failure occurs.The notation is illustrated in Fig.7.1, where the mean stress and the stress amplitude aredefined as
S
amp
=
maxmin
2(7.1)
S
mean
=+
maxmin
2(7.2)
7.1
 
Foundations of Fibre Composites
max
min
load cycle
0
mean
time
amp
 Figure 7.1 Nomenclature for constant stress amplitude loading
The
S/N 
diagrams, where
is the applied stress and
 N 
is the number of load cycles can be plotted in a logarithmic or in a semi-logarithmic diagram (generally is
on a linear scale and
 N 
on a logarithmic) as shown in Fig.7.2. In a
S/N 
diagram the total specimen life is plotted,where the total life implies the number of load cycles necessary to initiate fatigue cracks inthe smooth specimens
 plus
the number of cycles to propagate the dominant fatigue crack tofailure. The stress,
, in eqs.(7.1-2) may be replaced with strain or even a stress intensityfactor.
 
Region I 
Low cycle fatigue
 
Region II 
High cycle fatigue
 
Region III 
Endurance limit
 
Figure 7.2 Typical
S/N 
diagram with the line showing a piece-wise linear representation of the fatiguefunction.
Under constant amplitude loading many engineering materials exhibit a plateau in the stress-life plot typically beyond about 10
6
fatigue cycles, which also seems to be valid for thesandwich core materials investigated herein. This load level below which the specimen may be cycled an infinite number of times without showing any crack initiation, or propagation of an existing crack, is called the endurance limit or threshold level. Tests performed below thislevel are generally interrupted and their corresponding result representation in the
S/N 
 diagram is accompanied by an arrow indicating a non-failed test, as illustrated in Fig.7.2. Oneusually divides the
S/N 
into three regimes. The first regime is commonly denoted the
 Lowcycle fatigue
regime which is indicated by a high maximum stress level in the load cycle andlow number of cycles to failure. The maximum stress is usually near or above the plastic yieldstress of the material. The second regime is usually called the
 High cycle fatigue
regime. Inthis regime the log(stress) vs. log(cycles) plot commonly lies on a straight line as indicated inFig.7.2. This regime is commonly valid for in the regime up to 10
6
or 10
7
load cycles tofailure. The maximum stress in the load cycle is now well within the elastic regime. The finalregime is the so called
 Endurance limit 
. At fatigue stress levels below a certain value no
7.2
 
Fatigue of Composite Materials
failure can obtained whatever number of load cycles are applied. Typically, the number of load cycles applied in testing to obtain this limit is in the order of 10
6
to 10
9
depending onapplication. One can debate whether there is such a thing as an endurance limit and for somematerials it is argued that such a limit does not really exist. Many components are actuallydesigned based on the stress level near the endurance limit, particularly components that aresubjected to many load cycles in its predicted life-life, one examples is rail-way wheel axles.The fatigue life of a material or a component may differ dramatically under constantamplitude loads with a maintained maximum applied load but changed minimum load or rather, changed amplitude. Therefore is the load ratio,
 R
, introduced as
 R
=
minmax
(7.3)where
 R
<0 corresponds to a load cycle with both compression and tension loading or, as inthe majority of the investigations in this thesis, positive and negative shear. The interval0<
 R
<1 represent tests under tension/tension loads and
 R
>1 corresponds tocompression/compression loading. The characterisation of a new material generally involvestest series at different load ratios. The fatigue life of most materials will decrease withincreasing mean stress level and thus increasing
 R
-value. The schematic effect of increasedload ratio is illustrated in Fig.7.3.
σ 
σ 
cr 
 Figure 7.3 S/N diagram for differnt R-values
The time to failure may be divided into two phases, the nucleation and formation of smallcracks and then when a one or several dominating macroscopical cracks have formed, thecrack propagation phase. The major part of the fatigue life is often the damage nucleation.Since this nucleation phase can vary significantly between, not only material types andqualities, but even between specimens from the same material batch. Therefore the datascatter must be considered when fatigue data is interpreted. A significant parameter in fatigueis the statistical distribution of fatigue data.
7.2 Fatigue Life Representation
For emerging material systems and combinations, applications normally precede and drive thedevelopment of life prediction methods. As a result, many empirical models have been usedand are still used to characterise the fatigue life of sandwich structures and the materials of the core and faces. Some of these are Suresh (1991)(7.4)
( )
SNS
cr a
=
7.3

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