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Compression after impact on curved composite panels

L. Warnet, R. Akkerman & P.E. Reed University of Twente Faculty of Engineering Technology, P.O. Box 217, 7500AE, Enschede, NL

The Compression After Impact (CAI) test method involves an impact load on a flat composite plate, followed by an in-plane compression test. Although relevant for most aerospace applications, the use of a flat plate limits the applicability of the method for complex shapes. This work investigates the influence of curvature of the specimen on the damage mechanisms occurring. A typical example of a structure involving curvature and relevant for the CAI load-case is shown in figure 1. NH-90 helicopter

Experimental program
Both flat and curved panels were tested. Unidirectional carbon T300 / PEI (Cetex) flat panels were first hotpressed. The curved panels required an extra rubber pressing step. As shown in Figure 3, ultrasonic C-scan was used to measure the projected delamination after production, machining, impact and compression.
Plate Manufacturing Geometry Measurement Impact Testing Image Analysis


landing gear

Specimen preparation

Image Analysis

CAI Testing

Figure 3: Experimental and analysis procedure

Impact testing of both types of geometry showed qualitatively similar behaviour, typically an increase in delamination surface with the impact energy, accompanied with matrix cracking and minor fibre fracture only at the highest energy level (20J). Compression behaviour of the flat plates showed extensive delamination from the impacted section. The used instrumentation also showed a complex snap buckling behaviour prior to failure. Despite their lower thickness, the curved specimens failed in a compressive way, showing a narrow damage zone over their full width, through the impacted zone. This behavior is illustrated in figure 4, with C-scans and roughly sketched damages for the flat plate on the left, and for the curved panels on the right side.

Figure 1: Example of a composite structure including curved sections: NH-90 composite trailing arm. Courtesy Stork SP Aerospace

Curved plate specimens

A new CAI test method was developed for singularly curved plates, using the existing the existing flat plate equipment as a basis. Only the end fixtures of the compression set-up were adapted. Figure 2 shows the set-up for both impact and compression tests.

Figure 2: CAI for curved plates: Impact (left); Compression (right)

Figure 4: Typical C-scan after impact and CAI for the flat plates (left) and the curved panels (right)

Several damage mechanisms can occur during the impact test. The geometry of the curved plate was chosen to make sure that delamination occurred before snap through buckling or compression of the walls of the cylinder. This analysis based amongst others on reference [1] resulted in a cylinder radius of 47.5mm and a height of 17.5mm.

[1] G.A.O Davies, X.Zhang Impact prediction in composite structures, Int. J. of Imp. Engng., pp. 149-170, 16 (1987).