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Key Engineering Materials Vols 471-472 (2011) pp 939-944 Online: 2011-02-21

© (2011) Trans Tech Publications, Switzerland


doi:10.4028/www.scientific.net/KEM.471-472.939

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Fiber reinforced composite structures are widely used in the aerospace, aircraft, civil and
automotive applications due to their high strength-to-weight and stiffness-to-weight ratios and these
applications require joining composite either to composite or to metal. There are three main
methods for joining composite structures namely, bonding, mechanically fastened or a combination
of the two. Bolted joint are preferred in structures where the disassembly is required for the purpose
of maintenance and repair. Due to the stress concentration around the holes, bolted joints often
represents the weakest part in the structure, and therefore it is important to design them safely. A
review on the study of bolted joints in fiber reinforced composite structure is presented. It was
found that the behavior of bolted joints in composite structure is affected by many factors, such as
geometry, joint material, clamping–load provided by the bolts, ply orientations, etc. Accordingly,
various researches have been conducted on the analyses of stress distribution, failure prediction, and
strength properties of bolted joint both experimentally and numerically. Accurate prediction of
stresses in bolted joints is essential for reliable design of the whole structure; if it is not optimally
designed, premature and unexpected failures may be occurred.

The extensive use of fiber reinforced composites in aircraft, automotive, marine and construction
industry owing to their high specific modulus and high specific strength make the materials
becoming more popular. These applications require the joining of composite structures, and the
design of joints represents one of the major challenges in the development of composite
engineering. The failure and strength of composite joints are considerably different from many
metallic joints due to their anisotropic and inheterogeneity of composites [1, 2].
There are three types of joints that are commonly used in composite structures, which are
mechanically fastened joints, adhesively bonded joints and hybrid mechanically fastened/adhesively
bonded joints [3]. Mechanically fastened joints using bolts, pins, screws and rivets are widely used
to assemble composite parts and they are unavoidable in complex structures because of their low
cost, simplicity in facilitation of disassembly for maintenance and repair [4], and free from surface
treatment [5,6].
Despite of aforementioned advantages, mechanical joining of composite structures require holes
to be drilled; these holes causes complicated stress concentration in the vicinity of the boundary of
the holes, and thus significant reduction of load carrying capacity of the composite structure [7].
Nonetheless, it was found that the bolted joints are the most efficient form of all mechanical
fastening [8].
Indeed, the present review work concentrates on the bolted joints in fiber reinforced composite,
whereas pinned joints represent a particular case of bolted joint when there is no clamping force [9].
A comprehensive review of the studies concerning with bolted joints in fiber reinforced composite
structures can be found in the present study.

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940 Composite Science and Technology

The strength and failure of bolted composite joints are significantly influenced by damage
accumulated inside the composites [10]. In general there are three main modes of failure in
composite joints, named as net-tension, shear-out and bearing modes. Another mode that can be
included is mixed or cleavage mode. Fig. (1) illustrates these modes schematically.

Fig. 1. Common failure modes in bolted composite plates [11].

Net-tension failure occurs in the area between hole and the side edge of the structure (Fig. 1-a),
typically take place when the area of cross section of the sample is particularly small and results
from excessive tensile stress [1]. While the shear-out failure can be found in the area along the
shear-out plane on the hole boundary (Fig. 1-b), it occurs mainly when the distance between the
hole edge and the edge of the laminate is small [12].
On the other hand, bearing failure (Fig. 1-c) is a compressive failure observed at the location
close to the contact region at the hole edge caused by compressive stress acting on the hole
boundary [12]. Bearing failure is desirable in bolted composite joints since it propagates gradually
and provides forewarning prior to total failure [13].
It has been observed that the net-tension and shear-out failure modes are catastrophic and
contribute in different ways to fracture [12]; both net-tension and shear-out failures can be avoided
by improving the joint geometry [14]. However, it has shown that the bearing failure cannot be
avoided by any geometrical modification [14].

Several authors have investigated the effects of the geometric parameters


towards the joint strength. Fig. 2 illustrates the typical pinned joint geometry. In recent study, Faruk
et al [15] has performed an experimental study including the effect of two different geometrical
parameters (i.e. W/D and E/D) on the bearing strength of single bolted glass reinforced epoxy
laminated composite plates. It was found that the bearing strength has increased with the E/D and
W/D ratios for different ply orientations. With Murat and Ramazan [16] investigating failure
strength and failure mode of a pinned joint of carbon-epoxy composite plate in orbitrary orientation,
the bearing strength has been found to reach higher values when the E/D and W/D ratios were
increased. Similar study on the glass-epoxy laminated composite bolted joint has shown that the
failure load and hence, the bearing strength has increased with E/D and W/D ratios [17].
Increasing W/D and E/D ratios beyond a certain values provides an insignificant effect on the
ultimate load capacity; Buket et al [18] has determined these values as 2 and 3 for E/D and W/D,
respectively for a pin-loaded woven glass fiber reinforced epoxy laminate. At this point, a transition
in failure modes has been observed. On the other hand, Osman [19] showed that the failure mode of
the woven fabric laminate with different densities was a bearing mode for specimens with W/D > 2
and E/D > 2, and maximum bearing strength at W/D=4 and E/D=4 for all densities.
Key Engineering Materials Vols. 471-472 941

In general, bearing strength increases with increasing both E/D and W/D ratios [5,18-22] and
there is a certain value for these ratios to instigate bearing failures according to various parameters
such as stacking sequence, laminate thickness, laminate material, etc.

Fig. 2. Typical pinned-joint configuration

Effects of the laminate thickness of composite joints have been investigated by many authors.
Dahsin et al [23] investigated a pinned joint with combination of various composite thicknesses and
pin diameters, where the results showed that thick composites with small pins and thin composites
with large pins possessed lower joint stiffness and strength than those having similar dimensions.
Similarly, Li and Dahsin [24] have observed that the joint strengths of double-lap, single-pin joints
in glass-epoxy composites have decreased with the increase in three-dimensional size.
Karakuza et al [25] has performed numerical and experimental work in order to investigate the
effect of geometrical parameters on the failure load and failure modes in woven glass-venylester
composite laminate with two serial pin-loaded holes. It was found that the failure load increased
with the increasing ratio of the distance between the two series holes-to-hole diameter. However,
this parameter is not as dominant as the E/D ratio in increasing the failure load. In a different study,
the authors [26] have studied the composite plate with two parallel holes; it was found that the ratio
of the distance between the two parallel holes-to-hole diameter was the determinative factor to
obtain mixed mode (i.e. bearing + shear or bearing + net tension), while the ratio of the distance
from upper or lower edge of the specimen to the holes center-to-hole diameter determine the type of
mixed mode. Also, these two ratios were not as effective as E/D ratio in increasing the bearing
strength. In addition, Nada et al [27] investigated numerically and experimentally three and four pin
joints, in which they found that there was damage propagation between the holes at a certain value
of the pitch-to-hole diameter ratio (i.e. ≤ 6), and beyond this value, no damage propagation has
observed.
Preload moment provided clamping pressure to the
bolt which results in lateral constraint of area under the washer; this significantly increases the joint
strength. Increasing the value of preload moment could cause increase in load carrying capacity and
hence, the bearing strength of the joint [11,15,17,28,29]. Maajid et al [30] tested the effect of bolt
torque on the progressive failure of single-lap composite joint using the torques of 4.206N.m and
2.103N.m and compared with zero torque. An increase of approximately 7.2% and 3.4%,
respectively in maximum failure load were observed. Furthermore, Claire et al [31] has compared
the experimental results from specimens tested with a dowel pin, finger-tightened bolt and torque-
tightened bolt. The effective pressure under washer was evaluated with sensor film. The increase in
average maximum bearing stress was at least 105% when comparing the results of the tests done
with the dowel pin to those of the tests with a tightened bolt and ≥56% to the results with a finger
tightened bolt. Approximately similar results were confirmed by Servet et al [32] for wet and dry
conditions.
942 Composite Science and Technology

It was found that the ultimate bearing strength increases with increasing clamping pressure until
a certain values, where beyond this value, there is no increase in the ultimate bearing strength.
Besides, it may cause delamination under the constraint area [33].
! " # Bearing strength and failure modes are found to be
influenced by ply orientation (fiber orientation angles with respect to the load direction). In one of
many studies, Faruk et al [15] experimentally tested unidirectional GFRE bolted joint with different
ply orientation [30o]4 , [45o]4 , [60o]4 and [90o]4, and it was found that [30o]4 laminate was the
strongest, while [90o]4 was the weakest with damage observed as net-tension for all W/D and E/D
ratios (matrix failure). Furthermore, the maximum bearing strength of arbitrary orientation (woven)
was generally observed at 0o and 90o of orientation angles the while minimum one was at 45o [34].
Thus, it is necessary to design the layers in different direction with respect to load direction in order
to avoid catastrophic failure to the composite laminates [35].
Likewise, stacking sequence of the laminate has also a great influence on the failure load, failure
mode, stiffness and bearing strength of the bolted joints. A large number of studies have been
carried out on this subject matter. It was found that shear-out failure mode occurred predominantly
in laminate of 0o [16,36].
Park [37] has utilized an unusual acoustic emission (AE) technique to examine bolted joints in
carbon-epoxy laminates, where a comparison between the two orthotropic laminates of [06/906]s and
[906/06]s indicated that both configurations have the same ultimate bearing strength, but the latter
has higher delamination bearing strength. This signified that 90o layer on the outermost surface was
more advantageous than those of 0o layer. This validated the similar findings of Quinn and
Matthews [38], in which they have suggested in placing the 90o layer at or next to the surface would
increase the bearing strength.
$ The dimensional tolerance of the machined holes and fasteners can lead to
large clearance in mechanically fastened joints [39]. Clearance between the hole and the pin
strongly influences the stress distribution around the hole. Many investigators have studied the
effects of the bolt-hole clearance on the structural behavior of composite joints using two
dimensional (2-D) finite element analyses [40-43]. In the analysis, many effects such as clamp-up,
secondary bending and through-thickness stress could not be accounted for [44], and also
inadequate to represent the true strength properties as the analysis could not take into account the
effect of delamination buckling [41].
To overcome those shortcomings, Carthy and Carthy [44] have developed 3-D FE models of
single- and multi-bolts, and of single-shear joints, using bolts of 8mm diameter with clearance
varied from a neat-fit to slightly larger than those found in aerospace primary structures. The
specimens studied were made from graphite-epoxy, quasi-isotropic lay-ups [45/0/-45/90]5s. Results
showed that increasing the clearance could instigate the effect of stiffness reduction of the single-
bolt joint due to decreasing contact area between bolts and holes as well as modifying the load
distribution in multi-bolt joints. Similar findings have been verified with the experimental work
[45], where a good agreement was observed. Experimentally, the out-of-tolerance clearance could
have a significant effect on joint strength and even a small variation in clearance could cause
substantial changes in the load distribution of multi-bolt joints [46].
Likewise, Lawlor et al [47] has carried out an experimental study on the effect of bolt-hole
clearance in single-shear, single-bolt arrangement. Clearances were ranging from net-fit to 240
microns (i.e. larger than the allowed clearance in aircraft industry). The results indicated that if the
clearance range is outside of those of the standard fitting used in aerospace industry (f7/H10), the
parameter would contribute to a significant effect on joint stiffness and ultimate strain, but less
effect on the strength.
In a different work, Tong [48] has performed an experimental investigation on the effect of non-
uniform bolt-to-washer radial clearance under different clamping force, where two cases have been
studied. The center of the washer was varied with respect to the direction of the applied load; one
was in the same direction, whilst the other was in the opposite. The results indicated a lower initial
failure load in the former, but no significant difference in the ultimate failure load was observed.
Key Engineering Materials Vols. 471-472 943

%
Numerous publications concerned with mechanical fastening of laminated composite structures
using bolts (or pins) have been reviewed. It was apparently observed that the performance of bolted
joints was affected by various parameters; these parameters may be related to the laminate coupon
configuration, laminate materials or the joint types. The inclusion of these parameters in the joint
design yields a big challenge for the engineers/designers. Bolted composite joint requires a huge
task in modulating the different parameters that contribute to the mechanical properties of a
comprehensive bolted joint design. In order to decisively establish the bearing strength and failure
load of the bolted joint and the correlation with the aforementioned parameters, a thorough joint
failure map may indeed required.

&

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Composite Science and Technology
10.4028/www.scientific.net/KEM.471-472

Fiber Reinforced Composite Structure with Bolted Joint – A Review


10.4028/www.scientific.net/KEM.471-472.939

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