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Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 2383–2397


Review of z-pinned composite laminates
A.P. Mouritz
School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, RMIT University, GPO Box 2476V, Melbourne, Victoria 3001, Australia Received 16 January 2007; received in revised form 19 May 2007; accepted 10 August 2007

Abstract This paper reviews published research into polymer composite laminates reinforced in the through-thickness direction with z-pins. Research into the manufacture, microstructure, delamination resistance, damage tolerance, joint strength and mechanical properties of z-pinned composites is described. Benefits of reinforcing composites with z-pins are assessed, including improvements to the delamination toughness, impact damage resistance, post-impact damage tolerance and through-thickness properties. Improvements to the failure strength of bonded and bearing joints due to z-pinning are also examined. The paper also reviews research into the adverse effects of z-pins on the in-plane mechanical properties, which includes reduced elastic modulus, strength and fatigue performance. Mechanisms responsible for the reduction to the in-plane properties are discussed, and techniques to minimise the adverse effect of z-pins are described. The benefits and drawbacks of z-pinning on the interlaminar toughness, damage tolerance and in-plane mechanical properties are compared against other common types of through-thickness reinforcement for composites, such as 3D weaving and stitching. Gaps in our understanding and unresolved research problems with z-pinned composites are identified to provide a road map for future research into these materials. Ó 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: A. Three-dimensional reinforcement; B. Mechanical properties; A. Polymer–matrix composites (PMCs); z-Pins

Contents 1. 2. 3. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Manufacture of z-pinned composites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Microstructure of z-pinned composites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.1. Fibre waviness, crimp and breakage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.2. Resin-rich zones . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.3. Cure stresses and microcracking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.4. Swelling and reduced fibre volume content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.5. z-Pin offset . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Benefits of z-pinning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.1. Interlaminar fracture toughness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.2. Impact damage tolerance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.3. Through-thickness properties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.4. Joint and bearing strengths . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Disadvantages of z-pinning. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.1. Elastic properties. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.2. Strength properties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.3. Fatigue performance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2384 2385 2386 2386 2387 2387 2388 2388 2388 2388 2390 2390 2391 2392 2392 2392 2393




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. . Partridge et al. . . 2395 References . . . . . . . . . z-Pins are also used to reinforce the composite roll-over bars on Formula 1 racing cars. . . . . A review of recent progress in the development and characterisation of z-pinned composite laminates is presented in this paper. . Furthermore. . . . and only rarely are higher pin contents necessary. . . . . . . . This provides a good cost saving (US$83. . . . . . z-pins are not used in aircraft other than the Superhornet. . . . . At the same time. tufting [5] and zanchoringÒ [6]. Thin metal rods were first used to reinforce laminates in the 1970s. such as 3D weaving and stitching. . The detrimental effects of z-pinning on the in-plane mechanical properties are then described.2384 A. although they are being considered for the Joint Strike Fighter. . . . . . . . . such as structural bonds. . . . Following this. . . . 1). . . . The paper concludes with an assessment of the outstanding . . z-Pins are made using high stiffness.5 to 4. 1 8–70 z-pins/cm2). . (Waltham. . . . . . . . This is a serious limitation because many highlyloaded composite components. however. . the term pin is used generically to describe all types of pin materials. . . . . . . and weak strength of bonded joints. . .13]. . . including joints and stiffened panels. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Introduction Many novel techniques have been developed to reinforce polymer laminate composites in the through-thickness direction as a solution to the problems of poor impact damage tolerance. . . the benefits of z-pinning in terms of improved delamination resistance. . . . . and compared to changes to the in-plane properties of composite materials with other types of through-thickness reinforcement. are made using prepreg laminates. strength and fatigue performance due to z-pinning are examined. these techniques are only suitable for textile laminates made using a dry fabric preform which contains the through-thickness reinforcement prior to resin infusion. . . The most common through-thickness reinforcement techniques are 3D weaving [1–3]. . . None of the techniques can be used for the through-thickness reinforcement of prepreg laminates. . 2395 1. impact damage tolerance and joint strength of prepreg laminates. . . stitching [2–4] and braiding [2. . . through-thickness stiffness. . . . . . These techniques are effective at increasing the delamination resistance and impact damage tolerance. . Reductions to the elastic properties. . . steel or fibrous carbon composite with a diameter of 0. . . Tomashevkii and colleagues developed an automated process during the 1980s for inserting thin wire fibres through laminates [9–11]. although this is the only non-aerospace application of zpinning to be reported [16]. 3D weaving and stitching are also effective at increasing the ultimate strength and damage tolerance of composite joints [7]. Pins may be used for the wide-area reinforcement of damage tolerant panels or used in selective areas requiring local reinforcement. . . to date the use of z-pinned composites in aircraft is limited. . low through-thickness mechanical properties. USA) developed the UAZÒ (Ultrasonically Assisted ZFibreä) process for the rapid insertion of a large number of thin fibrous or metal pins [12. . Concluding remarks . .2–1. . . z-Pinning is an effective and simple method to increase the delamination resistance. . . Attempts to reinforce uncured prepreg result in excessive fibre damage that degrades the in-plane mechanical properties. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . UAZÒis now the most common process for the z-pinning of laminates in large quantities. . although the pins were inserted individually using a labour-intensive manual process that is not practical for large-scale production [8]. joint strength and bearing strength are outlined. . . Only a relatively small volume fraction of z-pins is needed to significantly enhance the through-thickness properties and damage tolerance. . . . The manufacturing processes used to make zpinned laminates are described together with changes to the microstructure of the laminate due to pinning. . . . More specialist techniques include embroidery [3]. . . . . Aztex Inc. although the research findings are generally applicable to any composite application. . . . . . . . However. . the time to insert z-pins compares favourably with the time needed to install metal fasteners into composite structures. . stiffener attachments. . . including many aircraft structures. . . . . . . .3]. . . .P. [15] estimate that the automated insertion of z-pins in an aircraft structure reduces the manufacturing cost by 70% compared to drilling and then installing metal fasteners. . . . . . . . 2394 Acknowledgements . . . . . Improvements to these properties due to z-pinning are compared against other throughthickness reinforcement techniques.0 mm. . . . . . . . stress concentrations and holes. . . . high strength material such as titanium alloy. . Pin contents typically range from 0. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . z-Pins1 act as fine nails that lock the laminate plies together by a combination of friction and adhesion (Fig. The only current aerospace application of z-pins is in the F/A-18E/FSuperhornet. . .000) and modest weight reduction (17 kg) per aircraft [15]. . which are used to replace titanium fasteners in the air inlet ducts and engine bay doors [14]. . Most published works have examined the effect of z-pins on carbon/epoxy tape laminates because of their potential use in aerospace structures. . . . . . . A variety of aerospace composite structures have been reinforced with z-pins to demonstrate the application of the technology. impact damage tolerance. The only technique capable of reinforcing prepreg laminates in the through-thickness direction in large commercial quantities is z-pinning. .0 vol% (which is approximately equivalent to about Metal pins are almost always called ‘short rods’ while fibrous rods are usually always called ‘pins’. Despite the projected cost savings. . Mouritz / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 2383–2397 6. In this paper.

2. and there is no need for a radical change in the processing route. 2b). 3).15. however. z-Pins are driven from the foam carrier into the prepreg using an ultrasonically actuated tool that can be operated in a manual hand-held mode by a trained operator or controlled using an automated system (Fig. This is an appealing feature of z-pinning compared to other throughthickness reinforcement techniques in that prepreg manufacturing processes common to the aircraft industry are used. The ultrasonic horn generates high frequency compressive waves that are transmitted into the foam carrier. Freitas and Dubberly [18] report that it is possible to join aluminium plates using steel pins. The metal wire or composite strand is then cut to length and inserted into the foam carrier. the zpinning of cured laminates has not been achieved. [15] give a full description of the manufacture of zpins. carrier several times until all the pins have penetrated the prepreg stack (Fig. unlike 3D weaving and most stitching processes that need double-sided access. However. Fig. 1. Blunting of metal pins and splitting of fibrous composite pins occurs when high forces are used to drive them into cured laminates. Another benefit of the z-pinning process is it offers the convenience of on mould. and is discarded after the z-pins have been inserted. The process starts by placing a polymer foam carrier containing z-pins over the prepreg (Fig. with the most common method being the UAZÒ process that involves inserting z-pins into an uncured prepreg stack using an ultrasonic tool. z-Pins are made from extruded metal wire or fibrous composite produced by pulling a continuous fibre tow through a resin bath and then pultruding it through a circular die. The foam carrier does not form part of the final composite product. The foam is used to ensure an even spacing between the z-pins and to provide them with lateral support during insertion. Manufacture of z-pinned composites Various methods are used to manufacture z-pinned laminates.P. 3d). Mouritz / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 2383–2397 2385 Fig. 3b). After z-pinning the prepreg is cured using conventional processes such as vacuum bagging and autoclave. as shown in Fig. issues that must be resolved by research and development before the full potential of z-pinning in aerospace applications can be realised.2 The UAZÒprocess involves several steps that are shown sequentially in Fig.17]. Partridge et al. there are several concerns about the quality control of .A. 3. 2. which collapses under the pressure that drives the z-pins into the prepreg. 2 [13. z-Pinning only requires an extra step to the manufacturing process. and not after the polymer matrix has gelled and cured. (a) Photograph showing the size of a typical z-pin and (b) z-pins inside a prepreg composite. The z-pins are arranged in a square pattern inside the foam carrier (Fig. one-sided access to the preform. 3c). z-Pins are inserted progressively by moving the ultrasonic tool over the foam 2 z-Pinning can only be performed on uncured laminates. (a) Hand-held ultrasonic horn and (b) collapsible foam carrier containing z-pins. The stress waves also cause moderate heating of the prepreg that softens the resin matrix which eases insertion of the pins. The compressed foam carrier and any excess length of z-pin protruding the prepreg is shaved off using a blade to ensure a smooth surface finish (Fig.

and therefore pin 2θ wavy fibres Fig. Fibre waviness alters the in-plane mechanical properties of z-pinned laminates. wx Fig. Microstructure of z-pinned composites 3. Changes to the laminate microstructure during z-pinning that degrade the mechanical performance and durability are described in Section 3.2386 A. are forced aside during the pinning process [22–24]. Region of wavy fibres and resin-rich zones at a z-pin. Pressure applied by the bag and autoclave can compress the foam carrier and thereby force the z-pins into width Pin Resin Zone Length. crimp and breakage The microstructure of laminates is changed in several ways by z-pinning. The waviness occurs because the fibres. The waviness angle (h) is greatest on the flanks of the resin-rich region. However. this process is only suitable in specific circumstances.P. such as vacuum-assisted resin transfer moulding and resin film infusion. 3. resin zone the z-pinning process. which are very thin compared to the z-pins. more research and development into the manufacture and processing of z-pinned laminates using non-prepreg materials is required. Fibre waviness. Schematic of the UAZÒ process. needs further investigation. [21] have shown it is possible to manufacture z-pinned laminates from non-prepreg materials. Good quality control and consistent reproducibility of z-pinned parts can be achieved by fixing the ultrasonic horn to a moving gantry system rather than manually operating the horn. swelling of the laminate that reduces the fibre volume fraction. and instead there is an asymmetric distribution of waviness angles caused by irregularities in the z-pinning process and random pre-existing fibre waviness. Understanding the microstructural changes is essential to understanding the property changes to laminates caused by z-pinning. [20] and Mouritz et al. Steeves and Fleck [24] found that the fibres are not usually deflected symmetrically around the pin. the ability to make z-pinned composites with resin infusion processes. . Vaidya et al. as shown in Fig. z-Pins can be inserted into prepregs using vacuum bagging inside an autoclave without the need for the ultrasonic tool. and is not commonly used. In particular. which may have beneficial and adverse effects on the damage tolerance and mechanical properties. 3. 4. as discussed later.19]. One obvious change to the microstructure is fibre waviness near the z-pins. However. 4.1. Mouritz / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 2383–2397 the prepreg [17]. particularly accurate insertion of the z-pins in the orthogonal direction. and fibre damage [15.

Data from Chang [23]. Fibre crimp is a concern because it can reduce the compressive strength by promoting microbuckling and kinking.4 0.8 0. which is time-consuming. The shape and dimensions of the resin zones change considerably with increasing z-pin content and diameter. Resin zones develop because voids are formed where the fibres in the uncured prepreg have been pushed aside by the z-pins. Plot of volume content of z-pins on the volume fraction of wavy fibres in a carbon/epoxy composite. 6. as shown in Fig. 8. 1. However. 7. stitching or knitting [25–27].28 mm Volume Fraction of Wavy Fibers 0. the volume fraction of fibres that are crimped with z-pinning is usually much less that experienced with 3D weaving. which can affect the mechanical properties.0 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 Percent Volume Content of Z-Pins (%) Fig.2 0. as shown in Fig. 6. At the moment. θ (degrees) 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 0. 5. The rate of these increases is dependent. The volume percent of a laminate that consists of wavy fibres increases rapidly with the volume fraction of the z-pins.0 waviness length waviness angle 3 Fibre Waviness Length (mm) Fig. Resin-rich zones z-Pinning causes the formation of resin-rich zones at each pin location. Cure stresses and microcracking Stresses develop during the cure cycle due to the mismatch between the thermal expansion coefficients of the z-pins and host laminate.0 z-pin diameter = 0. Fibre crimp and z-pin offset.2. z-Pinning causes crimping of the fibres in the throughthickness direction. Crimped fibres are usually confined to a very small volume around each pin.. Chang [23] measured a linear increase in the waviness angle (h) and length of the wavy region (wx) with the z-pin diameter. When the z-pins are spaced wide apart the resin zones are isolated from each other.0 0 0. A model based on visco-plastic deformation mechanics of fibrous laminates when perforated by a circular punch (i. including fibre stiffness.8 1. However. as shown in Fig. Plot of z-pin diameter on the deflection angle and length of the wavy region in a unidirectional carbon/epoxy composite. pin) is needed to calculate the average fibre waviness .3. 7.6 0. It is seen that a relatively small volume fraction of z-pins (>5%) is needed for virtually all of the fibres to be distorted. The zones have an eyelet shape that is elongated in the fibre direction. The force needed to insert z-pins may also cause fibre breakage [24.A. A resin channel develops along each row of pins which causes the laminate to contain a series of parallel resin channels. This is caused by the bending of fibres under the force used to insert the zpins. knowledge of the angle and volume fraction of wavy fibres is required. as well as with z-pin diameter. 2 1 Z-pin Diameter (mm) Fig. as seen in Fig.2 0. The axial thermal expansion of fibrous carbon z-pins is much lower than the thermal expansion of the host laminate material during elevated temperature cure. as shown in Fig.4 angle and the volume fraction of the wavy region for any z-pinning condition. fibre packing density and resin viscosity. of course.6 0.22. Mouritz / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 2383–2397 2387 Maximum Fibre Waviness Angle. 4 [15.28]. when z-pins are closely spaced or large then the resin zones coalesce into a continuous resin channel that extends in the fibre direction. 3.24]. These cavities are then filled with resin during the consolidation and cure process. 5. 3. measurements of the deflection angle and volume content of wavy fibres must be determined from photomicrographs and analyzed using image processing software.19. on several properties of the prepreg. as shown in Fig.P. z-Pins experience a very small change 0.e. 4.

crimp. resin-rich regions. (b) Schematic of parallel resin channels running along the z-pin rows in the fibre direction. and debonding of the through-thickness reinforcement occur in 3D woven and stitched composites [3].5. Debonding of a z-pin due to residual tensile stresses in the host composite. Swelling and reduced fibre volume content 4. Photograph supplied courtesy of Dr R. Thomson. Mouritz / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 2383–2397 Fig.19. In most cases the microstructural changes caused by zpinning are similar to those caused by other through-thickness reinforcement techniques. volume fraction of the z-pins.P. Chang. in length because of their low expansion coefficient and high axial stiffness. . Waviness. breakage and damage to fibres. Chang et al.4. Photograph supplied courtesy of Dr P. /. with the median offset angle typically in the range of 5–15° [19]. The tensile stress is greater than the failure stress of the resin systems used in most brittle matrix composites. [19] suggest that swelling is caused by two effects: (i) expansion of the laminate to accommodate the z-pins and (ii) resistance against compaction of the prepreg stack during curing by the stiff z-pins propping the mould surfaces.31]. z-Pin offset z-Pins are often inclined at an angle from the throughthickness direction. Benefits of z-pinning 3. whereas 3D weaving and stitching often compacts the preform that raises the local fibre volume content by several percent. Sweeting and Thomson [30] showed that the principal tensile stress in a carbon/epoxy laminate surrounding a fibrous z-pin is up to four times higher than the far-field residual stress. During cool-down the host laminate undergoes a relatively large contraction in the throughthickness direction due to the high thermal coefficient and low stiffness of the polymer matrix. Finite element analysis studies into the stress fields in and around z-pins have been performed [29. The amount of swelling increases with the An important benefit of z-pinning is improved delamination toughness that increases the impact resistance. Fig.1. Fig. 9. 8. 9). The use of an automated system where the ultrasonic horn is controlled in a gantry can minimize the offset of the z-pins. and only rarely are they perfectly orthogonal. The only significant difference is that z-pinning causes swelling that reduces the fibre volume content. in a carbon/epoxy laminate.30]. 7 shows an inclined z-pin at an offset angle. 3. This induces an axial compressive stress in the z-pins and a tensile stress in the laminate. 4. Interlaminar fracture toughness Another problem experienced with z-pinning is swelling of the laminate that reduces the average fibre volume content [15. and this causes partial or complete debonding of the z-pins from the host laminate (Fig. (a) Resin channel along a row of closely spaced z-pins. Careful control of the z-pinning and cure processes is needed to minimise the amount swelling and the corresponding reduction in the fibre volume content.2388 A. When z-pins are inserted using a manually operated ultrasonic horn they are inclined over a wide range of angles up to 20°.

A large body of theoretical and experimental research has led to a thorough understanding of the delamination properties and interlaminar toughening mechanisms of z-pinned laminates for the modes I.32–63]. II and mixed I/II loads [17. lap shear.20. Plots of the effect of z-pin content on the apparent modes I and II delamination toughness of carbon/epoxy composites.A.P.51.5% increase in the pin content.50.63]. debonding. Further research is required to determine the effects of the volume content and diameter of z-pins on the delamination fatigue resistance under modes I. Preliminary research by Graftieaux et al.e. . and the improvement to the mode I delamination resistance is particularly impressive with the toughness doubling for every 0. damage tolerance and joint strength. although often at a slower rate than the mode I toughness. The mode II delamination toughness also increases steadily with z-pin content.36.51.50. Fig. The debonding mechanism is absent when the z-pins have already detached from the host laminate due to cure stresses. This is because z-pins are more effective at suppressing mode I crack opening displacements than mode II sliding displacements. but is remarkably effective at resisting the propagation of long delamination cracks (typically larger than 2–5 mm).43–45. Modes I and II data ´ from Freitas et al. which is a desirable property in damage tolerant structures.50]. and the two mechanisms are then elastic stretching and pullout of the pins. 11). z-Pinning not only improves the delamination toughness. 10. which is an important property because most interlaminar cracks in aircraft composite structures grow due to cyclic loading. [17] and Cartie [50]. single pin pullout. z-Pinning is not effective at resisting the initiation and growth of short delamination cracks [28.37. respectively.0 1.29. but has the added benefit of transforming the crack propagation from an unstable (i. Delamination toughness is without doubt the most studied property of z-pinned laminates [17. Pullout of the z-pins forms a bridging zone along the delamination that extends many tens of millimetres behind the crack front (Fig. A large amount of strain energy is needed to overcome the frictional resistance of the z-pins during pullout.53].5 1. Modes I and II toughness values determined by the double cantilever beam and end notch flexure tests.32– 37. Mouritz / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 2383–2397 2389 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 0.0 Percentage Volume Content of Z-Pins Fig. For example. II and mixed-mode conditions [64]. [34] indicates that z-pinning is also effective at slowing the delamination crack growth rate under mode I fatigue loading. The only outstanding fracture problem is the delamination resistance of z-pinned laminates under mode III loading. This generates a traction force in the bridging zone Apparent Interlaminar Fracture Toughness (kJ/m2) Fig. II and mixed I/II load conditions. and frictional pullout of the z-pins.5 2. 10 shows improve- ment to the apparent modes I and II delamination toughness values for carbon/epoxy laminates when reinforced with z-pins [17. fast fracture) to stable process in brittle matrix laminates. although for most engineering structures this is not an important load condition. Large-scale crack bridging by z-pins. The delamination toughening mechanisms of z-pinned laminates have been determined by experimental observation using interlaminar fracture. single pin shear. and multiple pin pull-out tests [33. Under mode I loading the main toughening mechanisms are elastic deformation.0 mode I toughness mode II toughness 0. The apparent delamination toughness values rise at a linear rate with the volume content of zpins.. 11.52]. Numerous experimental fracture studies have shown that z-pinning increases the interlaminar toughness of long cracks under modes I.35. respectively.

which increases the resistance against shear-induced pullout. snubbing.3.2390 A.49]. z-Pins resist the separation of delaminated plies because of the bridging tractions. However. For example. The snubbing effect greatly increases friction between the z-pin and composite. Models for calculating the mode I delamination toughness assume the composite is a double cantilever beam in which deflection of the beam arms and the crack opening displacement is calculated using Euler–Bernoulli beam theory. Modelling the delamination properties of z-pinned laminates is a complicated problem because of the numerous toughening processes that occur over a wide range of scales.49] and mixed mode delamination toughness of z-pinned laminates [46. For equivalent amounts of through-thickness reinforcements. z-Pinning is ineffective at raising the threshold impact energy to initiate damage and suppressing very short delaminations caused by impact loading [20. Zhang et al. only the models by Cartie et al.31. This is because the interlaminar toughening mechanisms are similar. The improved impact resistance achieved by z-pinning often results in higher post-impact properties [28. and this increases the post-impact compressive strength.17. the discontinuous stitch model developed by Jain and Mai [66] for mode I delamination of stitched composites can be applied. The higher strength is due to the lower amount of impact damage and the greater buckling resistance of the delaminated plies due to the bridging action of the z-pins. Fig.37. Experimental research has proven that z-pinning reduces the amount of delamination damage caused by impact events from low energy objects. debonding. Cox and colleagues have shown that inserting the z-pins at an inclined angle (/) can enhance the snubbing effect and thereby increase the mode II delamination toughness [33. In addition. Impact damage tolerance Impact damage is a long-standing problem with conventional laminated composites because of their low delamination toughness.68]) are similar to z-pinned laminates. the interlaminar fracture toughness values of 3D woven and stitched composites (e.47. . Based on the observed toughening mechanisms. [67.35].50. The only significant difference is that z-pins (embedded in thin laminates) usually fail by pull-out whereas woven z-binders and continuous stitches fail by tensile rupture.57–61]. for a 1% volume content of through-thickness reinforcement. involving elastic stretching. pure mode I toughening does not occur in z-pinned laminate due to the slight offset of the z-pins from the orthogonal direction (Fig.45.52.65]. z-Pins may break rather than pullout when their tensile failure load is lower the frictional pullout load.39.53. 7). For example. Childress and Freitas [44] measured reductions of 30–50% in the amount of damage sustained by hailstone impacts.56] or discrete springs [54]. Under mode II loading the main delamination toughening mechanisms are elastic shear deformation. a dynamic fracture-based model that considers large-scale bridging effects has not been developed to predict the impact damage response of z-pinned laminates.52–62]. 12 compares the post-impact compressive strengths of a carbon/epoxy laminate with and without z-pins [63]. and involves the lateral deflection of z-pins near the delamination crack plane into the laminate [65]. [72] developed an analytical model to calculate the effect of z-pinning on the local buckling strength of a delaminated composite beam under edgewise compression loading. debonding and pull-out of the through-thickness reinforcement that forms a large-scale bridging zone. which must be determined by single or multiple pin pullout tests for the specific combination of z-pin/composite type.46. [32] and Liu et al. the mode I delamination toughness of 3D woven. Bridging laws are used to calculate the traction force of the z-pins when treated as elastic inflexible rods [32. ballistic projectiles and high-speed hailstones [15. [52] have been tested against experimental data. stitched and z-pinned composites is about 4–6 kJ/m2. several large-scale bridging fracture models have been developed to calculate the mode I [32. 4.45. elastic flexible rods [55. While numerous fracture models have been developed. although this only occurs when pins are fully embedded in very thick laminates. The same behaviour is found with 3D woven and stitched composites.44. Linear elastic fracture mechanics coupled with the bridging laws for zpins are then used to calculate the interlaminar fracture toughness. thus improving the delamination toughness. these materials only exhibit improved impact resistance when the delaminations are longer than several millimetres and the bridging zone is fully developed [3].4. and shear-induced pullout of the z-pins [33.37. The bridging models need empirical data on the pullout resistance of the pins. [71] found that z-pinning reduced the impact damage area by 19–64%.42.48]. Through-thickness properties Large improvements to the through-thickness elastic properties of laminates can be achieved by z-pinning. While experimental tests have demonstrated improvements to the impact damage resistance gained by z-pinning. Improvements to the delamination toughness gained by z-pinning are similar or greater in magnitude to those achieved with other through-thickness reinforcement techniques. For example. 4.g. As another example.2. that is. and this induces some toughening by mode II processes. mode II [41. Damage is reduced because bridging traction forces are generated by the z-pins which increase the delamination toughness. Mouritz / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 2383–2397 that reduces the strain energy at the crack tip. damage resistance is only increased in impact events that cause the delaminations to grow large enough (usually longer than several millimeters) for the bridging zone to develop.P. depending on the impact energy level and laminate thickness. In reality. 63.35. Yan et al.].69–71]. Snubbing is an important toughening process when the crack sliding displacements become large.

74]. Post-impact compressive strength of composites with and without z-pins. including T-joints [31. Dickinson et al.5% 2. the aircraft industry incurs great cost in drilling fastener holes with high dimensional tolerance. Effect of z-pin content on the ultimate strength and fatigue life of a composite lap joint.0% Z-Pin Content 0 1 10 100 1000 10000 100000 1000000 Cycles to Failure Fig. The benefits of using z-pins are that drilled holes and metal fasteners are not required.P. Composite structural joints in aircraft are often reinforced with metal fasteners. offset of the z-pins from the orthogonal direction also lowers the improvement to the through-thickness modulus [22].A. L-shaped joints [70] and blade stiffened 20 20 + 41% + 23% 4% pins Ultimate Lap Strength (MPa) Fatigue Shear Stress (MPa) 15 +8% 15 2% pins 0. For example. the holes are potential sites for fatigue damage or bearing failure when incorrectly designed or drilled. Joint and bearing strengths 4% z-pins 400 300 2% z-pins 200 no z-pins 100 0 0 5 10 15 20 25 Impact Energy (J) Fig. For example. It is for reasons such as these that the first aerospace application for z-pins on the Superhornet was in joints. Large improvements to the ultimate strength and fatigue life of lap joints are achieved by z-pinning [31.78]. However. Fig. such as stitching [80.9% z-pins and rise to over 60% with 4. [63]. The holes also provide a site for the ingress of moisture. such as rivets and screws.37. Debonding of the z-pins during the cure cycle reduces the load transfer efficiency.4. and the load is more evenly distributed over the joint. From Rezai et al. resistance against moisture ingress in the event of sealant failure should be superior.5% pins 10 10 no pins 5 5 0 0% 0.9% z-pins. [76]. aviation fuel and other liquids when not properly sealed.0% 4. [22] predict that the through-thickness modulus of a carbon/epoxy laminate will increase by 23% when reinforced with only 1. Furthermore. 12. It is believed the actual increase will be less than predicted using finite element analysis because the calculations assume a perfect bond between the z-pins and host composite which allows full transfer of interlaminar loads from the laminar into the pins. The strengthening of composite joints using z-pins has been verified by experimental testing [31.76. The mechanical performance of the joints is improved by the ability of z-pins to stabilise cracking along the polymer bond-line and carry load by a bridging action after the bond-line has ruptured. Most studies have examined the reinforcement of singlelap joints with z-pins. .45.79].73. However. Data from Chang et al.81]. Improvements to the ultimate strength or fatigue performance of other z-pinned joint types have also been reported. Studies using finite element analysis report that the through-thickness tensile modulus rises rapidly with the volume content and axial stiffness of the z-pins [22.70. 13.35. The effect of z-pinning on the through-thickness tensile strength of z-pinned laminates has not yet been investigated. although these are not necessarily representative of practical aircraft joints.45. for high strength and fatigue resistance.75–79]. Mouritz / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 2383–2397 500 2391 Residual Compressive Strength (MPa) 4. The improvements gained by z-pinning are similar or greater than the increase in joint strength achieved by other through-thickness reinforcement techniques. Furthermore. z-Pins are also effective at increasing the ultimate strength of lap joints at elevated temperature (up to $200 °C) [77]. the calculated improvements in elastic modulus have not been verified by through-thickness tensile testing. 13 shows the effect of z-pin content on the ultimate strength and fatigue life of carbon/epoxy lap joints loaded in tension.

and becomes less severe when the percentage of load-bearing [0°] fibres in the laminate is reduced. 5.5 0. Mouritz / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 2383–2397 Young's Modulus (GPa) panels [75].35]. Disadvantages of z-pinning Most research into z-pinned laminates has focussed on the benefits.76].1. although much remains to be done.0 0. fibre crimp.83] found that reinforcing the region surrounding the fastener hole with z-pins increased by more than 10% the bearing failure load and strain energy absorbed in the failure process.3 0.85].1 0. The reduction to the elastic properties is due to microstructural damage caused by z-pinning.19. such as L. although this has not been verified by experimentation. As with lap joints.83] recently examined the influence of z-pins on the bearing strength of carbon/epoxy joints. Reductions to the Young’s modulus of 3D woven and stitched composites is typically under 20%. compressive [17. Crosky and colleagues [82.73. The reduction to the elastic properties is greatest for unidirectional laminates.31. The elastic properties decrease gradually with increasing volume content and diameter of the z-pins. waviness and crimp inherent in the fibre plies. strength and fatigue life of laminates have been performed. Crosky et al.73.85]. The adverse effect of z-pinning has received less attention.84. which are usually reinforced by increasing the laminate thickness near the hole which increases cost and weight. Several studies have shown that the loss in modulus due to z-pinning is dependent on the fibre lay-up pattern of the laminate [19.74] and material testing [19.28. These improvements indicate that z-pinning may be an effective method for strengthening fastener holes in aircraft.22. However. impact damage tolerance and joint strength. the percentage reduction to the modulus decreases in the order: unidirectional [0].2.4 0. and all studies report reductions to the Young’s modulus and/or shear modulus.28.and C-shapes.6 Z-Pin Diameter (mm) Fig. 14.24. The loss in the elastic properties can be minimised by using extremely fine diameter z-pins and controlling the z-pinning and cure processes to suppress swelling. Effect of (a) z-pin content and (b) z-pin diameter on the compression and tensile moduli of a unidirectional carbon/epoxy composite.73. It is expected that the knock-down in the elastic properties will also depend on the amount of 250 compression Young's Modulus (GPa) 200 150 tension 100 50 pin diameter = 0. particularly fibre waviness. cross-ply [0/90].85]. For example.28 mm 0 0 1 2 3 4 Percentage Volume Content of Z-Pins 250 200 compression 150 100 tension 50 pin content = 2 vol% 0 0. particularly reductions to the in-plane mechanical properties. The improvement in bearing strength is achieved by z-pins increasing the throughthickness stiffness and delamination toughness. modelling work is required for other joint configurations that are used in aircraft. Several studies into the effect of z-pinning on the elastic modulus. with the failure load being much lower than for metals due to shear-induced rupture from the fastener hole. z-Pinned laminates containing coarse woven fabrics are expected to show a smaller loss in their elastic properties than z-pinned laminates made with prepreg tape having straight fibres. In the case of cross-ply and quasi-isotropic laminates that are commonly used in aircraft structures.28.2 0.85]. Elastic properties The effect of z-pinning on the in-plane elastic properties of laminates has been evaluated using finite element analysis [22. Several models based on large-scale bridging mechanics have been developed to calculate the ultimate strength of z-pinned lap joints [45.2392 A. Bearing failure of composite materials without through-thickness reinforcement is a long standing problem. as shown in Fig. which is similar to the loss experienced by z-pinned laminates [3]. the reduction in modulus due to z-pinning is usually under 10% [19. and swelling that reduces the fibre volume content. 14 [19.P. 5. Strength properties The in-plane tensile [17. such as improved delamination toughness. 5. the increase in mechanical performance is due to the bridging action of the z-pins following rupture of the bond-line. Other types of 3D composites can also experience a loss in their elastic properties due to fibre waviness and fibre crimp by the through-thickness reinforcement.35. [82.85–87] and bending [84] strengths are reduced .84. quasi-isotropic [0/+45/À45/90] and bias [+45/À45] layups.

Fig. with the damage growth rate increasing with the volume content of the pins. respectively. The reduction to the compressive fatigue performance is due to progressive rotation of the wavy fibres near the z-pins with increasing number of load cycles. which act as sites for splitting cracks and tensile failure. decrease at a quasi-linear rate with increasing volume content and size of the z-pins. 5. [19. The FLASH model also reveals that increasing the pin density (for a fixed pin diameter) is more detrimental to strength than increasing z-pin size (for a fixed pin density).84] and Mouritz [85] propose a simple model for predicting the tensile. 15 shows a linear relationship between the z-pin content and the tensile and open-hole compressive strengths of a unidirectional carbon/epoxy laminate.31]. increasing the volume content and diameter of the pins in order to improve the damage tolerance will unavoidably cause a loss in the in-plane strength properties. Mouritz / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 2383–2397 1000 [0] carbon/epoxy 2393 2000 800 tension 1600 600 compression 1200 400 800 0 1 2 3 4 Pin Volume Content (%) Fig.89]. which accelerates failure by microbuckling and kinking [85]. As the pins are forced into the laminate they create a small cluster of broken fibres at each pin location. This suggests that the development of fatigue-induced damage is accelerated in the presence of z-pins.24. [19. O’Brien and Kruger [87] predict the compressive strength will decrease with increasing volume content and diameter of z-pins. Steeves and Fleck [24] and O’Brien and Krueger [87] used a finite element model called ‘FLASH’ to predict the compressive strength of z-pinned laminates. and cr and D are the volume content and diameter of the z-pins. The S–N curve decreases with increasing z-pin content. and this causes a corresponding reduction to the tensile strength. Dilution of the fibre volume content due to swelling is a contributing factor to the loss in tensile strength [19. The reduced fibre volume content caused by swelling from the z-pins is also responsible for the Compression Strength (MPa) Tensile Strength (MPa) . That is. a is an empirical material constant.85–88]. Effect of z-pin content on the tensile and compressive strengths of a unidirectional carbon/epoxy composite. 16.A. Reduction in the compressive strength caused by z-pinning is attributed to fibre waviness and fibre crimp that causes microbuckling and kinking [24. which can be increased or degraded by weaving or stitching by a large amount. 16. compression [85] and bending [84] loads. published strength data cannot be used to indicate the change in strength. ro is the strength of the laminate without z-pins. This is a serious problem because it is often desirable to use a relatively high volume content of z-pins to maximize damage tolerance and to use relatively thick z-pins to reduce the total number of pins that must be inserted.3. The strength properties are known to decrease at a linear rate with increasing zpin content and diameter.84] attribute the deterioration to the fatigue life under cyclic tensile and flexural loading to the development of fatigue-induced damage at the clusters of broken fibres near the z-pins. 15. by z-pinning. While z-pinning improves the fatigue performance of bonded joints and stiffeners. For example.28]. as reported earlier. For example. The number density and size of the broken fibre clusters increase. The reduction to the strength properties of z-pinned laminates is more predictable than the strength of other 3D composites. The percentage reduction in fatigue strength after one million load cycles is given in Fig. with the volume content and diameter of the z-pins. Chang et al. The reduction in tensile strength is attributed mainly to breakage of fibres during the z-pinning process [19. compressive and flexural strengths of 3D woven and stitched composites do not show a clear relationship with the volume content or diameter of the through-thickness reinforcement [3. and therefore the linear equation rp = ro[1 À aDcr] can be used to calculate the failure strength (rp) of a z-pinned laminate. The reduced fibre content due to swelling may also contribute to the fall in compressive strength [85]. reductions to the tensile and compressive fatigue life (S–N curve) of a unidirectional carbon/epoxy laminate caused by z-pinning are shown in Fig. compressive and flexural strengths of z-pinned laminates. This makes it difficult to calculate the strength of 3D woven and stitched materials. These trends were recently confirmed by experimental testing [85]. respectively. like the elastic modulus. which is true for most pinning conditions. The strength properties can be accurately calculated for any z-pin content and size provided the linear relationship is retained. Chang et al. it adversely affects the fatigue life of the material. The tensile. Furthermore. The fatigue life and fatigue strength decrease with increasing volume content and diameter of the z-pins. The strength properties.28. and this also decreases rapidly with increasing z-pin content despite the considerable scatter in the data. Fatigue performance The fatigue life of laminates is reduced by z-pinning under cyclic tension [19].P. FLASH calculates the failure strength of composites with elliptical patches of fibre waviness at z-pins subjected to compression and shear loads [88].

2 mm. It is worth noting that the fatigue performance of 3D woven and stitched composites is also degraded by the through-thickness reinforcement [90–94].5% thin pins: 15% strength reduction 2. The detrimental effects of z-pinning on the in-plane mechanical properties. elastic properties and compressive strength. methods of inserting z-pins are needed that minimise the microstructural damage that degrades the mechanical properties. .2394 A. Therefore. several important technical issues require investigation.71. axial loading). at the expense of a comparatively small loss to in-plane modulus and strength (typically under 5–10%). For example.0% thin pins: 33% strength reduction 4.0% thin pins no pins 400 4. Effect of z-pin content on the S–N curves of a unidirectional composite with different z-pin contents subjected to (a) cyclic tension– tension and (b) cyclic compression–compression loading. the through-thickness modulus..0% thin pins: 35% strength reduction 0 0 10 10 1 10 2 10 10 Cycles to Failure 3 4 10 5 10 6 700 Compressive Fatigue Stress (MPa) 600 500 2. such as lower elastic modulus.0% thin pins 300 200 100 0 1 [0] carbon/epoxy No pins: 4% strength reduction 2% pins: 17% strength reduction 4% pins: 28% strength reduction 10 100 1000 10000 100000 1000000 Cycles to Failure Fig.0% thin pins [0] carbon/epoxy 500 no pins: 13% strength reductio n 0. However. Most of the research into z-pinned laminates has been performed on material coupons under well-defined loading conditions (e. A complete program of environmental testing on z-pinned laminates is required to determine changes to their durability caused by cracking. have also been investigated. Much less work has been performed on sub-components [31.5% thin pins 1500 1000 2. which is beyond the capabilities of existing z-pinning technology. Lastly. Mouritz / Composites: Part A 38 (2007) 2383–2397 2000 no pins Tensile Fatigue Stress (MPa) 0. possibly in the micron-size range using single fibres. More research is needed into modelling the structural performance of z-pinned laminates. but models do not exist for other properties. 6. it is desirable to reinforce laminates with the thinnest z-pins. Reductions to the fatigue life and fatigue strength for these composites are similar or greater than that experienced by z-pinned materials with the same volume content of through-thickness reinforcement. paint strippers). In particular.. automated manufacturing methods for inserting z-pinning in commercial quantities. local buckling strength. Further research and development is needed to enable the through-thickness reinforcement of laminates with even smaller z-pins. Over the past 10 years there has been significant progress. the improvements to the interlaminar properties achieved by z-pinning out-weight the reductions to the in-plane mechanical properties. Models have been developed to predict the effect of z-pinning on the delamination toughness. which are currently about 0. In general. A suite of models capable of predicting all the key engineering properties is needed to design zpinned aircraft structures.0% thin pins 4. Concluding remarks This paper has presented an overview of published research and development work into z-pinned composite materials.g.g. the awareness by aircraft engineers of the potential benefits of z-pinning is essential for it to be considered a viable method for producing damage tolerant aircraft composite structures. It is generally observed that the gains to the interlaminar properties are improved by using thinner z-pins (for a fixed pin content) while at the same time the losses to the inplane properties are reduced. deterioration in the fatigue performance under the different cyclic load states. with benefits such as improved delamination resistance.69. Only after these and other technical issues have been resolved is it possible for z-pins to be used in civil aircraft. 16. moisture ingress. strength and fatigue performance. aviation fluids. In addition. This research is very expensive and time-consuming. impact damage resistance and joint strength of a quasi-isotropic composite can be increased by 50% or more with a relatively modest amount of z-pinning ($2–4% by volume). damage tolerance.95] and full-size aircraft structures containing z-pins subjected to realistic structural and flight loads. Cracks develop when z-pins detach from the host composite during the cure cycle which provides a pathway for the ingress of moisture and liquids. such as fibre breakage and swelling. but is essential for z-pinned laminates to be certified for use in civil aircraft and used with confidence in military aircraft. research into the durability of z-pinned laminates under aerospace environmental conditions is needed (e. The research published to date provides a sound basis upon which the application of z-pinned laminates in next-generation aircraft may be evaluated. hot/wet. thermal cycling.P. through-thickness stiffness and joint strength being demonstrated. Further work is needed to develop low-cost.

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