Characterisation of Low Velocity Impact Response in Composite Laminates
A major concern affecting the efficient use of composite laminates in aerospace industry is the lack of understanding of the effect of low-velocity impact (LVI) damage on the structural integrity. This project aims to develop further knowledge of the response and damage mechanisms of composite laminates under LVI, and to explore the feasibility of assessing the internal impact damage with a visually inspectable parameter. The response and damage mechanisms of composite laminates under LVI have been investigated experimentally and numerically in this project. Various parameters including the laminates thickness, lay-up configuration, repeated impact, and curing temperature have been examined. The concept and the phenomena of delamination threshold load (DTL) have been assessed in details. It was found that DTL exists for composite laminates, but the determination of the DTL value is not straightforward. There is a suitable value of range between the impact energy and the laminates stiffness/thickness, if the sudden load drop phenomenon in the impact force history is used to detect the DTL value. It is suggested that the potential menace of the delamination initiation may be overestimated. The composite laminates tested in this project demonstrate good damage tolerance capacity due to the additional energy absorption mechanism following the delamination initiation. As a result, the current design philosophy for laminated composite structure might be too conservative and should be reassessed to improve the efficiency further. To explore the feasibility of linking the internal damage to a visually inspectable parameter, quasi-static indentation (QSI) tests have been carried out. The dent depth, as a visually inspectable parameter, has been carefully monitored and assessed in relation to the damage status of the composite laminates. It is proposed that the damage process of composite laminates can be divided into different phases based on the difference in the increasing rate of dent depth. Moreover, the internal damage has been examined under the optical microscope (OM) and the scanning electron microscope (SEM). Residual compressive strength of the damaged specimen has been measured using the compression-after-impact (CAI) test. The results further confirm the findings with regard to the overestimated potential menace of the delamination initiation and the proposed damage process assumption. The proposed damage process assumption has great potential to improve the efficiency and accuracy of both the analytical prediction and the structural health monitoring for damages in composite laminates under low-velocity impact.