Thin ply composites: Experimental characterization and modeling of size-effects
Thin-ply composites are rapidly gaining interest in the composite industry, not only because of the larger design possibilities that they offer, but also because of positive size effects that have been shown to improve performance in various loading conditions . In this work, carbon fiber-epoxy composites of different ply thicknesses (30-300 g/m(2) fiber areal weight) were produced from the same batch of Toray M40JB fiber and NorthTPT TP80ep matrix to study the influence of ply thickness on the ultimate strength and on the onset of damage in lamina, laminates and components. Uniaxial tension, open-hole compression and open-hole tensile fatigue tests on quasi isotropic [45 degrees/90 degrees/-45 degrees/0 degrees](ns) laminates showed very significant improvements regarding the on-set of damage, and in some cases ultimate strength, when decreasing the ply thickness. These performance improvements are the result of major changes in the damage progression and failure modes of the laminates caused by a systematic delay or near suppression of transverse cracking and delamination growth in thin-ply composites. On the component level, thin-ply laminates enabled a marked improvement for bolted-joint bearing, especially in hot-wet conditions. Under impact, the 30 mu m thin ply laminate exhibited a quasi-brittle failure with extensive translaminar cracking while a ply thickness of 100 mu m was found as optimum to minimize the projected damage area. Ply thickness scaling of transverse and in-plane shear strength was identified based on classical laminate theory and unnotched tensile tests on quasi-isotropic specimens. The empirical scaling was found to follow a linear trend over a range of ply thicknesses from 30 to 250 mu m. Due to the near suppression of delamination, the strength of thin-ply composites could then be modeled more effectively than thick ply composites using classical laminate theory or standard multilayer shell modeling. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.