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Matrix cracking behaviour of off-axis plies in glass/epoxy composit laminates Lee, Pek Wah Pearl


The present work is a study of the matrix cracking behaviour of composite laminates which contain plies oriented at an angle to the loading axis. Incremental tensile tests were conducted on a set of glass-epoxy laminates having the [0/θ][formula omitted] geometry where θ takes the values of 45°, 60°, 75° and 90°. At each load increment, the stiffness reduction was measured and the cracking sequence was photographed. A novel technique using image analysis was used to measure the crack length and digitize the crack pattern in each photograph. The results were analysed in two ways - deterministically (using fracture mechanics) and statistically. In the first instance, the relationship between stiffness loss and crack length was used to calculate the strain energy release rate, G from a compliance expression. It was found that the overall stiffness loss for a given crack length increased with increasing θ. As G can also be viewed as the resistance to cracking, the calculated values were used to plot matrix cracking resistance curves (R-curves) for each lay-up. The R-curves showed that the overall resistance to cracking increased with increasing orientation angle, θ. For the [0/45][formula omitted] laminate, where cracking is driven by the highest proportion of G₁₁ component, the least increase in resistance was observed. The differences in crack resistance in these lay-ups could be explained with results from the statistical analysis. A statistical analysis of the changes in distribution of crack length and number indicated that most of cracks in the [0/90][formula omitted] were short even at high loads. In addition, a calculation of the incremental growth with each incremental load showed that the amount of growth in that lay-up was limited. This implied that the process of crack initiation continually dominated crack propagation even late in the loading sequence. The opposite behaviour is seen as θ decreases. In the [0/45][formula omitted], [0/60][formula omitted], and [0/75][formula omitted] lay-ups, the additional Mode II shear loading appeared to have assisted significantly the coalescence and growth of cracks. Hence, the overall crack resistance decreased as the proportion of the GH component increased. Cracking in the off-axis plies is not uniform. In the [0/45][formula omitted], [0/60][formula omitted] and [0/75][formula omitted] laminates, cracking begins in distinct bands and are referred to as shear bands since they occur due to the presence of the Mode II shear loading. This phenomenon, however, has little effect on the stiffness. Although cracking is not uniform, the cracks tend to space themselves to within two ply thickness apart as crack density increases. In the shear band areas, the crack spacing can approach one ply thickness. It was also observed that crack tips stop growing either when they are two ply thickness apart or when they approach a stronger area in the laminate. Generally, the resistance to cracking is not affected when the crack density is low. However, as cracks begin to interact when they are spaced to within two ply thickness, the resistance increases dramatically.

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