Instability-related delamination growth of embedded and edge delaminations

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Compressive loads can cause local buckling in composite laminates that have a near-surface delamination. This buckling causes load redistribution and secondary loads, which in turn cause interlaminer stresses and delamination growth. The goal of this research effort was to enhance the understanding of this instability-related delamination growth in laminates containing either an embedded or an edge delamination.

There were three primary tasks: 1) development of a geometrically nonlinear finite element analysis named NONLIN3D; 2) performance of a parametric analytical study to determine the effects of strain, delamination shape, and delamination size on the distribution of the strain energy release rate components along the delamination front; and 3) performance of a combined experimental and analytical study of instability-related delamination growth (IRDG). Two material systems (AS4/PEEK and IM7/8551-7) and two stacking sequences (0/90/90/0)₆ and (90/0/0/90)₆ were examined. The laminates were fabricated with Kapton inserts between the fourth and fifth plies from the top surface to give an initial delamination.

The analysis predicted a large variation of GI and GII along the delamination front. The GIII component was always small. The location of maximum GI and GII depended on the delamination shape and applied strain. In general, the strain-energy release rates were small except in a small region. Hence, delamination growth was expected to occur over only a small portion of the delamination front. Experiments corroborated this prediction. The laminate stacking sequence had a large effect on the shape of the deformed region, the direction of delamination growth, and the strain at which delamination growth occurred. These effects were predicted by the analysis. The GI component appeared to govern initial delamination growth in the IM7/8551-7 laminates. Matrix ply cracking generally accompanied delamination growth. In some cases fiber micro-buckling also occurred shortly after delamination growth occurred.