Response and Failure of Adhesively Bonded Automotive Composite Structures under Impact Loads


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Virginia Tech


An experimental technique for conducting low speed impact of adhesively bonded automotive composite joints is presented. Based on the use of a modified drop tower, mode I, II, and mixed mode values for critical energy release rate were determined for a composite/epoxy system and used to create a fracture failure envelope. Because load measurements become erratic and unreliable at higher test rates, displacement-based relationships were used to quantify these energy release rates. Displacement data was collected with an imaging system that utilized edge detection to determine displacement profiles, end displacements, and opening displacements where applicable. Because of the resolution of the image-based approach used, determining crack length experimentally was extremely difficult. As a result, numerical methods were developed to objectively determine the crack length based on the available experimental data in mode I, II, and mixed mode I/II configurations.

This numerical method uses a nonlinear fit to determine mode I crack lengths and a theoretical model based on cubic equations for mode II and mixed-mode I/II, where the coefficients of the equations are determined by using both boundary and transition conditions that are a result of the test setup. A double cantilever beam (DCB) geometry was chosen to collect mode I data, an end-loaded split (ELS) geometry was used for mode II, and a single leg bend (SLB) geometry was used for mixed-mode I/II. These geometries were used to determine the fracture characteristics of adhesively bonded automotive composites to create fracture failure envelopes as well as provide mode I, II, and mixed-mode I/II data to be used in finite element models.

The chosen adhesive exhibited unstable, stick-slip crack growth, which resulted in very few data points being collected from each static DCB specimen as well as drastic drops in energy release rate between initiation and arrest points. Unstable growth also created issues in dynamic testing, as data points surrounding these "stick-slip" events were lost due to the insufficient sampling rate of the available imaging system.

Issues also arose with differences between thick and thin composite adherend specimens. These differences could result from additional curing in thick adherend composite specimens due to the adherends retaining heat. DSC testing was conducted on uncured adhesive using a 2, 5, and 10 minute hold at the cure temperature, and significant additional curing was observed between the two and five minute cures. Due to the difference in relative stiffness between the 12 and 36 ply composite, the local loading rate at the crack tip was lower in the 12 ply adherends, possibly allowing for a larger plastic zone and thus a higher energy release rate. As a result, tests were conducted on 36 ply composite specimens at rates of 1 mm/min and 0.1 mm/min to determine if there were loading rate effects. This testing showed that higher initiation energy relase rates were found at the lower test rate, thus reinforcing the local loading rate theory.

Due to issues with plastic deformation in aluminum adherends, mode II and mixed-mode I/II data were collected using only composite adherends. Only one data point was collected per specimen as the crack propagated directly into the composite after initiating from the precrack, thus multiple tests were conducted to collect sufficient data for constructing a failure envelope.

Once mode I, II and mixed-mode I/II fracture data was collected, a fracture failure envelope was created. This failure envelope, combined with a predetermined factor of safety, could provide some of the necessary tools for design with this adhesive/composite system.



Impact, Mode I, Mode II, Mixed-Mode I/II, Adhesive Joint, Composite, Unstable Growth, Stick-Slip, Fracture