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Numerical and Experimental Investigation of Fractography and notch

sensitivity factor of Glass Reinforced Polymer Composites



Fiber reinforced polymer composite materials are commonly used in structures that demand a high
level of mechanical performance. Their high strength to weight and stiffness to weight ratios has
facilitated the development of lighter structures, which often replace conventional metal structures.
Due to strength and safety requirements, these applications require joining composites either to
composites or to metals. Although leading to a weight penalty due to stress concentration created by
drilling a hole in the laminate, mechanical fasteners are widely used in the aerospace industry. In
fact mechanically fastened joints (such as pinned joints) are unavoidable in complex structures
because of their low cost, simplicity for assemble and facilitation of disassembly for repair.
The vast majority of bolted composite joints research was generated by the aerospace industry and
the focus was generally on joining techniques for advanced composites applicable for aerospace
applications. However, some of the basic research is applicable for civil engineering applications
that utilize pultruded composites. One of the essential differences between joint design
methodology used by civil engineers is the need of framing connections between members while
the majority of aerospace joining focus is on shell composite structures. In addition, pultruded
materials are different in nature and production method than those produced by the aerospace
industry using autoclaves, Vacuum-Assisted Resin Transfer Molding and other high-performance
manufacturing methods that are usually performed at higher temperature.
Mechanical fasteners remain the primary means of load transfer between structural components
made of composite laminates. As, in pursuit of increasing efficiency of the structure, the operational
load continues to grow, the load carried by each fastener increases accordingly. This increases
probability of failure. Therefore, the assessment of the stresses around the fasteners holes becomes
critical for damage-tolerant design. Because of the presence of unknown contact stresses and
contact region between the fastener and the laminate, the analysis of a pin-loaded hole becomes
considerably more complex than that of a traction-free hole. The accurate prediction of the stress
distribution along the hole edge is essential for reliable strength evaluation and failure prediction.
The knowledge of the failure strength would help in selecting the appropriate joint size in a given
application. An unskillful design of joints in the case of mechanical fasteners often causes a
reduction of load capability of the composite structure even though the composite materials posses

high strength. Thus many papers on mechanical joints and specifically pin-loaded holes have been
conducted in the past.
Unfortunately, it is rarely possible to produce a construction without joints due to limitations on
material size, convenience in manufacture or transportation and the need for access. All connections
or joints are potentially the weakest points in the structures so can determine its structural
efficiency. To make useful structures, consideration must be given to the way structural components
are joined together. The lot of scope for research investigation of stress concentration and
fractography studies at the joining holes and other notches.


The introduction of fiber-reinforced composites has been a major step in the evolution of structural
frames. Compared with conventional metal and alloys, optimized use of composites can result in
significant weight savings. Additionally, composites have many other important advantages,
including improvement formability and immunity to corrosion and fatigue damage. From the
joining viewpoint a very important advantage of composite construction is the ability to form large
components, thus minimizing the number of joints required. But all connections or joints are
potentially the weakest points in the structures, which can be determined its structural efficiency through
thorough experimental and numerical studies based on stress concentration and fractographical



The study of fracture surfaces has been practiced for centuries with the first written description of
cleavage of calcite in 1688[1] and further applications to metals and their alloys in the 17th and
18th centuries[2]. Over the centuries, fractography has flourished in fields such as geology; much of
the current nomenclature is derived from geological terminology[3]. As new materials have been
developed, the science of fractography has matured to the stage where researchers can confidently
relate fractographic morphologies to the failure modes in a component. Fractography can provide
important clues about the causes of failure in a component, the location of the source of failure and
the likely sequence of events which then resulted. Furthermore, in many materials it can provide
valuable information about the local service environment or stress state responsible for crack
initiation[4]. It can be used at a range of levels, from basic coupons, through structural elements, up
to the investigation of full-scale or in-service failures. Although fractography involves the
examination and interpretation of fracture surfaces, fractographic techniques can be utilised to
examine undamaged material to provide the investigator with additional information such as
material quality[5].

Upon the development of continuous fibre reinforced composites, it quickly became apparent that
research into the mechanisms of failure was required. This led to the development of a wide range
of fractographic techniques for the failure analysis of these materials[6-7]. The underlying
philosophies followed for composite and isotropic material failures are similar and there is
significant read-across between some of the features observed. For isotropic materials, particularly
metallics, considerable effort has been invested in the development of fractographic atlases, which
allow specific fractographic features generated under controlled conditions to be compared with the
fracture surfaces of interest. These atlases are particularly useful to the novice investigators, helping
them to confirm the cause of failure in an isotropic component [8]. Such an approach has proved to
be of little practical use for polymer composites [9]. This is principally due to the huge spectrum of
failure modes that develop in composites under a single loading mode, all of which can interact
with each other. Furthermore, factors such as temperature, moisture, loading rate and, in the case of
thermoplastics, degree of crystallisation can have a considerable effect on the fracture
morphology[10]. The addition of the reinforcement, and the reinforcement/matrix interface, add to
these morphological variations. Unlike isotropic materials, fracture in laminated composites can
also occur on multiple planes. Therefore, rather than compiling an atlas of fractography, the
approach pursued by composite investigators has been to understand the specific mechanisms
occurring in the constituent materials and apply this knowledge to the global fracture
morphologies[10-12]. It is thus important to have some understanding of composite behaviour
before undertaking a fractographic analysis.
A practical issue regarding composite fractography is the considerably greater fracture area which
develops in composites compared to that in isotropic materials [13]. During metal failure,
particularly under cyclic loading, there is often a single crack which can be traced back to a site of
initiation and much of the excess strain energy released during failure is absorbed through plastic
deformation[14]. On the other hand, failure of polymer composites, particularly during translaminar
fracture, is usually violent and highly unstable, with little plasticity. Most of the strain energy is
rapidly released as fracture [15-17], through the formation of secondary failures (usually
delamination), which complicate the analysis considerably, requiring additional time and resources
to analyse.

The application of fractography to composites research is now diverse. At a

fundamental level, it provides an insight into damage and failure processes, and offers a route to
material optimisation. It thus provides a means to validate physically based predictive models and
failure criteria, linking the two disciplines of experimental and predictive research. A good
demonstration of this are fractographic observations on delamination micromechanisms.

This literature review has described the current status of fractographic analysis of composites, and
shown that the techniques are well developed, allowing the interpretation of most failures that occur
in composite structures. The fracture morphologies associated with translaminar classes of failure,
such as tension, compression, flexure and in-plane shear, and those associated with matrix
dominated classes such interlaminar and intralaminar failure, including matrix and fibre/matrix
interfacial cleavage and shear, are well characterised. The influence of environment, loading,
processing and damage on these fracture modes are also reasonably well defined. The interactions
between these failure modes are well understood, so these fracture modes can be sequenced,
allowing the failure progression in structures and components to be deduced.
However, there is still scope to bring composites fractography to a level of maturity akin to that of
isotropic materials. In particular, further research needs to be done to relate fracture morphologies
to semi-qualitative parameters relating to the loading history and conditions at failure. Furthermore,
the influence of factors such as environment and cyclic loading still need to be addressed in some
newer materials. As composite architectures move towards increased use of through-thickness
reinforced materials, fractographic techniques need to be developed by which such materials can be
analysed. Newer thermoplastic materials, which are strain rate sensitive and have morphologies that
are dependent on crystallinity, will also require further study. However, composites fractography is
proving to be powerful and reliable tool for the composite engineer, and is a vital technique for the
overall development of composite structures.


To conduct literature and industrial data survey about application of fiber reinforced
polymer composites and their design consideration
To extend the understanding influence of stress concentration analysis of different polymer

To develop finite element model for stress concentration and fractographical studies
To conduct experimental studies to find the stress concentration and fractography
To investigate effect of stress concentration on quality of joint strength
To investigate effect of environment condition on fractorgraphy degradation of polymers
To correlate of the local stress-strain relationships to globally measured engineering stressstrain relationships via Finite Element Modelling.



Detailed Literature Survey

Industrial Survey

Collection of testing standard, FE parameters, material selection,


Face sheet & core made of AL is used &

modal characteristics are obtained by
studying its impulse response

Traditional strike method is used to

excite the specimen & generated

FE model of panel is modelled using

ANSYS. Element employed is SOLID186
for core & face sheets

Material properties for core & face

sheets are given

voltage is calibrated to force

signal from accelerometer & impact

hammer are transferred to computer aided

Sandwich theory is applied & equivalent

parameters are obtained using formula

fft analyser to extract modal parameters

Change FE Parameters


of results

Theoretical & experimental results are closely


# Task 1: Overview of fractography and stress concentration factor

In this work, as per industries and literature survey focused on the effect of various parameters such
as temperature, climate condition, notch and circular holes on fractography of fiber reinforced
polymers will be investigated. Further study on stresses, failure strength and failure mode of
composites laminates with notch or hole when the material exhibits linear and nonlinear elastic
behaviour will be considered.
# Task 2: Development elasto-plastic FEA model
In this task a critical load will be selected for analysis and run each condition in an elastic finite
element analysis. This study will be focused on investigation of delamination mechanism (mode I,
II, III and mixed mode), failure criterion along with mathematical model. A FE modeling method
of the multiaxial stressstrain notch analysis will be developed to compute elasto-plastic notch-tip
stressstrain responses using linear elastic finite element results of notched components.
Application and validation of the multiaxial stressstrain notch analysis model will be presented by
comparing computed results of the model to the experimental notched specimen will be subjected to
several non proportional load paths.
# Task 3: Experimental studies
In order to test the theoretical models for delamination fracture, composite materials with a wide
range of properties will be selected. The experimental study included glass / epoxy and
glass/polyester composite systems. A series of mechanical tests such as tensile, flexural and impact
will be performed on a wide range of composite laminates and their corresponding neat resin
materials. For composite laminates both mode I and mode II delamination tester will be conducted
to obtain the delamination fracture toughness. The fracture surfaces of both mode I and mode II
delaminated specimen will also be studied using SEM. Tensile tests will be performed on every
matrix material used in the present composite systems. The tests will be conducted in accordance
with the ASTM standard test method for tensile properties of plastics D638M-93. The major
purpose of the tensile test will be to obtain the elastic modulus, the yield strength and the ultimate
strength of these materials. Because of its accuracy in evaluating the fracture toughness and its
relative ease of use, the single-edge notched bend test will be chosen to obtain the fracture
toughness of all matrix materials. The tests will be performed in accordance with the ASTM
standard test method for plane-strain fracture toughness and strain energy release rate of plastic
materials, D5045-93.

# Task 4 Comparison between FE and Experimental studies

Based on the comparison between the experimental and computed strain histories, the failure modes
model will be predicted notch strains with reasonable accuracy using linear elastic finite element
stress histories. The failure modes analysis model provides an efficient and simple analysis method
preferable to expensive experimental component tests and more complex and time-consuming
incremental nonlinear finite element analysis. The elasto-plastic stressstrain model can thus be
employed to perform fatigue life and fatigue damage estimates associated with the local material

1. Progress Achieved
[Current status of the project]

General guidelines: The synopsis shall be delimited to Four pages. Use Times New
Roman font with 12 font size and 1.5 lines spacing, Title in Bold with 14 font size.

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Metallographie 28, 404-419 (1991).
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