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EngOpt 2008 - International Conference on Engineering Optimization

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 01 - 05 June 2008.

Optimization of Composite Patch Repair Processes with the Use of Genetic Algorithms
1

Th. K. Papathanassiou, 2S. P. Filopoulos, 3G. J. Tsamasphyros

1,2,3

National Technical University of Athens, Faculty of Applied Mathematics and Physics, 9 Iroon Polytechniou Str., Zografou
Campus, 15773, Athens, Greece

1. Abstract
The aim of this contribution is the optimization of some parameters of the composite patch repair technique (CPR). This technique
is mainly used by the aircraft industry as it offers high reliability, short repair times and reduced cost in compare to other methods,
such as the riveted joints. CPR consists of adhesively bonding thin composite patches over cracked or corroded areas with heat
supply. As the polymer- matrix composite patch is heated, it cures and toughens. Proper curing insures structural reliability of the
repair. Short duration curing cycles are of great importance for the aircraft availability. With the use of Genetic Algorithms we design
minimum time curing cycles. The optimization is subjected to a great number of constraints. The constraints taken into consideration
are: 1) Maximum allowed temperature in order to avoid residual stresses, 2) Maximum heating rate of the heat supply device, 3)
Minimum temperature in order to initiate the cure reaction, 4) Maximum cooling-off rate once the heating has stopped, 5) Sufficient
degree of cure at the end of the process. Our design vector contains the duration of all cure cycle stages and the characteristic thermal
profile. The number of cure cycle stages is predefined. For the analysis, we consider linear interpolation for the temperature between
nodal values supplied by the optimization procedure. The degree of cure is estimated with the use of the Kamal cure rate model for
thermosetting polymers. For the numerical time integration of the cure equation a Runge-Kutta scheme is employed.
2. Keywords: Adhesive Bonding, Degree of cure, Genetic Algorithms
3. Introduction
During the last twenty years, the composite patch repair technique (C.P.R) [1,2] has been extensively used, mainly by the aircraft
industry. This particular technique has replaced riveted joints in many applications, as in comparison to the last it offers low cost,
short repair times and it avoids the drilling of holes (stress concentration) needed in the former case [3]. CPR is used mostly for the
restoration of cracked or corroded surfaces.
A typical composite patch repair process involves placing a multilayer prepreg (pre embedded to epoxy resin fiber grids)
composite patch over a damaged area and then bonding it with the use of a thin adhesive film. The adhesive film, similarly to the
composite matrix, is usually of epoxy resin. The curing process of the patch and the adhesive, as well as the bonding, is achieved by
supplying heat to the area of the repair. Several ways of heating have been proposed in the industry but most commonly employed is
the use of special heating blankets. A typical heating blanket is made of silicon and bears a thin metal grid in its interior. The grid
performs like an electric circuit and when current runs through it, heat is generated due to the Joule phenomenon. This heat is then
transferred to the composite patch by means of conduction. The whole procedure is performed under vacuum so as to ensure proper
bonding (Fig.1). For the vacuum to be generated, the heating blanket is covered with a special vacuum bag. With the use of a pump,
the air under the vacuum bag is strained and so pressure is created over the heating blanket and the patch.

Heating Blanket

Reinforcing Patch
(1)

(2)

(3)

LR

Damaged Plate

LB
LP

Figure 1. Composite Patch Repair Geometry.

The classical composite patch repair curing cycle, as suggested by most manufacturers involves three stages(Figure 2.), however
more than three stages are also possible. During the first stage, heat is supplied to the system until the temperature of the patch
reaches a certain value. For a following period of time, temperature is maintained constant at that level. This is the main part of the
curing cycle, often referred to as the Plateau stage. At the end of this stage, the cure state of the patch and the adhesive must have
reached a predefined value. The third stage represents the turning off of the heating blanket and the slow cooling of the composite
patch. Sufficient degree of cure at the end of the Plateau stage is of major importance, since the mechanical properties of the repaired
structure; depend strongly on the degree of cure. Improper curing may lead to reduced strength and therefore unreliable repairs.

Temperature

TPlateau

tPlateau

time

Figure 2. Typical composite Patch Repair Curing Cycle.


Our analysis consists of defining the minimum heat supply and Plateau stage duration so as to achieve proper curing of the patch
and proper bonding. We employ quasi 2-D models of heat transfer and the cure kinetics model for epoxy resins proposed in [4]. For
the minimization process the Genetic Algorithm method is used.
2. Heat Transfer and Cure Kinetics
For the purposes of our analysis, we will model steady state heat diffusion during the Plateau stage. Due to the symmetry of our
structure, only half of it needs to be modelled. This half structure is now divided into three different parts, as shown in Figure 1. The
first part consists of three different plies namely the Heating Blanket, the Reinforcing Patch and the Plate. The second part is of two
plies, meaning the Heating Blanket and the Plate. Finally the third part is only the ending of the metal plate and acts as a simple
thermal fin. The formulation of this heat transfer model involves continuous heat flux along the structure, combined with piece
wise constant from ply to ply, meaning the Blanket, the Reinforcing Patch and the Plate with thickness bB , bR , bP respectively. The
adhesive layer will be ignored in the following as it is very thin compared to the other layers even before it melts during heating.
Moreover we will assume that the thermal contact resistance is zero wherever two different materials contact each other. A constant
heat rate generation B (W / m3 ) is assumed to take place in the heating Blanket. This heat is due to the Joule phenomenon as
electrical current runs through the blanket and may be easily calculated. Usually it is provided directly by the blanket manufacturer.
Due to the exothermic nature of the curing reaction, heat is also generated inside the patch. This heat is proportional to the reaction
rate. However, since for realistic repairs, this heat is negligible in compare to that supplied by the heating Blanket, we will ignore it
in the following analysis. In that manner, we decouple the system of Heat Transfer Cure Reaction equations which in the other case
is fully coupled and non linear. The equations to be solved are:

Heat transfer equations:

d B (1)

( hB + sR , B )B (1) + s R , BR (1) = bB B
k B bB
2
dx

d 2R (1)
+ sR , BB (1) ( s R , B + sP , R )R (1) + sP , RP (1) = 0 x [0, LR ]
k R bR
2
dx

d 2P (1)
( hP + s P , R )P (1) + s P , RR (1) = 0
k P bP

2
dx

d B ( 2 )

( hB + s P , B )B ( 2 ) + sP , BP ( 2 ) = bB B
k B bB
2

dx

x [0, LB LR ]
2
d P ( 2 )

k P bP
+ s P , BB ( 2 ) ( hP + sP , B )P ( 2 ) = 0
2

dx

d P (3)

(1)

k P bP

dx 2

2 hPP (3) = 0

x [0, LP LB ]

Where we have used the difference = T T with T being the environment temperature. k B , k R , k P , represent the thermal
conductivity for each ply, hB , hP are the convection coefficients for the blanket and the plate. Strictly speaking, since the blanket is
covered by the vacuum bag, the convection coefficient of the vacuum bag is to be used. Finally

si , j =

2ki k j
bi k j + b j ki

i , j = B, R, P

(2)

are equivalent conduction coefficients for ply to ply heat transfer. These equations are of the extended surface heat transfer type[5,6],
where the free convection term is inserted directly into the differential equations, instead of being treated as a boundary condition [7].

Cure rate equation for the patch:

da
= (k1 + k2 a m )(1 a) n
dt
where k1 = K1e

Q1
RTR

, k2 = K 2 e

Q2
RTR

(3)

are two Arrhenius terms depending on Temperature. Q1 , Q2 , represent reaction activation

energies, R is the universal gas constant and K1 , K 2 are constants. For the purposes of our analysis we will use the kinetic
parameters for epoxy resins given in [4]:

k1 = 7.22 1010 exp[10770 / TR ]


k2 = 5.12 105 exp[6000 / TR ]
n = 0.238 + 0.0045 TR
m = 2n
For TR > 373o K
These equations are accompanied by boundary and initial conditions, which are:

Boundary conditions:

(4)

dB (1)
dx
kB
kB
kP

dR (1)

= 0,

dx

x=0

dB (2)
dx

= k B
x=0

dB (2)
dx

dx

dx

x=0

dB (1)
dx

= hBB (2 )
x = LB LR

dP (3)

dP (1)

= 0,

= hPP (3)
x = LP LB

kR
x = LR

x = LB LR

= 0, B (1)
x =0

dR (1)
dx

, P (2)

, P (1)

x = LR

= B (2)

x =0

= P ( 2)

x=0

x = LR

x = LR

x = LB LR

= P (3)

x =0

= R (1)

dP (1)
dx

dP (2)
dx

x = LR

x = LR

=
x = LB LR

dP (2)
dx

x=0

(5)

dP (3)
dx

x =0

x = LP LB

Initial condition:

a ( x, 0) = a0

(6)

The heat transfer equations are solved analytically, while for the time integration of the cure equation, a second order implicit
Runge Kutta scheme is used.
3. Objective Function Construction.
In most cases curing cycles are provided as temperature time profiles. However the curing device is to be controlled on how
much power it generates in the heating blanket. For this purpose we seek the heat generation rate in the heating blanket during the
Plateau stage for which the temperature is such, that a certain degree of cure is achieved at the end of the stage. We represent by
t Plateau (min) the stage duration. The total heat density supplied at that period of time is:
t Plateau

Q(W min/ m3 ) =

B dt = B t Plateau

(7)

This heat rate generation provides a temperature and degree of cure distribution T ( x) , a ( x) x [0, LR ] , along the patch. We assume
that in order to reach the plateau stage we heat as fast as possible, being constricted only by the efficiency of the heating device. This
efficiency is usually specified by the manufacturer and is given as a value CHeat ( o C min 1 ) . In the same manner we employ the
maximum cooling rate for the last stage of the cycle as CCool ( o C min 1 ) . Using all the above, we define an objective function
containing the total cost of the procedure in terms of time and supplied energy as:

1
J (t Plateau , B ; ) = (1 ) t Plateau +
CHeat

( max [T ( x)] T ) + C1 ( max [T ( x)] T ) + t


x[0, LR ]

initial

Cool

x[0, LR ]

final

Plateau

max

(8)

Where 0 1 is a parameter, and max is the maximum rate of heat generation that the bonding machine can achieve. By using
the ratio B max the objective function represents the cost in terms of time only. We only consider the energy supplied at the
Plateau stage. Values of close to zero reflect a minimum time oriented optimization scheme whereas for 1 we get
minimum energy supply procedures.
4. Constraints
The minimization of function J (t Plateau , B ; ) is subjected to certain constraints defined by the physical problem. These
constraints are: (a) Minimum temperature allowed. The temperature at the Plateau stage must be greater than a lower value Tl for the
curing reaction to progress. (b) Maximum temperature allowed. The temperature must not exceed a predefined value Tu . This
constraint is imposed in order to keep the thermal stresses generated by the bonding procedure below a certain threshold crucial for
the endurance of the repair. (c) Maximum heat generation. The capability of the machine, defines a value max (W / m3 ) for which
we must have B max . (d) Minimum degree of cure the end of the Plateau stage. For a successful repair, the degree of cure at
the end of the Plateau stage must be over a certain value ae .
5. Minimization Scheme

Taking into account the above, the formulation of our minimization problem becomes:

Minimize [ J (t Plateau , B ; )] , 0 1 with respect to ( t Plateau , B )


subject to:
min [T ( x) ] Tl

x[0, LR ]

max [T ( x) ] Tu

x[0, LR ]

min [ a ( x, t Plateau ) ] ae

x[0, LR ]

B max
For the minimization procedure, the Genetic Algorithm method will be employed. Among the reasons for this selection, we mention
the complexity of the objective function, which prevents from using other higher order methods, as well as the fact that we have no
information about the form of the objective function and whether or not it has local minima. This lack of knowledge about possible
local minima makes the use of stochastic methods, such as Genetic Algorithms, practically unavoidable.
6. Results and Discussion
As an example, we will consider the procedure which involves bonding a composite patch onto a metal plate and is characterized
by the parameters:

bB = 0.0015m, bR = 0.0020m, bP = 0.0060m


LB = 0.125m, LR = 0.100m, LP = 0.400m
k B = 148W / m 2 K , k R = 2W / m 2 K , k P = 177W / m 2 K
hB = 7.5W / mK , hP = 15W / mK
T = 295K , a0 = 0.03
These values are characteristic for aluminum alloy 2024-T6 skins and boron-fiber (30% Vol.) epoxy patches. The applied
constraints are: Tl = 383K , Tu = 403K , ae = 0.90 . For a typical bonding machine we have CHeat = 3o C min 1
and max = 5 106 W / m3 . For the purpose of our analysis we consider the cooling rate to be CCool = 3.5o C min 1 . We use four
different values of , which are = 0, 0.2, 0.4, 0.6, 0.8 , varying from the minimum time towards the minimum energy curing
cycle. For each different we have performed 80 repetitions with the characteristics: Population Size 100 , Generations 500 .
We have also used mutation at a 3% of each population. In Figure 3, we plot as functions of the results of the Genetic algorithm
optimization for the total curing cycle time ttot and the energy density consumed during the Plateau stage. As we can see from
Figure 3, the total curing time is practically the same for all the values of the weighting parameter. The minimum duration curing
cycle that can be achieved under the data of our example is to last about 78 min . What is of more interest is the amount of heat
consumed during the second stage of the curing cycle, which is provided in the second diagram of Figure 3. We can see in this
diagram that an energy amount may be saved if we select to use the curing cycle with = 0.8 , instead of using one of the two first,
namely for = 0, 0.2 . What is more, this will lead to no time loss when applying the procedure, as all cycles are of the same
duration.
Figure 4 shows the temperature distribution along the reinforcing patch and the cure reaction progress during the Plateau stage, for
the optimum curing cycle corresponding to = 0.8 .
7. Conclusions
We have presented a model for the prediction and optimization of composite patch repair processes as applied for the restoration
of damaged structures. Simplified quasi 2D models of heat transfer are weakly coupled with a cure reaction equation for epoxy
resins. The bonding process which is performed with the use of heating blankets is optimized in terms of total procedure duration and
energy density consumption. For the minimization process the Genetic Algorithm method has been used. In a particular example
involving bonding a boron fiber epoxy resin matrix patch over a thin plate of aeronautical oriented aluminum alloy, it has been
found that for the same cure cycle duration a proper choice of heat supply may lead to efficient energy conservation.

t tot (m in)

78.25

78

77.75

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

0.6

0.7

0.8

0.5

0.6

0.7

0.8

-7

Q *10 (W m in/m )

2.8

2.6

2.4

2.2

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

Figure 3. Total curing cycle duration and energy density consumption during the Plateau stage for the optimized cycles.

2024-T6 Aluminum alloy Plate - Boron fiber (30% Vol.)-Epoxy Patch


129.5

0.9
129

0.8

Degree of Cure

Reinforcing Patch Temperature

0.7
128.5

128

0.6

0.5

0.4

127.5
0.3

0.2
127
0.1

126.5

0.2

0.4

0.6

x/LR

0.8

0
0

10

12

14

16

18

t (min)

Figure 4. Temperature distribution along the patch and degree of cure for the Plateau stage. Optimum curing cycle with =0.8.

Acknowledgments: "This work has been funded by the project PENED 2003. The project is cofinanced 75% of public expenditure through EC European Social Fund, 25% of public expenditure through Ministry of Development - General Secretariat of Research and Technology and through
private sector, under measure 8.3 of OPERATIONAL PROGRAMME "COMPETITIVENESS" in the 3rd Community Support Programme."

8. References
1. Baker A. A., Jones R. (Eds.), Bonded Repair of Aircraft Structures, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht, 1988.
2. Z. P. Marioli Riga, G. J. Tsamasphyros, G. N. Kanderakis, Design of Emergency Aircraft Repairs Using composite Patches,
Mechanics of Composite Materials and Structures, 2001, 8, 199 204.
3. M. Caliskan, Evaluation of bonded and bolted repair techniques with the finite element method, Materials and Design, 2006, 27,
811 820.
4. A. Atarsia, R. Boukhili, Relationship Between Isothermal and Dynamic Cure of Thermosets Via the Isoconversion Representation,
Polymer engineering and Science, 2000, 40, 607 620.
5. Incropera F. P., De Witt D. P., Fundamentals of Heat and Mass Transfer, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1990.
6. Kern D. Q. and Kraus A. D., Extended Surface Heat Transfer, McGraw Hill, New York, 1972.
7. Tsamasphyros G. J. and Papathanassiou Th. K., Heat Transfer Analysis of Reinforcing Patch Bonding Processes. Proc. of
SEECCM 06, June 28 30 2006, Kragujevac, 370 375.