Effect of tow-drop gaps on the damage resistance and tolerance of Variable-Stiffness Panels

This paper presents an experimental study of the effects of tow-drop gaps in Variable Stiffness Panels under drop-weight impact events. Two different configurations, with and without ply-staggering, have been manufactured by Automated Fibre Placement and compared with their baseline counterpart without defects. For the study of damage resistance, three levels of low velocity impact energy are generated with a drop-weight tower. The damage area is analysed by means of ultrasonic inspection. Results of the analysed defect configurations indicate that the influence of gap defects is only relevant under small impact energy values. However, in the case of damage tolerance, the residual compressive strength after impact does not present significant differences to that of conventional straight fibre laminates. This indicates that the strength reduction is driven mainly by the damage caused by the impact event rather than by the influence of manufacturing-induced defects ​
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