Variable-stiffness composite panels: Defect tolerance under in-plane tensile loading

Automated Fiber Placement is being extensively used in the production of major composite components for the aircraft industry. This technology enables the production of tow-steered panels, which have been proven to greatly improve the structural efficiency of composites by means of in-plane stiffness variation and load redistribution. However, traditional straight-fiber architectures are still preferred. One of the reasons behind this is related to the uncertainties, as a result of process-induced defects, in the mechanical performance of the laminates. This experimental work investigates the effect of the fiber angle discontinuities between different tow courses in a ply on the un-notched and open-hole tensile strength of the laminate. The influence of several manufacturing parameters are studied in detail. The results reveal that 'ply staggering' and '0% gap coverage' is an effective combination in reducing the influence of defects in these laminates ​
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