Development and characterization of hybrid thin-ply composite materials

Alexios Argyropoulos, Baris Caglar, S. Gomarasca, Thomas Ricard, Véronique Michaud

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Thin-ply composites are recognized as a key solution for the manufacturing of high-performance composite structures due to the unique mechanical properties and the increased design versatility that they offer. They are obtained with state-of-the-art fiber spreading methods where high-count (6-24K filaments) tows of technical fibers (carbon, glass) are thinned by spreading into flat unidirectional tapes which are then combined with a polymer matrix to create pre-impregnated (prepregs) tapes of reduced thickness. In recent years, the industrialization of fiber spreading and impregnation processes enabled the large-scale production of homogenous thin-ply prepregs with thicknesses down to about 15μm per ply, which attracted the interest of the research community. However, the high production cost due to the complexity of the manufacturing methods and the inherent brittleness of thin-ply composites limit their wider adoption by the composites industry[1]. Fiber hybridization (i.e combining at least two types of fibers in a common matrix) is emerging as a promising approach for alleviating these drawbacks towards laminates with balanced characteristics in terms of mechanical properties and cost-efficiency. Currently, most studies on thin-ply hybrids employ simple interlayer (ply-by-ply) configurations mainly due to difficulties in manufacturing of more complex hybrid architectures[2]. However, simulation tools predict that notable improvements can be obtained from more complex intralayer (tow-by-tow) and intrayarn (fiber-by-fiber) hybrid architectures[3]. This work focuses on the study of existing fiber spreading methodologies, the development of equipment, and the optimization of composite processing at North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT) Renens, Switzerland, that allowed the manufacturing of hybrid composites with a high degree of fiber dispersion and controlled microstructure. Hybrid prepregs were produced by combining various ratios of dissimilar fibers following different processing routes. Composite laminates were manufactured and a versatile microstructural analysis tool was developed that enabled correlations between the manufacturing route, the resulting microstructural features describing the degree of co-dispersion, and the mechanical performance of the final part. Acknowledgments The research leading to these results has been performed within the framework of the HyFiSyn project and has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 765881. Delamination growth in fibre reinforced polymer composites is generally evaluated with experiments that have been standardized for quasi-static load conditions. These tests characterize unidirectional delamination growth in mode I (DCB), mode II (ELS or ENF) of mixed mode conditions (MMB). However, little attention is paid in literature to the applicability of these tests to in-service delamination problems that are generally characterized by planar delamination growth. In this study, the relation between planar delamination growth, induced by transverse quasi-static indentation loading, and these unidirectional delamination tests was investigated. To that aim, prior planar delamination growth tests reported in literature, performed at EPFL, were analysed to identify up to what extent this planar growth could be correlated to the concepts of strain energy release and strain energy density. Once this appeared to successful, an experimental setup was designed to measure the delamination boundary during the transverse indentation loading of planar delamination specimens made of nontransparent carbon fibre reinforced polymer composites. With that set-up, quasi-static and fatigue planar delamination growth experiments were performed, and delamination contours could be successfully captured. While the quasi-static tests revealed limited growth, evaluation with numerical simulations revealed that the indentation force required to extend the delamination quasi-statically would cause damage to the specimen. This is attributed to the increasing length of the delamination contour when delaminations expand, which is not the case with standard unidirectional specimen. With the fatigue tests, however, delamination growth was achieved, but interestingly enough two phases were observed; first the delamination propagated in a planar fashion, while at some point in time work did not exceed an apparent threshold. Instead of no growth, however, the delamination still increased but then in a transverse manner. What makes this study of particular interest, is that the strain energy density as criterion could capture the strain energy offered (work) along the entire delamination contour, while the strain energy release rate described the resistance to delamination growth. This latter observation is in agreement with the original concept employed by Griffith when he formulated the basis of linear elastic fracture mechanics. This presentation present the experiments performed, the analysis of results, and will conclude with a proposal how to relate standard unidirectional tests to planar growth, considering that these standard tests contain little to no information on transverse phenomena with respect to strain energy density (work) and strain energy release (dissipation).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 20th European Conference on Composite Materials: Composites Meet Sustainability
Subtitle of host publicationVol 1 – Materials
EditorsAnastasios P. Vassilopoulos, Véronique Michaud
Place of PublicationLausanne
PublisherEPFL Lausanne, Composite Construction Laboratory
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)978-2-9701614-0-0
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Event20th European Conference on Composite Materials: Composites Meet Sustainability - Lausanne, Switzerland
Duration: 26 Jun 202230 Jun 2022
Conference number: 20


Conference20th European Conference on Composite Materials
Abbreviated titleECCM20


  • hybrid composites
  • thin-ply
  • microstructural characterization


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