Experimental investigation of tow spreading: Influence of tension, pulling speed and relative rotational speed of spreading bar

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractScientific


Thin ply composites open up new opportunities to exceed the limits of conventional composite materials by improving first-ply/ first-damage criteria, fatigue life and ultimate strength [1]. By definition, individual plies with a ply thickness of less than 0.100 mm can be called a thin ply [2,3]. The size effects [1] and design freedom as it allows smaller pitch angles for a specific thickness [4] make thin ply composites superior to conventional ply composites. Obtaining thin plies is possible spreading conventional tows via techniques based on airflow, ultrasonic vibration, and mechanical means as the common alternatives [5]. Among these, mechanical tow spreading is based on pulling dry tows through bars/ pins with a certain tension. An example of a lab-scale tow spreading line, developed at TU Delft, including static spreader bars and tension sensors can be seen in Fig. 1 (a). Wrap angle, the pre-tension of the tow, relative friction between the spreading bar and tow, temperature and pulling speed are some of the parameters influential on spreading. Therefore, we propose an experimental framework to assess and quantify the effect of individual mechanisms on tow spreading. In the present study, we first investigate the effect of tension and wrap angle on tow spreading under the static condition schematically shown in Fig. 1 (b). Then, the effect of an actively controlled bar on tow spreading is tested under static conditions. Spreading bar rotation is controlled with a motor that reveals the influence of relative motion between the bar and the tow and thus the induced friction. Tow spreading is a continuous process, where filaments’ reorganization is time dependent. That means the time spent on a spreading bar, defined by the pulling speed, is influential on spreading, noting that the pulling speed is also intrinsically related to friction. Thus the third experimental method is based on observing tow spreading while the tow is pulled with various pulling rates, as schematically shown in Fig. 1 (d). During the talk, we will report our findings regarding the extent of spreading of different fiber types under different process conditions obtained by controlling the wrap angle, relative speed between the tow and bar(s) as well as by using bars that either are heated and/or exhibits different surface roughness. The analyses will be further enriched by microstructural analyses of specimens.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
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


  • Thin ply
  • Tape manufacturing
  • Tow spreading
  • Fiber distribution
  • Microstructural analysis

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