A study on the compressive strength of thick carbon fibre-epoxy laminates

J. Lee, C. Soutis

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    This paper describes an experimental study that examines the effect of specimen size on the axial compressive strength of IM7/8552 carbon fibre/epoxy unidirectional laminates (UD). Laminate gauge length, width and thickness were increased by a scaling factor of 2 and 4 from the baseline specimen size of 10 mm × 10 mm × 2 mm. In all cases, strength decreased as specimen size increased, with a maximum reduction of 45%; no significant changes were observed for the axial modulus. Optical micrographs show that the failure mechanism is fibre microbuckling accompanied by matrix cracking and splitting. The location of failure in most specimens, and especially the thicker ones, is where the tabs terminate and the gauge section begins suggesting that the high local stresses developed due to geometric discontinuity contribute to premature failure and, hence, reduced compressive strength. Two generic quasi-isotropic multi-directional (MD) lay-ups were also tested in compression, one with blocked plies [45n/90n/-45n/0n]s and the other with distributed plies [45/90/-45/0]ns with n = 2, 4 and 8. The material used and test fixture was identical to that of the unidirectional specimens with three different gauge sections (30 mm × 30 mm, 60 mm × 60 mm and 120 mm × 120 mm) to establish any size effects. Strength results showed no evidence of a size effect when the specimens are scaled up using distributed plies and compared to the 2 mm thick specimens. All blocked specimens had similar compressive strengths to the sublaminate ones apart of the 8 mm specimens that showed a 30% reduction due to extensive matrix cracking introduced during the specimen's cutting process. The calculated unidirectional failure stress (of the 0° ply within the multidirectional laminate) of about 1710 MPa is slightly higher than the average measured value of 1570 MPa of the 2 mm thick baseline unidirectional specimen, suggesting that the reduced unidirectional strength observed for the thicker specimens is a testing artefact. It appears that the unidirectional compressive strength in thicker specimens (>2 mm) is found to be limited by the stress concentration developed at the end-tabs and manufacturing induced defects such as fibre misalignment, ply waviness and voids. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2015-2026
    Number of pages11
    JournalComposites Science and Technology
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007


    • A. Polymer matrix composites
    • B. Mechanical properties
    • B. Stress/strain curves
    • C. Buckling
    • C. Stress concentration
    • Size effects


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