Reinforcement Properties for Composite Materials

Topics Covered

Reinforcements

Properties of Reinforcing Fibres

Basic Properties of Fibres and Other Engineering Materials

Laminate Mechanical Properties

Laminate Impact Strength

Reinforcements

The role of the reinforcement in a composite material is fundamentally one of increasing the mechanical properties of the neat resin system. All of the different fibres used in composites have different properties and so affect the properties of the composite in different ways.

However, individual fibres or fibre bundles can only be used on their own in a few processes such as filament winding. For most other applications, the fibres need to be arranged into some form of sheet, known as a fabric, to make handling possible. Different ways for assembling fibres into sheets and the variety of fibre orientations possible lead to there being many different types of fabrics, each of which has its own characteristics.

Properties of Reinforcing Fibres

The mechanical properties of most reinforcing fibres are considerably higher than those of un-reinforced resin systems. The mechanical properties of the fibre/resin composite are therefore dominated by the contribution of the fibre to the composite.

The four main factors that govern the fibre’s contribution are:

1.      The basic mechanical properties of the fibre itself.

2.      The surface interaction of fibre and resin (the ‘interface’).

3.      The amount of fibre in the composite (‘Fibre Volume Fraction’).

4.      The orientation of the fibres in the composite.

The basic mechanical properties of the most commonly used fibres are given in the following table (Table 1). The surface interaction of fibre and resin is controlled by the degree of bonding that exists between the two. This is heavily influenced by the treatment given to the fibre surface.

Basic Properties of Fibres and Other Engineering Materials

The manufacturing process used largely governs the amount of fibre in the composite. However, reinforcing fabrics with closely packed fibres will give higher Fibre Volume Fractions (FVF) in a laminate than will those fabrics which are made with coarser fibres, or which have large gaps between the fibre bundles. Fibre diameter is an important factor here with the more expensive smaller diameter fibres providing higher fibre surface areas, spreading the fibre/matrix interfacial loads. As a general rule, the stiffness and strength of a laminate will increase in proportion to the amount of fibre present. However, above about 60-70% FVF (depending on the way in which the fibres pack together) although tensile stiffness may continue to increase, the laminate’s strength will reach a peak and then begin to decrease due to the lack of sufficient resin to hold the fibres together properly.

Finally, since reinforcing fibres are designed to be loaded along their length, and not across their width, the orientation of the fibres creates highly ‘direction-specific’ properties in the composite. This ‘anisotropic’ feature of composites can be used to good advantage in designs, with the majority of fibres being placed along the orientation of the main load paths. This minimises the amount of parasitic material that is put in orientations where there is little or no load.

Table 1. Basic Properties of Fibres and Other Engineering Materials

Material Type

Tensile Strength

(MPa)

Tensile Modulus

(GPa)

Typical Density

(g/cc)

Specific Modulus

Carbon HS

3500

160 - 270

1.8

90 - 150

Carbon IM

5300

270 - 325

1.8

150 - 180

Carbon HM

3500

325 - 440

1.8

180 - 240

Carbon UHM

2000

440+

2.0

200+

Aramid LM

3600

60

1.45

40

Aramid HM

3100

120

1.45

80

Aramid UHM

3400

180

1.47

120

Glass - E glass

2400

69

2.5

27

Glass - S2 glass

3450

86

2.5

34

Glass - quartz

3700

69

2.2

31

Aluminium Alloy (7020)

400

1069

2.7

26

Titanium

950

110

4.5

24

Mild Steel

(55 Grade)

450

205

7.8

26

Stainless Steel

(A5-80)

800

196

7.8

25

HS Steel

(17/4 H900)

1241

197

7.8

25

Laminate Mechanical Properties

The properties of the fibres given above (Table 1) only show part of the picture. The properties of the composite will derive from those of the fibre, but also the way it interacts with the resin system used, the resin properties itself, the volume of fibre in the composite and its orientation. The following diagrams (Figure 1) show a basic comparison of the main fibre types when used in a typical high-performance unidirectional epoxy prepreg, at the fibre volume fractions that are commonly achieved in aerospace components.

Figure 1. Basic comparison of the main fibre types used in U/D epoxy prepeg laminates

The above graphs in Figure 1 show the strengths and maximum strains of the different composites at failure. The gradient of each graph also indicates the stiffness (modulus) of the composite; the steeper the gradient, the higher its stiffness. The graphs also show how some fibres, such as aramid, display very different properties when loaded in compression, compared with loading in tension.

Laminate Impact Strength

Impact damage can pose particular problems when using high stiffness fibres in very thin laminates. In some structures, where cores are used, laminate skins can be less than 0.3mm thick. Although other factors such as weave style and fibre orientation can significantly affect impact resistance, in impact-critical applications, carbon is often found in combination with one of the other fibres. This can be in the form of a hybrid fabric where more than one fibre type is used in the fabric construction. The graph in Figure 2 compares the laminate impact strength of some common composite fibres.

Figure 2. Comparison of laminate impact strength

 

 

Source: SP Systems

 

For more information on this source please visit SP Systems

 

Date Added: Oct 24, 2001 | Updated: Jun 11, 2013
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