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Local reinforcement of aerospace structures using co-curing RTM of metal foil hybrid composites


The increasing use of carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) composites in aviation and automotive industries has led to the adoption of automated production methods such as pultrusion or resin transfer moulding (RTM) for cost reduction in the production lightweight structures. These processes however, offer limited freedom to locally reinforce structures. This paper describes an approach to utilise a basic geometry for several similar parts and add local reinforcement patches only in regions of load introduction or high local stress. The approach offers the benefit of being able to combine automated production methods with unprecedented design freedom. The specific bearing performance for three different local reinforcement using (1) add-on CFRP patches, (2) surface mounted steel foils and (3) steel foil interleaving in replacement of 90° plies with foils of the same thickness as the CFRP plies (0.125 mm) is compared by double lap bearing tests. The bearing strength improves with the addition of patches, for surface mounted steel foils, more so as CFRP co-cured patches, and most as an interleaved configuration. Quasi ductile failure of the bearing joints was maintained due to additional plasticity of the steel foils, producing a joint that fails safely while enhancing the bearing strength. When examining the hybrid laminates, all samples buckled and failed in bearing compression/shear. Brooming was evident on the compressive side of the hole where the bolt indented the laminate. Indentation led to shear kink bands along the washer supported region and appear as large compression/shear damage above the washer confined region of the laminate. When normalised by weight, the three approaches show similar bearing performance. However, each approach has specific advantages with regards to processing, electrolytic potential, or absolute bearing strength, depending on the design of the load introduction.

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This work was carried out within the collaborative research project Cost Effective Reinforcement of Fasteners in Aerospace Composites (CERFAC) funded by the European Commission, Grant agreement no. 266026, within the Seventh Framework Programme. The authors also thank the Swiss Competence Center for Energy Research (SCCER—Capacity Area A3: Minimization of energy demand) and ETH Foundation Grant SP-MaP 01–15.

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Correspondence to K. Masania.

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Studer, J., Keller, A., Leone, F. et al. Local reinforcement of aerospace structures using co-curing RTM of metal foil hybrid composites. Prod. Eng. Res. Devel. 12, 195–201 (2018).

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  • Compression RTM
  • Co-curing
  • Hybrid laminates
  • Metal foil
  • Bearing strength