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Skin/Stringer Interface Damage Characterization of Stiffened Composite Structures



With stiffened composite panels being widely used in aerostructures, critical failure mechanics of the skin/stringer interface need to be thoroughly understood. The interface is design critical and must demonstrate the ability to sustain design limit load throughout the service life. Buckling and out-of-plane deformations, localized in a stiffened panel can initiate separation at the interface. In addition, presence of inherent manufacturing flaws or operational impact events can lead to premature separation and result in failure. Hence, to ensure structural integrity, thorough damage characterization of skin/stringer interface must be performed. The general building block certification approach used for analysis and test validation does not contain standardized test methods beyond the coupon level. In this study, a Seven-Point Bend (7PB) based test methodology is employed to induce localized buckling-based skin separation. The 7PB methodology is utilized to evaluate panels fabricated using both co-bonding and secondary-bonding methods. The experimental work is complimented by a cohesive zone model (CZM) where the disbond initiation and progressive damage growth at the skin/stringer interface is simulated. Delamination is observed at the interface, originating centrally and progressing asymmetrically along the length of the stringer until failure occurred. The zero-thickness cohesive elements based model implemented within this work was able to capture damage initiation and predicted the final damage map. The 7PB test methodology is demonstrated to be robust and can be introduced as a standard test practice to evaluate sub-elements.


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