A while ago, I wrote a simple document for undergraduates in order to explain that composite materials can fail in different ways. This was created as a high level document which could be used to find useful references with regards to failure modes, basic failure criteria and damage propagation models. I wanted to share this with you in case you are new in this field or just if you simply want to learn some basics of composites!
A composite can be defined as a material which is composed of two or more constituents of different chemical properties, with resultant properties different to those of the individual components. They usually consist of a continuous phase (matrix) and a distributed phase (reinforcement). These reinforcements can be fibrous, particulate or lamellar and they are usually stiff and strong, so that they are responsible for providing the stiffness and the strength of the composite. On the other hand, the matrix provides shear strength, toughness and resistance to the environment.
Fibre reinforced composites are considered as the strongest and sometimes also the stiffest, due to:
- Alignment of molecules or structural elements.
- Very fine structures.
- Elimination of defects.
- Unique structures.
- Statistical factors.
With regards to fibre reinforced composite materials, their main failure modes are:
- Fibre failure induced by tension in fibre direction.
- Fibre failure induced by compression in fibre direction.
- Matrix fracture induced by tension.
- Matrix fracture induced by compression.
It is remarkable that fibre failure typically caused composite failure, whereas matrix failure may not cause the same drastic effect. Read more
When using Finite Element Analysis (FEA) for studying composite materials, one of the most used failure criterion is the one which was proposed by Hashin in 1980. This theory is included in all the main FEA packages and, probably, you are more than familiar with this particular model. However, what you might not know is that the failure criteria that you are defining is not exactly the Hashin’s one. If you want to know why, this is your place.
Since the available failure criteria at that point presented some inconsistencies, in 1980 Hashin developed a new criteria which differentiated between failure modes. His theory considered four different ways in which the material could fail:
Failure criteria for composite materials are usually classified in two categories: non-interactive and interactive theories. In literature, you can find that the main non-interactive failure criteria are the Maximum Stress Theory and the Maximum Strain Theory. However, one question arises: is the second one a non-interactive theory in reality? Let’s figure it out.
To begin with, a non-interactive failure criterion is that one which only takes into account the effect of one stress or strain component for each failure condition. In other words, it does not consider any interaction between the different components. For example, the Maximum Stress Theory considers that the material fails when one of the stress components reaches a maximum value. Hence, considering a sample loaded in tension:
Where subindex 1 refers to the fibre direction and 2 corresponds to the transverse direction. When the stress reaches the limit value (measured experimentally under uniaxial stress conditions), the material fails. It is clear how in that failure criterion only one stress component is considered for each condition.