This thesis presents the work of an experimental investigation into the impact damage resistance and damage tolerance for symmetrical and unsymmetrical composite honeycomb sandwich panels through in-plane compression. The primary aim of this research is to examine the impact damage resistance of various types of primarily carbon/epoxy skinned sandwich panels with varying skin thickness, skin lay-up, skin material, sandwich asymmetry and core density and investigate the residual in-plane compressive strengths of these panels with a specific focus on how the core of the sandwich contributes to the in-plane compressive behaviour. This aim is supported by four specifically constructed preconditions introduced into panels to provide an additional physical insight into the loading-bearing compression mechanisms.
Impact damage was introduced into the panels over a range of IKEs via an instrumented drop-weight impact test rig with a hemi-spherical nosed impactor. The damage resistance in terms of the onset and propagation of various dominant damage mechanisms was characterised using damage extent in both impacted skin and core, absorbed energy and dent depth. Primary damage mechanisms were found to be impacted skin delamination and core crushing, regardless of skin and core combinations and at high energies, the impacted skin was fractured. In rare cases, interfacial skin/core debonding was found to occur. Significant increases in damage resistance were observed when skin thickness and core density were increased.
The reduction trends of the residual in-plane compressive strengths of all the panels were evaluated using IKE, delamination and crushed core extents and dent depth. The majority of impact damaged panels were found to fail in the mid-section and suffered an initial decline in their residual compressive strengths. Thicker skinned and higher density core panels maintained their residual strength over a larger impact energy range. Final CAI strength reductions were observed in all panels when fibre fracture in the impacted skin was present after impact. Thinner skinned panels had a greater compressive strength over the thicker skinned panels, and panel asymmetry in thin symmetrical panels appeared to result in an improving damage tolerance trend as IKE was increased due to that the impact damage balanced the in-plane compressive resistance in the skins with respect to the pre-existing neutral plane shift due to the uneven skin thickness.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.