Recently, my son bought a carbon-fibre framed bike for his commute to work. He talked to me about it before he made the decision to go ahead because he was worried about the susceptibility of carbon-fibre to impact damage. The aircraft industry worries about barely visible impact damage (BVID) because while the damage might be barely visible on the accessible face that received the impact, within the carbon-fibre component there can be substantial life-shortening damage. I reassured my son that it is unlikely a road bike would receive impacts of sufficient energy to induce life-shortening damage, at least in ordinary use. However, such impacts are not unusual in aircraft structures which means that they have to be inspected for hidden, insidious damage. The most common method of inspection is based on ultrasound that is reflected preferentially by the damaged areas so that the shape and extent of damage can be mapped. It is difficult to predict the effect on the structural performance of the component from this morphology information so that, when damage is found, the component is usually repaired or replaced immediately. In my research group we have been exploring the use of strain measurements to locate and assess damage by comparing the strain distributions in as-manufactured and in-service components. We can measure the strain fields in components using a number of techniques including digital image correlation (see my post entitled ‘256 shades of grey’) and thermoelastic stress analysis (see my post entitled ‘Counting photons to measure stress‘). The comparison is performed using feature vectors that represent the strain fields, see my post of a few weeks ago entitled ‘Recognising strain’. The guiding principle is that if damage is present but does not change the strain field then the structural performance of the component is unchanged; however when the strain field is changed then it is easier to predict remanent life from strain data than from morphology data. We have demonstrated that these new concepts work in glass-fibre reinforced laminates and are in the process of reproducing the results in carbon-fibre composites.
Patterson, E.A., Feligiotti, M., Hack, E., 2013, On the integration of validation, quality assurance and non-destructive evaluation, J. Strain Analysis, 48(1):48-59.
Patki, A.S., Patterson, E.A., 2012, Damage assessment of fibre reinforced composites using shape descriptors, J. Strain Analysis, 47(4):244-253.
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