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The mechanical properties of most reinforcing fibres are considerably higher than those of un-reinforced resin systems. The mechanical properties of the fibre/resin composite are therefore dominated by the contribution of the fibre to the composite.
The four main factors that govern the fibre's contribution are:
1. The basic mechanical properties of the fibre itself.
2. The surface interaction of fibre and resin (the 'interface').
3. The amount of fibre in the composite ('Fibre Volume Fraction').
4. The orientation of the fibres in the composite.
The basic mechanical properties of the most commonly used fibres are later. The surface interaction of fibre and resin is controlled by the degree of bonding that exists between the two. This is heavily influenced by the treatment given to the fibre surface, and a description of the different surface treatments and 'finishes' is also given here.
The amount of fibre in the composite is largely governed by the manufacturing process used. However, reinforcing fabrics with closely packed fibres will give higher Fibre Volume Fractions (FVF) in a laminate than will those fabrics which are made with coarser fibres, or which have large gaps between the fibre bundles. Fibre diameter is an important factor here with the more expensive smaller diameter fibres providing higher fibre surface areas, spreading the fibre/matrix interfacial loads. As a general rule, the stiffness and strength of a laminate will increase in proportion to the amount of fibre present. However, above about 60-70% FVF (depending on the way in which the fibres pack together) although tensile stiffness may continue to increase, the laminate's strength will reach a peak and then begin to decrease due to the lack of sufficient resin to hold the fibres together properly.
Finally, since reinforcing fibres are designed to be loaded along their length, and not across their width, the orientation of the fibres creates highly 'direction-specific' properties in the composite. This 'anisotropic' feature of composites can be used to good advantage in designs, with the majority of fibres being placed along the orientation of the main load paths. This minimises the amount of parasitic material that is put in orientations where there is little or no load.
Published courtesy of David Cripps, Gurit