New Methodology for Predicting Ultimate Capacity of One-Sided Composite Patch Repaired Aluminum Plate

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Composite patch repairs are an alternative to traditional weld repair methods to address cracking in aluminum plates. Analytical and numerical design methods use linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM) and do not account for elastic-plastic crack tip behavior demonstrated in static tests of one-sided patch repaired ductile panels. This research used digital image correlation (DIC) and three-dimensional finite element analysis (FEA) with first order elements to study crack tip effects due to the one-sided composite patch applied to center crack tension (CCT) specimens loaded monotonically to failure. The measurable effects on crack tip behavior due to the composite patch were ultimate tensile load increase of more than 100% and a total achieved crack opening displacement (COD) increase of 20% over the unpatched behavior. Crack tip fracture behavior was found to be an intrinsic property of the aluminum and directly related to the COD independent of the one-sided composite patch. Increased capacity was related to accumulation of large-strain free surface area and through thickness volume ahead of the crack tip. Test data and numerical predictions correlated with measured load, strain, displacement fields, and J-integral behavior. Correlation of displacement fields with HRR and K fields established a state of small scale yielding prior to failure. Data and predictions indicated critical COD occurs when unpatched and patched large strain area is equivalent, which occurs before crack tip behavior transitions from small scale to large scale yielding and crack growth. Identifying a critical COD for both small and large scale one-sided patch repaired cracked ductile panels results in a predicted failure closer to the ultimate tensile load and 80% greater than predicted with LEFM methods.

Observations and predictions demonstrated in this research resulted in three scientific contributions: (1) development of criteria to determine crack growth in cracked ductile panels repaired with a one-sided composite patch using a critical COD, (2) development of a three-dimensional FEA to study development of the plastic zone and evolution of the large-strain region ahead of the crack tip, and (3) development of a numerical methodology to predict ultimate tensile load capacity of cracked ductile panels repaired with a one-sided composite patch.