The effect of free-edge stresses on the fatigue of graphite/epoxy laminates was evaluated numerically and experimentally. Reported are results of static and compression-dominated (R = -3.75) fatigue tests on AS4/3501-6 and IM6/5245C using unnotched specimens. Two different stacking sequences of 18-ply laminates were tested. The lamination was (0°/45°/90°) (44.4%, 44.4%, 11.1%). Damage development was monitored using ultrasonic C-scans, photoelastic coatings, and optical microscopy.
Stacking sequence had a significant influence on compressive failure strength. Differences in the fatigue lives of the two stacking sequences were close to two orders of magnitude. Damage always initiated at the edge and was related to the magnitude of interlaminar shear stresses. Well-defined stages of the fatigue process leading to final failure were observed.
A computer code was used to predict the life of the specimens. The code has yet to be calibrated for an unnotched delamination failure mode.