X-ray computer tomography based numerical modelling of fibre reinforced composites

Abstract: Non-crimp fabric reinforced polymers are commonly used to manufacture the load carrying parts in wind turbine blades. Since wind turbine blades have a large material usage, the favourable stiffness to price ratio of non-crimp fabric reinforced polymers is highly attractive for manufactures. Additionally, they are easy to manufacture, which is essential for mould sizes of up to approximately 100 m. Smaller turbine blades up to 75 m use glass fibres, lager blades require carbon fibres to meet the stiffness requirements.   Wind turbine blades are ever increasing in length since the generated power is proportional to the length squared. In addition to the challenge to reduce the material usage, longer blades demand higher stiffness. Furthermore, wind turbines are one of the man-made structures that have to endure the highest numbers of load cycles. Even though wind turbine blades are mainly loaded in tension there are compressive loads present on the leeward side of the blade. Those three main material requirements demand highly tailored high-performance materials. At the same time wind turbine manufactures are under a high cost pressure as governments all over the world are cutting subsidies. As for any other high-performance material a constant production quality is essential. However, in particular composites are susceptible for manufacture flaws.   X-ray computer tomography allows for the detection of some of the defects present after manufacture. X-ray computer tomography is a very promising tool for materials quality control and quantification when combined with numerical modelling. In the last years the image acquisition and analysis process has seen enormous progress that can now be exploited.   In this research project the X-ray computer tomography aided engineering (XAE) process has been established. XAE systemically combines all work-steps from material image acquisition to the final finite element analysis results. The process provides an automated, accurate and fast image analysis and an element-wise and integration point-wise material orientation mapping. The analysis of the detailed stress and strain distributions after manufacture with XAE will allow for more reliable and low-cost wind turbine blades.

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