The advantages of using fibre reinforced plastics, composed of glass fibres embedded in a resin mix, for offshore structures and shipbuilding have been recognized for many years. These are seen to include: (a) Reduced weight, (b) Better corrosion resistance, (c) Lower whole life cycle costs, (d) No hot work required for retrofitting and (e) better thermal, acoustic and vibration properties. For naval vessels, they have the added advantages of lower signatures and the elimination of fatigue crack issues between steel decks and composite deckhouses.
Despite this, their use on large scale structures as primary members has been restricted in the offshore industry. Naval applications have recently increased form the traditional mine countermeasure vessels to large hangers on destroyers. Many other naval applications are being proposed and a large volume of research is currently being undertaken.
One of the drawbacks with composites is the lack of robust damage models applicable to large composite structures capable of reliably predicting damage growth and ultimate failure loads. This is particularly so in the prediction of delamination which can occur when composites are subjected to lateral impact or shock loads.
Damage modelling has been studied extensively particularly at the micro and nano scale. The advances made in damage modelling on a meso and macro scale have been attributed largely to the aerospace industry and little work has been carried out to validate their techniques on marine structures. The class of composites, scale of structures and the nature of the loading is very different to that experienced in the aerospace industry.
This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.
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