Fibre Distribution and the Process-Property Dilemma
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The options for the fibre reinforcement of polymer matrix composites cover a range from short-fibre chopped strand mat, through woven fabric to unidirectional pre-impregnated (prepreg) reinforcements. The modelling of such materials may be simplified by assumptions such as perfect regular packing of fibres and the total absence of fibre waviness. However, these and other features such as the crimp or waviness in woven fabrics make real materials more complex than the simplified models. Clustering of fibres creates fibre-rich and resin-rich volumes (FRV and RRV respectively) in the composites. Prior to impregnation, large RRV will be pore-space that can expedite the flow of resin in liquid composite moulding processes (especially resin transfer moulding (RTM) and resin infusion under flexible tooling (RIFT). In the composite, the clustering of fibres tends to reduce the mechanical properties. The use of image processing and analysis can permit micro-/meso-structural characterisation which may correlate to the respective properties. This chapter considers the quantification of microstructure images in the context of the process-property dilemma for woven carbon-fibre reinforced composites with the aim of increasing understanding of the balance between processability and mechanical performance.
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