Optimization of Postbuckling Behaviour of Variable Thickness Composite Panels with Variable Angle Tows: Towards “Buckle-Free” Design Concept

Zhangming Wu, Gangadharan Raju, Paul M Weaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)
282 Downloads (Pure)


Variable Angle Tow (VAT) laminates that generally exhibit variable stiffness properties not only provide extended design freedom, but also offer beneficial stress distributions. In this paper, the prospect of VAT composite panels with significantly reduced loss of in-plane compressive stiffness in the postbuckled state in comparison with conventional structures, is studied. Specifically, we identify that both thickness and local fiber angle variation are required to effectively define “buckle-free” panels under compression loading. In this work, the postbuckling behaviour of variable thickness VAT composite panels is analyzed using an efficient and robust semi-analytical approach. Most previous works on the postbuckling of VAT panels assume constant thickness. The additional benefits of tailoring thickness variation in the design of VAT composite panels are seldom studied. However, in the process of manufacturing VAT laminates, either by using the conventional Advanced fiber Placement (AFP) machine (tow overlap) or the newly developed Continuous Tow Shearing (CTS) process (tow shrink) thickness build-up is inevitable. The postbuckling optimization for the design of VAT layups is conducted by a two-level framework using lamination parameters as intermediate design variables. The objective is to determine optimal lamination parameters and thickness distributions for maximizing the axial compressive stiffness of VAT laminates that are loaded in the postbuckling regime. The thickness variation due to both manufacturing of VAT laminates and for where it is independent of manufacturing process are considered. In accordance with the first-level optimal postbuckling solutions in terms of lamination parameters, we investigate a practical “buckle-free” VAT panel using a blended layup configuration. This blended VAT panel consists of a piecewise combination of segmental CTS layers and constant-thickness VAT layers. The prospect of taking advantage of a benign combination of stiffness and thickness to improve the overall compressive strength of VAT panels is studied. Finally, the optimal results are analysed to provide insight into the manufacturing of VAT laminates using either the AFP or the CTS process for improved postbuckling stiffness under compression loading.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-79
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Solids and Structures
Early online date8 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


  • Postbuckling
  • Optimization
  • Composite
  • Variable Angle Tow
  • Variable Thickness
  • Buckle-Free


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