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The Effects of Debulking on the Microstructure of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Composites



Carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRPs) are widely used due to their high strength to weight ratios. A common process manufacturers use to increase the strength to weight ratio is debulking. Debulking is the process of transversely compacting a dry fibrous reinforcement prior to wet out with the matrix resin, in order to induce fiber nesting, effectively increasing the volume fraction of the sample. While this process is widely understood macroscopically its effects on fibrous microstructures have not yet been well characterized. The aim of this work is to compare the microstructures of three CFRPs, varying only the debulking step in the manufacturing process. The microstructural effects of debulking on three unidirectional CFRPs made from three different levels of debulking were studied. High resolution serial sections of all three samples were taken using the UES ROBO-MET at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Using these scans, the fiber positions were measured and connected to make fiber paths. Statistical descriptors such as local fiber and void volume fractions, and void distribution and morphology were then generated for each sample and compared. Using these descriptors, the effects of debulking on the composite microstructure can be measured.


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