Previous research on scaling effects in composite materials has demonstrated that the stress levels at first ply failure and ultimate failure of composite laminates are dependent on the size of the laminate. In particular, the thickness dimension has been shown to be the most influential parameter in strength scaling of composite coupons loaded in tension. Geometrically and constitutively scaled laminates exhibit decreasing strength with increasing specimen size, and the magnitude of the strength-size effect is a function of both material properties and laminate stacking sequence. Some of the commonly used failure criteria for composite materials such as maximum stress, maximum strain, and tensor polynomial (e.g., Tsai-Wu) cannot account for the strength-size effect In this paper, three concepts are developed and evaluated for incorporating size dependency into failure criteria for composite materials. An experimental program of limited scope was performed to determine the first ply failure stress in scaled cross-ply laminates loaded in tension. Test specimens were fabricated from AS4/3502 graphite-epoxy composite material with laminate stacking sequences of [0°n/90°n/0°n]T where n = 1–6. Two experimental techniques were used to determine first ply failure, defined as a transverse matrix crack in the 90° ply: (1) step loading with dye penetrant x-ray of the specimen at each load interval, and (2) acoustic emission. The best correlation between first ply failure analysis and experimental data was obtained using a modified Weibull approach which incorporated the residual thermal stress and the outer ply constraint, as well as the ply thickness effect A second set of experiments was performed to determine the tensile response and ultimate failure of the scaled cross-ply laminates. The results of these experiments indicated no influence of specimen size on tensile response or ultimate strength.

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