A laser fusion joining method is investigated for the purpose of through thickness strengthening of fiber pre-forms used in the vacuum infusion fabrication of thick composite structures. Laser joining is achieved without filler materials to replace adhesives, pins or stitches used in conventional composite fabrication. A two step joining process is developed to fuse fibers within a single bundle and between multiple fiber bundles. Finite element analysis is used to investigate the joint strength with respect to joint morphology. Joint strength is found to be a function of the fiber contact angle and packing density at the joint interface. Tensile tests show that laser joined fiber bundles exhibit higher strength than comparable fastening methods. Lessons learned from the axial joining of fiber bundles are applied to joining in the radial and thickness directions of 3d pre-form architectures. Flow induced joint morphology and densification effects observed in the axial direction indicate the need for a two step joining process in the thickness direction. Fiber compaction effects on joint strength in the axial direction motivate the need for high fiber packing fraction at joint interfaces in the thickness direction.

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