Composite Honeycomb Sandwich Repairs – Solid Laminates (Part Four)

in Advanced Composite Materials

Repair Procedures
Step 1: Inspection of the Damage

The tap test is not effective to detect delamination in thick laminates unless the damage is close to the surface. An ultrasonic inspection is necessary to determine the damage area. Consult the SRM to find an applicable NDI procedure.


Step 2: Removal of the Damage

The damaged area needs to be trimmed to a round or rectangular hole with large smooth radii to prevent stress concentrations. Remove the damage with a sander, router, or similar tool.

Step 3: Patch Preparation

Determine the size of the patch based on repair information found in the SRM. Cut, form, and shape the patch before attaching the patch to the damaged structure. It is easier to make the patch a little bigger than calculated and trim to size after drilling all fastener holes. In some cases, the repair patches are stocked preshaped and predrilled. If cutting is to be performed, standard shop procedures should be used that are suitable for the patch material. Titanium is hard to work and requires a large powerful slip roller to curve the material. Metal patches require filing to prevent crack initiation around the cut edges. When drilling pilot holes in the composite, the holes for repair fasteners must be a minimum of four diameters from existing fasteners and have a minimum edge distance of three fastener diameters. This is different from the standard practice for aluminum of allowing a two diameter distance. Specific pilot hole sizes and drill types to be used should follow specific SRM instructions. [Figure 7-75]

Figure 7-75. Repair layout for bolted repair of composite structure.

Figure 7-75. Repair layout for bolted repair of composite structure. [click image to enlarge]

Step 4: Hole Pattern Lay Out

To locate the patch on the damaged area, draw two perpendicular centerlines on the parent structure and on the patch material that define the principal load or geometric directions. Then, lay out hole pattern on the patch and drill pilot holes in the patch material. Align the two perpendicular centerlines of the patch with the lines on the parent structure and transfer the pilot holes to the parent material. Use clecos to keep the patch in place. Mark the edges of the patch so that it can be returned to the same location easily.

Step 5: Drilling and Reaming Holes in Patch and Parent Structure

Composite skins should be backed up to prevent splitting. Enlarge the pilot holes in the patch and parent materials with a drill 1⁄64 undersize and then ream all holes to the correct size. A tolerance of +0.0025/–0.000-inch is usually recommended for aircraft parts. For composites, this means interference fasteners are not used.

Step 6: Fastener Installation

Once fastener holes are drilled full size and reamed, permanent fasteners are installed. Before installation, measure the fastener grip length for each fastener using a grip length gauge. As different fasteners are required for different repairs, consult the SRM for permissible fastener type and installation procedure. However, install all fasteners wet with sealant and with proper torque for screws and bolts.

Step 7: Sealing of Fasteners and Patch

Sealants are applied to bolted repairs for prevention of water/ moisture intrusion, chemical damage, galvanic corrosion, and fuel leaks. They also provide contour smoothness. The sealant must be applied to a clean surface. Masking tape is usually placed around the periphery of the patch, parallel with the patch edges and leaving a small gap between the edge of the patch and the masking tape. Sealing compound is applied into this gap.

Step 8: Application of Finish Coat and Lightening Protection Mesh

The repair needs to be sanded, primed, and painted with an approved paint system. A lightning protection mesh needs to be applied if composite patches are used in an area that is prone to lightening strikes.