Composite Honeycomb Sandwich Repairs – Solid Laminates (Part Three)

in Advanced Composite Materials

External Repair Using Precured Laminate Patches

Precured patches are not very flexible and cannot be used on highly curved or compound curved surfaces. The repair steps are similar as in External Bonded Repair With Prepreg Plies, except step 3 and 4 that follow.


Step 3: A Precured Patch

Consult the SRM for correct size, ply thickness, and orientation. You can laminate and cure the precured patch in the repair shop and secondary bond to the parent structure, or obtain standard precured patches. [Figure 7-73]

Figure 7-73. Precured patches.

Figure 7-73. Precured patches.

Step 4: For a Precured Patch

Apply film adhesive or paste adhesive to the damaged area and place the precured patch on top. Vacuum bag the repair and cure at the correct temperature for the film adhesive or paste adhesive. Most film adhesive cure at either 250 °F or 350 °F. Some paste adhesives cure at room temperature although an elevated temperature could be used to speed the curing process.

Bonded versus Bolted Repairs

Bonded repair concepts have found applicability in both types of manufacturing assembly methods. They have the advantage of not introducing stress concentrations by drilling fastener holes for patch installation and can be stronger than original part material. The disadvantage of bonded repairs is that most repair materials require special storage, handling, and curing procedures.

Bolted repairs are quicker and easier to fabricate than bonded repairs. They are normally used on composite skins thicker than 0.125-inch to ensure sufficient fastener bearing area is available for load transfer. They are prohibited in honeycomb sandwich assemblies due to the potential for moisture intrusion from the fastener holes and the resulting core degradation. Bolted repairs are heavier than comparable bonded repairs, limiting their use on weight-sensitive flight control surfaces.

Honeycomb sandwich parts often have thin face sheets and are most effectively repaired by using a bonded scarf type repair. A bonded external step patch can be used as an alternative. Bolted repairs are not effective for thin laminates because of the low bearing stress of the composite laminate. Thicker solid laminates used on larger aircraft can be up to an inch thick in highly loaded areas and these types of laminates cannot be effectively repaired using a bonded scarf type repair. [Figure 7-74]

Figure 7-74. Bolted versus bonded repair.

Figure 7-74. Bolted versus bonded repair.

Bolted Repairs

Aircraft designed in the 1970s used composite sandwich honeycomb structure for lightly loaded secondary structure, but new large aircraft use thick solid laminates for primary structure instead of sandwich honeycomb. These thick solid laminate structures are quite different from the traditional sandwich honeycomb structures used for flight controls, landing gear doors, flaps, and spoilers of today’s aircraft. They present a challenge to repair and are difficult to repair with a bonded repair method. Bolted repair methods have been developed to repair thicker solid laminates.

Bolted repairs are not desirable for honeycomb sandwich structure due to the limited bearing strength of the thin face sheets and weakened honeycomb structure from drilling holes. The advantage of a bolted repair is that you need to select only patch material and fasteners, and the repair method is similar to a sheet metal repair. There is no need for curing the repair and storing the prepreg repair material and film adhesives in a freezer. Patches may be made from aluminum, titanium, steel, or precured composite material. Composite patches are often made from carbon fiber with an epoxy resin or fiberglass with an epoxy resin.

You can repair a carbon fiber structure with an aluminum patch, but you must place a layer of fiberglass cloth between the carbon part and the aluminum patch to prevent galvanic corrosion. Titanium and precured composite patches are preferred for repair of highly loaded components. Precured carbon/epoxy patches have the same strength and stiffness as the parent material as they are usually cured similarly.

Titanium or stainless steel fasteners are used for bolted repairs of a carbon fiber structure. Aluminum fasteners corrode if used with carbon fiber. Rivets cannot be used because the installation of rivets using a rivet gun introduce damage to the hole and surrounding structure and rivets expand during installation, which is undesirable for composite structures because it could cause delimination of the composite material.