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Journal of Minerals & Materials Characteri zation & Enginee r ing, Vol. 8, No.6, pp 495-508, 2009
jmmce.org Printed in the USA. All rights reserved
Plane Strain Fracture Behaviour of Fabric Reinforced Hybrid Composites
under varied Notch Configurations
K. Mohamed Kaleemulla1*, B. Siddeswarappa2
1 Department of Mechanical Engineering, University B.D.T. College of Engineering,
Davangere 577004, India
2 Department of Industrial and Production Engineering, University B.D.T. College of
Engineering, Davangere 577004, India
* Corresponding Author: Phone: +919844332313, E-mail: kmdkaleemulla @gmail.com
Utilization of fabric reinforced hybrid polymer composites has increased tremendously in
many engineering fields. The present investigation is an attempt on fabric-reinforced hybrid
composite laminates with different volum e fractions of the constituent mater ials; epoxy resin,
plain-woven glass fabric, and textile satin fabric. Fracture toughness of a material has
immense importance in the determination of the resistance of the material to crack
propagation. Hence in this article, impact behaviour and fracture toughness of the laminates
were investigated as per ASTM-D256 standards. Specimen configuration includes selection
of different notch depths, fiber proportion and orientations. The fracture toughness has been
found to increase continuously with increased volumes of glass fabric and significantly
dependent on the notch size. Experimental results are validated using analysis of variance
(ANOVA) technique, and found that percentage contribution of glass content is
approximately 80%, while notch depth and orientation have contributed only 16%.
KEY WORDS: Impact toughness, fracture toughness, glass fabric, textile satin fabric,
Impact damage in metal was easily detected as damage starts at the impacted surface;
however, damage in composites often begins on the non-impacted surface or in the form of
an internal delamination. The behavior of fiber reinforced composites when impacted by a
solid object was the subject of much numerical, analytical and experimental research. The
penetration and perforation of targets by projectile involve highly complex processes, which
496 K. Mohamed Kaleemulla, B. Siddeswarappa Vol.8, No.6
have been investigated experimentally for more than two centuries and analytically during the
last two decades [1, 2].
All composite materials that exhibit a linear elastic stress-strain relationship to failure will be
very sensitive to notches. Unlike metallic materials, the effects of the notch on strength will
vary with the size of the notch but are relatively independent of notch geometry . The
subject of composite impact behavior is one of enormous complexity. A single impact event
can produce several different damage modes simultaneously. These damage modes are
affected by the properties of both the impactor and the laminate. The multitude of impactor
and laminate variable combinations coupled with the complexity of the impact behavior has
led to the vast amount of research devoted to the analysis and improvement of FRP impact
The hardness of the specimen as well as the geometrical shape and dimensions of notch affect
the stress concentration factor. The factor of the material with higher hardness is larger than
that of the material with low hardness [4, 5]. The notch root radius governs the relative elastic
stress distribution near the notch root predominantly only. Both the maximum elastic stress
and the notch root radius determine the yielded zone size near the notch root . The severity
of stress concentration initiates propagation of cracks, causing the fracture of material.
Fracture in all materials, brittle or ductile, homogeneous or composites, is governed more or
less by discontinuities and imperfections, such as cracks, notches, inclusions or dispersed
phases [7, 8].
Damage of composite structures through impact events is perhaps one of the most important
aspects of mechanical behaviour that limit the wide applications of these materials. Whilst
high-energy impact loading causes complete penetration or damage that may be detectable on
the surface, low-energy impact can produce extensive sub-surface delamination with little
visible surface damage. The presence of internal damage was found to cause degradation in
important mechanical properties. Damage due to impact substantially reduces the residual
strength after impact of composite structure [9, 10]. The principal mechanism of compressive
strength reduction is local buckling of the sub-laminates formed in the delaminated area .
In tensile loading the strength reduction mechanism is dominated by fiber fracture. For these
reasons, impact damage is generally recognized as the most severe threat to composite
structures [12, 13].
Impact damage consists of complex mixtures of delaminations, matrix cracking and fiber
failure. Transverse impact first initiates critical matrix cracks, due to transverse shear or
bending stresses, in a layer within laminated composites with a brittle matrix. Such cracks
can generate delaminations immediately along the bottom or upper interface of the cracked
layer, depending on the position of the layer in the laminate.
Material strength may be correlated with its fracture energy, elastic modulus, and the size of
the crack initiating the fracture. In this domain, the fracture toughness of the material has a
major role in the determination of the fracture behaviour and resistance of the material to
Vol.8, No.6 Plane Strain Fracture Behaviour 497
crack propagation under the influence of impact load. The material cannot be used without
analysing the fracture behaviour or ultimate strength of structure. In assessing the strength of
a structural element, fracture mechanics provides a greater insight when a crack-like defect is
explicitly taken into account. Central to the process is the determination of stress intensity
factor, which is a function of the geometry of the structure and the character of the load. The
advent of fracture mechanics [14-16] has accelerated the methods for determination of crack
growth rate and maximum allowable damage at limit load conditions.
Hence, the degradation of strength of composite materials in presence of notch must be
understood precisely under any situation for the wider application. Hybrid composites are
finding wide applications in numerous structures of aircraft and spacecraft, as well as other
cladding situations, and thus the understanding of the fracture behaviour and prediction of
fracture toughness of composite materials have assumed greater importance. One of the
accepted methods of analysing fracture behaviour is the application of Linear Elastic Fracture
Mechanics (LEFM) , where the attention is focused on exploring the fracture mechanism
at the crack tip of the fibre composites. A number of methods, both experimental and
analytical, have been suggested by researchers [17-19] for the assessment of fracture strength
as well as life prediction of composite materials.
Cantwell and Morton  studied the response of CFRP under low and high velocity impact
and found that low velocity impact results in global deformation whereas high velocity
impact results in a localized deformation. All structures from aircraft fuselages to chemical
storage tanks will inevitably be subjected impacts of some type be it a dropped tool or bomb
blast. Traditional laminated composites, however, perform very poorly when subjected to
transverse impacts. It is therefore essential to understand the impact behavior of composites
in order to properly design them. Estimating the fracture load of notched plates has more or
less been established and the influence of related parameters like width and thickness of
specimen, notch geometry, notch angle, notch root radius, and notch depth have widely been
studied [21-23]. Thus, the determination of the stress intensity factor has become mandatory
for solving the problems like residual strength analysis, fatigue crack growth rate and stress
In this article, an extensive experimental investigation is aimed at exploring the impact
behavior of unstressed specimen. This study also focuses on the plane strain fracture
behaviour of laminates subjected to various notch types, fiber content and orientations
Hybrid composite materials reinforced with woven fabrics are becoming increasingly popular
for various structural applications in the automotive, aerospace, and other industrial sectors;
particular applications of fabric-reinforced composites are in thin-walled structures. The
present investigation has been carried out on three materials; epoxy resin, plain-woven glass
498 K. Mohamed Kaleemulla, B. Siddeswarappa Vol.8, No.6
fabric, and textile satin fabric. The matrix material was medium viscosity epoxy resin
(LY556) with a room temperature curing hardener (HY951). The plain-woven glass and
textile satin fabric were the reinforcements, all the fibres in the fabric have diameters less
than 30 µm.
2.2 Specimen Configuration
The hybrid bi-directional composite specimen was fabricated at room temperature and under
constant pressure in the shape of a rectangular plate by hand lay-up technique. Ample
precautions were taken to minimise voids in the material and maintain homogeneity.
Specimen preparation includes selection of different volume fractions for constituents; matrix
material 40% for all samples, the volume fraction of glass fabric was between 15–45% in
steps of 15% and the corresponding volume of satin fabric was estimated. The specimen
preparation is in accordance with ASTM D256 dimensions, with a notch centrally located.
Specimen configuration also includes selection of two fibre orientations i.e. 0/90° and ±450,
for each type of the specimen five notch depths; 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5mm were cut centrally.
Among the different testing devices, the instrumented Charpy test is very attractive since it is
one of the most commonly used testing procedures. ASTM D256 standards define test
conditions in order to decrease dynamic effects so that a quasi-static loading situation may be
assumed. A series of medium velocity impact tests were performed on the composite
specimen using single-blow pendulum type impact setup. The specimen, which was prepared
earlier, was mounted and it is such that the pendulum strikes at the opposite end of the notch.
3. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Experimentations have been carried out to characterize the candidate composite material
under different loading conditions and with various specimen configurations, the analysis of
the results and the influence of various parameters on the properties are summarized in the
Density of the laminates was measured according to the ASTM D792 standards. For density
tests, rectangular samples of size 10mm X 10mm X 55mm were used with thickness and
width variations of ±0.15mm and ±0.15mm, respectively. Distilled water at room temperature
was used as the immersion fluid and the mass was measured using digital balance with a 10-4
g resolution. To obtain the mean value of density of each group, a total of thirty specimens
such that a minimum of three specimens from each group were tested. As expected, the
hybrid composites had no significant difference in density with respect to fiber orientation,
this is attributed to the approximately same warp and fill count. However, the experiments
show that the density of the laminates ranges from 1239.6 kg/m3 to 1649.4 kg/m3 for
Vol.8, No.6 Plane Strain Fracture Behaviour 499
laminates with increase in glass content from 15% to 45%, this is true because glass being the
denser constituent among the selected materials and hence increases the sample density
3.2 Void Percentage
ASTM D2734 standard was used to analyze the void percentage in composite laminate.
Normally upto one percent of voids indicate a good composite, but practical difficulties
increase the percentages of voids. The void content of a composite may significantly affect
the mechanical properties. Higher percentages of voids usually mean lower fatigue resistance,
greater susceptibility to water penetration and weathering and increased variation in strength
properties. Knowing the densities of the constituents, the volume fractions of fiber, resin, and
void were calculated based on two assumptions. The first assumption was that the mass of
fiber in the composite was known (i.e., there is no fiber loss during manufacture). The second
assumption is that the gas in any voids has the density of air, 1.29 x 10-3 g/cm3. The results
show that void content varies between 2.6 to 4.8 % for laminates with different percentages
3.3 Fiber Content
The fiber content in the composite laminates was analyzed by using ASTM D3171 standard,
this method consists of dissolving the resin portion of a weighed composite specimen in a hot
digestion medium, i.e., Nitric acid. The residue is filtered, dried, and weighed. The weight
percent of fiber can be converted to a volume percent of by using the fiber and resin densities.
Since in this study two types of reinforcements were used, to validate the above method a
second method was also used to compare the results. In the second method, fiber volume
fraction of composite specimen was determined using standard method by burning small
piece of hybrid composite of known weight and weighing the residue in the form of glass
fibers. Comparing the results of both the tests, the deviation in volume fraction of five
specimens in each case is between 0.5% to 1.1%.
3.4 Impact Behaviour of Hybrid Composite Laminates
The machines with their pendulum-type hammers have been standardized including a fixed
mass of the hammer and height of hammer fall, which results in a substantially fixed velocity
of the hammer at the moment of impact. The striking edge of the pendulum in Charpy test, is
tapered with an including angle of 450 with a radius of 3.17mm, and with an angle of fall
being 141.450. According to the ASTM D256 standards, impact tests were carried on
laminates, the fracture specimen geometry used in this study is the standard Charpy V-notch
specimen (450 angle), with a length of 55 mm and a cross section of 10 mm X 10 mm. At mid
length, a 0.25 mm root radius, 2 mm deep notch is machined. A triaxial state of stress is
developed at the root of notch and hence notched specimens are used in these tests. The
samples preparation includes selection of different fiber orientations and volume fraction.
The specimen was clamped into pendulum impact test fixture with the notched side facing the
striking edge of the pendulum. The pendulum was released and allowed to strike through the
500 K. Mohamed Kaleemulla, B. Siddeswarappa Vol.8, No.6
specimen, the standards used for the investigation define test conditions in order to decrease
dynamic effects so that a quasi-static loading situation may be assumed . The
experimental results for the standard specimen are shown in Figure 1, and from the trends, it
can be clearly seen that the glass fabric content plays vital role in the impact strength of
15 20 25 30 35 40 45
Volu me Fraction o f Glass, %
I mpact St reng th, J/mm
0/ 90 degr ee
Figure 1. Impact Strength of laminates for various glass percentages and Orientations.
Hence, it can be said that more the glass fabric percentage more will be the impact toughness
and it can be observed that the impact strength has increased significantly for the increase in
glass percentage, this trend is true irrespective of fiber orientation. The maximum impact
toughness for 45% glass content is 0.71 J/mm2 and 0.89 J/mm2 for laminates with 0/900 and
±450 orientation respectively. The margin of increase in impact toughness for increased glass
percentage is approximately same for both the orientations. However, the laminates with ±450
orientation have indicated greater impact strength compared to 0/900 fiber orientation. This is
mainly due to increased number of load bearing fibers at the critical section compared to
laminates with 0/900 orientation.
3.5 Effect of Notch Size on Impact Strength
To analyze the effect of notch size on impact strength, hybrid composite laminates with
different notch depths; 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 mm were prepared. The specimens with various
notches and volume fractions in different orientations were subjected to impact loads and the
results are shown in Figure 2. The trend of reduction in impact strength for reduced glass
percentage is true for all the laminates, irrespective of orientation and notch size. The higher
notch depths have made the specimen to sustain lesser impact strength; this can be clearly
seen from Figure 2(a) and (b), that impact toughness is large when notch depth is less and
poor when depth is high. From the plots, it can be seen that the effect of notch is not that
severe for 0/900 laminates with 45% glass content. Whereas the laminates with 15% glass
content exhibits quite a small toughness this is attributed to the lower strength of satin fabric.
Vol.8, No.6 Plane Strain Fracture Behaviour 501
(a) Fi ber Orientation 0/90
54321 Notch Size, mm
Impact Strength, J/mm
(b ) Fi b er Orientati o n ±45
54321Notch Size, mm
Impact Strength, J/mm
Figure 2 Effect of Notch Size on Impact Strength of Composite Laminates with various
Glass Percentages for (a) 0/900 Orientation and (b) ±450 Orientation.
This severity of notch depth can be quite easily understandable, because as the resisting cross
sectional area reduces load bearing capacity will also reduce and hence the reduction in
impact toughness. The effect of notch is estimated approximately to be 10% per mm upto
3mm depth and it is 40% strength deterioration is seen for notch sizes above 3mm.
3.6 Effect of Notch Size on Fracture Toughness
The results of the impact test interms of the energy are used to determine the fracture
toughness of all the coupons and Figure 3 is plotted to study the effect of the notch size, glass
percentage and orientation on fracture toughness. From the plots, it is evident that the trends
of almost all the test coupons are approximately same with respect to the parameters under
consideration. However, the fracture toughness of individual coupons is dependent on the
percentage of glass content and fiber orientation.
Figure 3 Effect of Notch Size and Fiber Orientation on Fracture Toughness of Composite
Laminates with various Glass Percentages.
502 K. Mohamed Kaleemulla, B. Siddeswarappa Vol.8, No.6
The results indicate that effect of notch depth is not that severe as compared to the effect of
glass content and fiber orientation. For example, for a given laminate the approximate
variation in fracture toughness with respect to notch size is 10% in comparison to ≈ 75%
variation with respect to glass content and ≈ 30% variation based on fiber orientation. The
analysis of fractured specimens reveals the catastrophic failure for all the samples,
irrespective of orientation and glass content. Laminates have broken into two pieces along the
notch section and in some samples the delamination due to impact is observed, this effect is
comparatively more in the case of laminates with lesser glass percentage.
3.7 Failure Analysis
The failure analysis is carried by analyzing the appearance of the fractured specimens, the
photographs of the typical samples selected is taken. Fig.4 and 5 shows the appearance of
fractured surface of specimens subjected to impact, two types of fractures was observed. In
the first case laminate failed completely into two pieces, the fibers are straight indicating
minimal fiber pullouts, such failure were recorded in the case of laminates with 0/900 fiber
orientation as shown in Fig.4. The second type where the fiber orientation is ±450, fracture
represents fiber pullouts and laminate indicated no failure in the last ply, typical sample is
shown in Fig. 5. The fracture appearance is same for all the laminates irrespective of
percentage of glass content.
Figure 4 Fractured surfaces of impacted Composite Laminates with 0/900 fiber orientation.
Vol.8, No.6 Plane Strain Fracture Behaviour 503
Figure 5 Fractured surfaces of impacted Composite Laminates with ±450 fiber orientation.
3.8 Modeling of Impact Strength
Modeling of Impact strength using Multilevel Factorial Design was used, with three factors
and 36 runs. The factors selected to study the response of Impact strength are glass volume
fraction, fiber orientation and Notch depth. Table 1 indicates the factors and their levels used
in general linear model having 36 runs in multilevel factorial design. The Impact test results
were subject to the analysis of variance. The ANOVA technique was carried out for a level of
significance of 5% that is the level of confidence is 95%. For determining the significant
effect of the parameters on the quality characteristics, F-test is used. Table 2 shows the results
of ANOVA analysis for Impact strength.
Table 1. Process parameters for Impact Response.
General Linear Model: Impact Strength Versus
Volume Fraction, Orientation, Hole Diameter
Factor Type Levels Values
Volume Fraction, % Fixed 3 15, 30, 45
deg Fixed 2 0, 45
Notch Depth, mm Fixed 5 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
504 K. Mohamed Kaleemulla, B. Siddeswarappa Vol.8, No.6
Table 2. Analysis of Variance Results for Impact Test.
Variation DF SS MS FCal F
0.05 P Significance
(VF) 2 1.6487600.824380712.204.4680.17Significant at 95%
(FO) 1 0.1644280.164428142.055.327.99Significant at 95%
Notch Depth (ND) 4 0.1694760.04236936.603.848.24Significant at 95%
VF*FO 2 0.0541210.02706023.384.462.63Significant at 95%
VF*ND 8 0.0013670.0001710.153.440.07Insignificant at
FO*ND 4 0.0092240.0023061.993.840.45Insignificant at
Error 8 0.0092600.0011580.45
Total 29 2.056637 100
SS = Sum of squares, DF = Degree of freedom, MS = Mean Square, Fcal= F-test calculated,
F0.05= F-value at 5% significance level and P = Percentage of contribution.
Table 2 shows the results of ANOVA analysis for Impact strength of laminates. It can be
observed from the results that the interaction between the above factors does not have
significant variation on the Impact strength of the composite laminates. It is clear from the
ANOVA table that the glass volume fraction (p= 80.17 %), Fiber orientation (p=7.99 %) and
hole diameter (p=8.24 %) have significant influence on the Impact strength. The effect of the
notch depth and orientation is comparatively less, which indicates that glass volume fraction
significantly controls the Impact strength of the composite laminate. However, the interaction
between the factors is quite marginal and can be neglected and also the error associated in the
ANOVA table was almost negligible because it is about 0.45 %. The Regression coefficient
(R2) indicates that the predicted model explains 94.4% of variability in the impact strength. R2
value, which is very closer to unity, shows that the relationship between the impact strength
and other factors are fairly represented by the DOE model considered for design. The main
effect of the factors on impact strength can be analyzed from the Figure 6, it is clear that the
glass fiber volume fraction has significant influence on Impact strength compared to other
The above trends generalize the effects of the factors on the impact strength, to examine
individual factor with all of its levels, the detailed interaction plot for impact strength is given
in Figure 7. The variation in impact strength is due to variations in the levels of the factors
that are better understood by using contour and surface plots, hence to represent these effects
on the impact response Figure 8 is shown below. The contour plots indicate that the highest
impact strength is obtained when glass levels are high and notch depth levels are low. This
area appears at the lower right corner of the plot. The surface plot also show the same
response, in addition it is possible to get a general idea of impact strength at various levels of
Vol.8, No.6 Plane Strain Fracture Behaviour 505
Fiber O rien t atio n
Not ch Dep t h
Main Effects Plot fo r Impact Strength
Da ta M eans
Figure 6 Main Effects plot for mean Impact Strength on all factors.
F ib e r Or ienta t ion
Notch De pth
Interaction Plot for Impact Strength
Da ta M eans
Figure 7 Interaction plot for Impact Strength.
Volume F raction
< 0. 2
Contour Plot of Im pact Strength vs Notch Depth, Volum e Fraction
Figure 8 Contour and Surface plots for Impact Strength.
Impac t S tren g th
Surface Plot of Impact Strength vs Volum e Fraction , No tch D epth
506 K. Mohamed Kaleemulla, B. Siddeswarappa Vol.8, No.6
Residual plots that can be used to examine the goodness of model fit, Minitab has generated
four types of residual plots as shown in Figure 9. The skewed distribution is indicated in the
Histogram, the two tails may be the points indicating outliers. The standard error from the
model obtained is S=0.034, this is a measure of model fit and it is measured in the units of the
response variable and represents the standard distance data values fall from the regression
line, or the standard deviation of the residuals. In this study, the standard error obtained is
very less which indicates model adequacy, hence the outlier points have little or no
significance. The points in the normal probability plot have approximated a straight line,
indicating normal distribution of residuals. Since there is no curvature at the tails, goodness-
of-fit is obtained. The verses fit show a random pattern of residuals on both sides of zero.
Only few of the points lie far from the majority of points, indicating outliers. The points on
either side of the zero line show the residual density is approximately same, indicating the
predominance of positive residuals is same as that of the predominance of negative residuals.
The residual verses plot shows random patterns on both sides of zero line, such patterns
indicate the relation between the predictor and variables, otherwise indicating incorrect
functional form of the model.
Normal Pro b abilit y PlotVersus Fit s
Hist o g ramVersu s Ord er
Residual Plots for Impact Strength
Figure 9 Residual plots for Impact Strength.
The experimental investigations have shown that, as the glass volume increases, the fracture
toughness will also increase but it is significantly dependent on the notch depth and fiber
orientation. The notch depth upto 2mm has less impact on strength as compared to depths
more than 3mm, where severe reduction in impact strength is seen. The impact strength of
laminates with 45% glass content is superior as compared to other two specimen
combinations, this is due to the fact that glass is tough in comparison to satin and
epoxy. The higher notch depths have made the specimen to provide lesser fracture toughness,
Vol.8, No.6 Plane Strain Fracture Behaviour 507
this behaviour is true for all volumes of glass fabric and orientations. It is reasonable to
assume that the main energy absorption mechanisms are delamination and deformation
including membrane and bending deformations because of fiber breakage. ANOVA
technique used to validate the above discussion has supported the trends and found that the
glass percentage significantly controls the impact toughness with a percentage contribution of
about 80%, while the orientation and notch depth has less significance with each contributing
approximately for 8%.
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