Ensuring Structural Integrity: Advanced Composite Testing Methods

Mon, Feb 12, 2024 at 11:42AM

Ensuring Structural Integrity: Advanced Composite Testing Methods

While advanced composites promise exceptional structural efficiency, realizing benefits requires thorough validation. At Mentis Sciences, we leverage extensive test engineering expertise assisting partners in aerospace, defense, energy, and prosthetics confirm integrity and safety. This article overviews our tailored approach combining materials characterization, component evaluation, and modeling to reduce risk.

Our Specialized Testing Capabilities

Mentis possesses comprehensive lab facilities and seasoned engineers supporting test planning, sample fabrication, data analysis, and reporting. We handle materials research, coupon assessments, sub-element experiments, and full-scale validations using precisely controlled thermal, mechanical, chemical, and electromagnetic simulations. Temperature exposures ranging from -40°F up to 1500°F+ combined with universal testing capacities reaching 120,000- lbf accommodate most application needs. Custom fixturing engineered in-house ensures efficient load introductions. As an ISO 17025 compliant lab, we provide repeatable processes yielding high-quality data. The following sections detail specific evaluation methods available.

Thermal Analysis for Material Development

Our thermal division equipment determines essential temperature-dependent behaviors for polymers, composites, and coatings. We conduct assessments up to 900°C in air, nitrogen, or helium using instruments like thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), thermal conductivity testers, and coupled gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). Experiments measure degradation, glass transition, cure/melt peaks, outgassing, specific heat, and thermal transport properties. We also analyze cure cycles, laminate constructs, and microstructures using hot stage microscopy up to 190°C. Data enables material qualifications and process optimizations.

Mechanical Testing for Coupon Assessments

Load frame systems with 3,000 to 120,000-lbf capacities meet most strength, stiffness, fracture, fatigue, and creep testing needs. Precision hydraulic controls combined with extensometer, strain gage, and noncontact measurement systems provide detailed quantitative data for composites and other materials. Environmental chambers enable exposures from -40°F up to 1000°F during loading for high-temperature characterization. Results provide design allowables and feed progressive failure models. Our lab works to ISO, ASTM and other standards, maintaining ISO 17025 compliance.

Specialty Dynamic & Environmental Testing

Expanding capability, our lab offers some unique assessments. A gas gun with water jet accelerator produces particle velocities over 1000 m/s, simulating rain erosion on coatings per aerospace applications. We also measure microwave properties using free space transmission and waveguide test methods from 50 MHz to 40 GHz at room and elevated temperatures. Available bands include R, S, X, Ku, K, Ka. Permittivity, permeability and loss tangent data supports radome and antenna design. Finally, we occasionally coordinate large-scale evaluations like sled track events, convective heating, and field testing for unique customer needs.

Microstructural Analysis

Optimizing materials requires understanding their make-up. We employ high-magnification Hirox and Olympus microscopes supporting laminate, resin, interface, porosity, coating, and damage morphology assessments. Metallographic preparation equipment facilitates precise sectioning, mounting, and polishing of samples. We can also coordinate advanced techniques like CT scans, SEM, EDX, and XRD to resolve details down to the nano-scale. The goal is tailoring processing to achieve uniform microstructures and targeted properties.

Prosthetic Device Testing

Validating prosthetic performance represents a unique composite application we actively support. Our mechanical test systems facilitate strength and fatigue assessments on joint and attachment components per ISO 10328 methods. We also evaluate microbiological resistance and environmental durability. The combination of lab data and clinical trials research enables optimized prosthetic solutions balancing patient needs, manufacturing efficiency, and functional reliability.

The Importance of Test Sequence Optimization

While Mentis Sciences provides unparalleled test engineering capabilities, we differentiate further through test optimization experience. Material qualification flows must begin at small scales to establish process structure-property relationships, then progressively scale to validate performance. Skipping coupon assessments risks learning of deficiencies only when full-scale tests fail. But unnecessary small-scale testing delays design maturity while adding cost. We collaborate with partners to plan strategic test pyramids striking the right balance.

Modeling to Further Expand Knowledge

Physical test methods remain indispensable for composite qualification. However, physics-based modeling and simulation complement experiments by predicting response under additional scenarios. We build digital twins of test articles correlating structural, thermal, flow, and multiphysics models with data to ensure credibility. Validated models enable efficient virtual testing assessing numerous failure risks, environmental exposures, and design alternatives. Simulation amplified by targeted validation testing expands knowledge.

The Path to High-Performance Composite Structures

Certifying advanced composite integrity requires holistic test engineering, including materials R&D, coupon assessments, subcomponent evaluations, full-scale validation, modeling, and integrated health monitoring. Mentis Sciences offers one-stop access to these integrated capabilities. By leveraging our expertise early in design cycles, partners mitigate risk achieving high-performance innovations. Please contact us to discuss tailored plans confirming the safety of your composite systems.

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