Smart Inlays for Simultaneous Crack Sensing and Arrest in Multifunctional Bondlines of Composites
Disbond arrest features combined with a structural health monitoring system for permanent bondline surveillance have the potential to significantly increase the safety of adhesive bonds in composite structures. A core requirement is that the integration of such features is achieved without causing weakening of the bondline. We present the design of a smart inlay equipped with a micro strain sensor-system fabricated on a polyvinyliden fluorid (PVDF) foil material. This material has proven disbond arrest functionality, but has not before been used as a substrate in lithographic micro sensor fabrication. Only with special pretreatment can it meet the requirements of thin film sensor elements regarding surface roughness and adhesion. Moreover, the sensor integration into composite material using a standard manufacturing procedure reveals that the smart inlays endure this process even though subjected to high temperatures, curing reactions and plasma treatment. Most critical is the substrate melting during curing when sensory function is preserved with a covering caul plate that stabilizes the fragile measuring grids. The smart inlays are tested by static mechanical loading, showing that they can be stretched far beyond critical elongations of composites before failure. The health monitoring function is verified by testing the specimens with integrated sensors in a cantilever bending setup. The results prove the feasibility of micro sensors detecting strain gradients on a disbond arresting substrate to form a so-called multifunctional bondline.