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The Effect of Fatigue Cracks on Fastener Flexibility, Load Distribution and Fatigue Crack Growth

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Doctoral thesis

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Fatigue cracks typically occur at stress risers such as geometry changes and holes. This type of failure has serious safety and economic repercussions affecting structures such as aircraft. The need to prevent catastrophic failure due to fatigue cracks and other discontinuities has led to durability and damage tolerant methodologies influencing the design of aircraft structures. Holes in a plate or sheet filled with a fastener are common fatigue critical locations in aircraft structure requiring damage tolerance analysis DTA. Often, the fastener is transferring load which leads to a loading condition involving both far-field stresses such as tension and bending, and localized bearing at the hole. The difference between the bearing stress and the tensile field at the hole is known as load transfer. The ratio of load transfer as well as the magnitude of the stresses plays a significant part in how quickly a crack will progress to failure. Unfortunately, the determination of load transfer in a complex joint is far from trivial. Many methods exist in the open literature regarding the analysis of splices, doublers and attachment joints to determine individual fastener loads. These methods work well for static analyses but greater refinement is needed for crack growth analysis. The first fastener in a splice or joint is typically the most critical but different fastener flexibility equations will all give different results. The constraint of the fastener head and shop end, along with the type of fastener, affects the stiffness or flexibility of the fastener. This in turn will determine the load that the fastener will transfer within a given fastener pattern. However, current methods do not account for the change in flexibility at a fastener as the crack develops. It is put forth that a crack does indeed reduce the stiffness of a fastener by changing its constraint, thus lessening the load transfer.

Subject Categories:

  • Couplers, Fasteners and Joints
  • Mechanics

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