Composites structures have requirements for stiffness to provide support and stability. Tests can be completed to identify the stiffness of a given area on a composites structure, i.e. how much it will bend for a given force.
The required stiffness of a section of a composites part depends upon the overall design and service expectations. Several factors, including the life expectancy of the object, the load rating of the composites surface, the inter-laminar bond strength, will help determine the threshold requirements. Testing is very important to determine the life expectancy of the part and whether it meets the requirements of its’ job.
Panel stiffness can be modified to meet these requirements using two basic methods. One way to increase the stiffness of an unsupported composites panel is to reduce the size of the panel through additional support structures. The other way is to increase the panel thickness across the same area. Choosing which method to use depends upon the engineering of the part and determining which method is acceptable with the surrounding part layout. If there is room to add supports, this is likely a quick and easy option. If there is room to increase the thickness, adding new or additional coring materials may be a simple solution.
Building a strong and stiff composites structure can be accomplished with the extremes of building a robust “skeleton” with small open areas and a thin skin, or having a basic, limited “skeleton” with a heavy duty cored laminate that supports itself.
A combination of the two usually works out best.