Mechanical analysis of bi-component-fibre nonwovens: finite-element strategy

In thermally bonded bi-component fibre nonwovens, a significant contribution is made by bond points in defining their mechanical behaviour formed as a result of their manufacture. Bond points are composite regions with a sheath material reinforced by a network of fibres’ cores. These composite regions are connected by bi-component fibres — a discontinuous domain of the material. Microstructural and mechanical characterization of this material was carried out with experimental and numerical modelling techniques. Two numerical modelling strategies were implemented: (i) traditional finite element (FE) and (ii) a new parametric discrete phase FE model to elucidate the mechanical behaviour and underlying mechanisms involved in deformation of these materials. In FE models the studied nonwoven material was treated as an assembly of two regions having distinct microstructure and mechanical properties: fibre matrix and bond points. The former is composed of randomly oriented core/sheath fibres acting as load-transfer link between composite bond points. Randomness of material’s microstructure was introduced in terms of orientation distribution function (ODF). The ODF was obtained by analysing the data acquired with scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and X-ray micro computed tomography (CT). Bond points were treated as a deformable two-phase composite. An in-house algorithm was used to calculate anisotropic material properties of composite bond points based on properties of constituent fibres and manufacturing parameters such as the planar density, core/sheath ratio and fibre diameter. Individual fibres connecting the composite bond points were modelled in the discrete phase model directly according to their orientation distribution. The developed models were validated by comparing numerical results with experimental tensile test data, demonstrating that the proposed approach is highly suitable for prediction of complex deformation mechanisms, mechanical performance and structure-properties relationships of composites.