The leading edges of wind turbine blades are adhesively bonded composite sections that are susceptible to impact loads during offshore installation. The impact loads can cause localized damages at the leading edges that necessitate damage tolerance assessment. However, owing to the complex material combinations together with varying bondline thicknesses along the leading edges, damage tolerance investigation of blades at full scale is challenging and costly. In the current paper, we design a coupon scale test procedure for investigating bondline thickness effects on damage tolerance of joints after being subjected to localized impact damages. Joints with bondline thicknesses (0.6 mm, 1.6 mm, and 2.6 mm) are subjected to varying level of impact energies (5 J, 10 J, and 15 J), and the dominant failure modes are identified together with analysis of impact kinematics. The damaged joints are further tested under tensile lap shear and their failure loads are compared to the intact values. The results show that for a given impact energy, the largest damage area was obtained for the thickest joint. In addition, the joints with the thinnest bondline thicknesses displayed the highest failure loads post impact, and therefore the greatest damage tolerance. For some of the thin joints, mechanical interlocking effects at the bondline interface increased the failure load of the joints by 20%. All in all, the coupon scale tests indicate no significant reduction in failure loads due to impact, hence contributing to the question of acceptable localized damage, i.e., damage tolerance with respect to static strength of the whole blade.
Keywords: composite; damage; impact; offshore wind turbine; wind turbine blade.