Unfortunately, composite materials are susceptible to impact damage. The impact damage is complex, consisting of multiple and interacting failure modes. The nature of the impact damage and response of the laminated plate is also highly dependent upon a huge number of factors concerning both the nature of the impact event (e.g. impactor shape and size, target geometry) and the nature of the composite material (e.g. resin, fibres, production method).
Impact events are common in a marine setting, due to damage sustained both during fabrication (e.g. dropping tools), and in-service from regular minor impacts whilst docking, through the striking of objects in the water, to collisions with other vessels and grounding.
I have recently completed an extensive literature review of 'Marine impacts on marine composites' consisting of four parts in separate journal papers (see 'Publications').
My research has been mostly experimentally based, using an 'Instrumented Falling Weight' machine to investigate the impact behaviour and damage of composite materials commonly used in the marine industry, such as Glass Reinforced Polyester - or 'GRP' (see 'Publications'). Aspects such as the effects of using different fibres and resins, impact events, and target geometries have been explored, as well as the very important question of how to scale up laboratory tests to full scale, in-service events. A recent study considers the impact damage from high-heeled shoes on composite footbridge decks.