Design and analysis of a novel latch system implementing fiber-reinforced composite materials

Francisco Javier Guevara Arreola, University of Texas at El Paso


The use of fiber-reinforced composite materials have increased in the last four decades in high technology applications due to their exceptional mechanical properties and low weight. In the automotive industry carbon fiber have become popular exclusively in luxury cars because of its high cost. However, Carbon-glass hybrid composites offer an effective alternative to designers to implement fiber-reinforced composites into several conventional applications without a considerable price increase maintaining most of their mechanical properties. A door latch system is a complex mechanism that is under high loading conditions during car accidents such as side impacts and rollovers. Therefore, the Department of Transportation in The United States developed a series of tests that every door latch system comply in order to be installed in a vehicle. The implementation of fiber-reinforced composite materials in a door latch system was studied by analyzing the material behavior during the FMVSS No. 206 transverse test using computational efforts and experimental testing. Firstly, a computational model of the current forkbolt and detent structure was developed. Several efforts were conducted in order to create an effective and time efficient model. Two simplified models were implemented with two different contact interaction approaches. 9 composite materials were studied in forkbolt and 5 in detent including woven carbon fiber, unidirectional carbon fiber, woven carbon-glass fiber hybrid composites and unidirectional carbon-glass fiber hybrid composites. The computational model results showed that woven fiber-reinforced composite materials were stiffer than the unidirectional fiber-reinforced composite materials. For instance, a forkbolt made of woven carbon fibers was 20% stiffer than a forkbolt made of unidirectional fibers symmetrically stacked in 0° and 90° alternating directions. Furthermore, Hybrid composite materials behaved as expected in forkbolt noticing a decline in the load-displacement slopes while the percentage of glass fiber increased. In the other hand, results showed that a detent made of only glass fiber layers was preferable than a carbon-glass fiber hybrid detent due to the high stresses shown in carbon fiber layers. Ultimately, forkbolt and detent were redesigned according to their functionality and test results. It was observed that the new design was stiffer than the original by showing a steeper load-displacement curve. Subsequently, an experimental procedure was performed in order to correlate computational model results. Fiber-reinforced composite forkbolt and detent were waterjet cut from a composite laminate manufactured by Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Molding (VART) process. Then, samples were tested according to the computational model. Six testing sample combinations of forkbolt and detent were tested including the top three woven iterations forkbolts from the computational model paired with woven and unidirectional glass fiber detents. Test results showed a stiffness drop of 15% when the carbon fiber percentage decreases from 100% to 75%. Also, it was observed that woven glass fiber detent was superior to the unidirectional glass fiber detent by presenting a forkbolt-detent stiffness 38% higher. Moreover, the new design of forkbolt and detent were tested showing a stiffness increment of 29%. Furthermore, it was observed that fiber-reinforced composite forkbolt and detent did not reach the desired load of 5000 N. However, the redesigned forkbolt made of 100% woven carbon fiber and the redesign detent made of 100% woven glass fiber were close to reach that load. The design review based on test results performed (DRBTR) showed that components did not fail where the computational model concluded to be the areas with the highest maximum principal stress. In contrast to the computational model, all samples failed at the contact area between forkbolt and detent.

Subject Area

Automotive engineering|Mechanical engineering|Materials science

Recommended Citation

Guevara Arreola, Francisco Javier, "Design and analysis of a novel latch system implementing fiber-reinforced composite materials" (2015). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10000817.