The figure below shows a tensile load applied to a composite. The response of a composite to tensile loads is very dependent on the tensile stiffness and strength properties of the reinforcement fibres, since these are far higher than the resin system on its own.
The figure below shows a composite under a compressive load. Here, the adhesive and stiffness properties of the resin system are crucial, as it is the role of the resin to maintain the fibres as straight columns and to prevent them from buckling.
The figure below shows a composite experiencing a shear load. This load is trying to slide adjacent layers of fibres over each other. Under shear loads the resin plays the major role, transferring the stresses across the composite. For the composite to perform well under shear loads the resin element must not only exhibit good mechanical properties but must also have high adhesion to the reinforcement fibre. The interlaminar shear strength (ILSS) of a composite is often used to indicate this property in a multi-layer composite ('laminate').
Flexural loads are really a combination of tensile, compression and shear loads. When loaded as shown, the upper face is put into compression, the lower face into tension and the central portion of the laminate experiences shear.
Published courtesy of David Cripps, Gurit