Essential Reference Books
All engineers tend to have a large library of reference books. Mine fills at least two full five-shelf units, and I've only been out of school for six years. Most of these books are expensive--$50 to $100 or more apiece is typical--so you want to be sure to spend your money wisely. Before you drop several hundred dollars on your new composites library, consider my suggestions for the three books every composites engineer should own.
Before we start, remember that no matter how many books you own, you will still have to make the occasional trip to the library. The trick in purchasing books is to select those that you will use every day and leave the larger (and more expensive) collections to the engineering libraries.
At the top of the list is the Engineered Materials Handbook Volume 1: Composites, published by ASM International. This book is more commonly known as the "Big Orange Book" or the "Orange Bible." It covers just about every topic associated with composite materials: constituent material properties and forms; composite analysis and design, including material properties, damping, failure, fatigue, and software; composite material properties and forms; composite structure design and analysis; manufacturing processes; machining and assembly processes; and quality assurance. The book also has several chapters covering specific applications in the aerospace and consumer products industries. You may not find all of the details you need in this book, but it is an excellent starting point for most research. There are, of course, many other encyclopedic works, such as the Delaware Composites Design Encyclopedia from the University of Delaware. The Orange Book, however, is more affordable than most, and tends to have more detail on the individual topics.
Next on the list is the requisite textbook on basic lamination theory. My personal favorite is Engineering Mechanics of Composite Materials by Isaac M. Daniel and Ori Ishai, published by the Oxford University Press (U.S.A. or UK site). This book is probably not as well-known as others, such as Introduction to Composite Materials by Stephen W. Tsai and H. Thomas Hahn (Technomic Publishing), but it is the best written and most comprehensive undergraduate textbook I have found. The book starts out with a couple chapters on basic terminology and technology, important material that many other introductory textbooks lack. Individual chapters are devoted to elastic behavior and strength of both unidirectional lamina and multidirectional laminates. Hygrothermal effects are covered in more detail than in most textbooks, and a comprehensive chapter on material testing is a welcome addition. Although each chapter presents all of the important equations (with derivations), there are plenty of pictures and illustrations to show what all of the math means in physical terms Furthermore, the authors try to show where the various theories apply and where they start to break down. Finally, each chapter has ample practice problems (though the answers, when given, are very brief).
The final book on the list of essential references is The Behavior of Structures Composed of Composite Materials by J.R. Vinson and R.L. Sierakowski, published by Martinus Nijhoff. This book begins where the previous one ends. The first two chapters give an introduction to the materials and very briefly review lamination theory. The remaining chapters cover real composite structures: plates, beams, and shells. Solutions are presented for various loadings and boundary conditions. In addition to simple static loadings, the authors also cover vibration and stability. I use the solutions for the buckling of cylindrical shells a lot: the authors' solution is identical to the industry standard NASA SP-8007, but is presented in modern notation. In addition to direct solutions for the various geometries, one chapter covers energy solutions of composite plates, beams, and shells. A final chapter on composite joints adds an unusual topic to a textbook such as this, but it is more of a literature review than a how-to or theoretical guide.
Conspicuously absent from this list are any books devoted to composite manufacturing. The Orange Book has the most to say on this topic, but doesn't give you enough detail to go off and start building composite structures on your own. I would like to add a manufacturing book to this list, but I have yet to find one that I would consider essential. If you know of a good manufacturing book, please let me know. Also, if you have any other book suggestions, or you disagree with one of my selections, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Compare prices for the books listed in this review:
- Engineered Materials Handbook Volume 1: Composites
- Engineering Mechanics of Composite Materials
- The Behavior of Structures Composed of Composite Materials
- Introduction to Composite Materials