The term “tape setback method” denotes a method of designing and fabricating bonded joints between (1) box beams or other structural members made of laminated composite (matrix/ fiber) materials and (2) metal end fittings used to fasten these structural members to other structural members. The basic idea of the tape setback method is to mask the bonded interface between the metallic end fitting and composite member such that the bond does not extend out to the free edges of the composite member.

A Composite-Material Box Beam with metal end fittings, shown here not to scale, is representative of the structural members on which the tape setback method was demonstrated.
The purpose served by the tape setback method is to strengthen the joints by decoupling stress concentrations from edge defects, which can cause premature failures. A related prior method that serves a similar purpose, involving the use of tapered adherends at the joints, can be too difficult and costly to be acceptable in some applications. The tape setback method offers an easier, less costly alternative. The structural members to which the method was originally applied were box beams in the form of composite tubes having flat faces with rounded corners. The end fittings were plugs made of a low-thermal-expansion nickel/iron alloy (see figure). In computational-simulation studies of tensile and compressive loading of members without tape setback, stresses were found to be concentrated at the free end edges of the composite tubes, and inspection of members that had been subjected to real tension and compression tests showed that cracks started at the free end edges.

As applied to these members, the tape setback method makes them less vulnerable to initiation of failure at edge defects produced during fabrication. In real tension tests of comparable members without and with tape setback, the average mean tensile strength of the members with tape setback was found to be 1.9 times that of the members without tape setback.

This work was done by Daniel L. Polis of Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-15506-1