However, disciplines with deep expertise are often separated by communications silos that interrupt
Improving cost, speed, and production repeatability for composite laminates requires moving best-case design scenarios from the production floor back to the analysis and validation engineers. Stress analysts can shorten the design-to-manufacturing cycle by accounting for preferred production methods and system capabilities upfront in their analyses. There has always been give-and-take between upfront and downstream processes, but the burden of analysis is now shifting to proving what works best for manufacturing – machine performance, observed defects, and creating composite fiber geometries at faster speeds.
Incorporating manufacturing feedback
High-performance computing is driving computer-aided design/computer-aided engineering (CAD/CAE) systems, tool simulations, and machine controls for automated- and robotic-layup equipment. Stock materials and custom material formulations are advancing in tandem. Optimized wings and fuselages are evolving through topology and sizing-optimization software that shortens weeks or months of calculations to hours or days. This faster environment enables rivers of information to flow upstream, permitting customer-specific manufacturing approaches to inform early design-tool applications in CAD and CAE.
In this scenario, Collier Research Corp.’s HyperSizer software serves as an analysis hub calculating strength using OEM and supplier data for tow placement, fiber direction, machine turning, and steering-radii limits for ply layup – and by communicating with automated fiber placement (AFP) software such as CGTech’s Vericut Composite Programming (VCP) or Ingersoll Composite Programming System (
- What are the tradeoffs between tape width and steering radius, between experimental geometries and strength?
- How do these parameters combine with the material behavior of the resins and tape, the customer-specific pathway to innovation and final product?
With data from manufacturing feeding back to design analysis, time-tested case scenarios (templates) and fresh finite element analysis (FEA) results can help determine if new variations of the manufacturing design pass stress and weight requirements, and by what margin of safety. The design can be further tweaked until the optimal balance has been struck between ideal manufacturing and certification requirements.
The influence of manufacturing on design occurs from day one. The iterative cycle between design and manufacturing is shorter and the data captured in digital form is also more accurate.
Designing for certification
Such accuracy is of critical importance for flight certification. To achieve this, meshes are imported from the global finite element model (GFEM) into the software. Structural-component CAD data surfaces for fuselages, wings, etc., are meshed into
Next, HyperSizer software optimizes the entire structure for manufacturing ply compatibility; the lightest design is determined at this stage as well as the most practical layup. Early manufacturing data guides upfront stress analysis for a quicker path to the most efficient layup sequence, which also sets conditions to help develop future automated processes.
Extensive evaluation of ply compatibility, entailing analysis of ply drop-offs and ply adds is just part of arriving at the most manufacturable configurations. Multiple team members can analyze and review options in the software database from their workstations. This is part of the growing communications loop that cuts time off design stages that are still partially sequential. Insights and final results are stored to document airworthiness certification.
Despite a long history in
Accelerating composites’ timetable
Recognizing the industry growth of composites in commercial aerospace, defense, and private space ventures, the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) manages the Advanced Composite Consortium (ACC) to promote material, design, and manufacturing advances. The long-term goal is reducing development and certification times by 30% within these markets.
While advances are already taking place in these discrete areas, integrating and automating these elements is vital to achieving affordable outcomes, high product quality, durability, and faster turnaround.
The ACC programs (see sidebar) are operating more efficiently and collaboratively in supporting stakeholders in the industry. During the analysis-and-optimization design phases, these programs are increasingly addressing advances in technologies such as AFP, along with changing parameters in layup and curing methods. Integrating these process approaches early and iteratively will help engineers improve quality and consistency in laminate fabrication, resulting in fewer defects and lower costs while streamlining the path to certification to reach those 30% faster goals sooner.
Collier Research Corp.