Improving safety by predicting the lifespan of composite materials

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Airbus, AMRC and Loughborough University utilised HPC Midlands to develop modelling capable of improving life predictions and reducing in-service failure for composite material parts.

Challenge

Advanced composite materials are a favourite of airplane, wind turbine and Formula One car manufacturers for their high strength-to-weight ratio, damage tolerance, and fatigue and corrosion resistance.

But parts made of composites regularly have assembly holes “machined” into them post production, causing fibre destruction and concentrating stress which can significantly affect the parts lifespan.

With up to 50% of the structural weight of a Boeing 787 and an Airbus A350XWB composed of this material it is an economic and safety necessity to have an in-depth understanding of the effects of machining on these crucial components.

Solution

With access to HPC Midlands’ capacity for advanced simulations and experts from Loughborough’s Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering the research team developed robust numerically and computational efficient models to address the challenges in predicting component damage. The models were able to represent the underlying physics of deformation and damage in these heterogeneous materials.

The cluster’s low-latency allowed for the models to rapidly process an exhaustive validation study with several industrially relevant test conditions. Compared to physical tests performed on industry-supplied specific carbon/epoxy composites drilled at Loughborough University facilities, the model has been shown to characterise accurate damage patterns.

Impact

The predictive modelling capabilities developed will be used by manufacturing experts, machining technicians and component assembly teams. Prior knowledge of the consequence of machining on these heterogeneous materials will help alleviate in-service failure and improve component life predictions, which will have far reaching economic benefits to industry as well as environmental and safety related benefits for the public.