UTA Researcher Aims for Longer-Lasting Composite Materials for Aircraft Components

Boeing has given a $600,000 grant to the University of Texas at Arlington to test composite components that officials believe will pave the way towards longer-lasting aircraft as well as help identify when those components might fail.

Andrew Makeev, UTA Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Director of the Advanced Materials and Structures Lab, will lead a project that could set standards in analyzing and predicting the remaining useful life of composite airframe structures. (Credit: University of Texas at Arlington)

The project’s title is “Advanced Inspection and Analysis of Common Feature Test Component for Composite Airframe Life Extension Program.”

Andrew Makeev, UTA Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Director of the Advanced Materials and Structures Lab, will lead the project. Endel Iarve, a Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering who works in the UTA Research Institute’s Institute for Predictive Performance Methodologies, is the Co-principal Investigator.

At the end of the research, Boeing and the Air Force want to understand and have confidence that our analysis can be used to predict the remaining useful life of composite airframe structures.

Andrew Makeev, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Director of the Advanced Materials and Structures Lab, UTA

This study comprises of experimental testing and innovative structural analysis using Progressive Damage Analysis or PDA tools.

The goal is to create a set of the most accurate experimental data to be used alongside a PDA method to predict the beginning and growth of damage to a composite component utilizing the Continuum Damage Mechanics technique developed by UTA Researchers Yuri Nikishkov, Guillaume Seon and Makeev at the UTA AMSL and the B-Spline Analysis Method developed by UTA’s Endel Iarve, and confirm these methods.

Makeev said that composite aircraft started ruling the commercial aircraft market with the manufacture of Airbus 350 and Boeing 787 and expected upgrades of legacy aircraft systems.

On the Department of Defense application side, Lockheed Martin has been ordered to manufacture over 3,000 F-35 aircraft.

Likewise, the U.S. Army and helicopter industry are facing the task of replacing over 6,300 military vertical lift aircraft.

Advanced polymeric composites are playing a key role in the designing of lightweight and high-performance aircraft structures.

However, uncertain remaining useful life of the composite aircraft structures because of complexity of failure mechanisms and vulnerability to manufacturing irregularities, which may be precursors to structural damage, impose risks that cannot be diminished completely by time-consuming field testing.

Validated analysis methods enhancing the understanding of damage tolerance and durability of composite airframe structures resulting in longer-lasting aircraft are necessary.

Boeing is a chief contractor for the Air Force.

Erian Armanios, Chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, said Makeev’s research helps the aircraft sector by enhancing sustainability, life cycle management and maintenance.

“What Dr. Makeev is doing could have significant implications on aircraft design and certification,” Armanios said. “Developing a capability to predict composite airframe strength and durability, is bound to have industry-wide implications.”

It’s important for university researchers like Dr. Makeev to work hand-in-hand with companies to ensure that their work has impact beyond classroom walls, including helping our students land important jobs in those industry sectors.

Peter Crouch, Dean, College of Engineering, UTA

Makeev has handled a number of research projects with companies that are exclusively focused on composite materials.  Besides this project with Boeing, he has current or past grants with Boeing, Sikorsky Aircraft, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics and Bell Helicopter Textron.

During his six-year tenure at UTA, Makeev has been involved in pioneering theoretical and experimental studies sponsored by the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and aerospace industry at an average rate of $1 million annually in external funding. His research includes integration of design and manufacturing processes to enhance performance of composites, material characterization, advanced material technologies, structural diagnostics and prognostics.

His latest research accomplishments are documented in more than 20 articles in the top refereed journals in materials and structures including six articles in Composites Science and Technology, the top-ranked journal in composites. He also has been recognized for many best paper awards at international and national conferences. He was bestowed the Cheeseman Award for the best paper at the 36th European Rotorcraft Forum, and that was the first time such an award was given to Authors residing in the United States.

Makeev also received the best paper awards in Structures and Materials at the American Helicopter Society Forums in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017. He has also won the best American Society for Composites paper award in 2013. His innovations and influence of some of his research are given credit in “Composite Structures, A View from the Inside,” Office of Naval Research Innovation Newsletter and Breakthrough Technologies, Volume 10, 2013, pp. 32-35. Makeev received the 2017UTA COE Excellence in Research Award.

Makeev represents UTA in the Vertical Lift Consortium, a national organization where the U.S. rotorcraft industry and academic institutions take part in vertical lift aircraft research.

He also represents UTA in the Vertical Lift Research Center of Excellence, a multi-university organization funded by the U.S. Army to conduct vital research in the rotorcraft areas.

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