Computer Design Tool to Unleash the Potential of Future Composite Materials

NASA has hired commercial software company AnalySwift LLC for the second time in a year to provide a design tool for adaptable composites and hybrid system materials.

Computer Design Tool to Unleash the Potential of Future Composite Materials

Wenbin Yu, professor in Purdue University’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, will be the primary investigator on a project to create a computer tool to design tailorable composites and hybrid material systems for space applications. NASA has awarded commercial software provider AnalySwift LLC with a 13-month, $156,490 Phase I STTR contract for the research. Image Credit: Wenbin Yu

The dedicated project “Tool for Thermomechanical Design of Tailorable Composites and Hybrid System Materials” is covered by the 13-month, $156,490 Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contract.

The research will be carried out at AnalySwift, Purdue University’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the University of Texas at Arlington.

The project’s CEO, Allan Wood, stated that AnalySwift would have created a productive, high-fidelity computer tool at the end of the project. Beyond the usual methods for conventional composites, it will be possible to design the materials accurately and thermomechanically.

This research will benefit NASA by exploiting the full potential of tailorable composites and hybrid material systems. They can endow lightweight space structures with reduced thermal sensitivity while retaining their strength and stiffness.

Allan Wood, President and Chief Executive Officer, AnalySwift

Wood added, “Applications of interest to NASA include light-weighting exploration vehicles, space habitats, and other space hardware, as well as enabling challenging performance characteristics.

Designing tailorable composites and hybrid materials systems poses four problems in comparison to traditional materials, according to Wenbin Yu, Professor at the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue:

  • The orientation of their curved and/or broken fibers differs depending on the region
  • Their strength and stiffness differ by in-plane location
  • They link structural design with material design owing to their location-dependent strength and stiffness
  • They can be produced by combining the use of various matrices, short and/or continuous fiber reinforcements, and metallic alloys

According to Wood, two key design tool-related technical obstacles are preventing the full use of hybrid material systems and tailorable composites.

First, most tools are based on a theory and rules that rely on assumptions applicable to conventional materials. There is a need for advanced design models capable of accurately modeling tailorable composites and hybrid system materials without ad hoc assumptions,” stated Wood.

He further added, “Second, most works are aimed at solving simple problems involving idealistic structures, which result in special-purpose codes. There is a need for theories and codes that are ready to be integrated into third-party commercial codes like MSC Patran, NASTRAN, and Abaqus for the design of real structures composed of these next-generation materials.

Yu will serve as the main researcher in the study to develop the new design tool. Co-investigators will include Liang Zhang from AnalySwift and Xin Liu from the University of Texas at Arlington.

The final design tool will be broadly applicable to various NASA uses, including lightweight structures for antennas, landers, rovers and solar arrays; airframe technology like a hybrid/blended wing body; and highly fatigue- and damage-tolerant structures for vertical lift aircraft.

Wenbin Yu, Professor, School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Purdue University

Yu stated, “The STTR contract from NASA will bring us from ideation to a final, government-endorsed tool quicker than other contracts or investments would support.

Through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization, AnalySwift obtains intellectual property rights from Purdue University.


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