Many companies that develop new composite materials are surprised when their product does not perform as expected during the physical testing and certification process. In addition to the many years wasted on developing the material, companies often spend more than $50M on developing and testing a single new material concept.
Failure in engineered materials is extremely difficult. In composites, damage originates at the microscale and is then propagated to the global scale. While Finite Element Analysis is a powerful tool, it is limited to the global scale because the mesh refinement needed to get down to the microscale is not feasible in FE programs. At MultiMechanics, we consider this to be a true multiscale problem, since damage at the microscale needs to be assessed and relayed to the macroscale.
Improving efficiency, lowering emissions, and decreasing fuel consumption are global trends that are currently transforming the transportation industry. Lightweighting by replacing metal components with lighter composite materials is one approach to achieving these goals. However, as structural designs have become more complex and demanding, new composite material development has struggled to keep up, thus slowing the adoption of lightweighting.
As we mentioned in Part I, the history of Finite Element Analysis is deeply intertwined with the evolution of computing. It seems only fitting that the FEA software used to design the world's most cutting-edge products should have the most cutting-edge computational techniques at its disposal. From the early punch days of the 60's through the 2000's, FEA companies have found unique ways to take advantage of the ever-changing computer landscape.
The first patent for computer software was filed in 1968 by Applied Data Research for a number sorting system. That same year, MSC Software, in partnership with NASA, released the first version of their now famous "NASA Structural Analysis" software (NASTRAN).
Have you ever experienced your car breaking down due to part failure, with little or no warning? This could be because the part was designed without taking into account how it would be affected by material behavior or manufacturing variability.
In 1969, Grumman Aerospace was the first company to successfully introduce advanced composites into a commercial airplane. The boron-epoxy laminated horizontal stabilizer used in the F-14A was 15% lighter and 18% less costly than its metal counterpart.