Data Management for Composites

Technical Paper

Composites are increasingly important in a wide range of engineering applicationsData relating to composites, particularly test and design data, are increasingly important in high performance engineering applications. But this data is difficult to manage and use. The technical paper Data Management for Composites discusses this challenge and how it can be met. The full Executive summary for this paper is provided below.

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Executive Summary: Data Management for Composites Technical Paper

Composite materials have a growing importance, particularly in high-performance engineering sectors such as aerospace. Anyone selecting these materials, designing products that use them, or even marketing them, needs good data on their properties and processing, and good tools to apply this data.

Reference data about composites is now available from sources including CMH-17, AGATE, NCAMP, and IDES, although this data can be difficult to collate, access, and use. But reference data alone is rarely enough. Companies need to determine and validate properties themselves, often performing extensive testing. This is particularly true of composites, because of the dependence of their properties on factors, such as geometry and process history, that vary with each application.

Generating this test data represents a major cost for many organizations. And applying it effectively can give them a major competitive advantage—for example, avoiding problems in product design and gaining more performance from their materials. Yet few organizations have in place any systematic approach to manage this valuable asset. Not only does this mean that they are not making best use of their investment in composite data, it means that they actually waste large amounts of time and money, for example, in searching for the right data, or in duplicating tests that have already been done.

So why is systematic composite data management not yet widely implemented? The main reason is because it has posed some difficult technical challenges. The data involved are specialist and the nature of composite systems means that a complex web of inter-related data is usually required to describe them. These challenges are magnified if we pursue the goal that all composite data is ‘traceable’ – an important objective in best practice data management that allows, for example, any piece of design data to be quickly traced back to the raw test data and analyses from which it was derived.

The good news is that these problems can now be addressed. Data management systems for conventional materials are now widely used. The leading such system, GRANTA MI, was developed in collaboration with the Material Data Management Consortium (MDMC), a project involving leading aerospace, defense, and energy enterprises such as Boeing, Rolls-Royce, and NASA. The MDMC has now turned its attention to developing tools that overcome the particular problems of composite data management.

In this paper, we examine the special challenges of managing composite data. We discuss the merits of different approaches to developing composite data management systems, identifying the advantages of a using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software. We itemize requirements for such a system, and show how the GRANTA MI software system meets these requirements, in particular through its flexible composite database schema and ability to capture the vital links between related items of composite data.

The result is a system, now in use at leading engineering enterprises, that enables best practice in composite data management, delivering efficient access to key composite reference data, improving productivity in the use of test data, helping to optimize product design, and reducing risk due to the use of incorrect or obsolete data.

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