Maximizing material intelligence

A report from the Granta Open Seminar hosted by the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) at the National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) facility, Wichita. April 2014 | PDF PDF

At an Open Seminar hosted by the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR), industrial materials scientists, materials engineers, and engineers and managers in areas related to materials gathered to share experiences, hear case studies from those in the aerospace industry (including Honeywell and Cessna), see the latest materials information technology, and join discussions with peers in leading engineering enterprises.

Across the range of engineering enterprises represented, common themes soon became apparent. These centered on making best use of all available materials data and “maximizing material intelligence”. Material intelligence is the understanding that comes from applying data on the properties and behavior of materials, such as alloys, composites, ceramics, and plastics. This is especially critical to aerospace, defense, and other highly regulated industries. Such engineering enterprises generate huge quantities of materials data in testing and quality assurance, so much of the morning focused on solutions for managing such information. Alongside this, attendees were aware of the need to understand and minimize the business risks associated with regulatory and environmental factors related to materials, such as potential restricted substance problems.

In addition to the general discussions and software demonstrations, two case studies stimulated considerable interest amongst attendees.

Honeywell: Managing and Using Materials Information in the Aerospace Industry

Honeywell’s presentation, by Doug Hall, Staff Engineer in the Life Methods group, drew on his experience of managing materials information and participating in collaborative projects, including the Material Data Management Consortium (MDMC), the MMPDS industrial steering group, and CMH-17.

Honeywell’s businesses include transport, business and general aviation, and defense and space. They innovate and integrate thousands of products and services, aiming to advance and easily deliver safe, efficient, productive, and comfortable experiences worldwide. For them, ‘maximizing materials intelligence’ has meant focusing on five areas:

  • Consistency—e.g., ensuring that two engineers on the same project get the same property for the same material and design conditions
  • Flexibility—the ability to handle different datatypes. e.g., design properties based on data, mathematical models, and curves reflecting product line history
  • Diversity—incorporating a range of materials, statistical models, and diverse end-uses
  • Security—ensuring proper administrative control; covering export control issues, and meeting proprietary concerns
  • Traceability—giving information about the origins of data and models, as well as  a record of which model was active at a specific time

Having adopted GRANTA MI™ as their materials information management system, it now provides a centralized hub to many product lines across the US and around the world for approved data and material models, including legacy data, commercial databases (e.g., MMPDS), customer information, and new materials information passing through the material data management workflow of material characterization, test lab, model data, modeling tools, and design models.

Many Honeywell product lines were keen to adopt a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) system which could manage the full diversity of commercially available material property and product line specific information, as well as internally-developed raw data, model data, aerospace and automotive design models, fatigue, databases, information about non-metallics (including solvents, adhesives, degreasers, and potting), flammability and smoke toxicity data, and complex information on composites and advanced materials.

Hall gave examples of working with the system to access and interact with S/N curves from the MMPDS database within GRANTA MI:Viewer, and to apply them for design.

The presentation concluded with Hall summing up some of the challenges and lessons learned. Adopting the system has been part of a culture change which is now helping deliver accurate, traceable, and approved materials information throughout the organization. He highlighted the need for continuous expansion and improvement, and the benefits of having an IT expert inside the organization working on the deployment. There were a number of notable successes, including developing database schema (structures for curating and linking material property information and associated metadata) with input from end-users, ensuring the system is able to meet their specific needs. Hall also encouraged others to get involved in collaborative projects such as the MDMC, which continues to define best practice in this area.

Cessna: Meeting Materials Information Challenges

Like many of the organizations present, Cessna’s involvement with materials information management arose from a need to ensure the “best possible data integrity, to manage numerous data formats, and a desire to ensure consistent data analysis techniques”.  Don Snyder, Cessna’s M&P Engineering Specialist, explained that they wanted to maximize the traceability of materials information, moving data storage away from shared drives, Excel workbooks, Access databases, and internal reports, and were seeking a secure system with good accessibility features.

To meet these needs, Cessna have adopted GRANTA MI™ as their materials information management system. The initial project involved incorporating reference data, internal data, legacy data, and suppliers/customer data within a centralized database, making it straightforward to search and apply this information (with appropriate permissions). Snyder also explained the importance of using a system that interfaced well with existing software.

While sharing experiences of rolling out the system, Cessna emphasized the usefulness of the training offered by Granta. In particular, Snyder mentioned the value of training on manipulating data, managing the database schema, and configuring the system to allow in-house information to be easily imported into the system as well as exporting data in the correct format for specific applications. For end-users, training allowed them to quickly and securely access relevant materials information within their web browsers using MI:Viewer. “Granta’s Support Team have been excellent,” commented another participant from Cessna’s IT team.

Execution of Cessna’s materials information management approach was tied to a major project, a strategy which they strongly recommend as it is helping ensure a timely implementation. It was important to commit to a project timeline, and to identify key stakeholders—including a project champion, the internal IT team, data producers, analyzes, and users, and a non-IT ‘primary owner’. They highlighted that managing the system will require ongoing dedicated resources, a worthwhile investment as they continue to maximize their ‘material intelligence’.

An important feature for Cessna was access control and permissions, ensuring that users can access any data for which they are authorized. Their implementation highlighted the importance of identifying access control schema early-on, giving thought to the appropriate level of access required for different classes of users.

It was evident that the materials information management challenges Cessna faced were similar to those found by many other delegates. Their case study clearly demonstrated the advantages of using a flexible commercial product to meet those needs. 

Overcoming common challenges

In the discussions that followed the case studies, as well as in the round-table and panel discussions, it soon became apparent that those present were facing many similar challenges. Materials engineers reported that even just curating this data is a time-consuming, costly, and error-prone process. Others, like the guest speakers, were able to share how materials information technology can help. There was considerable interest from design teams and simulation experts on finding the right tools to access and then use this information: in particular to capture process and pedigree data for quality analysis tools, and the necessity of providing accurate data to CAD / CAE.

Protection of intellectual property was a repeated theme. Many organizations were concerned that data and process-intensive materials patents are “sitting on shared drives, unsecured”. This led to a discussion of the benefits of the implementing a secure, enterprise-wide materials information management system with appropriate access control (who sees what) and version control (a record of who and what has changed, when).

Mitigating the business risks associated with restricted substances (REACH) was also a “hot topic”. Organizations want to be kept aware of the impact of new regulations in a timely manner. They want to be able to respond in advance of deadlines as opposed to scrambling for a material substitution, avoiding costly authorizations (one attendee valued this at $1.4M). Granta were able to demonstrate materials information management solutions, including straightforward ways to provide compliance reports (BOM analysis) to customers.

The Seminar concluded with a tour of the National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) facility by our hosts at the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR).

Granta would like to thank NIAR for hosting, all those who took part in the Open Seminar for their contributions, and Cessna and Honeywell for their excellent presentations.