With a broad range of applications like corrosion protection, scratch resistance, and structural parts, hybrid materials receive a great deal of attention – particularly in high-performance engineering sectors such as aerospace, and automotive. As well as boasting high specific strength and stiffness, hybrid materials and structures like sandwich panels, foams, lattices, and composites, have the potential to reduce the environmental impact of those industries. But how can we ensure that the full benefits of this class of material are realized? And what challenges are there within the design and development process that could prevent this from happening?

Well, first off, materials data is complicated. Very complicated. Add in the complexities of hybrid materials, and that data get vastly more difficult to describe and manage. Composites can consist of relatively complex combinations of materials in which, e.g., the matrix (perhaps a polymer resin) and the reinforcement (such as a fiber) are both critical to performance. The properties of the resulting material are very dependent on the arrangements of these components, and on the part geometry. They can be highly anisotropic and vary across the part. And they are more dependent on exact processing routes than many other materials. Such dependencies mean that we have to track a complex set of interactions in order to understand behavior. They make managing and using composite information more difficult – but they also mean that the value of managing composite data is often much greater than for conventional materials.

Best practice composite data management demands that we store and can easily retrieve all of the relationships between the material and each of its constituents, and any relationships between constituents. Within a program to understand or qualify composites, we need robust analysis and ‘traceability’ (i.e., the ability to thoroughly audit results). Ideally, this means that data about every batch of material, every test, and every analysis is captured in a single, central database. Such a system also needs to be able to manage the web of connections, linking related items of data, and maintaining those links as data is manipulated or used. So how do we specify such a composite data management solution?

A growing list of engineering enterprises are discovering that the best place to start is with GRANTA MI, the leading system for materials information management. Airbus Helicopters solved their challenge of islands of data across three sites in France and Germany by using GRANTA MI to build their system, easily creating data structures to capture general information from suppliers (e.g., technical datasheets and safety datasheets); all of their mechanical, physical, and chemical tests; legacy data extracted from written documents; and data from external test labs. Likewise, Vestas Blades Technology implemented the GRANTA MI system to optimize their workflow for handling composite data. The company noted that the design and simulation data resulting from this process can be integrated straight into the ANSYS FEA software and CAD packages used by analysts and designers.

The full case studies on Composite Data Management can be read here >

Beth Harlen

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