Lighter, Tougher, Greener with Composites

By Michael
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What sounds like the appraisal for a world-saving superhero turns out to be the promise of a super modern material used to build products which are targeted to withstand ultimate conditions – called composites.

Most of us have been in touch with fiberglass materials for hobby purposes or for touching up minor damages on the car. This technique has been around for almost a century and used for sculpturing free-form structures up to the size of a sailing boat.

Well, this type of layered mix of solid fibers and first liquid then solidifying resin today has well advanced to become a compound which overtakes metal in terms of material properties, i.e. durability, toughness, while maintaining a significant lower weight per volume.

Typical tensile strengths of some materials (from Wikipedia)

Material Ultimate strength
(MPa)
Density
(g/cm³)
Stainless steel AISI 302 – Cold-rolled 860 8.19
Structural steel ASTM A36 steel 400 7.8
Carbon steel 1090 841 7.58
Steel (AISI 1060 0.6% carbon) Piano wire 2,200-2,482 7.8
Titanium alloy (6% Al, 4% V) 900 4.51
Aluminium alloy 6063-T6 248 2.63
High density polyethylene (HDPE) 37 0.95
E-Glass 3,450 2.57
S-Glass 4,710 2.48
Carbon fiber 5,650 1.75
Aramid (Kevlar or Twaron) 2,757 1.44
Human hair 380
Bamboo 350-500 0.4
Bone (limb) 130 1.6
Diamond 2,800 3.5

No question that the combination of strong and light can offer major advantages for anything that is moving, such as transportation vehicles. “Less weight = less energy consumption = less carbon footprint” is a formula which counts if we want to advance an environmentally conscious approach. No wonder why the new generation of passenger aircraft from Boeing and Airbus are designed using 50% of composites materials for their structural parts!

Although those aerospace examples are the most prominently visible, the use of composites is spreading out to many other industries, including sports & leisure (e.g. bikes, golf clubs), energy (e.g. wind turbines) and architecture (pre-fab construction panels).

This recent newsflash talks about German car manufacturers’ hot trend for carbon materials to comply with EU regulations regarding weight and CO2 targets. Such light “Mega City Vehicles” built with composite materials and E-drive (heavy batteries) could define a new vehicle type from 2013 already.

With the widespread use of composites the production processes need to abandon the purely manual stage, to become digitally controlled – engineered to manage the complex fiber lay-up and resin application process, and to run it efficiently on an industrial scale. Transforming the composites industry from what has been called “Black Art” to an industrial discipline is the objective of the partnership between National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University in Kansas USA and Dassault Systèmes.

Manufacturers that target composite technologies to give them the competitive edge for their products are confronted with the challenge to build the competencies to master equipment and methods, required to successfully control a composite design and production process.

Dassault Systèmes has taken a leadership role in composites with an integrated PLM solution that encompasses design, simulation and digital manufacturing solutions, and that helps manufacturers to master the challenge to control and run composites production end-to-end (read more). The 3DS solution is now running on the unique V6 platform, thus adding live collaboration and experience features to support global teams working together. Have a look at the interview to hear what my colleagues Philippe Savignard and Laurent Delsart have to say about the composites industry status quo and future potential.

Check out the videos to learn more about the 3DS PLM composites solution.

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But that is not all. For the evolution of the composites PLM solution and related know-how the 3DS team relies on a truly vivid collaboration with customers, research facilities, industry consortia and a network of selected solution partners. Already five partners have signed in to develop their applications on the V6 platform and thus complete and extend functionalities of the global PLM V6 composite solution: Simulayt Limited, Magestic Systems Inc., Coriolis Composites SAS, Cincinnati Machine LLC. and Ingersoll Machine Tools Inc.

Find out more on the Dassault Systèmes partnerships and description of these solution partners on our website.

Soon more from the wonderful world of engineering.

Best,
Michael




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