Rani Richardson worked at Magestic Systems, a nesting and laser projection solutions company, for nine years, finishing as its director of Operations. She currently consults with Dassault Systèmes (DS) as a composites product specialist, particularly in the aerospace and automotive industries. Richardson is an active member of SAMPE, the National Composite Center (NCC), SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers), SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineers) and SPE (Society of Plastics Engineers). She is also a frequent presenter at various industry conferences on the subject of composites.
What is your focus and how does that apply to the composites industry?
The Dassault Systèmes composites team primarily focuses on the CAD (Computer Aided Design) side of composites alongside with the seamless integration into CAE Computer Aided Engineering) and CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing). Most CAD systems have been used within industries for a long time and are mostly made for metals, but they don’t address complex composite structures. They don’t provide necessary feedback to the engineers, stress analysts or manufacturers. Our job is to look at a CAD model and let OEMs know that there is technology available to help them virtually see what they want to build—using software tools specifically designed for composites—before they build it.
What do you see driving the industry right now and why?
The cost of raw materials, structure lifecycle and time to market are three major areas driving the composites industry. Because of new regulations, demand for sustainability and the need for lighter weight, adoption of composites within different industries is beginning to emerge.
For example, within automotive the new CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations and the need to reduce emissions make using composites for mass production sensible for automotive OEMs and their supply chain. One major hurdle the automotive industry needs to overcome is the cost of carbon fiber. The lifecycle of a composite part and the time to market go hand-in-hand. In a traditional sense, designing and manufacturing composite structures is a long, tedious and sequential process. Using product lifecycle management software for composites design on the same virtual platform permits the designers, stress analysts and manufacturers to collaborate and provide feedback throughout the product lifecycle, allowing companies to go to market faster with a better product. As more automation comes into play, we have to make sure we provide the tools to address companies’ manufacturing processes in a cost effective manner.