Collaboration is a key component of composites design but it is all too often neglected, resulting in missed opportunities. The newly developed Composites Design and Manufacturing HUB (cdmHUB) is a collaborative web interface platform designed to enhance and build synergies among the composite community by enabling users to interact 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The cdmHUB will convene the composites community to advance certification by analysis by increasing the number and use of simulation tools by an order of magnitude through education and evaluation of existing and emerging simulation tools. Composites Manufacturing Interviews caught up with R. Byron Pipes, John Bray Distinguished Professor of Purdue University, to find out more about this new hub that can change the way we work together in the composites industry.
What is the vision behind the Composites Design and Manufacturing HUB?
The design and certification of aerospace composite products remains driven by exhaustive experimental testing without the full benefit of simulation. This approach significantly increases the cost of product development, retards the development new materials systems and limits the aerospace product diversity. Major aircraft OEMs spend millions of dollars and allocate thousands of man hours annually to test and re-test designs for certification. That testing is further extended when a design change comes into play. For maintenance and repair (MRO), the certification process may be even more complex since the nature of repair is unpredictable and the in-field re-manufacturing is quite different from that in the factory.
Once the design is complete, the exhaustive physical testing begins. Whether the flight structure is made up totally of composites or partially, the current certification process is time consuming, manual, and expensive to the OEMs. The current process is designed to reduce risk, but it is not optimized to minimize costs and time to completion. Today, the software tools used for design and manufacturability are often disconnected and not based on the same platform necessary for inter-code communication. Furthermore, when the OEMs hand off the design to their supply chains to test and/or build the components, it is likely the suppliers may not have access to the same simulation toolset as the OEM, thereby, increasing the cost and complexity of the evaluation and manufacturing processes. In many cases the component design handed off to the supply chain has focused solely on product performance and the part has not been designed for manufacturability. Since the design is typically frozen at this stage, the materials and manufacturing approach have already been selected. In addition, there are many other constraints placed on the supplier that must be adhered to during the fabrication process. All these restrictions can significantly limit innovation within the supply chain.