NIAR researchers have recently been working with software company Dassault Systèmes and its 3DExperience® software platform to develop these simulations.

“This is a solution for composites design and manufacturing preparation in simulation,” says Rani Richardson, Dassault’s composites and additive manufacturing industry consultant. “We are able to take our customers from conceptual design to detailed design to virtual testing and then actual specification on the shop floor.”

With the composite workbench on the 3DExperience platform, a composite designer can define what a composite’s ply lay-up will be and then virtually simulate its draping to see how it lays. A designer can also simulate how plies will be staggered, how they are inverted and if there are darts needed, making the manufacturing process easier.

The integration of various modeling tools in the 3DExperience platform allows the data about a composite product to flow seamlessly from one application to another, extending the simulation into the manufacturing environment. “If you want to do a hand lay-up process, we would be able to take the data in the composite workbench and use it in the composite laser application,” says Richardson. In addition, because the applications share the data, a change to the design is automatically updated in the laser projection output, maintaining the data integrity throughout the process.

fuselage-panel-Dassault Systèmes

A fuselage panel designed with Dassault Systèmes’ tools for composite modeling and production. Photo Credit: Dassault Systèmes

“The idea is to do this all virtually before you actually get to the shop, because you want to reduce that variability and the number of iterations on the shop floor,” says Richardson.

While NIAR researchers validate certain aspects of their simulations with coupon and component-level tests, they hope to eliminate some of that testing to speed product development.

“We want to conduct full-scale evaluations with the first prototypes rather than having to build multiple prototypes,” says Olivares. For instance, NIAR recently assembled an unmanned aircraft system (UAS). It conducted extensive modeling on the UAS and planned to flight test it in early summer to make sure that everything that was predicted on the computer applies in the real world. “If we can accomplish that it will be great, because then we can minimize the number of physical prototypes that we have to build in the development process,” says Olivares.

Looking at the Gaps

One piece currently lacking in the 3DExperience platform is a tool that enables composite designers to experiment with different combinations of matrices and fibers to test their properties. However, Dassault’s Biovia software does provide those capabilities on a separate platform. “With Biovia, we learn more about the different effects of resins and materials during different manufacturing processes,” says Richardson. “You can see what’s happening with the materials as they go through the curing process, and you can also see what’s happening in their afterlife.”