The proposed innovation is a process simulation tool for thin ply composites. This simulation tool will represent major process attributes and allow user to make low risk, high quality parts. Furthermore, this tool will help to guide selection of tooling materials and processing conditions to avoid unwanted distortion, which is an issue that plagues thin ply composite parts. Phase I will focus developing and validating a methodology and workflow with which to approach this problem that will be fully developed in Phase II. Future project vision involves turning into a software tool or an existing software tool like RAVEN or COMPRO for ABAQUS or ANSYS.
Using COMPRO with a general-purpose finite element environments such as ABAQUS or ANSYS the methodology, workflow and necessary characterizations (material, process conditions, and boundary conditions) will be identified and demonstrated to capture the manufacturing process-induced deformations and residual stresses adapted to thin-ply composite structures. The ability to model/simulate the process and induced distortions in these types of very thin composites does not currently exist. These tools/methodologies, once developed, will result in a better understanding of the contribution of material property evolution, tooling material properties, tool part interaction, and process conditions to the internal stress evolution and final part distortion. This understanding will be used to guide material, tool and process changes to reduce variation and meet final part geometric requirements. This methodology, once validated, can be applied to similar structures and materials, both existing and future, considered by government and industry reducing development time (both in design and manufacturing test trials) where trade-off between geometry, performance, cycle time and costs are considered.
Potential NASA applications exist for any thin ply high aspect ratio composite structure manufactured using similar tooling and approaches. Additionally, the characterization of materials, tooling, and tool part interactions and the developed workflow can be applied beyond the current space structure to areas where the evolution of composite material properties, stress, and tool part interactions result in final part distortion and can be used to optimize the process to reduce risk, improve cycle time or meet performance property requirements.
The simulation of the evolution of composite material properties, tool part interaction, internal stress, and part distortion is relevant to composite materials and manufacturing processes. Integrating this work flow and the associated material characterization into a COTS simulation will allow a large range of users to analyze and optimize the design and process of a wide range of structures.