With the advent of automated tow placement and additive manufacturing, a designer of composite structures must deal with an enormous design space. Fortunately, advances in high-performance computing and software have enabled such design space exploration provided that an appropriate design environment is available. M4 Engineering, Inc., in partnership with Virginia Tech (RI) and San Diego State University (subcontractor), will develop such software for design of complex aerospace composite structures with variable fiber tow steer and curvilinear stiffeners. Previous research has shown that achieving optimal designs requires optimizing tow steered composite panels together with curvilinear stiffeners, an approach pioneered at Virginia Tech under NASA funding. Prior research developments by project team will be leveraged in creating a computationally efficient design optimization methodology. Critical to practical success will be the inclusion of realistic manufacturing constraints for achievable fiber tow paths with reasonable manufacturing times. Different parameterizations with user-specified flexibility for increasing design degree of freedoms will be implemented for optimizing fiber angles directly in the primary top-level optimization. Constraints on primary fiber path parameters to enforce manufacturability will implemented in the top-level optimization. Computational efficiency will be achieved using efficient reduced order models and convex approximations within the optimization. In order to deliver a capability that is primed for widespread utilization, the software tool will be formed as a plug-in to a major commercial software suite. Meaningful demonstration problem execution will be used to assess the robustness and efficiency of the approach and to identify future enhancements. During Phase I, the essential numerical elements of the software tool will be implemented and a comprehensive plan for GUI integration will be developed.
NASA applications include primary and secondary structures a range of aeronautical and space applications where substantial performance stiffness and weight improvements would be highly beneficial. More specifically, the design methodology and software tool will have applications in space vehicles including the Artemis/HLS programs, aircraft fuselage, wings, and control surfaces including advanced concepts such as blended wing bodies, fuel tanks for launch vehicles, cryogenic tanks and satellites.
Non-NASA applications include military aircraft, trucks, tanks, missiles, automobiles, aircraft engine nacelles, wind turbine blades, medical protective equipment, prosthetic devises and marine structures. The design tool will also enable design of novel structures in emerging aerospace sectors for personal mobility and drones.