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Simulations Prove Composites Can Increase an Aircraft’s Payloads and Service Life

aerodynamic loads on composite wings

Composite materials have a significant history with the aerospace industry due to their light weight and substantial strength.

However, you will still see a lot of metal wings flying around.

Metal wings have a limited service life — often as short as six to eight years — due to corrosion and fatigue.

And, during this period, the wings will require regular maintenance.

When the wing inevitably needs to be replaced, the cost can be so large that many airliners will scrap the whole vehicle.

Aero Composites aims to replace many of these metal wings with composite counterparts.

“The ANSYS Startup Program has helped us to design and optimize lightweight composite wings that increase payload capacity, while reducing weight and improving the overall stiffness of our aircraft,” says Dan Retief, chief engineer at Aero Composites. “Since composite parts do not suffer from corrosion, the aircraft will also requires less maintenance.

“After just 12 months in the ANSYS Startup Program, we can deliver an increase of 14 percent in payload capacity in our designs — by weight reduction — compared with all-metal aircraft,” adds Retief. “In the future, we expect to be able to deliver an increase of up to 36 percent.”

How Aero Composites Optimized Its Aircraft Designs

Aero Composites’ workflow starts in Creo Parametric 3D modeling software.

The geometry is then brought into ANSYS Workbench — via Discovery SpaceClaim to check for part connectivity.

composite prep post

Aero Composites defines all the laminate details of the composites using ANSYS Mechanical and Composite PrepPost.

Next, Aero Composites uses ANSYS Fluent to calculate the pressure distributions. They also apply these loads to static structural simulation within Mechanical.

Finally, Aero Composites uses Workbench to set up a parametric study to assess different load cases, speeds, angles of attack and environmental conditions.

“Simulations have delivered many significant insights – especially in furthering our understanding of out-of-plane loads,” says Retief. “They helped us avoid delamination and increase the service life of key components.”

Simulations Help Aero Composites Certify their Aerospace Designs

aerospace composite designs

“If we were only conducting physical tests, the cost of failure to our small startup business would be enormous,” says Retief.

Currently, Aero Composites is using its simulations to achieve certification with the Civil Aviation Authority.

These simulations will support the company’s required due diligence for proving that its designs can handle all the required load cases before moved onto physical tests.

“After correlating our simulations to this physical data, we can then certify new designs based almost entirely on simulation,” explains Retief. “With a qualified simulation model, it becomes possible to make modifications to our certified designs and certify those changes using simulations alone.”

As each physical test could cost upward of $200K, simulation will save Aero Composites a lot of money.

To learn about how simulation can save your startup costs on physical testing, check out the ANSYS Startup Program.