Automotive consortium aims to boost composites data management

Granta Design's automotive consortium hopes to help automakers and automotive suppliers gather, organize and manage manufacturing and materials data to develop best-practice standards.
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Granta Design's automotive consortium hopes to help automakers and automotive suppliers gather, organize and manage manufacturing and materials data to develop best-practice standards.

As the composites universe expands into new markets and applications, resins and fiber reinforcements of all types are, increasingly, landing on the desks of design engineers who have either no or limited experience with composites, their properties and performance capabilities.

Nowhere is this conundrum more true than in the automotive industry, which is drawn to composites’ compelling strength-to-weight properties, but repelled by its multi-material complexity. Complicating matters is a dearth of standardized, uniform, easily accessible composites material property data that might help a design engineer new to composites competently navigate the materials landscape.

Seeing this challenge, Granta Design (Cambridge, U.K.) is developing a consortium, called AutoMatIC, that, it is hoped, will help stabilize the autocomposites design landscape by generating best practices for materials information and its use.

Dan Williams, product manager at Granta, says there are five key drivers compelling automakers and automotive suppliers to pay more attention to materials properties:

  • Need for accurate materials data
  • Need for a system that keeps up with new materials data
  • Need for accurate data to feed simulation-driven product development
  • Need for comparable materials data from country to country
  • Need for restricted substances and environmental impact materials data

Of course, many automakers and automotive suppliers already manage their own materials data, but Williams notes first that each entity has its own method and tools, which may or may not follow best practices. Further, it’s sometimes difficult for design engineers to access the information they need, thus much time is wasted on research and searching that, in effect, reinvents the wheel.

“There are also challenges in integrating the many different types of information needed,” says Williams. “For example, a design team may need data on plastics, metals and composites – data on these materials is often available from disparate sources and is hard to get together in one place. The impacts on the design cycle are substantial: delay, duplicated work, sub-optimal design decisions, increased risk.”

Granta’s Automotive Material Intelligence Consortium (AutoMatIC), established June 2014, is comprised of manufacturers and suppliers from the automotive and off-highway sectors, including PSA Peugeot Citroën, General Motors, Granta Design, Jaguar Land Rover and KSPG.

AutoMatIC Consortium members will optimize tools that help organizations to manage all of the diverse materials-related data they need, to get it all in one place, capture information about the relationships between linked items of data, and apply this information resource to practical problems. They will share lessons learned and improve their practice. They will also provide Granta with guidance on optimizing these tools for automotive applications – for example, helping to improve the materials models used as input for simulation codes in automotive, or identifying industry priorities for reference data (e.g., on steels, composites or particular classes of restricted substance) so that Granta can focus associated data-gathering efforts, or helping to refine the design of the system used to manage materials data as new requirements emerge in the industry.

All of the consortium members already have the Granta system, called GRANTA MI, installed in-house and use it to manage corporate materials knowledge. Membership in the consortium will help them improve and make the most of the system. The second Granta software application involved is GRANTA MI:Materials Gateway, which works from within various CAD/CAM, CAE and PLM software systems and provides direct access to materials data. This data could be useful reference data from the Granta library, or it could be the company’s own internal materials data. The key point is that CAD/CAM and other users get easy, error-free access to the company’s approved, maintained source for such data.

One aspect of the AutoMatIC Consortium’s work, says Williams, will be to advise on the development of these tools to meet the specific needs of the automotive industry. Williams says, “Which additional software systems should we integrate with? Which materials models is it most important to support? Without qualified material models, the validity of simulations could be at risk, so ensuring traceability and accuracy in this area is critical. This is certainly an area to which the consortium is expected to give attention.”