Stanford University study of complex composites to use MSC.Software

A team led by Dr. Stephen Tsai will employ the software company's MSC Nstean And Marc products to address characteristics of complex 2-D and 3-D models

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Santa Ana, Calif.-based multidiscipline simulation software provider MSC.Software Corp., revealed Oct 30 that Stanford University is using MSC Nastran and Marc softwarer products to conduct waht the company calls a "groundbreaking study" on the testing and analysis of complex composite materials. The goals of the study are to reduce the duration and cost of testing programs, optimize the design of testing configurations and redefine structural deformation and failure processes. MSC simulation solutions are reportedly being used to predict the failure characteristics of heterogeneous composite materials to a greater degree than previously and to explore the possibilities of further innovation.

Traditional modeling of heterogeneous composite materials is almost always based on some degree of homogenization, taking materials with diverse characteristics and modeling them for evaluation based on materials with similar characteristics. Stanford's Dr. Stephen Tsai, professor research emeritus, and his team in the univeristy's Aeronautics and Astronautics department, are using Mesomechanics to recognize local heterogeneity of composite laminates and enable researchers to build more accurate 2-D shells and 3-D solid models. Specialized composite analysis capabilities within MSC Nastran and Marc will be used to address the failure characteristics of the models. Preliminary results of the new method have been positive when it was recently applied to Dr. Tsai's novel biangle noncrimp fabric (NCF) tape. Biangle NCF is said to have strength equal to conventionl carbon materials but with 30 percent less weight.

The orientation of layers that makes BIangle NCF unique was modeled, efficiently preprocessed, and analyzed with MSC’s simulation solutions to optimize the manufacturing process. “We have found that MSC Software’s solutions have the combination of technical depth and ease of use,” says Dr. Tsai. “They made our challenge solvable. We are very pleased to be able to learn more about our problem and will continue to explore next steps.”

“The need for lighter weight and stronger materials that have predictable behaviors is growing dramatically as a result of the greater demands for improved vehicle fuel efficiency and safety,” said Dominic Gallello, president & CEO of MSC Software. “Dr. Tsai has been a pioneer in this field and we are delighted to collaborate with him in this important project.”

With recent advancements in heterogeneous materials, the collaborators emphasize that it is becoming more critical to have physical and geometric models that better represent these complex materials. When analyzed, these models are expected to provide a far more accurate evaluation of how heterogeneous composite materials will behave in reallife environments.

Dr. Stephen W. Tsai holds both a BE and D.Eng in mechanical engineering from Yale University. Tsai also part of the Stanford University Structures and Composites Laboratory, and his research interests include the process and product development of composite materials that leads to improved design practice and commercialization. He has written two introductory texts on composite materials and two books on composites design and is known for the pioneering effort in promoting the use of spreadsheets as a design tool. He is also a member of the Nation Academy of Engineering, the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, and the Society of Aerospace Materials and Process Engineers and is an active participant in the International Conference on Composite Materials.

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