This guest post on Innovation Intelligence was written by Andy MacKrell, Product/Project Manager at MultiMechanics, developer of MultiMech, a composites analysis software suite. MultiMechanics is a member of the Altair Partner Alliance.
The ability to tailor the composition of a material to obtain desired overall properties is an appealing prospect. However, with the advent of these novel materials, engineers are also inventing new ways for those materials to behave and fail. As a result, these engineers will need new ways to predict that behavior, beyond the traditional means used to analyze century-old isotropic materials.
As a composites engineer, one may at times feel like Leonardo DaVinci, creating a form-fits-function masterpiece – and at other times like Dr. Frankenstein, creating an unpredictable monster. It is a double-edged sword, and a topic that has been discussed and researched for several decades.
Because old-habits die hard, it is common to attempt to malleate composites into the well-known realm of isotropic materials (i.e., “black aluminum”). However, ignoring a part’s microstructural details yields poor results. This is because the true causes of non-linearity are not being taken into account!
The non-linear behavior of composites is driven by several competing damage mechanisms, most of which tend to start within a composite’s complex microstructure – and coalesce into macro scale phenomena. The mechanisms include:
- Fiber Breakage
- Fiber Micro Buckling and Matrix Crushing
- Transverse Matrix Cracking
- Debonding at the fiber-matrix interface
Since it is impractical to include all the material design details of a part into a single finite element, a better solution is to accurately analyze the composite’s microstructure as a separate model and link that to the part’s macro performance. This is generally known as multiscale analysis. Until recently, multiscale analysis was so labor- and computationally intensive to perform that it was impractical for use on large composite parts.
Several companies, MultiMechanics included, have made pioneering advances within the field of multiscale analysis – offering hope for aspiring DaVincis. These advances allow consideration of microstructural details without the prohibitively large computing overhead. So next time you think about setting up extra physical tests or adding a high factor of safety to overdesign your part, consider some new approaches to model your novel creations.
New advanced materials will keep being developed to push the boundaries of product innovation. MultiMechanics develops analysis tools suitable for the materials of today, and tomorrow. For more information, visit us at www.MultiMechanics.com.
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