Understanding the Limitations of Composite Materials

This post was taken from Altair Enlighten and contributed by my colleague, Lars Fredriksson, Director at Altair ProductDesign, Germany.

Back in January 2012, Altair entered into a partnership with advanced materials specialists, Caterham Composites, to improve each other’s knowledge on the design, simulation and manufacture of composite materials. We even wrote a press release about it explaining how the two companies planned to work together.

Here in Germany, we’ve seen more and more industries looking into composite materials as they seek to take advantage of its inherent weight advantages and impressive strength characteristics. However, the materials bring with them an extra layer of design complexity that can cause problems for manufacturers hoping to simply swap out their current metallic components for lightweight composite alternatives, often referred to as a ‘black metal’ solution.

We recently managed to catch up with Phil Hall, Caterham Composites’ Managing Director, who kindly agreed to chat to us about some of the challenges that composites can introduce for engineers and how simulation technology to overcome them. During the discussion, Phil spoke of understanding the limitations of composite materials being vital to get the best out of them and I think that is an excellent way to approach the ongoing challenge. As engineers, if we do not fully understand the material characteristics we are dealing with then we will inevitably be inclined to add unnecessary material to be safe and we will therefore negate some of the weight advantages we were trying to take advantage of.

For composites, the pool of knowledge is not yet as established as it is with traditional metallics, but with the partnership between Altair and Caterham Composites, I think we will make huge strides towards making the material less of a black metal solution and more a common sight throughout products where weight is an increasingly important design consideration.

Take a look at the video here to view our discussion with Phil. To find out more about the Alan Thomson Racing project discussed in this video, please visit www.altairproductdesign.com

Royston Jones

Royston Jones

Executive VP of European Operations & Global CTO at Altair Product Design
My name is Royston Jones and I have been at Altair sixteen years. I was born in the green valleys of North Wales and eventually left my village for the bright lights of South Wales; Swansea University. It was there I was eventually persuaded to help the English with their engineering and left the principality. It’s been a great thrill seeing my passion, engineering simulation, gradually increase its impact on the design process. However, a bigger thrill has been seeing Manchester United dominate English football for two decades. I enjoy seeing my boys grow up and I am excited about how engineering simulation has become a key technology in creating highly engineered; Green products.
Royston Jones
Royston Jones

About Royston Jones

My name is Royston Jones and I have been at Altair sixteen years. I was born in the green valleys of North Wales and eventually left my village for the bright lights of South Wales; Swansea University. It was there I was eventually persuaded to help the English with their engineering and left the principality. It’s been a great thrill seeing my passion, engineering simulation, gradually increase its impact on the design process. However, a bigger thrill has been seeing Manchester United dominate English football for two decades. I enjoy seeing my boys grow up and I am excited about how engineering simulation has become a key technology in creating highly engineered; Green products.