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Composites Design Software: Tools for Designers

Updated: Nov 16, 2021

In the previous blog, we discussed how structural composite design is an extremely complicated task, involving CAD, CAE, and CAM. In this blog, the focus is on structural design tools at different stages of the design process.

  1. Conceptual design

  2. Detailed structural design

  3. Design for Manufacture

  4. Design of tooling

Composites structure designs are challenging due to the wide range of design variables e.g. materials, laminates, interactions. The use of a design tool speeds up the process and allows investigation for an optimal solution through several possible concepts. A design goes through multiple stages, shown in the image below

Design tools

Different tools should be used at different stages of the design process

  • Laminate design tools

  • Analytical design tools for structural elements

  • Finite Element (FE) software for more complex structures

  • Production design tools

Laminate design

Ply calculation

Determining the Engineering constants e.g. laminate strengths, thermal, hygrothermal expansion coefficients of each ply are some of the first key steps of the design process. Design tools come with a database containing mechanical data gathered for specific laminates. Alternatively, some design software allows the designer to efficiently compute ply properties for possible configurations using micromechanics theories.

Laminate design

Laminated composites are made up of several plies bonded together. Plies may have a different fiber material, thickness, and/or orientation. The laminate design tool is used for finding feasible and efficient laminates for given design constraints such as weight,

cost and geometric constraints.

Laminate evaluation

A laminate evaluation enables the analysis of composite laminates subjected to in-plane loads, out-of-plane loads, and thermal loading. Mainly used for tailoring a stacking sequence and inspecting the laminate behavior layer by layer.