Can you briefly describe your experience in composites?
I started my career in the early 1980s on the B2 Stealth Bomber and from there went to NASA Langley in the 90s working on polymer composites and metallic composites and from there we started the company (Collier Research Corp.) and since the late 90s have been developing software specifically for composites analysis and design sizing optimization.
I understand you were involved with the NASA Composite Crew Module. What was the biggest challenge in this project?
The biggest challenge in that project was getting the group of people from all the different research centers and industry to use the same analysis tools. In this case it was Hypersizer, which was used in the preliminary design phase all the way to final design and to test certification.
Can you tell us a little about the capabilities of your Hypersizer software?
HyperSizer works in a feedback loop with finite element analysis (FEA) software to verify structural integrity, predict all potential failure modes for all load cases, and identify negative margins-of-safety. To resolve these negative margins, or to simply find a lighter-weight design, HyperSizer will optimize, or ‘size’, a design by surveying literally millions of candidate dimensions and laminates, and finding optimum variables down to the ply level — in a matter of minutes.
What new features will be released with the upcoming Hypersizer 6.0?
We’re very excited about introducing the new six-step process that we’ve developed for basically helping the engineer start with creating the composite laminate, analyzing it and optimizing it, doing a manufacturability assessment of the layup and then determining the most optimum layup sequence to reduce the number of ply drops, ply adds and essentially make it less costly to make.
Which industries are already using the software, which others can benefit from it -- and why/what for?
Primarily you know, like most advanced software companies in composites, we have our roots first and foremost in the space launch industry, NASA. And then of course aerospace in general, commercial aircraft. And now we’re into the wind turbine blade market and I guess after this point we’re more interested in pursuing shipbuilding, transportation and more of your traditional industries that have a higher-volume of ship sets delivered on a yearly basis. Any industry that essentially has either “life” issues with maintenance of the structure over many years of use -- or of course weight, which is another key driver: getting weight out of traditional metallic structures using composites. So any industry where we can either get weight and/or additional life out of the structure that’s what we’re going for. Particularly in harsh environments, composites certainly do have a corrosion resistance and don’t rust. They also have a high fatigue life in cyclic loading so that’s a consideration as well.
Where do you see the composites industry in 5 years?
I think the composite industry will be more accepted. Right now, Boeing and Airbus both are getting a lot of publicity touting the use of composites for their airframe structure but I think in the future it will be less of a boutique type of application and more of a common occurrence that may not even get as much press but at the same time it will be more prevalent.