Liang Zhang of AnalySwift, left, and Wenbin Yu of Purdue’s College of Engineering stand in front of models of lightweight structures made from tailorable composites. Credit: Wenbin Yu / Purdue University

Indiana team developing tool for designing composite structures

New composites continuously come to market for making stronger, more lightweight structures, including for vehicles, solar arrays, and antennae in space. But NASA currently doesn’t have a tool to adequately design structures made from these tailorable materials. A project team in Indiana aims to create one.

Simulation software startup AnalySwift received a one-year, $125,000 Phase I STTR contract from NASA to develop a tool that designs better, more lightweight structures composed of tailorable composites. A Purdue University aeronautics professor also is on the project team.

The fibers inside traditional composites are straight. But that’s evolving as “new robotic techniques can weave fibers around areas intended for openings, expanding design options while improving the structures’ overall properties,” Allan Wood, AnalySwift president and CEO, said in a news release

Current design tools don’t optimally leverage these properties. That presents a barrier to designing new, lighter-weight structures.

The tool will shorten the design and analysis time required for lightweight space structures made from composites, thus reducing costs. It could also improve designs for other high-performance, tailorable structures on Earth such as for energy and wind, automotive, electronics, prosthetics, and sporting goods.