Original Date: 03/08/1999
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Composite Structures Prototyping
The Applied Research Laboratory at the Pennsylvania State University (ARL Penn State) is a leader in the development of composite materials technology for structural applications. To support this effort, the ARL Penn State relies on experienced technical staff; in-house design/analysis, fabrication, and testing facilities; and an extensive network of proven subcontractors. Using a concurrent engineering approach, the laboratory developed a rapid prototyping capability for sub-scale and full-scale composite structures. This approach requires a close and continuous interaction between all key technology disciplines (e.g., structures, acoustics, materials, manufacturing, quality control) to maintain a balance between structural integrity, performance, producibility, and cost.
By applying lessons learned from previous and ongoing programs, the ARL Penn State optimizes its composite structure prototyping processes for metal and advanced material components. The laboratory also employs proven fabrication processes; bases its design on customer-accepted criteria; and integrates conservative design evaluation techniques and high safety factors into the prototypes. The effectiveness of the ARL Penn State’s rapid prototyping capabilities has been successfully demonstrated through various U.S. Navy and industrial programs:
Full-scale Hydrodynamics Control Component The ARL Penn State designed and delivered this prototype to the Navy within nine months. The prototype features a 50% weight savings and design robustness via Finite Element Analysis design tools.
Rotating Biological Reactor The ARL Penn State designed and built this prototype for the wastewater industry within eight months. The all-composite design meets performance requirements and cost objectives. This project also demonstrates customer and component supplier involvement throughout the program, and helped establish an industrial supplier base for production.
The ARL Penn State attributes the concurrent engineering approach as the key to its Composite Structures Prototyping program. Major projects typically go from design to prototype in less than one year. This approach successfully blends the key technology disciplines to meet the project’s objectives.
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