Collier Research joins aerospace team to advance composite aircraft development, certification

Jan. 6, 2017
HAMPTON, Va. Collier Research Corp. in Hampton, Virginia, has become the first software company to join NASA’s Advanced Composites Consortium (ACC), a team of aerospace experts focused on “reducing composite aircraft development and certification time and maintaining U.S. leadership in aviation manufacturing,” officials say.

HAMPTON, Va. Collier Research Corp. in Hampton, Virginia, has become the first software company to join NASA’s Advanced Composites Consortium (ACC), a team of aerospace experts focused on “reducing composite aircraft development and certification time and maintaining U.S. leadership in aviation manufacturing,” officials say.

Collier joins the original group formed in 2015, which includes: NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC), FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center, The Boeing Company, General Electric Company (GE), Lockheed Martin Corp., United Technologies Corp., and the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) – ACC Integrator. Also new to the ACC are: Aurora Flight Sciences Corp., Orbital ATK, the University of South Carolina McNAIR Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research, and the Wichita State University National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR).

NASA’s Advanced Composites Consortium members will plug their analysis tools into the HyperSizer Stress Framework for rapid airframe analysis (above) and design optimization of robotic automated fiber placement (AFP) manufactured structures (below).

The ACC aims to bring better composite material analysis, design, and manufacturing into practice to help maintain American leadership in aviation manufacturing. The consortium was formed by NASA in support of the Advanced Composites Project, which is part of the Advanced Air Vehicles Program in the agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. The project’s goal is to reduce product development and certification timelines by 30 percent for composite aircraft.

“The push to take weight out of structures designed for flight is leading to a greater use of composites in the aerospace industry,” says Collier Research President Craig Collier. “As these advanced materials are more complex to certify than metals, the use of automated, integrated analysis and design-performance optimization is critical — from the earliest stages of development all the way through manufacturing — to ensure that composites are used most effectively and certified for flight most efficiently.”

Craig Collier has been appointed cooperative research team (CRT) leader of two ACC initiatives: rapid tools and design for manufacturing.

“Rapid tools are important because the bulk of aircraft design development and structural certification analysis revolves around them,” Collier says. “The design maturation process spans several years. Shortening this long portion of the schedule will have a huge impact on the aircraft production timeline.

“Design for manufacturing includes technologies such as robotic automated fiber placement (AFP) and curing processes during the analysis and optimization design phases. Merging these technologies early and iteratively will help engineers improve quality and consistency in laminate fabrication, resulting in fewer defects and streamlined certification,” he adds.

Collier Research’s HyperSizer was the first software to be commercialized out of NASA, officials say. It has been used on many projects for the U.S. Space Program (such as the Orion Crew Module) and by many aircraft manufacturers, including: Spirit AeroSystems, which designed a fuselage for the Bell V-280 Valor defense helicopter prototype for the Department of Defense’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR TD) program.

What began at NASA more than 20 years ago has continuously developed into today’s HyperSizer suite of structural software solutions. As Collier Research Corp.’s flagship product, HyperSizer performs design, stress analysis, and detailed sizing optimization for aircraft and space launch vehicles fabricated with composite or traditional metallic materials. On average, the software reduces the weight of structures by 20-40 percent, an exceptional achievement for aerostructures. HyperSizer replaces the need for spreadsheets and “hand calculations” with automatically generated stress reports for FAA certification. HyperSizer customers are able to produce results faster and more accurately, giving them an edge over competitors.

Collier Research Corp. provides software solutions, methods research, and consulting services for the aerospace, wind energy, and automotive industries with its broad range of structural capabilities.

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    About the Author

    Courtney E. Howard | Chief Editor, Intelligent Aerospace

    Courtney enjoys writing about all things high-tech in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Intelligent Aerospace and Military & Aerospace Electronics. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics and space geek. Connect with Courtney at [email protected], @coho on Twitter, on LinkedIn, and on Google+.

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