The Composites Innovation Centre Manitoba Inc. (CIC) is a leading not-for-profit organization, focused on the development and commercialization of composite materials and technologies.
The Composites Innovation Centre Manitoba Inc. (CIC) is a leading not-for-profit organization, focused on the development and commercialization of composite materials and technologies. Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, CIC employs a staff of 26 at its 21,000 square-foot facility. The facility includes laboratory space for composite material characterization and a prototype assembly area, in addition to office locations for digital design and analysis activities.
Founded in 2003 as a consortium of industry partners, CIC is currently funded in part by the governments of Manitoba and Canada in addition to members of its industrial alliance. CIC offers a combination of technical advisory, design, analysis, prototyping and fabrication services for major clients, including Boeing, Magellan Aerospace, Cormer Aerospace, Emteq Canada, Motor Coach Industries, and New Flyer Industries.
In the face of skyrocketing energy costs and increasingly stringent legislation mandating the reduction of harmful emissions from automobiles, automakers are expanding their range of options to fulfill these new market requirements. Vehicle weight reduction represents a major prong in the solution mix for automakers contending with this challenge. Lighter vehicles simply require less energy to move, directly impacting the amount of fuel consumed and carbon dioxide (chemical formula CO2) released into the atmosphere. “The challenge with taking the weight out is ensuring that you don’t take the strength, stiffness and rigidity out with that weight,” says Alastair Komus, principal engineer responsible for the ground transportation sector at CIC. “That’s where high strength-to-weight ratio materials like composites come in.”
Komus’ team was approached by Motive Industries, a respected design outfit, for assistance in developing a fiber-reinforced plastic passenger car. Dubbed Kestrel, the vehicle is underpinned by an aluminum frame, and powered by a hybrid drivetrain. CIC was called in to incorporate exotic biofibers, including flax and hemp, into the body of the vehicle.
Prior to investing in NX™ software and Simcenter™ software from product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens Digital Industries Software, engineers at CIC used multiple tools for geometry preparation and analysis of composite structures. Despite being functional, this computer-aided design (CAD)/computer-aided engineering (CAE) approach was timeconsuming and repetitive due to the disconnected nature of the tools themselves. Engineers at CIC wanted a more cohesive workflow and the productivity benefits it would bring. After evaluating numerous systems, they decided on NX and Simcenter for its tightly integrated design and simulation environment. Komus explains, “Previously, we used standalone CAD and FEA (finite element analysis) software packages. Whenever we wanted to make changes to the geometry we would have to make them in the CAD software, reimport the model into the FEA software, and then start the analysis from scratch. This was extremely time-consuming.”
The goal with Kestrel was to create parts that were as light as possible, without compromising structural integrity. This meant frequent design-analysis iterations to be certain this delicate balance was being met across the entire vehicle assembly. The seamless associativity between design geometry and analysis models using NX and Simcenter allowed design changes to be quickly pushed to analysis models, with no need for manual updating.
Simcenter Laminate Composites was deployed in defining and optimizing the ply layup. “With composites there are so many options, and so a flexible interface that allows you to quickly specify and experiment with a variety of parameters is essential,” says Komus. “Use of Simcenter Laminate Composites enables precisely that. The tool allows us to really understand the stress in each ply and then change material orientation angles, ply location, or choice of material to optimize the weight and performance of the design.”
CIC engineers appreciated the software’s intuitive, menu-driven workflows for specifying key layup attributes, such as stacking recipe, reference temperature and failure theory. This functionality, coupled with the consistent user interface extending across the design and analysis domains, reshaped the way they go about their everyday task of designing composite structures. “For the Kestrel, we examined over 50 ply designs in the context of four load cases,” says Komus. “This would have been out of scope with our former toolset.”
CIC engineers simulated federal motor vehicle safety compliance tests within Simcenter 3D. This included roof crushresistance, which requires the roof to sustain a static load equivalent to 1.5 times vehicle weight. Also evaluated was seat belt assembly anchorage to determine the proper location of the assembly for effective occupant restraint and reduced likelihood of failure.
“Being able to conduct these tests using Simcenter 3D and not have to export the data to another tool is a huge time saver,” notes Komus.
With NX and Simcenter in place, engineers at CIC are taking on increasingly complex projects and exploring a greater number of design variants, while delivering results to their clients in record time. Whether it’s down-selecting from a wide range of initial options or verifying and optimizing the performance of a more mature concept, Simcenter represents a single, integrated digital solution for accomplishing this swiftly and intuitively. Komus notes, “The switch to NX and Simcenter software allowed us to perform design and analysis projects that would have previously been impossible. The efficiency with which we can make design changes and verify their performance has dramatically increased.”
Use of NX and Simcenter helped the CIC team secure dramatic weight reductions on the Kestrel project, without compromising safety or durability of the vehicle. The ability to evaluate such a wide range of design variables in a very competitive timeframe allowed them to maximize the use of lightweight biofiber composite materials in the design. “By analyzing 50 different ply configurations, we were able to reduce the weight of the front tub component from 242 pounds (109 kilograms) to 142 pounds (64 kilograms), a weight saving of 41 percent,” says Komus.
In addition to the productivity-based benefits resulting from the use of NX and Simcenter, CIC received prompt and capable technical support from Maya, the local Siemens Digital Industries Software solution partner. Komus says that collaboration with MAYA enabled CIC to hit the ground running. “MAYA is a great company to work with,” he says. “They’ve helped us fill a critical gap in the value chain.”