The use of finite element technology in the aerospace industry is well developed and the key issue confronting practitioners is how to integrate existing technology into the overall CAE process more effectively. This is in response to the driver for a continually better product and foreshortened time to market. In many areas of technology (for example; optimisation, adaptive analysis and design sensitivity analysis) a technical requirement has been foreseen and developed but its uptake has been slow. More importantly there are still considerable process-related issues that have still to be effectively addressed. These include establishing “standard” analysis processes, maintaining life cycle information with the product data and industry standards for the exchange and storing of life-time product data. Data provenance and the treatment of legacy data is also an issue.
Furthermore, the newly emerging technological area of smart structures will impose new requirements on the FE technology. These will be concerned with structural health monitoring, damage or malfunctioning, identification and structural control.
In common with other industries there is also considerable potential saving if simulation can reduce the amount of prototype testing and there are some initiatives aimed at satisfying the regulatory bodies that aircraft can be satisfactorily certified on the basis of analysis alone. The key issue here is thus a priori validation of safety- critical structures.
At a technical level there is considerable demand for more holistic modelling, which for example, couples aero-elastics with structures and acoustics, and the improved characterisation of the failure and damage behaviour of advanced materials with respect to damage. There is also renewed interest in probabilistic methods.