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Generative Structural Design and Optimization of Modern Electric Aircraft

This presentation was made at the NAFEMS European Conference on Simulation-Based Optimisation held on the 15th of October in London.

Optimisation has become a key ingredient in many engineering disciplines and has experienced rapid growth in recent years due to innovations in optimisation algorithms and techniques, coupled with developments in computer hardware and software capabilities. The growing popularity of optimisation in engineering applications is driven by ever-increasing competition pressure, where optimised products and processes can offer improved performance and cost-effectiveness which would not be possible using traditional design approaches. However, there are still many hurdles to be overcome before optimisation is used routinely for engineering applications.

The NAFEMS European Conference on Simulation-Based Optimisation brings together practitioners and academics from all relevant disciplines to share their knowledge and experience, and discuss problems and challenges, in order to facilitate further improvements in optimisation techniques.

Resource Abstract

Despite mature and efficient ground vehicle technology and intelligent traffic routing, a need for better transportation still exists. Road congestion and increased air pollution motivates the design of exhaust free short-range air transportation for commute and parcel services.

Next to needing to overcome legal and regulatory hurdles, this novel form of aircraft must gain economic viability by increasing the vehicle’s total energy per weight in order to have a longer range, or a higher payload capability – particularly when battery powered. Since the energy density of modern batteries is given, decreasing the structural mass while not compromising structural reliability and integrity is most important to achieve better designs.

In the aerospace industry, since decades the Finite Element Method is established to support the stress engineer throughout all phases from conceptual design, preliminary and detailed sizing to final analysis and certification. However, time consuming manual changes to the model and cumbersome workflows for load extraction and sizing routines restrict the exploration of many design concepts – especially in the earlier phases of the program. Particularly designs utilizing high-performance materials such as carbon fiber or hybrid composites with many design variables and respective manufacturing constraints are a big time sink and thus often not thoroughly evaluated. This leaves structural performance on the table, or in the worst case: makes the vehicle design not viable. Both that can be resolved using a practical design optimization software such as HyperSizer.

This work presents an effective design optimization approach of a typical modern electric aircraft wing structure under stiffness, stability and strength constraints. We illustrate how through different generative design phases and different modelling approaches, a great number of concepts can be investigated including metallic and composite monolithic, stiffened and sandwich panel designs using traditional and modern aerospace analysis techniques. Each of the concepts and material combinations are evaluated with rigorous analysis, subject to design rules, and tooling constraints. The ease of use and rapid techniques of HyperSizer enable stress engineers to generate sensitivity curves for big structures for a great number of load cases and narrow down generative design choices – accounting for manufacturing techniques early on.

Document Details

AuthorStier. B
Date 15th October 2019
OrganisationHyperSizer - Collier Research


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