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European industrial doctorate for damage modelling and online detection in aerospace composite structures

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Damage detection of aeronautical composites one step closer to perfection

Aerospace composite structures require regular inspection as they are exposed to extreme weather conditions and have many potential failure modes. The EU-funded SAFE-FLY project introduced an innovative multi-dimensional system for modelling and damage identification.

Industrial Technologies

Joining forces with a global leader company in designing, certifying, manufacturing, and maintaining aerospace composite structures, three early-stage researchers (ESRs) supported by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme developed ground-breaking research focussed on damage modelling, wave-damage interaction, and structural health monitoring (SHM). The EU-funded SAFE-FLY project enabled the development of an updated dependable methodology for online structural robustness inspection in modern aeronautical structures.

Bridging engineering academia and aerospace industry

Current training for researchers in the aerospace industry takes place at a singular level where companies have their own graduate training programmes. SAFE-FLY utilised the European innovative training networks effort to pursue a public-private partnership focussed on training the next generation of researchers with a multi-sectoral research background in aerospace technologies. The research collaborations that were developed through short courses and conferences offered each participant the opportunity to be exposed to the wider scope of scientific engineering. Τhe programme covered technical development, team work, professional skills and scientific outreach. Participation in semester-long taught modules, attendance to network short course events, as well as extended and intense industrial secondments have been its main highlights. “SAFE-FLY has been integral to the establishment of the European Research Area, especially within the unfortunate Brexit movement, with the creation of a training hub for future researchers in aerospace technology,” says Dimitrios Chronopoulos, project coordinator.

Novel solutions to intricate and inveterate problems

One of the main focusses of SAFE-FLY was the formation of a reliable damage modelling procedure that accurately captures diverse fibre and matrix-based failures in composites. This was achieved through a proposed anisotropic cohesive phase-field model to capture complex intra-laminar failure modes in thin-ply composites. After extensive validations through experiments with woven fabric-reinforced and unidirectional composite laminates, this model proved to be effective for accurate intra-laminar fracture predictions – even for plies with arbitrary fibre orientations when subjected to mixed-mode loading conditions. Another major objective was to perform rapid damage modelling simulations of composites with minimal computational costs. SAFE-FLY replaced the computationally expensive physical simulation model with a faster and more efficient artificial neural network-based surrogate one. Moreover, the research team managed to simulate complex damage scenarios under diverse loading conditions.

Pivotal results for future decision strategies and maintenance policies

The Bayesian inverse problem, information theory and fuzzy logic were the main methodological elements used to manage global uncertainties for each step of the ultrasonic guided wave-based SHM of aerospace structures. Experimental campaigns were carried out that partially validated the proposed frameworks using a state-of-the-art SHM system named PAMELA during the industrial secondments at Aernnova Engineering S.A. the project’s industrial beneficiary. The damage quantification module that has been developed will further contribute towards efficient maintenance planning for European aerospace components, leading to reduced associated costs. "This impact will soon benefit aircraft operators, as well as passengers worldwide, potentially rendering travel expenses cheaper,” concludes Chronopoulos.


SAFE-FLY, aerospace, damage, research, training, damage modelling, SHM, composite structures, structural health monitoring

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