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Strengthening and Upholding the Performances of the new Engineered Research PANELS

Final Report Summary - SUPERPANELS (Strengthening and Upholding the Performances of the new Engineered Research PANELS)

SUPERPANELS was a 36 months project involving 5 different groups. Three are located in Europe: Leuven (B), Southampton (UK) and Napoli (IT). The other two partners are from Montreal (CA) and Auckland (NZ).

The project has been built on the existing relationships among these entities:
1 Vibrations and acoustics group, Aerospace Engineering, University of Naples “Federico II”, Napoli, Italy
2 Dynamics Group, Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom
3 Noise and Vibration Research Group, Mechanical Engineering, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
4 Vibrations and Fluid-Structure Interaction, Mechanical Engineering, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
5 Centre for Advanced Composite Materials, Mechanical Engineering, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

This IRSES project benefitted the organisations, bringing them together under a common umbrella, joining their previous research experiences and consolidating the previous occasional and existing collaborations. The researchers’ secondments have accelerated the process of achieving engineering results; in fact, it is well known that cross-fertilisation among distinct but complementary expertises has a dramatically positive effect in selecting the best method and/or technologies.
Furthermore, it has to be underlined that SUPERPANELS was centered on the persons rather than uniquely on the results; this was one of the best success of the project since some researchers, directly involved in the secondments or attending at the research activities, had the opportunity to participate to a research project wider than the national ones in which the differences represented an accelerator of knowledge.

In fact, the exchanges has linked complementary experiences in the mechanical and transportation engineering fields: the involved researchers participated in a relatively short time in a wider group having several different visions about the same macro-problems. These latter were not investigated with the same levels of detail, but furnished a general common framework in which all the possible enhancements have been properly allocated.

The histories, traditions and backgrounds were different: SUPER✯PANELS was an extraordinary opportunity to share these differences and transform them in a cooperative and stable scenario. To certify this it has to be highlighted that an agreement has been signed between Napoli, Leuven and Auckland in order to have a common frame also for the future. Some visits are already ongoing and/or planned even after the end of SUPER✯PANELS. The other two organizations are going to sign the same agreement too: this is expected to come in 2014.

Coming to the results, it must be stated that panels are ubiquitous components of engineering structures such as cars, aircraft, boats and buildings.
The panels often dominate the overall performance of such structures, whether in terms of noise transmission and radiation, vibration, stability, stiffness or strength.

About the topics it has to be stated that a great effort has been spent in the mechanical engineering fields in order to conceive new panels with improved static and dynamic performances. This is motivated primarily by the search for innovative design solutions specifically tailored for facing the problems of transportation engineering, where the vehicle requires a design with high stiffness, low weight, low noise and low cost.
The five coordinated international research groups had high levels of expertise in panel analysis and activities in the fields of civil, automotive, aerospace, naval and railway transportation. The process of exchanging researchers and coordinating activities allowed the specific expertise of each group to be enhanced, enabling improved and faster selection and development of novel panels, configurations and materials. The range of properties and constructions of existing panels is very large and numerous opportunities are offered by new technologies.
However, knowledge of the behaviour of the panels is still limited and requires research actions to allow them to become applicable in general engineering. Furthermore, from the consortium members’ previous activities, there are innovative methods that have been developed over recent years, arising from an increase of the knowledge about predictive structural and structural-acoustic tools. These are contributing to major advances and will enter common engineering practice in the near future.
In this project these novel methods have been extensively used, tested and verified against specific measurements of the predicted and expected performances of the (super)panels. Several candidate solutions were suggested and motivated at the beginning of the project. The results have qualified how and where the specific performances have been increased without penalties for any of the other standard requirements. The main attention was devoted to assurance of the compliance with the dynamic (linear and non-linear) and vibro-acoustic performances. Other emerging requirements as the flammability was also not specifically investigated as initially planned since the attention was reserved to the configurations which have shown more promising results for vibration and noise reductions.
Other issue such as the thermal properties, manufacturing techniques, repairing, interaction with chemicals, wear, handling, and durability represented a range too wide at the actual status.

SUPER✯PANELS certified that it is possible to achieve configurations with augmented performances.

The broad and general objectives, around which the Work Packages (WPs) were built, concerned :
(i) Status of the Art and Definition of the Candidate Materials and Configurations;
(ii) Theoretical and Numerical Modelling Issues;
(iii) Experimental Supporting and/or Validating Measurements;
(iv) Consolidation and Exploitation of the Results.

Within these WPs, the various scientific objectives were:
o Numerical modelling of the noise and vibration behaviour in various modal overlap regions.
o Numerical modelling of composite structures, especially laminated, lightweight structures made from various materials such as CFRP, or which utilise alternative materials such as bio-based and combinations of bio-based and synthetic materials. Constructions include laminates and sandwich panels with honeycomb or corrugated cores, manufactured for example from wood veneers and polypropylene (PP) reinforced with wood or sisal fibres.
o Use and characterisation of alternative materials.
o Experimental validation of numerical models.
o Experimental characterisation of materials and composite panels.

The various objectives within the work packages, which relate to dissemination, were
• definition of the state of the art, within and outside the consortium
• consolidation of the results within the consortium
• transfer of knowledge within and outside the consortium through various workshops, conference activities and publications.