Value of Simulation to Material Testing and Development

Value of Simulation to Material Testing and Development

This article was originally posted by Bob Schmitz, Senior Business Development Manager for e-Xstream engineering on Composites World magazine.

Traditionally we have designed, characterized new materials with physical testing by using simple coupon tests, which are affordable and the results have generally been accepted as fact, even if the sample size is small.

However, material science has advanced. New materials are continually evaluated for their potential, and a choice need to be made between types of fibers, matrix, and composite architecture. There is also an endless number of options available to support cost- and weight-saving innovations. 

Test matrices are typically determined using engineering experience and internal methods (i.e., rule of mixtures). The time spent between ordering tests and getting the results can easily be six months. If results are promising, another six months can be spent testing additional layups and material combinations. This process may keep repeated once or twice until enough data is collected and a material is fully characterized. This multiple-step test campaign, followed by validation and certification, is extremely time-consuming and costly.

Simulation tools can be used to accelerate the testing process by quickly predicting the performance of a composite. Users of simulation can expand their design space and simulate far more physical combinations that they could physically test in a matter of days or weeks, not months. 

The simulation results allow users to not only avoid testing combinations that clearly would have been outliers, but also to conduct inexpensive virtual testing on new materials that may not have been considered, opening the door for greater innovation. 

With simulation tools, you can do the following: 

  • Get results in hours instead of months. 
  • Evaluate a much larger design space at a much lower cost. 
  • Simply and in a way that is inexpensive test sensitivity. 
  • Dive deeper into what drives performance, which helps to focus test efforts. 

Many companies hesitate to change the status quo, but those who do are using simulation to support material initiatives that are saving considerable time and achieving more optimal results than before.


Bob Schmitz is senior business development manager for e-Xstream engineering (Newport Beach, CA, US). He is responsible for e-Xstream’s Aero and Industrial accounts in the US, has been in the simulation industry for more than 13 years, has experience evaluating structures using linear and nonlinear finite element methods and currently works to expand the use of advanced simulation tools to accelerate the adoption of composites and replace traditional materials. Schmitz earned his BS and MS in engineering mechanics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MBA from the University of Denver.

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