HPC Helps Design Composite Materials for Next Generation Aircraft


Composite materials are widely used in the aircraft industry today. The development of lightweight, high-temperature resistant composite materials is influencing the next generation of high-performance, economical aircraft designs. Use of such materials reduces fuel consumption, improves efficiency and reduces direct operating costs of aircraft. Composite materials can be formed into various shapes and, if desired, the fibers can be wound tightly to increase strength.

B-Spline Analysis Method (BSAM) is an innovative tool for modeling mechanics and fracture in complex materials, identifying cracks or delamination, for instance. However, BSAM was developed to run on PCs, and large problems require significant large memory allocations across multiple nodes on a HPC system.


Air Force engineers contacted Engility contractors, working in DOD’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP) under the User Productivity, Technology Transfer and Training (PETTT) Program, to enable BSAM on HPC resources. Engility profiled BSAM, successfully identifying the most computationally intensive elements of the code. Our computational scientist applied Message Passing Interface (MPI) capabilities to ensure successful software communication across nodes and enhanced the solver. The result is that BSAM, already the workhorse software in the area of composite mechanics, is now being tested for more possible tasks.


The U.S. Air Force can now run BSAM across its HPC resources. BSAM has many advanced features, including mesh-independent cracking and textile modeling, which makes it attractive for design simulation, particularly for aerospace applications. A useful feature of composites is that they can be layered, with the fibers in each layer running in a different direction. This allows an engineer to design structures with unique properties. Structural response and damage modeling in polymer matrix composite (PMC) materials is of ever-increasing importance to the DoD structures community. It plays a significant role in the design of high-performance next generation aircraft as well as maintaining and extending the life of an aging fleet.