Public Release: 

Navy grant fuels efforts to improve safety, reduce manufacturing costs of aircraft parts

Composite testing

University of Texas at Arlington

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IMAGE: Andrew Makeev is pictured. view more

Credit: UT Arlington

Composite materials are widely used in manufacturing aircraft and other applications where lightweight, super-strong materials are prized, but testing those materials for defects and predicting where defects will occur remains difficult.

Andrew Makeev, a professor of aerospace engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington, will use a $181,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research to purchase an ARES-G2 integrated axial-torsional platform that will allow his team to better understand material properties including defect formation in composites as a function of manufacturing process. The ONR grant is part of the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program.

That's important for understanding the manufacturing process. Most importantly, such material properties are going to be integrated in computational models replacing trial-and-error testing to improve manufacturing processes for aircraft composite parts. The computational modeling is less prone to the defects, which saves time and money.

"We are in a leading role in a fundamental shift from just detecting problems to actual analysis," Makeev said. "We understand material properties better now, and we have had success in predicting how things will break through structural analysis. This instrument will allow us to address a fourth element: the manufacturing process, and predict how and where anomalies will occur.

"Taking that further, we will be able to look at defects and determine what they mean, what their effects are, and how to control the manufacturing process to prevent critical defects from happening in production."

Erian Armanios, chair of UTA's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, said Makeev's research, as well as that of others across the College of Engineering, exemplifies the University's status as a global leader in composites and its contributions to data-driven discovery under the Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

"We have made great strides in creating a research program in composites that will lead to innovation and groundbreaking discoveries," Armanios said. "This grant will allow Dr. Makeev to expand his research and make a great contribution to our knowledge and build a much needed database of material properties as a function of manufacturing processes."

Armanios said that Makeev has had a "stellar record" of winning four DURIP grants, two at Georgia Tech and two at UTA.

Makeev previously earned a $1.35 million grant from Sikorsky to design more durable materials and accelerate their implementation in composite aircraft, and a $559,427 grant from the Office of Naval Research to learn how to improve and integrate design and manufacturing processes to advance the performance of composite materials used in aircraft structures.

Makeev is just one of several distinguished researchers in composites at UTA. Others include Kenneth Reifsnider, a Presidential Distinguished Professor of mechanical engineering and member of the National Academy of Engineering, who leads the Institute for Predictive Performance Methodologies. Reifsnider is an internationally recognized expert in high temperature energy systems and composite materials.

Also at the institute, Endel Iarve, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, focuses on the understanding and computational modeling of deformation and failure mechanisms of current and emerging composite materials. Iarve was one of the pioneers of application of B-spline approximation to stress analysis in laminated composites including dynamic problems and impact loading.

Anand Puppala, associate dean for research in the College of Engineering and Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Civil Engineering Department, is the director of the Center for Integration of Composites into Infrastructure, which focuses on geotechnical issues related to roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

Ashfaq Adnan, an assistant professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, is researching how to change molecular structures and blend ceramics to create a new, less brittle material that is just as strong for use on space vehicles, in power plants and other applications.

DURIP grants help U.S. universities conduct research and educate scientists and engineers in areas important to national defense by providing funds for the acquisition of research equipment. Funds must be used for the acquisition of major equipment or instrumentation to augment current, or develop new, research capabilities to support research in the technical areas of interest to the U.S. Department of Defense.

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About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Research-1 Carnegie "highest research activity" institution of about 54,000 degree-seeking students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times' 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit http://www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at http://www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php.

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