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Call for Expressions of Interest: Material state prediction for in-service life management of fibre-reinforced composite aircraft structures

Aerospace Division (AD), as part of Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), is undertaking a program of work aiming to develop a material state prediction capability for the in-service life management of composite aircraft structures. This is envisaged to deliver Defence outcomes including increased operational availability and reduced cost of ownership.

The work program will create scientific knowledge and develop an analysis methodology for reliable prediction of the strength and fatigue life of impact damaged composite aircraft structures. It will be undertaken with a focus on composite aircraft structures typical to high-altitude long range UAVs. The research approach will integrate fatigue testing with modelling development and analysis at the coupon and element levels, supported by the development of a complementary material state awareness capability.

DSTG is inviting Expressions of Interest (EOI) from Australian universities to partner with Defence in delivering the modelling development and analysis component of this work program.

Background

Fibre-reinforced composites have been increasingly used in modern aircraft. Due to the inherent complexity of failure mechanisms, the tools currently available for strength and life prediction of composite structures are not as reliable as those developed for metal structures. This necessitates extra conservatism, leading to reduced operational readiness and increased cost of ownership.

The lack of a reliable strength and life prediction tool is a known challenge to operators of composite airframes around the world, which is amplified for the Australian Defence Force due to its relatively small fleet size.

To address this challenge, DSTG is undertaking a program of work aiming to develop a material state prediction capability for the in-service life management of composite aircraft structures. It has three objectives, including:

  • Investigate fatigue characteristics of a typical composite aircraft structure with impact damage including degradation influencers;
  • Establish fatigue analysis methodology of a typical composite aircraft structure with impact damage including degradation influencers;
  • Develop methods for material state awareness supporting in-service life management, including Non-Destructive Inspection (NDI).

The work program will run for a four year period ending in September 2024, and will be undertaken in collaboration with DSTG's international partners. This program is expected to create scientific knowledge and develop an analysis methodology for reliable prediction of the strength and fatigue life of impact damaged composite aircraft structures.

The research approach will integrate fatigue testing with modelling development and analysis at the coupon and element levels, supported by the development of material state awareness methodologies. It will be undertaken with a focus on composite aircraft structures typical to high-altitude long range UAVs.

This EOI is seeking an Australian research partner to contribute to the modelling development and analysis component of this work program.

Call for a Research Partner

DSTG is seeking to build, through partnership with an Australian university, an expanded capability to fast-track the development of an analysis methodology for reliable prediction of the strength and fatigue life of impact damaged composite aircraft structures.

DSTG is proposing to engage with a research partner over a four-year period ending in Sept 2024. The preferred research partner will contribute in the areas of modelling development and analysis, and are therefore expected to have strong capabilities and existing research programs in one or more of the following priority areas:

  • Failure mechanisms of composite laminates, and relevant strength and fatigue life modelling, including damage propagation and growth under monotonic and cyclic loads;
  • Numerical implementation, including computational algorithm and program development for portable finite element analysis (FEA) tools (suitable for  multi-CPU desktop computation) verified analytically and by commercial-off-the-shelf software packages, with appropriate balancing of performance and accuracy requirements;
  • Data analysis, including: (i) analysis of experimental results to provide inputs and for the validation of modelling tools, and (ii) development of a test matrix underpinned by the need to provide input data and for the purpose of model validation. It is noted that impact damage will be treated as an input to FEA, hence the analysis of experimental data also include the development of a proper methodology to characterise and describe impact damage in modelling analysis. The outputs of modelling tools will include at least residual strength, life and damage evolutions.

It is expected that the successful research partner(s) will be able to identify mutual long-term benefit from the outlined research opportunities.

Partnering Opportunities

DSTG has committed a total of $2.5M (including $430k cash investment) over the four-year period to the program of work that aims to develop a material state prediction capability for the in-service life management of composite aircraft structures.

For the “modelling development and analysis” component of this work program, DSTG will:

  • commit $240k (excluding GST) in cash funding over four years ($60K per annum);
  • provide access to experimental data, including static and fatigue test results and NDI results, to be used as inputs and for the validation of modelling tools;
  • provide guidance and supervision where appropriate.

It would be desirable for the Research Partner to have the capacity:

  • to appoint an academic chair (or equivalent) to provide program oversight and set the foundation for an enduring capability driven partnership;
  • appoint a part-time postdoctoral fellow (or equivalent);
  • support and administrate student projects in areas of mutual interest.

Essential Requirements

  • Demonstrated capability and experience in one or more of the described priority research areas;
  • Ability to attract suitably qualified research candidates;
  • Ability to rapidly stand-up capability;
  • Signatory to the Defence Science Partnering Deed, DSP 2.0.

Desirable Requirements

DSTG is interested in fostering and building an enduring relationship with an appropriate partner. As such, the following will be considered desirable when assessing EOI submissions.

  • Demonstrated experience translating research models into production software systems;
  • Understanding of regulatory requirements for in-service management of composite aircraft structures;
  • Genuine interest to develop and grow a sovereign research capability within their institution in a related field, and promote an ongoing partnership with Defence;
  • Clear vision for the development of an ongoing capability.

How to Apply

DSTG is inviting Expressions of Interests (EOI) from Australian universities. Submissions should be no longer than 4 pages outlining a relevant experience, research interest, and a proposed research program addressing the following:

  • A model of engagement which includes co-investment and strategy for establishing and maintaining an enduring partnering capability; and
  • Program of work addressing one or more of the research priorities outlined above, including proposed deliverables.

Submissions will be assessed by a panel from DSTG. Selected submissions will then be invited for discussions and develop their program of work further. All submissions will be handled in confidence.

Submissions are now closed.

Disclaimer

The nature of this research and its subject matter may be perceived as relevant to the STaRshot – Battle-Ready Platforms.  The party or parties involved in or undertaking this particular research activity should be aware that it does not provide them with any formal relationship with the relevant STaRshot activity. Any future STaRshot activity will be subject to the Commonwealth Procurement Rules in particular relating to non-discrimination and ethical behaviours – in, short this research activity will not advantage a party in future arrangements.

Engagement Model

Separate scheduled agreements under the Defence Science Partnering Deed.

DSTG Contact

Technical Information and Requirements
Xiaobo Yu
Telephone: (03) 9626 7430 │ 0421 893 515
Email:

Contracting and Administrative Support
Stephen Johns
Telephone: 0418 393 475
Email:

Key information

Submissions are now closed.

DSTG Contact

Technical Information and Requirements
Xiaobo Yu
Telephone: (03) 9626 7430 │ 0421 893 515
Email:

Contracting and Administrative Support
Stephen Johns
Telephone: 0418 393 475
Email: