Under pressure? Turn to space tech

21 2011

Under pressure? Turn to space tech

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ESA - When engineers come up with a super-strong new material for building shipping containers, trucking trailers and aircraft parts, it is a major challenge to simulate its strength and reliability accurately. So a Belgian company turned to ESA.

A super-strong new material presents engineers with tricky challenges. The good news? They have a super-strong new building material. The bad news? If it is brand new and high-tech, there is no design or production experience, and it can be difficult to calculate the final strength through computer modeling.

This was the situation Belgian composite materials company Acrosoma found itself in a few years ago.

ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme stepped in to suggest sophisticated software from space research and development that could reduce the weight of the containers so that each lorry could carry 10% more cargo.

This reduces the number of vehicles on the road, lowering both costs and carbon dioxide emission " which is good for the environment.

The problem was that it was not possible to test the panels physically because of their size, so computer simulations were needed.

“If you used a standard programme,” said Jan Verhaeghe, Acrosoma’s CEO, of the quandary his company faced at the time, “it showed that our panels were weak.”

The company was sure that the panels were strong enough, but “we needed to see how strong the panels actually would be,” said Mr Verhaeghe.

“And we needed to convince the customers, as well.”

Space simulation software proved the strength

“We use the ESAComp software in preliminary design phases for space structures to analyse the composite materials’ performance and strength,” explained Andreas Obst, an engineer in ESA’s Structures and Mechanisms Division.

“We use it to determine the best material and the lightest structure, but it is still strong enough. It helps us save weight, which is very important for anything to go into space.” - /ESA

Source by Astronomia_per_tutti

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