From their first appearance in higher education, composite materials have moved away from their 'curiosity' status and are now integrated into the core discipline. Driven by the interest in composite materials by ever wider industry sectors, educational establishments have reacted and modernised the content of their courses in order to meet industry demand for young people competent in all aspects of these complex materials. From the origins within materials science, across Europe and beyond, composites appear in numerous degree courses and also in post-graduate engineering, manufacture and construction: materials, structural, sustainable, aerospace, naval, architecture, textile, medical (from diagnostic equipment to paralympian gold medal prosthetics).
Talking to the Professors
ESAComp has a proven track record as a useful resource to many educational establishments providing courses in composite materials. Here's what the professors have to say.
In addition to their popular Composite Summer Academy, FHNW - Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz in Switzerland offers courses in Composites Processing and Advanced Composites. Professor Clemens Dransfeld, Head of the Institute of Polymer Engineering, says he "first came across ESAComp at a sandwich structures conference many years ago". Since 2005, ESAComp has become an integral part of their teaching approach.
In Spain, E.T.S.I. Aeronáuticos – Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Professor Alfredo Güemes has been using ESAComp since 2003. The university offers a 45 hours course (6 ECTS) on Composite Materials in the 3rd year of the Aeronautics degree, and also a Masters (60 ECTS) on Composite Materials.
Which features of ESAComp do you find useful for education?
"It's useful because it includes most of the subroutines required for an elementary analysis of composite structures (laminate theory, thermal stresses, beam and plates, bolted and bonded joints)", says Professor Güemes.
"Many", agrees Professor Dransfeld, "ESAComp offers a multitude of useful visualizations to explain laminate theory".
Can you give me an example of one of your tutorials/uses of ESAComp?
At FHNW, "Our 'Advanced Composites' course is to a large extent based on using ESAComp in the classroom", says Professor Dransfeld.
One example is the 'Laminate Theory III: Failure Criteria' course work takes the student through the process of determining a failure/design envelope using ESAComp in order to compare different failure criteria for a particular material.
E.T.S.I students also gain hands-on experience of ESAComp. "We have a rental agreement for ESAComp, so each student may have a licence for their PC", explains Professor Güemes. Every year about 200 student licences are issued which are active for 1 year. "Each student is given a task which covers most of the possibilities offered by ESAComp".
The task is ingenious: For a particular prepreg type, each student starts off by creating their own personal lay-up, dictated by the vowels in their name. Applying Professor Güemes' nomenclature, the lay-up for Garcia Gonzalez laminate is (0, +45, 0, -45, 0, 90).
Faced with the usual situation of an unsymmetrical laminate, the students first determine the residual stresses in their laminate after curing, before going on to modify the lay-up to a balanced configuration and repeating the calculations. Anisotropy is demonstrated by directional strength calculations, along with the effects of using different failure criteria.
Moving on to a more engineering approach, the laminate then becomes a panel of a particular size that needs to have stiffeners added to resist buckling. This is then compared with a sandwich panel, which is then compared with an aluminium plate having the same thickness.
The performance of an adhesive bond between the student laminates is determined and compared with a riveted joint. At each step, the conditions to be met are specified. The overall task is carefully structured to demonstrate the key characteristics of composite materials – all done with the aid of ESAComp.
In general, in which industry sectors do your post-graduate students find work?
For FHNW graduates, their destiny is usually within either the polymer or composites industry.
In Spain, whilst about 30% find work within general industry, 60%, the majority of their graduates, go on to work in the aerospace sector, either in aerospace structures (EADS and its subcontractors) or allied sectors, such as engines, ATM, maintenance, airports, avionics. A few work in research and universities.
"Unemployment is very low among our graduates" confirms Professor Güemes.
Ambitious 'green' student projects
Student projects that combine the design and analysis aspects, provided by ESAComp, with the practical manufacturing also feature in higher-education in other universities.
Bridges are a familiar subject for student projects – the winner judged as that having the highest specific strength.
ERA, the Electric RaceAbout car, was designed and built for the Progressive Insurance Automotive X-Prize competition by students and faculty of Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Finland. In 2010, ERA was 2nd in their 'side-by-side' class, only 0.0172 seconds behind after 100 miles.
ESAComp also featured in the TU Delft's team entry for the Solar Decathlon 2012. Here, competitors from universities around the world each design and build a sustainable, economically viable and aesthetically pleasing house. Known as ReVolt and inspired by the houseboats seen on canals in Dutch cities, TU Delft sadly did not make it to Madrid owing to insufficient sponsorship funding to complete their house.
ESAComp EDU licences – for the classroom and beyond
"Componeering offers ESAComp licences for educational use that can be adapted to meet the needs of any particular university. To date, schools and universities in over 20 countries are ESAComp users," says Markku Palanterä, CEO of Componeering – the developers with worldwide commercial rights to ESAComp.
"All our EDU licence packages are very competitively priced", explains Markku, "there is no such thing as ESAComp-Light, so the universities use software with exactly the same functions as our commercial licences".
"Once ESAComp has helped you master the basics of composite design, the advanced features and simulations are of interest to both student projects and PhD research work".
For further information, see 'ESAComp for Education'
With thanks to our contributing Professors for taking time out from their preparations for the new academic year
Professor Alfredo Güemes
Professor Clemens Dransfeld