NASA Tools Could Cross Over to Shipbuilding

Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Photo courtesy the Parker Group

HyperSizer is a structural sizing and design optimization software tool that works in a feedback loop with finite element analysis (FEA) to automatically search for solutions that minimize weight and maximize manufacturability.  Although it can also be used on metallic structures, HyperSizer is particularly applicable to complex composite materials, providing the capability to optimize the architecture of large structures—like space vehicles, aircraft, railcars, or even ships—ply-by-ply and element-by-element.

In a series of critical, full-scale, physical tests just completed by NASA, HyperSizer—the structural sizing and composite analysis software from Collier Research Corporation—accurately predicted the Composite Crew Module (CCM)’s successful performance under simulated flight conditions. 

The CCM is an all-composite alternative for the flight crew module Orion, which is part of NASA’s Constellation program to return man to the Moon and/or Mars. The successful outcome of the recent tests is seen by all involved as a major milestone in the design of human-rated spacecraft that points towards increased use of lightweight composites in space vehicles. 

HyperSizer software was used throughout the almost three-year project to optimize the design, weight and manufacturability of the CCM, which is constructed of honeycomb sandwich and solid laminate composites. HyperSizer was the first NASA software to be licensed and commercialized as part of the agency’s effort to transfer technology to U.S. business and industry.

“This project clearly demonstrates HyperSizer’s ability to accurately predict the behavior of large composite structures, with exacting design and manufacturing requirements,” said Craig Collier, president of Collier Research Corporation and the original programmer of the software. “The use of composites continues to expand across new industries as manufacturers look for ways to safely and cost-effectively replace heavier materials. HyperSizer can be an important tool for ensuring the integrity and optimal performance of the design engineering team’s work.”


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