There is a growing popularity for using advanced composite materials in all areas of engineering, including automotive and aerospace engineering, which means that universities are keen to understand how to develop students’ knowledge in this area. There is also currently a major skills gap in composites engineering, meaning that students can potentially gain sought-after skills for employment in their engineering career paths.
Dr David Hughes, senior lecturer in materials engineering at Teesside University, is addressing the skills gap through research and instruction in composites engineering. In the UK, there are currently many people working on composite materials in the broadest sense and many working on manufacturing methods, but the greatest skills gap is for people who can design in composites.
In partnership with Siemens PLM Software, Teesside University uses the Fibersim™ portfolio of software for composites engineering in its teaching and research. With about 60 licenses of Fibersim, the university has embedded the software in its engineering courses and is the only university in the UK to embed Fibersim into its degree programs. With Fibersim students can learn how to create a digital twin of a composite part that links analysis, design and manufacturing – everything needed for composites engineering.
Teesside University also uses Siemens’ NX™ software for product development and NX™ Nastran® software for structural simulation, as part of a comprehensive instruction program that includes practical hands-on projects and facilities. The goal is to create students who understand digital tools to help students understand the way engineering is going and how markets are developing. More and more is done in a simulation environment rather than in more traditional development processes to support this approach.
Dr Hughes’ course in composites is mandatory in the aerospace degree programme, and each semester 40 to 60 students are enrolled in the class. “A core learning outcome in the aerospace degree is knowledge of aerospace materials, which include high-temperature alloys and composite materials,” says Dr Hughes. “It’s a core topic.”
Ultimately working with composite materials is fundamentally different from working with metals, which challenges students to think in new ways. The problems initially feel harder to solve, but the benefits are much larger.
Together, Teesside University and Siemens produce industry-ready engineers who achieve exceptional engineering and aerospace student employability. Teesside University students love Fibersim software because it gives them freedom to experiment digitally.
“We take students through a series of design projects where we look at what happens in Fibersim if we change the ply orientation, how it affects the stress,” Dr. Hughes explains. “Because we use Siemens’ NX and NX Nastran as our analysis tools, we can take the Fibersim models and digitally analyse and understand the effects of those changes very quickly. The digital approach allows students to evaluate a much broader array of variables than we could ever do in the lab, interaction after interaction, analysing the stress and considering the manufacturability as well.”
This partnership has created an ideal scenario for both sides. First by introducing students to cutting edge technology and digitally focusing their research onto new methods in the engineering industry. And secondly, by providing a higher level of employability for students planning on following an engineering career path with the most up-to-date skills possible.
“Siemens PLM Software’s partnership with Teesside University allows the university to use the Fibersim™ composites engineering software portfolio in its teaching and research”, says Ed Bernardon, Vice President, Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens PLM Software. “With about 60 licenses of Fibersim, the university has embedded the software in its engineering courses and is the only university in the UK to embed Fibersim into its degree programs. With Fibersim students can learn how to create a digital twin of a composite part that links analysis, design and manufacturing – everything needed for composites engineering.”
“With this solid background in composites, Teesside University takes pride in making industry-ready engineers that are ready to use the power of Fibersim to transform how composites are designed and manufactured. These ‘Industry-Ready’ students are able to drive innovation and productivity in the composite industry with the use of Siemens unique composites software solutions”, concludes Dr Hughes.