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ACCIS CDT student wins AIAA American Society of Composites award

Broderick Coburn (third from left) at the awards luncheon.

3 February 2015

Broderick Coburn, a PhD student in the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Composites for Innovation and Science (ACCIS CDT), has been awarded the American Society of Composites (ASC) Best Student Paper in Composites award at the 56th American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Structures, Structural Dynamics and Materials Conference (SDM).

Coburn won the award for his technical paper and presentation ‘Buckling analysis and optimization of blade stiffened variable stiffness panels’. The paper forms part of a major research project led by Professor Paul Weaver on Variable Angle Tow (VAT) composite structures.

The award is based on a two-step process whereby the technical paper is shortlisted (86 entrants for 2015) following an evaluation and score by the Structures Technical Committee; the presentations of shortlisted candidates are subsequently assessed during the conference by up to 10 technical experts. The award, which came with a cash prize of $1000, was announced and presented to Coburn at the conference awards luncheon.

Co-written alongside Professor Paul Weaver and Dr Zhangming Wu, the paper details the development of an analytical method for the design of blade stiffened variable angle tow panels and presents results from a preliminary optimization study showing potential weight savings in excess of 6% compared to conventional designs. The novelty of the work is not only in the application of variable stiffness to a stiffened panel configuration but in the development of a method which captures often neglected effects that are fundamental to the behaviour of stiffened panels thus allowing a deeper understanding of their structural response.

Traditionally, composite structures are manufactured by stacking several straight fibre plies or layers to form a laminate. However, the advancement of tape laying and fibre placement technologies has led to the possibility of having VAT laminates whereby the individual layers that form the laminate can have a varying fibre orientation in the plane of a ply resulting in variable stiffness. These VAT laminates significantly open up the design space available to engineers, providing increased tailorability and potential for weight savings. Previous work within ACCIS has shown that VAT laminates exhibit significant improvements in buckling and post-buckling performance compared to conventional straight fibre laminates.

Coburn’s work aims to exploit this enhanced buckling performance by applying VAT to aircraft wing skins.

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