U.S. Navy
Rotorcraft

Technology Paves Way for Longer Helicopter Life

April 8, 2020
This SBIR award is aimed at enhancing modeling software to extend the actual operating lifetimes of helicopters for the U.S. Navy.

Software that can model the behavior of composite materials may prove to be an effective tool for extending the usable lifetimes of those materials, as far as the U.S. Navy is concerned. The Navy has made a $240,000 small business innovation research (SBIR) program grant to AnalySwift LLC.

The Purdue-University-affiliated commercial software supplier will apply the grant to boost the capabilities and effectiveness of its SwiftComp software, which is already an accurate and efficient modeling tool for analyzing and performing virtual testing on the behavior of composite materials, such as those use in the construction of Navy helicopters and other maritime vehicles that must endure complex operating environments.

Specifically, the software will be used by the Navy to study the flexbeams used in rotorcraft, which tend to be complex in shape and structure (tapered and curved) and formed of composite materials. When two or more materials are involved in the construction of a moving part such as a flexbeam, which connects the blade to the hub of the aircraft, it results in unforeseen stress points in the microstructure of the material, making computer modeling and lifetime predictions difficult.

“We are excited to partner with the U.S. Navy to help address this challenge,” said Allan Wood, president and CEO of AnalySwift. “The Navy is going to be able to use the resulting software technology to properly align a helicopter’s predicted life to actual service life, reduce downtime in redesigns and, ultimately, save money.”

Wood points to a need to better resolve a discrepancy between analysis and testing of flexbeams and other composite-based moving parts in helicopters. NAVAIR has adjusted to durability analysis that must predict four times the hoped-for operating lifetime of the rotorcraft to provide usable results, even though testing on the same composite construction will yield lifetime predictions that are in line with the actual operating lifetimes.

Ideally, the computer-modeling and measurement results would be within a tight tolerance so that either set of data could provide an accurate projection of operating lifetime. Improvements in the modeling software will involve a better understanding of the physics of flexbeam fatigue failure.

“Our specific project aims to enable an efficient high-fidelity tool set with significantly improved durability predictive capabilities for composite flexbeams using user-defined elements,” Wood said. “Success of this proposal will produce a practical solution for efficient yet accurate durability analysis of composite flexbeams.”

About the Author

Jack Browne | Technical Contributor

Jack Browne, Technical Contributor, has worked in technical publishing for over 30 years. He managed the content and production of three technical journals while at the American Institute of Physics, including Medical Physics and the Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology. He has been a Publisher and Editor for Penton Media, started the firm’s Wireless Symposium & Exhibition trade show in 1993, and currently serves as Technical Contributor for that company's Microwaves & RF magazine. Browne, who holds a BS in Mathematics from City College of New York and BA degrees in English and Philosophy from Fordham University, is a member of the IEEE.

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