Aerospace manufacturers are increasingly turning to sophisticated software tools to help them more quickly develop lighter aircraft structures with certified strength and durability. The Department of Defense's current helicopter competition provided Spirit AeroSystems with an opportunity to prove out such tools for the design of the fuselage of the Bell Helicopter entry. Collier Research's Hypersizer® software supported Spirit in the design of a prototype that was delivered ahead of schedule and within budget.
When announcing the completion of the Bell V-280 tiltrotor fuselage at a September press conference, Bell Helicopter leadership applauded the Bell Helicopter/Spirit AeroSystems team for a job well done, ahead of schedule and within budget. This event marked the culmination of a successful first-time collaboration between the two companies.
Artist's conception of Bell V-280 tiltrotor in action.
The sizing and analysis software Spirit used to prove out the structural integrity of the V-280 has a long history in aerospace: HyperSizer®, from Collier Research, was the first software package used by NASA made available on the commercial market. Employed for both aircraft and space-launch vehicles fabricated with composite or metallic materials, the software automatically performs design, stress analysis and sizing optimization, typically reducing the weight of structures by 20-40 percent. HyperSizer is also applicable in the wind energy, high-speed rail, automotive and shipbuilding industries.
On the V-280 fuselage prototype program, Spirit AeroSystems employed HyperSizer for detailed sizing of the fuselage. Important structural requirements include strength, stability, stiffness and deflection/rotation limitations for severe flight, landing and ground load cases.
The V-280 tiltrotor fuselage prototype was delivered by the Bell Helicopter/Spirit AeroSystems team ahead of schedule and within budget. Collier Research's HyperSizer design software supported the program with detailed sizing and structural analysis.
The V-280 Valor is competing in the Department of Defense's Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR TD) program. This is a science and technology precursor to the Department of Defense's Future Vertical Lift program, with the goal to replace 2,000 to 4,000 medium-class utility and attack helicopters. The V-280 Valor is Bell Helicopter's offering for the JMR-TD program. A next generation tiltrotor, the Bell V-280 Valor advanced technology tiltrotor provides unmatched speed, range and payload for expeditionary maneuvers.
The unit was designed and assembled in Spirit's rapid prototyping facility in Wichita, Kan., in just 22 months. The composite fuselage was shipped to Bell Helicopter's facility in Amarillo, Texas for final assembly, and the build continues towards a first flight in the in the second half of 2017.
"The design-analysis cycle for a typical aircraft program requires many iterations between the designer (CAD) and the stress analyst," says James Ainsworth, Collier Research structural engineering. "This is a very time-consuming process."
V-280 tiltrotor fuselage prototype in progress.
To meet the aggressive V-280 schedule, HyperSizer was employed in a "design-by-analysis" approach that successfully sized and analyzed the fuselage structure. "The automated analysis tool in our software allows the stress analyst to define the required structural configuration, informing the designer about the best configuration that optimizes the stiffness of the structure," says Ainsworth.
HyperSizer also provided the engineers with automated stress-report generation that enabled them to review and vet all relevant data in order to prove-out the structural soundness of the fuselage.
"A small team of stress and design engineers acquired the right tool set to support their in-house capabilities and efficiently deliver ahead of schedule," Ainsworth says.
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