AMTRI Spearheads Project to Visualise and Simulate Composites Processes

14 January 2007

A joint project featuring technology transferred from the serious computer games industry aims to develop a low-cost, high-performance physics-based software product for the visualisation and simulation of complex composites manufacturing systems.

Called PhysVis, the joint project will include the Advanced Composites Group and Innoval Technology, an independent materials and process technology consultancy. A total of £400,000 is being invested in the project, made up of contributions from the partners and a grant of £199,736 from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The nineteen–month project started in October 2006 and qualified for funding under the DTI Technology Programme.

The PhysVis initiative promises to unlock the door to more innovation and new business for manufacturers in rapidly developing sectors such as the aerospace industry. The proposed visualisation and simulation system is intended to offer at far lower cost the high levels of performance and capability only likely to be found in the application modules of far more expensive CAD suites from major vendors.

Phil Sholl, managing director of AMTRI, explained: ""The high performance and low cost of PhysVis will represent a profound opportunity for a range of specialist companies in fast-growing, high-technology sectors like the production of carbon fibre-based composite components. These specialist manufacturers will be able to design 'right-first-time' production systems and assess investment and operational risks before they commit to procurement and implementation. This can only be done now with the resources available to larger companies"".

AMTRI will develop the new product based on extensive work with the so-called 'serious computer games' technology developed by US company AGEIA and its new PhysyX Accelerator, and a low cost but sophisticated PC-based digital factory simulation system from Finnish company Visual Components.

The role of Advanced Composites Group in the project is that of end user, or the first customer for PhysVis. ACG will provide the application domain, that of aerospace composite manufacture. Innoval's role is to categorise the material (carbon fibre) using their fabric modelling approach. The simulations start with an individual fibre and model the fabric weave in all its detail to create an accurate mechanical representation of the woven carbon fibre material. The output of the simulations is a constitutive material model that represents a 'unit patch' of the material.

AMTRI will then map the unit patch to AGEIA's PhysX Accelerator and simulate both the material and the robotic manufacturing system to achieve accurate process and product interactions so that the best manufacturing techniques may be determined.

""In addition, AMTRI are mapping into the system characteristics of spraying resin and paint particles to show that the same PhysX-based technology can be used to visualise different complex manufacturing processes. To date there is no commercial system that can do this in a way that faithfully follows the rules of physics,"" said Bob Lloyd, the company's simulation manager and head of the PhysVis development team.

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