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Swansea University Employs VABS Software for Morphing Helicopter Blades

  • Tuesday, 31st July 2018
  • Reading time: about 3 minutes

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Swansea University, UK, has licensed AnalySwift’s VABS simulation software for researching new helicopter rotor blades. The work is part of the EU-funded research project SABRE (Shape Adaptive Blades for Rotorcraft Efficiency), which seeks to develop quieter, more fuel-efficient helicopter blade morphing technologies.

The VABS program is a general-purpose, cross-sectional analysis tool for computing beam properties and recovering 3D stresses and strains of slender composite structures. It can be used for modelling composite helicopter and wind turbine rotor blades, as well as other slender composite structures such as propellers, landing gear and high-aspect ratio wings.

“We are excited by the work being done by the Swansea University as part of their involvement in the SABRE research project and pleased they have selected VABS as part of their composite helicopter rotor blade optimisation efforts,” says Allan Wood, President and CEO of AnalySwift. “As a versatile cross sectional analysis tool, VABS delivers high-fidelity results early on, reduces design cycle, and shortens time to market.”

SABRE is a large, multi-partner H2020 research project funded by the European Union. The project team includes the University of Bristol, CIRA, DLR, TU Delft, TU Munich and Swansea University. SABRE is developing new helicopter blade morphing technologies which will reduce helicopter fuel burn, CO2, NOx and noise emissions by 5-10%. This will be done by tackling one of the most fundamental limitations on helicopter performance: the need for rotor blades to have a single fixed geometry which is inherently a compromise between widely different operating conditions. SABRE envisions shape adaptive blades continuously changing their shape to optimise performance in all conditions. Morphing technologies are being developed that can change the twist, camber, chord and dynamic behaviour of helicopter blades. In parallel, analysis work combines comprehensive, mixed-fidelity rotor models with morphing mechanism and emissions models to create the most detailed and comprehensive model of its type.

“One of the potential morphing concepts to change the blade twist during the flight is inertial twist,” according to Michael Friswell, Professor of Engineering at Swansea University. “In this concept a composite blade with bend-twist coupling is designed to induce significant twist in the blade. The VABS software is used for high level optimisation to design an equivalent composite cross-section with fundamental frequencies close to the baseline blade, and also with high values of bend-twist coupling.”

“The VABS program is a uniquely powerful tool for modelling composite blades, high aspect ratio wings, and other slender structures, commonly called beams,” explains Dr Wenbin Yu, CTO of AnalySwift. “VABS reduces analysis time from hours to seconds by quickly and easily achieving the accuracy of detailed 3D finite element analysis (FEA) with the efficiency of simple engineering models. With VABS, engineers can calculate the most accurate, complete set of sectional properties such as torsional stiffness, shear stiffness, shear centre for composite beams made with arbitrary cross-section and arbitrary material. It can also predict accurate detailed stress distribution for composite beams, which are usually not possible with 3D FEA for realistic composite structures.”

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