Setting up for Composite Material

The usage of composite material has been increased rapidly due to its extraordinary characteristics. Racing cars, aircrafts, ships and bicycles are now integrated with composite materials to make them harder and lighter than it was 10 years ago. A composite material is a mixture of two or more materials merge together and the materials do not dissolve with each other. Normally, composite material is made up from certain portion of fibres and resins. Once the composite is fully solidified, it becomes a hard piece of material. Some composite materials are stronger than steel while some have high endurance. Composite material is usually unidirectional fibre combined with a softer matrix element. The goal of such a mixture gets more desirable overall properties that each individual material could not provide. Due to its good strength to weight ratio, more and more manufacturers are focusing on the production of composite material.

Since hand calculation for composite material will become more complicated as the number of layers increase, so we need to make use of the available tool to help us. SOLIDWORKS Simulation Premium has a built in SOLIDWORKS Simulation Composite Analysis capabilities to perform a composite analysis. Users can perform a Linear Static, Buckling or Frequency analysis with composite materials.

Why there is a need of a Composite Analysis Tool? As mentioned, the main reason is that the material properties of a composite material are hectic to calculate by hand. The tool in simulation premium helps to simulate different layer and angle configurations to see which material composition will be able to produce stress results that are acceptable by iterations.

Of course, there are some failure criteria specific to composites. Tsai-Wu and Tsai Hill are two composite failure criteria commonly used in the industry and these outputs can be seen using SOLIDWORKS Simulation. After the simulation, the stresses in each layer can be observed through colour contour and the stresses between layers called interlaminar stresses may also be viewed to make critical design decisions. Let’s see how the tool in action.

            Given the nature of where it is used, composites are defined as Shell elements. Hence, each composite part is assumed to have a uniform cross-section and a high length to thickness ratio. A maximum of 5 layers may be defined. The type of layups available with SOLIDWORKS simulation is as shown below:

  1. a)       Symmetric Laminate: Plies stacked symmetric about midplane
  2. b)      Asymmetric laminate: Laminate does not exhibit symmetry
  3. c)       Sandwich Plate Laminate: Softer Core with a Stiffer symmetric top and bottom layers

If you are also FEA software users, there is good news for you. SOLIDWORKS also had the ability to export results to other FEA software such as Nastran and Ansys. Typically for aerospace companies, verification of any FEA tool is critical before they can start using it. SOLIDWORKS had independently verified the accuracy of the composite tools.


This passage is referred to GoEngineer. All credits go to the authors.