Published date 12 May 2022

Successful trial breaks the mould with digital design

The NCC's new composite vessel

The National Composites Centre (NCC) has successfully completed a proof-of-concept project that demonstrates the transformative impact of digital tools on the design process for the complex engineering industry.

The application of Multi-Disciplinary Optimisation (MDO) techniques to a composite hydrogen pressure vessel has resulted in identifying an optimum design five times faster than a traditional, sequential approach. Offering a new approach to redesigning and remaking sustainable products, it enables increased agility and opportunities to innovate faster, driving competitive advantage and engineering leadership.

Undertaken as part of Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI), a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority, the project demonstrates the significant opportunity to address all design elements of a product at the same time, resulting in superior design, lower development costs, faster new product introduction, and the ability to refine specific features to meet contrasting demands of different applications.

Marc Funnell, Director of Digital Engineering at the NCC, “We have demonstrated the potential efficiencies in product, process and productivity that can be achieved to accelerate digital engineering transformation. Through DETI and Digital Engineering at the NCC, our proof-of-concepts and test beds help manufacturers to innovate, develop and de-risk rapidly configurable projects and industrial digital technologies before investment.”

HEEDS™ MDO, a design space exploration and optimisation software from the Simcenter™ portfolio by Siemens Digital Industries Software was the platform selected for the implementation of the MDO process. Fifty designs were evaluated in less than two hours and an optimal solution was discovered among twenty-three feasible designs, i.e. designs that satisfied all the constraint requirements. Automating the design process identified the optimum design five times faster; a fraction of the time it would take to perform manual iterations. This achieved their goal and significantly reduced the risk of human error in the process of data transfer.

The proof-of-concept can be easily applied to other products and sectors, adapting the automated design process to quickly explore and optimise designs that address different objectives under a different set of constraints. Ross Caddens, Business Development Director at Siemens Digital Industries Software, said “We are delighted to be involved in the DETI programme, demonstrating how automated digital technologies such as HEEDS can enable organisations to efficiently explore the design space for innovative solutions, and enhance product innovation.”

Hydrogen is emerging as one of the most promising solutions for achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, with the design of composite pressure vessels for transport and storage drawing increasing interest within industry. The NCC is part of a multi-partner collaboration called the Hydrogen Innovation Initiative (HII), which brings together the strengths and capabilities of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult Network and partner innovation centres to accelerate innovation, develop growth in the UK hydrogen supply chain and overcome technology and integration challenges to establish an effective UK hydrogen economy.

The project highlights the NCC’s credibility and expertise, delivering R&D and technology pull through from fundamental research to industrial application across four strategic areas; advanced composites, digital engineering, hydrogen and sustainability, to address complex global challenges.

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