Sponsored Projects and Industry Issues

Predictive Engineering – Modeling and Testing for Future Applications

A joint initiative between Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) addresses several key challenges to overcome long-standing barriers to the use of lightweight polymer composites in structural and other high-performance automotive applications. 

The project brings together public and private sector expertise in polymer processing, modeling and testing to develop predictive tools and design capabilities for next-generation automotive applications. 

Accurate and reliable predictive engineering tools for polymer-based composites can:

  • Enable engineers to confidently apply reinforced plastic materials to the design of efficient polymer composite structures
  • Minimize tooling fabrication costs while simultaneously accelerating process development and reducing time to market
  • Establish quantifiable relationships between local processing parameters and the stiffness, strengthand durability of polymer composites based on modeling predictions and experimental validation
  • Eliminate the need for excessive “knockdown” factors that are typically applied to reinforced plastic properties when designing for durability, weight and manufacturing cost reductions

The ability to develop accurate process and structural micromechanics models, material performance databases and integrated software tools are targeted for development to allow design engineers to efficiently use strong and stiff composite materials in automotive structures.  The initiative is important to demonstrate that polymer composites can meet the structural performance goals set forth in the FreedomCAR program.

Predictive Engineering – Designing for Performance

In June 2004, the ACC's Plastics Division, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States Department of Energy co-sponsored a workshop on the “Future of Modeling in Composites Molding Processes.”  The seminar addressed the role of modeling and computer simulations used in the design of polymer composite products, and the manufacturing methods used in their production.

Participants from government laboratories, federal agencies, industry and academia, gave presentations on the role of modeling in the composites molding process and future research needs were prioritized.  This was the first step toward establishing a clear vision for the use of modeling methods that can enhance the design and manufacture of products molded with polymer composites.  The workshop complemented the ACC/ORNL/PNNL predictive engineering program discussed above. 

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