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Dr Rikard Heslehurst

Topic: Successful Application of Composite Materials – A Deeper Materials Understanding

Presented by Dr Rikard Heslehurst, Director, Heslehurst & Associates Pty Ltd


Advanced composite materials and fabrication processes offer many advantages over traditional metals and plastics. These benefits include significant improvements in structural performance at reduced weights, and, if fabricated well, lower processing costs. However, we must recognise that the basic material costs are higher, but also appreciate that less material is used to achieve the same or better performance. What typically causes most problems with the application of advanced composite materials is an underdeveloped understanding of the material and structural behaviour fundamentals.

This presentation will attempt to highlight many of the key aspects of composite materials at a fundamental level that need to be understood. There are numerous projects that have become very costly because of the lack of material fundamental understanding. Such projects have neglected the resin system physical property limitations, or the importance of getting the process correct, so the design performance is matched by the actual performance. Also, not considering all load cases that result in damaging conditions is often a product failing.

So what do you need to do to successfully implement composite materials in your products?

  1. Do the homework technical reading.
  2. Know the right questions to ask.
  3. Train technical and engineering staff
  4. Engage industry experts
  5. Keep up-to-date with current initiatives and trends.

Keywords: Applications, Marketing, Education


Rik Heslehurst has worked in the composites and adhesive bonding industry for more than 35 years. He started his career as an aeronautical engineering officer in the RAAF with postings as an F/A-18 airworthiness engineer, and Officer In-Charge of the RAAF Materials and Process Engineering. More recently Rik retired as an academic with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) at the Australian Defence Force Academy where he lectured and conducted research in aircraft and airframe design and composite and bonded structures design and analysis.  Rik now runs his own consulting business and provides engineering and technical support for the fabricators association – Composites Australia.   Rik is also the Senior Engineer for two US companies. Rik also consults for several organisations including Raytheon, NASA, USAF, Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Bombardier, Walt Disney Imagineering, and several other companies.  Rik obtained his Bachelor and Master’s degrees in aerospace engineering from the RMIT and his PhD from UNSW. Rik has been presenting courses and seminars around the world on the subject of composites and joint technologies.