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Pre-conference workshop

Topic: Composites design and manufacturing

Date: Tuesday 17 April 2018

Times: 12:15 – 13:00 Lunch
                1300 – 1700  Workshop

Venue: Australian Synchrotron, 800 Blackburn Rd, Clayton 

Presenter: Dr Rik Heslehurst, CPEng, FIEAust, FRAeS, FSAMPE,  Director – Heslehurst and Associates Pty Ltd Australia; Engineering Chair – M51 Resources Inc, Dallas TX, Honorary Academic – UNSW, University College, Australia; Technical Director – Composites Australia


The design of composite structures and components are closely related to composite manufacturing processes. Both design and manufacturing of composite structures and components need to be considered together for the successful introduction of composites into the market place. Fundamentally, the design of composite structures and components requires knowledge of composite material properties.  However, the material properties are finalised during manufacture.  So, the designer needs to know the capabilities of manufacture to produce composite materials with known and consistent material properties. Manufacturing needs to develop and maintain fabrication process that achieved desired composite performance properties that have been set during the design process.  The outcome is a ‘what comes first’ problem, in that you are designing with known material properties that are not known until the component has been fabricated to the design requirements that cannot be finalised until after manufacture.


This workshop will firstly provide a top-end view of the design process for composite structures and components. The discussion will review the unknown parameters that face a composites design engineer; namely: fibre type and form selection, resin system selection, manufacturing process required/available, the number of plies required or component thickness, the orientation of each ply and the stacking sequence of each ply or the ply lay-up configuration. The needs of the manufacturing process selected are then addressed based on cost, production run numbers, part quality and material property consistency, to name a few. The consideration of material property data scatter is briefly discussed. Finally, if manufactured composite parts do not meet the design performance requirements what can be done to resolve this? Firstly, what are the designer’s options in resolving a performance shortfall? And secondly, what can be done with the manufacturing process to overcome the performance shortfall? A set of recommendations in overcoming performance shortfalls in both design of the composite structure or component, and manufacturing process modifications or adjustments are given.

About the presenter

Rik Heslehurst is a former aeronautical engineering officer in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).   During his 16 years military service Rik was in-charge of the RAAF Material and Process Engineering Section and earlier an airworthiness engineer on the F/A-18 Hornet aircraft.   Rik recently retired as an academic from the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy (UNSW@ADFA) after 22 years of academic service.  At UNSW@ADFA Rik lectured in aircraft design, airframe design and analysis, structural joining methods, damage analysis and repair design, and composite structural design.  His research interests followed similar lines.  Rik was the Senior Engineer for Abaris Training – Reno NV for 26 years until recently and now is the Chief Engineer at M51 Resources, Dallas TX. Rik also consults for the Australian Defence Force, Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Raytheon Missile Systems, NASA, USAF, Boeing Airplane Company, Bombardier Aerospace, Australian Space Safety Office, SRAM-Zipp Wheels, John Deere, Walt Disney Imagineering and General Atomics.  He has conducted engineering short courses for NASA Kennedy, Marshall and Goddard Space Flight Centres, Lockheed-Martin Skunk Works, USAF Academy, Royal Australian Navy, USAF Wright Patterson Laboratories, Pratt & Whitney CT, USAF Warner Robins Air Logistics Centre, Colombian Air Force, Boeing Australia, Raytheon-Australia, Bombardier Aerospace, Honeywell Systems, Sandia National Laboratories, General Dynamics, Pratt and Whitney, Gulfstream Aerospace, SRAM-Zipp Wheels and Republic of Singapore Air Force.  Rik is now the CEO and Director of his own RDT&E Company.

Rik has a Bachelor of Engineering (Aeronautical) degree, with Honours, and a Master of Engineering degree, from RMIT University, and a PhD from the UNSW.   Rik is the current chair of the Australian Chapter of SAMPE and chair of the Canberra Branch of the Australian Composite Structures Society.  He is involved with the Canberra Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society and the Canberra Division of Engineers Australia.