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A Review of

Simulation Tools
Stephanie Miot
Strategic Simulation and Analysis Ltd

Resin Infusion


Analysis Tools




Software suites and

their capabilities: the
colours show the
compatibility with the
most used FE solvers.
Green indicates that a
standalone version of
the software is available.

n 2014, NAFEMS conducted a user survey about the current practice for the analysis of composite
structures [1]. The results revealed that the most used FE software are Abaqus, Nastran, ANSYS and LSDYNA, with a preference based on the type of analysis that is conducted: linear analysis with Nastran,
non linear analysis with Abaqus, crash or impact simulation with LS-DYNA. More specific applications are
performed with LMS Samcef, MARC, PAM-CRASH or RADIOSS. All these FEA packages offer extended
capabilities for the analysis of composites that can also be complemented with dedicated software suites
for the design, the manufacture and the analysis of the performance of composites.

In this review, a selection of the composites simulation tools is presented. A short description for each of
the composites solutions is provided including a highlight of the key features. This review is not
comprehensive and focuses mainly on commonly used commercial FE software, add-ons and plug-ins. An
extended review will be made available on line. Vendors who produce composites simulation software are
invited to contact the working group using the web link below:


,/ Multiscale progressive failure analysis

,/ Static, fatigue, impact, PSD and thermal Loading
,/ Manufacturing defects

,/ Material characterisation and qualification

,/ UD, 20/30 woven, braided, sandwich composites
./ PMC/CMC/MMC/Hybrid systems

Post-Processing Damage in GENOA GUI - Typical 3 Point Bending

Coupon (8 Node Solid Element FE Model) - Courtesy of AlphaSTAR

Add-on tools for FEA packages: Abaqus, ANSYS,

LS-DYNA, Nastran, OptiStruct, RADIOSS

AlphaSTAR provides engineers with a software suite that adds functionalities to commercial FEA packages. GENOA PFA
[Progressive Failure Analysis] utilises advanced multiscale failure theories to predict the structural responses of
composite materials, including polymer composite structures, hybrid composites and nano-composites, subject to static,
fatigue, impact or thermal Loadings. A detailed description of the material degradation is performed at the micro-scale
which can account for the material defects, residual stresses, fibre strength statistics and interface mechanics. The
progressive failure response described at the macro-scale is estimated from a decomposition of the FEA solution to the
Laminate, Lamina and micro-scale using Laminate and micro-stress theories.
AlphaSTAR's solution also comprises tools for material characterisation and qualification: MCQ-Composites for tape,
20/30 woven and braided materials and MCQ-Chopped for short fibre composites. MCQ enables rapid modelling of unnotched specimens and evaluation of the properties and performance of the composite material. The material properties
can then be used as input for a FE analysis.
For more information, please visit:

OptiStruct & RADIOSS

,/ Analysis and optimisation software

MOS software suite


Multiscale progressive failure analysis

Multi-physics capability
Stochastic analysis

Standalone and plug-in to FEA packages: Abaqus,


Altair and its extensive partner network offer a

comprehensive set of solutions for modelling composite
structures including OptiStruct for the optimisation of the
composite Lay-up and RADIOSS for the analysis of
performance. With the recent acquisition of Multiscale

Design Systems [MOS]. Altair reinforces its composite

expertise. MOS composites solution is a software suite
that provides multiscale capabilities to commercial FE
packages, such as multiscale analysis, multi-physics
simulation, stochastic design and fatigue analysis.
MDS-C can be used for material characterisation at the
pre-processing stage and multiscale analysis during the
analysis stage. MDS-C has an extensible Library of
parametric unit cell to account for the complexity of
composite materials, including fibre and particle
reinforced material, woven and fabric composites.
Further capabilities are available within additional
modules: MOS-MP can be used for analysing coupled
multi-physical processes, MOS-OP for microstructure
optimisation, MDS-UQ [uncertainty quantification] for
stochastic analysis and MOS-FT for fatigue Life prediction.
For more information, please visit:, 1, 13,Composites.aspx



./ Multi-scale constitutive modeling of composites

./ Unifies structural mechanics and micromechanics
./ Multi-physics capability

./ Cross sectional analysis for composite beams


SwiftComp is a general-purpose multi-scale constitutive

modelling code for composites which provides unified
modelling for 10 [beams!. 20 [plates/shells!. or 30
composite structures. This is accomplished using a new
theory that unifies structural mechanics and
micromechanics, saving users time without a Loss of
accuracy compared to first principle 30 FEA when

ANSYS Software


Laminate tool
Draping capability
Advanced failure criteria
Failure analysis

ANSYS:s solution for composites allows efficiently

modelling complex composite structures. ANSYS
Composite PrepPost facilitates the definition of the
material orientation when modelling complex shapes and
can be used to evaluate drapability and fibre angle

Helius PFA

./ Multi-scale progressive failure analysis

./ Improved convergence and reduced run time
Helius Composites

./ Material characterisation
./ Library of materials
Standalone and add-on tools for FEA packages: Abaqus,
ANSYS, Nastran

Autodesk Helius PFA is an add-on for commercial FEA

programs and provides multiscale simulation that
determines failure at the constituent Level while also
predicting structural response at the composite Level.
Multiple failure criteria are available to enable users to
view .damage effects in the fibre and matrix and identify
multiple modes of failure including delamination. A
composite-specific material degradation method has
been applied to handle the nonlinear, progressive failure


modelling complex composite structures or materials.

SwiftComp can be used to calculate the effective
properties for a wide variety of composites and other
heterogeneous structures and materials including
composite Laminates, woven composites, stiffened
structures, sandwich structures, corrugated structures,
and other build-up structures. As Long as a structure
genome defined as the building block of the structure can
be identified, SwiftComp can compute the best structural
model for use in macroscopic structural analysis.
SwiftComp also performs dehomogenization to compute
the pointwise stresses in the microstructure.
AnalySwift also offers VABS for the analysis of composite
beams with arbitrary sectional topology and materials.
VABS is the best compromise between accuracy and
efficiency when modelling 30 slender structures such as
wind turbine blade and helicopter rotor blade.
For more information, please visit:

ANSYS Mechanical allows the analysis of thin and thick

composites using shell or 3-0 solid elements.
lntralaminar and interlaminar failure can be investigated
using failure criteria including Tsai-Wu, Hashin, LaRC,
Puck 2-0 and 3-0. Failure analysis capabilities include
the cohesive zone models [CZMI and the virtual crack
closure technique [VCCTI that can be used to analyse
debonding, delamination, and crack propagation.
For more information, please visit:

of composites while improving solution convergence and

simulation run time. Helius PFA supports multiple
anal~sis conditions, including dynamic and fatigue
Loading and supports multiple material types including
chopped and continuous fibres, unidirectional Lamina and
various woven fabrics.
Autodesk Helius Composite is a standalone package
that offers a collection of tools for conceptual design and
analysis with composites. Users can select from an
expandable Library of materials to build Lamina and
Laminates, and then calculate their material properties
using fundamental tools such as micromechanics and
Composite Laminate Theory. The Utilities menu contains
several additional tools such as calculators for
determining fabric thickness, radius of curvature and
spring back.
For more information:

BETA CAE Systems


.! Pre-processing tool
.! Bi-directional interface with CAD software
.! Laminates tool

.! Post-processing tool
.! Failure indices, critical direction, failure modes
FEA solvers supported: Abaqus, ANSYS, LS-DYNA,

BETA CAE Systems provides a complete solution for pre and post-processing of laminated composite structures
for multiple solution types and disciplines. The Lam inate

Tool is integrated within ANSA pre-processor and allows

import, creation, and modification of the laminate
properties such as material definitions and layer
stacking. The Draping Tool is capable of simulating fibre
orientation for single and woven layers. The
Composite Post Toolbar of? ETA post-processor provides
fast and reliable evaluation of laminated composite
properties. Reserve factor, critical direction and failure
index can be calculated on the fly based on stress tensors
and material limits, thus reducing overall data storage
needs. Comprehensive reporting is easily achieved by 3D
field and 2D plot results across layers and through the
thickness of composites.
For more information, please visit:

Componeering Inc.

.! Extensive material library

.! Laminate/panel/cylinder design
.! Advanced failure criteria
FEA packages supported: Abaqus, ANSYS,
I-DEAS, LS-DYNA, Nastran, NISA, OptiStruct

ESAComp software by Componeering Inc. is a toolbox for

composite designers and analysts. Commonly performed
analyses cover linear static stress/strain prediction, nonlinearity,
buckling and failure of laminates and shell structures.
Robustness of laminates can be assessed by probabilistic analysis.

ESAComp filament winding process simulation tool

Courtesy of Componeering Inc.

In ESAComp, composite beams, panels, cylinders and joints are defined by a few geometry parameters and laminate
selections allowing quick design iterations. ESAComp integrates with commercial FEA codes to serve as pre-processing
tools for materials and lay-ups, then post-processing tool to perform advanced failure analyses. ESAComp also provides
solutions for composite pressure vessel simulation and has an extensive materials database with 1000+ material systems
from major material suppliers.
For more information, please visit:

Dassault Systemes

.! Progressive damage models

.! Failure analysis with CZM, VCCT and X-FEM
.! Multi-physics capability
Composites Modeller for Abaqus (CMA)

.! Draping simulation
CZone for Abaqus

.! Crash simulation

Abaqus is a FEA product suite that offers powerful

solutions for analysing composite structures. The
Composites Lay-up Tool allows an easy creation of the
laminate. Various failure criteria and progressive material
degradation models can be used to investigate the ply
failure initiation and propagation. Delamination and bond
failure can be simulated using CZM or VCCT. Advanced
modelling methods such as the extended Finite Element
Method [X-FEM] and built-in subroutines can be used to

capture the complex mechanisms of the failure in

composites including UD, fabrics and sandwich
composites. The two solvers, Standard and Explicit, allow
analysing static, cyclic and dynamic events while
accounting for coupled multi-physical phenomena .
Dassault Systemes also offers add-on tools to augment
the capabilities of Abaqus such as the Composites
Modeller for Abaqus [CMA] and CZone for Abaqus that
are integrated into the Abaqus user interface:
Abaqus/CAE. CMA provides advanced model building
capabilities including draping simulation and property
generation. CZone can be used for advanced crush
simulation of energy-absorbing structures made of
laminated composites. CZone can be coupled with the
extended Abaqus capabilities to analyse crashworthiness
for the automotive and aerospace industry.
For more information, please visit:



./ Preforming process of dry textiles

./ Thermoforming of pre-pregs materials

From parts design to composites structural analysis


./ Liquid composites molding and curing


./ Manufacturing induced shape distortions

ESI Group offers a software suite for virtual prototyping. The industryoriented applications allow the analysis and optimisation of the
manufacturing processes of composite parts made of continuous fibres and
thermoset or thermoplastic matrix. PAM-FORM can be used to simulate
the forming and pre-forming process such as stamping between rigid
molds and thermoforming. The process can then be improved based on the
estimation of the final fibre orientation, thickness distribution, wrinkles,
etc. PAM-RTM allows modelling the resin injection or infusion in a preform
and identifying dry zones and porosities.

Composites 1niectlon process

Definition & Optimization


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4 Thac:lu'\ftMS
t F~ oriit~tiom

Opt....... llat

ESI Group Composites manufacturing

simulation solution - Courtesy of ESI Group

PAM-RTM can also simulate the curing process and evaluate the curing time and temperature. PAM-DISTORTION can be
used to compute the residual stresses and geometrical shape distortions induced by the manufacturing process. Phase
transformations are taken into account as well as the cure history calculated with PAM - RTM .
The three simulation tools allow optimising each manufacturing operation separately and together as the material history
can be transferred from one analysis to the next one.
For more information, please visit:

e-Xstream Engineering
Digimat software suite

./ Digimat-FE: multi-scale progress ive failure analys is

./ Digimat-MF: micromechanics based approach for material characterisation
./ Digimat-HD: Design of honeycomb sandwich
FEA packages supported: Abaqus, ANSYS, LS-DYNA, MARC, Nastran,

Digimat, developed by e-Xstream engineering, an MSC software company

offers a wide range of micromechanical modelling solutions for
On the technological side, two homogenization techniques are available in
Digimat to predict the behaviour of composite based on their
microstructure, namely mean-field [Digimat-MFI and FE based
homogenization [Digimat-FEI.

e-Xstream - Composite materials

Courtesy of e-Xstream

Digimat-MF allows non-Linear coupled analysis with all the major FEA codes taking into account the effect of
manufacturing such as fibre orientation and volume fraction to evaluate various performances of a part including stiffness,
strength and impact resistance. Digimat-FE opens the door to extremely detailed and accurate virtual material
engineering, focusing exclusively on the RVE Level.
Digimat also offers solutions to simplify the daily tasks of engineers modelling composites. Digimat-RP enables an easy
setup of a coupled analysis, bridging the gap between process and structure. Digimat-HC is dedicated to virtual testing of
honeycomb structures. Finally, the Latest module Digimat-VA allows engineers to efficiently predict virtual allowables of
CFRP coupons, taking into account material and process variability.
For more information, please visit:


./ Material models for UD, fabrics, foams and
./ Extensive element Library
./ Multi-physics coupling
./ Crash behaviour

LS-DYNA is a FE code capable of solving highly Linear

transient problems using explicit time integration. With
more than 130 material models, a wide range of
materials can be analysed including fabric and sandwich
composites. Composite material models are available for
shell and brick elements and describe the failure

Nastran and MARC
./ Progressive ply failure
./ Delamination modelling with CZM, VCCT
./ Optimisation
Patran Laminate Modeler
./ Draping simulation

MSC Software Composites Solution includes two FE

solvers, Nastran and MARC and multiple add-ons tools
for manufacturing process simulation, progressive failure
analysis and optimisation . MSC Nastran can be used for
analysing the performance of composite structures such
as Laminates, sandwich panels and nano-composites.
With built-in damage models and numerous failure
criteria, MSC Nastran can help the engineers

./ Manufacturing process
LMS and NX Software
./ Laminate modelling and optimisation
./ Multi-physics simulation
./ Damage and failure analysis

For the complex challenge of advanced composites

engineering, Siemens PLM Software provides a
comprehensive portfolio for design, validation and
manufacturing of composite structures.
The Siemens Fibersim solution supports all phases of
composites design and manufacturing. Engineers can
select the best design methodology for the job,

initiation and propagation based on damage mechanics.

LS-DYNA can be used for simulating the progressive
material degradation and crash behaviour.
LSTC offers specialised features developed for the
automotive and aerospace industries such as specific
tools for crashworthiness simulation, blade containment
and bird strike analysis.
LSTC also developed a dedicated pre and post processing
software LS-PrePost, and an optimisation tool, LS-OPT.
For more information, please visit:

investigating the ply failure . The progressive failure of

bonds and delamination can be predicted using VCCT or
CZM . Advanced composites modelling capabilities are
available through the use of Digimat Software suite .
MSC Software offers a dedicated module named
Laminate Modeler integrated in the pre/post processing
software : Patran for the creation of complex models, the
definition of Lay-ups and the simulation of draping.
Additional built-in capabilities are also available in MSC
Nastran and MARC for simulating the manufacturing
process and accounting for manufacturing defects when
evaluating the performance of the composite material.
For more information, please visit:

automatically populate the CAD model with detailed ply

geometry, simulate manufacturing producibility based on
materials and process, integrate with composites CAE,
verify design requirements and create factory floor
instructions and datasets that ensure consistent product
The Siemens NX, LMS Virtual.Lab, NX Nastran and LMS
Samcef solutions provide a complete and open CAE
toolset for analysis of continuous and short fibre
composite materials. The Siemens portfolio capabilities
include specialised modelling tools and solutions for
Laminate optimization, static and dynamic analysis,
progressive damage, fatigue and NVH .
For more information, please visit:

T.he NA~EMS Vendor Advis~ry ~oard (V~B.J were in~ited to contact the author and provide details of their composites
s1mulat1on. t~ol~. Any ~r~anisat1on that 1s involved m the creation of engineering analysis software and is a NAFEMS
members is invited to JOm the VAB. Please contact Ian Symington the NAFEMS Technical Officer for details.
[1] '"NAFEMS Composites Survey,'" NAFEMS publication R0112, 2014.