Cost/Weight Optimization of Aircraft Structures

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH

Abstract: Composite structures can lower the weight of an airliner significantly. The increased production cost, however, requires the application of cost-effective design strategies. Hence, a comparative value is required which is used for the evaluation of a design solution in terms of cost and weight. The direct operating cost (DOC) can be used as this comparative value; it captures all costs that arise when the aircraft is flown. In this work, a cost/weight optimization framework for composite structures is proposed. It takes into account manufacturing cost, non-destructive testing cost and the lifetime fuel consumption based on the weight of the aircraft, thus using a simplified version of the DOC as the objective function.First, the different phases in the design of an aircraft are explained. It is then focused on the advantages and drawbacks of composite structures, the design constraints and allowables, and non-destructive inspection. Further, the topics of multiobjective optimization and the combined optimization of cost and weight are addressed. Manufacturing cost can be estimated by means of different techniques; here, feature-based cost estimations and parametric cost estimations proved to be most suitable for the proposed framework. Finally, a short summary of the appended papers is given.The first paper contains a parametric study in which a skin/stringer panel is optimized for a series of cost/weight ratios (weight penalties) and material configurations. The weight penalty, defined as the specific lifetime fuel burn, is dependent on the fuel consumption of the aircraft, the fuel price and the viewpoint of the optimizer. It is concluded that the ideal choice of the design solution is neither low-cost nor low-weight but rather a combination thereof.The second paper proposes the inclusion of non-destructive testing cost in the design process of the component, and the adjustment of the design strength of each laminate according to the inspection parameters. Hence, the scan pitch of the ultrasonic testing is regarded as a variable, representing an index for the (guaranteed) laminate quality. It is shown that the direct operating cost can be lowered when the quality level of the laminate is assigned and adjusted in an early design stage.