Manufacturing has undergone a major transformation in recent years, both in terms of processes and equipment as well as with the materials that are being used.
One of the goals throughout this rapidly evolving landscape has been the need to produce ever-lighter materials, but ones that continue to hold up in performance and strength.
A type of design known as sandwich structures can fill that need well. Much like a sandwich is made by placing various items of food between two pieces of bread, sandwich structures involve placing a variety of fillings between two more rigorous outer layers of material.
“Sandwich structures have some of the best strength-to-weight ratios of any design out there,” said Fred N. Peebles Professor and IAMM Chair of Excellence Dayakar Penumadu. “They are lightweight, strong, and are capable of withstanding dynamic forces like you would find on a wind turbine blade or an aircraft wing. They handle all forms of loading, whether mechanical, thermal, or electrical. They fill a great need in a number of areas.”
Penumadu, who works in UT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), the Institute for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing, and the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, explained that sandwich structures have a long history of use, but that new methods like 3-D printing have greatly expanded ways and areas where they can be used.
He and more than 75 other participants are getting a chance to share their ideas this week, as CEE plays host to the 13th International Conference on Sandwich Structures, the first time the group has had a chance to meet in person since it was last held in Switzerland in 2018.
Despite having to wait an extra couple of years for its turn to host because of the pandemic, enthusiasm for the event was high, as evidenced by the variety of countries represented from around the world by speakers and attendees.
“I think everyone is eager to get back together and share the latest research and ideas related to this field,” said Penumadu. “We’ve got a great mix of presenters from academia, from companies like Volkswagen, and from government entities like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and ORNL.”
From the student perspective, Penumadu said the chance for them to speak with other students and hear from people in the field was a very important opportunity.
He also said that participating in conferences like this not only gives students encouragement, but that it reinforces what they’ve learned.
“Experience is something you can’t get in a classroom,” Penumadu said. “Having access to people who are out there working with sandwich structures gives students immediate relevance and context to what they have been studying, as well as some perspective as to how they can make a career out of it.”
Each day features a series of presentations on topics related to sandwich structure use, such as “Behavior of Marine Divinycell Foams At Arctic Temperatures,” “Operative Fracture Mechanics Solutions For Sandwich And Layered Composite Structures,” and “Design And Optimization of Sandwich Composite Panels With 3D-Printed Honeycomb Cores For Fluid-Structure Impact Loading.”
Additionally, there is a student poster competition, lab tours of UT and ORNL, and displays set up in an exhibition hall. The meeting, which began Monday, concludes Wednesday afternoon, with sessions taking place in UT’s Student Union.