3D printing of composite materials

Title of the research project

ADAMUS - Analysis and optimum Design of Additive Manufactured composite strUctures for Space applications

Scientific area 

Aerospace Engineering; Mechanical Engineering; Material Science and Technology

Project coordinator

Alfonso Pagani


ADAMUS project aimed at setting new methodologies and optimum design standards for composite structures obtained through additive manufacture processes. Namely, the primary objective was substituting, in a unified framework and industry oriented way, the currently available analysis and simulation tools for exploiting in a full manner the unveiled possibilities coming from this new technology.

Description of the research project 

The new aircraft programs, such as the Airbus A350XWB, contain more than 50% by weight of composites. Also, advanced composite materials are well established in space applications, such as solar arrays and optical platforms. The rate and economy of composite manufacture, thus, need to improve to meet the requirements of the future build programs. In this context, automation is one way forward.

Nowadays, the new technologies, such as Automated Fibre Placement (AFP), promise a large-scale use of composites and, simultaneously, allow for going beyond the traditional design rules, leading the designer to find more efficient solutions than before. In fact, AFP technology brought to the emergence of a new class of composite materials; namely, the Variable Angle Tow (VAT) composites. A modern AFP machine allows the fibre to be placed along a curvilinear path within the lamina and implying a point-wise variation of the material properties. In this manner, the designer can take advantage of the directional properties in the most efficient way. Nevertheless, current engineering tools are not able to predict the mechanical behaviour of VAT composites; hence, the whole design process, from optimization to structural verification, is compromised.

ADAMUS aimed at setting new methodologies and design standards for VAT composites obtained by AFP. In detail, ADAMUS : 1) developed a multi-level optimization strategy based on genetic algorithms and polar formalism for the optimum design of VATs; 2) implemented refined structural models for the accurate simulation and analysis of VATs; 3) investigated the possible industrial exploitation of the AFP technologyADAMUS contributes to fill the gap between design and AFP manufacturing, providing the engineering community with new composites that are expected to change the design paradigms.

Impact on society 

Preliminary studies proved that the utilization of a VAT allows for obtaining superior mechanical characteristics (i.e. up to 40%, in terms of stiffness and strength) when compared to classical composites. Nevertheless, it is clear that industrialization of VAT is not trivial and will require enormous efforts from scientists and engineers to increase the knowledge about design, analysis and standardized manufacturing of these innovative materials. From this point of view, ADAMUS acts as the forerunner that will bring the attention of the local and National companies to AFP processes and VATs. Italy must take on a pro-active role once again if it is not to lose ground in this sophisticated and strategical area of technology.

Research results

ADAMUS has developed new models to analyze how materials behave at the mesoscale (single layer level) and microscale (single fiber level), to highlight tridimensional structure internal tensions and vibrating material characteristics. Moreover, it has been possible to use Artificial Intelligence agorhytms to minimize material weight while obtaining the desired mechanical characteristics.

Among the most considerable results, we highlight:

  • 4 scientific papers on specialized magazines and 7 presentations to scientific conferences
  • The organization of one workshop dedicated to the ADAMUS research theme at the European Conference on Computational Mechanics
  • ADAMUS laid the foundations for the PRE-ECO project which has been awarded the prestigious ERC Staring grant from the European Research Council

Short CV of project coordinator 

Alfonso Pagani earned a Ph.D. in Structural Dynamics at City University of London in 2016 and, earlier, a Ph.D. in Fluid-dynamics at Politecnico di Torino, where he currently serves as researcher at  DIMEAS - Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. His research activities are mainly related to the development of refined models for aerospace structures; composites; numerical methods for solid mechanics; geometrical nonlinearities and post-buckling. He is the co-author of some 70 publications, including 40 articles in International Journals.

Working group@Polito

Erasmo Carrera, Full professor, DIMEAS

Enrico Zappino,  Assiatant professor, DIMEAS

Andrea Viglietti, Postdoc researcher, DIMEAS

Alberto G. Fordilino, PhD student, DIMEAS

Nasim Fellahi, PhD student, DIMEAS


Academic Partner 

École Nationale Supérieure d'Arts et Métiers - ENSAM, France

Non-academic Partner 

Thales Alenia Space Italy

  • Budget: 135.000 euro
  • Start date: 15/09/2017
  • End date: 14/09/2019