Aircraft structures is a branch in aerospace engineering where you do structural designs and analysis. You need to guarantee that your structure will have continuing airworthiness during the aircrafts life. This is where you start your journey in structures in aviation.
Firstly you have to have a conceptual design of a structure. You need to ask to people who uses to learn about their needs and then draw a conceptual design. Later on your points will be:
In order to that on a structural design; you are going to use Unigraphics or Catia to design your parts and do the design calculations which are based on mechanics of materials. With your geometry input files, you will need to go on Nastran, Patran or Abaqus to build your finite element model and see how it works. With a finite element model, you can apply all boundary conditions, contact types and loads to simulate the real conditions. The results within 5-10% comparing to real test results are considered acceptable in general. Which means you do not need to do the same test hundred times with other conditions, you can just simulate it.
Aerospace structure is a wide area which includes materials, dynamics, mechanics and tests. Aerospace materials are important to know about mechanical properties of the materials. In order to be able to understand the effect of the force applied, you will need to input the material datas. Also deep material knowledge is necessary.
Mechanics always allow you to understand how the structure works which is important to imagine the loading conditions and to be able to check your results while you are doing post processing. You are going to test everything you do before having them in use because you need to meet some standards defined by EASA and FAR which are the authorities to approve your study.
Here you can watch a study of flutter test that Airbus has used to test the structure if it is going to fail or not:
Well, the most important thing is that you need to have the theory. Knowing the theory, not just the strength of materials lesson that you learn during your bachelors in aerospace engineering but also finite elements, composites, plasticity and so on.. Before designing and testing something, you have to build a theoretical model first and think on it. That is what makes aircraft structures a specialized area in aerospace engineering.
Companies have research and development department where they do structural research with stress engineers who are specialized in aircraft structures. Also a lot of aerospace and mechanical engineering universities are doing research with their laboratories.
You would like to see how one of the worlds leader does its structural trainings? Here you can start with this amazing video to learn about aircraft structures and aerospace engineering:
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