The aerospace sector is a broad sector with many different fields of interest – from aerodynamics to propulsion, design and more, experts can be found in a variety of roles within the industry.

One of our core capabilities at Airframe Designs is stress analysis. Stress analysis, performed by stress engineers is conducted in a variety of industries, but plays a vital role in aerospace, due to the high health and safety stakes. Aerospace stress engineers are the people who keep planes safe and airworthy.

In this post, we take a closer look at stress analysis and the role of stress engineers within the industry.

What Is Stress Analysis?

Stress analysis will have been conducted on almost everything around you – from buildings to cars, and even everyday objects in your home. Stress analysis is a specialist field within engineering, and at its most basic, is the testing of the strength and durability of a material when it is placed under stress. Stress or pressure can come from normal use, environmental factors, mechanical wear, damage, and various other factors.

Stress analysis is vital in aerospace because aircraft failure doesn’t just mean a broken aircraft, it can potentially be life-threatening. Aeroplanes carry thousands of people through the air around the world each day, so they must remain airworthy and safe at all times, even in unexpected conditions.

Stress analysis will be conducted when an aircraft is a new design or undergoes any changes or repairs. Because stress analysis usually applies to individual materials and components, whenever an aircraft is modified, upgraded or repaired, stress analysis will ensure that the changes or modifications are compliant with aerospace regulations and that they will prove to be safe and withstand stress in a range of environments.

What Does An Aerospace Stress Engineer Do?

Aerospace stress engineers are the people who conduct stress analysis, usually working at specialist engineering businesses, such as Airframe Designs.

Stress engineers in the industry use a variety of tools and calculations to analyse aircraft components and airframes, and must have strong engineering and mathematical skills. Engineers use traditional hand calculations to predict how materials or components will react to stress. Of course, in the modern age, the use of computers and Artificial Intelligence (AI) also play a large part in the role of aerospace stress engineers. Finite Element Modelling tools (what are these? Small explanation?) are used extensively to assist engineers in their analysis.

Finite Element Modelling (FEM) tools are software applications used by engineers to simulate and analyse the physical behaviour of structures and components under various conditions, such as stress, heat, and vibration. These tools break down a real physical entity into smaller elements, making complex engineering problems more manageable and providing detailed insights into the performance and potential issues of a design.

At what stage stress analysis is required in a project depends on a client brief and desired outcomes, but a stress engineer would usually be involved at the design stage. This could be to support conceptual design phases or to supply final design calculations to support project certification submissions.

an image of two aerospace stress engineers

In recent years with the rise of AI, questions have been raised as to whether this technology could replace stress engineers, however; AI is already integrated within the toolsets stress engineers use, and there is no risk of stress engineers being replaced by AI in the immediate future. AI is used as more of a partner – it isn’t yet capable of making the judgments an experienced aerospace engineer can. Because stress analysis involves huge amounts of data processing and simulations, AI is more of a useful tool to help engineers work more efficiently on projects.

Because stress analysis is a complex area and requires a high degree of skill, engineers in this discipline need a good level of education and training. A typical stress engineer will have a degree in either mechanical or aerospace engineering and may also have advanced degrees, in computational engineering, for example. Strong analytical skills and a sense of curiosity are also required. Working well as part of a team is also critical as stress engineers often work on projects as part of a large multi-disciplinary team.

To find out what one of our stress engineers finds the most enjoyable about his role, read our two-minute interview with Thomas Shaw. We’ve also got an interview here with senior stress engineer, James Roy.

Airframe Designs – Aerospace Stress Engineers

Please feel free to contact us if you have a stress engineering project which requires our specialist expertise. At Airframe Designs we provide a range of specialist services including traditional static stress analysis (hand calculation), finite element modelling, and F&DT (or fatigue and damage tolerance) evaluation.

If you have come across this article because you are interested in a career in stress analysis, you may find these pages about our graduate programmes of interest.