SpaceBolt: Software for analysis of bolted joints

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Technology abstract

SpaceBolt is a software tool that has been developed for the space industry to enable companies to analyse the stresses that bolted joints are put under using an FEM interface. It can then search a database of space qualified components to suggest those that are most appropriate. This software could be implemented in other industries that have strict conditions for performance and verification whilst keeping other parameters, such as weight, to a safe minimum.

This software technology has great potential for transfer and has been specifically developed to allow companies to comply with the strict conditions required for space missions. It is able to ensure mission-critical safety whilst also minimising the weight and size for fasteners.

- Matthew Edwards -

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Technology Description

A software tool has been developed that allows for systematic analysis of bolted joints that are under various levels of stress. The software contains a database of all the bolts, nuts, spacers, and inserts that are qualified for use on space missions. The information in the database includes material, friction coefficient, thread & head diameters, length, and maximum load.
 
Integrated within the tool is the Threaded Fasteners Handbook (ECSS-E-HB-32-23A) which is to assist structural design engineers by presenting to them, in a single document, all of the relevant information on the use of threaded fasteners in jointed spacecraft components. Included within the handbook is the ‘margin of safety’ for each mode of failure that needs to be considered. This information needs to be shown in all verification documentation for space missions so it is critical that engineers pick the correct product.
 
The premium functionality of the software is that it includes a Finite Element Method (FEM) interface that enables the analysis of any number of bolted joints within a mission/project. The results of the FEM analysis ensure that the correct bolt is chosen for the application meaning that mission critical safety is maintained without needlessly over-engineering and increasing the overall weight of the spacecraft.
 
As space is a heavily regulated industry this software or its framework could be adapted for other applications outside of space that require a similar level of regulation and verification. SpaceBolt is compliant with mechanical engineering standard VDI 2230. 

Innovations & Advantages

  • Enables engineers to pick the correct bolt, nut, or insert depending on the specific tolerances required
  • Combines both technical demands and safety regulations into one piece of software
  • Easy to use graphical user interface (GUI)
  • Comprehensive database of bolts, nuts, spacers, and inserts
  • Has the integrated FEM analysis tool that can automatically analyse large number of connections

Current and Potential Domains of Application

The software has been developed for the space industry and all of the current information within the database relates to space qualified components.
The software architecture could remain the virtually the same but with the integration of industry relevant information it could be applied in:

  • Motorsport/automotive
  • Marine
  • Aerospace
  • Oil & Gas

The software is ideally suited to industries with technically demanding applications that are also highly regulated and where verification documentation is required.