In collaboration with Airbus-UK, the dimensional growth of aircraft panels while being riveted with stiffeners is investigated. Small panels are used in this investigation. The stiffeners have been fastened to the panels with rivets and it has been observed that during this operation the panels expand in the longitudinal and transverse directions. It has been observed that the growth is variable and the challenge is to control the riveting process to minimize this variability. In this investigation, the assembly of the small panels and longitudinal stiffeners has been simulated using static stress and nonlinear explicit finite element models. The models have been validated against a limited set of experimental measurements; it was found that more accurate predictions of the riveting process are achieved using explicit finite element models. Yet, the static stress finite element model is more time efficient, and more practical to simulate hundreds of rivets and the stochastic nature of the process. Furthermore, through a series of numerical simulations and probabilistic analyses, the manufacturing process control parameters that influence panel growth have been identified. Alternative fastening approaches were examined and it was found that dimensional growth can be controlled by changing the design of the dies used for forming the rivets.

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