A Very Merry Helius Composite Christmas Story

by Angie Schrader & Dan Milligan20 December 2016

In these days before Christmas my three boys always say

“How can Santa carry all those toys in just one little sleigh”?


They must weigh a ton the little ones are estimating.

The answer is advanced materials and some structural lightweighting.


So I told them this story – it’s quick and it’s true

Of how Santa knows a little engineering too!


To improve his design, new skis were in store

Made of carbon fiber face sheets and a balsa wood core.

To be sure, Santa wanted to test his sleigh’s upgrade

And so a simple static load calculation was made.


Worst case scenario Rudolph lands on the roof apex you see

Resulting in a concentrated load to the mid-span of the skis.


Helius Composite was the tool for the job

To do an analysis on this new thingamabob.

A Sandwich Analysis would do just the trick

Build your sandwich, apply your loads, it really is quite slick!


For the sandwich construction he found materials directly

From the tool’s handy built-in material library.


To start he would build a new laminate to be

The face sheets of his new composite ski.

Santa knows to resist bending the majority of fibers need to be

Oriented along the length of ski (direction: 0 deg).

To help add stiffness the skis needed more

So he couldn’t forget the balsa wood core.

With some geometry the defining of his sandwich was ending.

Now it was time to apply some beam bending!


Santa was really having some fun.

He wondered would he be safe carrying a ton?

With two skis below that’s 1000 pounds applied

With this loading that results in face sheet stress of 58.8 ksi

Will that stress level cause the skis to fail?

Or will his new sleigh be able to prevail?

He knows that the reported sigfmax

Is the maximum stress from the weight of his sack.

Now he can use the Stress-Strain and Strength tool

And apply the methods he learned in school.

A First Ply Failure analysis should do the trick

And for this, the Christmas – er – Christensen criterion is his smart pick.

So with his laminate defined and his max stress applied

His criterion selected and his failure location specified

Through the Calculate button he soon would avail

The Failure Index and which ply will fail.


He knows he is good with an F.I. less than 1

But Helius Composite wasn’t quite done.

Mrs Clause would also think it is great

Analysis shows a safety factor of 2.8!


And that's just one story of Santa's composites fun

But my story for you is not quite yet done.

If you were compelled by the how easy and quick

Santa was able to analyze with just a simple few clicks

Then you should visit autodesk.com and see

YOU can try Helius Composite for free!

There is online help - videos, tutorials and more

To help you get started with its composite tools galore.

And with that shameless plug, my post here is done.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone.




This post was done in collaboration with Dan Milligan - Technical Specialist for Autodesk's composites solutions. Dan has extensive experience in structural analysis of composite materials. His primary responsibilities include providing consulting services, training, and ensuring customer success in the field of composite material design and analysis.Before joining Autodesk, Dan worked for Firehole Composites. Thank you Dan!