Tag Archives: MyResearch

Too much of a good thing?

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about ‘Our last DIMES’ meetings (on September 22nd, 2021).  They were hybrid meetings with about half the participants attending in person and the remainder on-line.  When the pandemic started we had to master the skill of conducting discussions via our laptops while sitting on our own.  Now, we are learning how to include everyone in a discussion when only half of the participants are in the physical room.  One of our first steps was to re-equip our meeting rooms with higher quality video conferencing facilities so that we can see and hear one another more clearly.  Unfortunately, our new equipment revealed the poor quality of the video clips we have produced during the DIMES project.  Nevertheless, if you have never been present during a wing-bend test or a fatigue test on a large composite panel then you might find these clips interesting (see also the video of ‘Noisy progressive failure of a composite panel’ on June 30th 2021).  We also produced an introductory video for the DIMES project which was to be first in a series of video shorts but the pandemic intervened and we have never been in the same place as our camera crew so we have not made anymore.  Maybe that’s a good thing because 500 hours of video are uploaded every minute to YouTube so you will not have time to watch our DIMES videos 😉.

For more short videos from our earlier projects see ‘Archive video footage from EU projects’ on June 5th, 2019.

The University of Liverpool is the coordinator of the DIMES project and the other partners are Empa, Dantec Dynamics GmbH and Strain Solutions LtdAirbus is the topic manager on behalf of the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking.

Logos of Clean Sky 2 and EUThe DIMES project has received funding from the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 820951.


The opinions expressed in this blog post reflect only the author’s view and the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

If you don’t succeed, try and try again…

Photograph of S-shaped plateYou would not think it was difficult to build a thin flat metallic plate using a digital description of the plate and a Laser Powder Bed Fusion (L-PBF) machine which can build complex components, such as hip prostheses.  But it is.  As we have discovered since we started our research project on the thermoacoustic response of additively manufactured parts (see ‘Slow start to an exciting new project on thermoacoustic response of AM metals‘ on September 9th, 2020).  L-PBF involves using a laser beam to melt selected regions of a thin layer of metal powder spread over a flat bed.  The selected regions represent a cross-section of the desired three-dimensional component and repeating the process for each successive cross-section results in the additive building of the component as each layer solidifies.  And there in those last four words lies the problem because ‘as each layer solidifies’ the temperature distribution between the layers causes different levels of thermal expansion that results in strains being locked into our thin plates.  Our plates are too thin to build with their plane surfaces horizontal or perpendicular to the laser beam so instead we build them with their plane surface parallel to the laser beam, or vertical like a street sign.  In our early attempts, the residual stresses induced by the locked-in strains caused the plate to buckle into an S-shape before it was complete (see image).  We solved this problem by building buttresses at the edges of the plate.  However, when we remove the buttresses and detach the plate from the build platform, it buckles into a dome-shape.  Actually, you can press the centre of the plate and make it snap back and forth noisily.  While we are making progress in understanding the mechanisms at work, we have some way to go before we can confidently produce flat plates using additive manufacturing that we can use in comparisons with our earlier work on the performance of conventionally, or subtractively, manufactured plates subject to the thermoacoustic loading experienced by the skin of a hypersonic vehicle [see ‘Potential dynamic buckling in hypersonic vehicle skin‘ on July 1st 2020) or the containment walls in a fusion reactor.  Sometimes research is painfully slow but no one ever talks about it.  Maybe because we quickly forget the painful parts once we have a successful outcome to brag about. But it is often precisely the painful repetitions of “try and try again” that allow us to reach the bragging stage of a successful outcome.

The research is funded jointly by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the USA and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in the UK (see Grants on the Web).


Silva AS, Sebastian CM, Lambros J and Patterson EA, 2019. High temperature modal analysis of a non-uniformly heated rectangular plate: Experiments and simulations. J. Sound & Vibration, 443, pp.397-410.

Magana-Carranza R, Sutcliffe CJ, Patterson EA, 2021, The effect of processing parameters and material properties on residual forces induced in Laser Powder Bed Fusion (L-PBF). Additive Manufacturing. 46:102192

Our last DIMES

Photograph of wing test in AWICThirty-three months ago (see ‘Finding DIMES‘ on February 6th, 2019) we set off at a gallop ‘to develop and demonstrate an automated measurement system that integrates a range of measurement approaches to enable damage and cracks to be detected and monitored as they originate at multi-material interfaces in an aircraft assembly’. The quotation is taken directly from the aim of the DIMES project which was originally planned and funded as a two-year research programme. Our research, in particular the demonstration element, has been slowed down by the pandemic and we resorted to two no-cost extensions, initially for three months and then for six months to achieve the project aim.   Two weeks ago, we held our final review meeting, and this week we will present our latest results in the third of a series of annual workshops hosted by Airbus, the project’s topic manager.   The DIMES system combines visual and infrared cameras with resistance strain gauges and fibre Bragg gratings to detect 1 mm cracks in metals and damage indications in composites that are only 6 mm in diameter.  We had a concept design by April 2019 (see ‘Joining the dots‘ on July 10th, 2019) and a detailed design by August 2019.  Airbus supplied us with a section of A320 wing, and we built a test-bench at Empa in Zurich in which we installed our prototype measurement system in the last quarter of 2019 (see ‘When seeing nothing is a success‘ on December 11th, 2019).  Then, the pandemic intervened and we did not finish testing until May 2021 by which time, we had also evaluated it for monitoring damage in composite A350 fuselage panels (see ‘Noisy progressive failure of a composite panel‘ on June 30th, 2021).  In parallel, we have installed our ‘DIMES system’ in ground tests on an aircraft wing at Airbus in Filton (see image) and, using a remote installation, in a cockpit at Airbus in Toulouse (see ‘Most valued player performs remote installation‘ on December 2nd, 2020), as well as an aircraft at NRC Aerospace in Ottawa (see ‘An upside to lockdown‘ on April 14th 2021).   Our innovative technology allows condition-led monitoring based on automated damage detection and enables ground tests on aircraft structures to be run 24/7 saving about 3 months on each year-long test.

The University of Liverpool is the coordinator of the DIMES project and the other partners are Empa, Dantec Dynamics GmbH and Strain Solutions Ltd.

The DIMES project has received funding from the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 820951.

The opinions expressed in this blog post reflect only the author’s view and the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

Deep uncertainty and meta-ignorance

Decorative imageThe term ‘unknown unknowns’ was made famous by Donald Rumsfeld almost 20 years ago when, as US Secretary of State for Defense, he used it in describing the lack of evidence about terrorist groups being supplied with weapons of mass destruction by the Iraqi government. However, the term was probably coined by almost 50 years earlier by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham when they developed the Johari window as a heuristic tool to help people to better understand their relationships.  In engineering, and other fields in which predictive models are important tools, it is used to describe situations about which there is deep uncertainty.  Deep uncertainty refers situations where experts do not know or cannot agree about what models to use, how to describe the uncertainties present, or how to interpret the outcomes from predictive models.  Rumsfeld talked about known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns; and an alternative simpler but perhaps less catchy classification is ‘The knowns, the unknown, and the unknowable‘ which was used by Diebold, Doherty and Herring as part of the title of their book on financial risk management.  David Spiegelhalter suggests ‘risk, uncertainty and ignorance’ before providing a more sophisticated classification: aleatory uncertainty, epistemic uncertainty and ontological uncertainty.  Aleatory uncertainty is the inevitable unpredictability of the future that can be fully described using probability.  Epistemic uncertainty is a lack of knowledge about the structure and parameters of models used to predict the future.  While ontological uncertainty is a complete lack of knowledge and understanding about the entire modelling process, i.e. deep uncertainty.  When it is not recognised that ontological uncertainty is present then we have meta-ignorance which means failing to even consider the possibility of being wrong.  For a number of years, part of my research effort has been focussed on predictive models that are unprincipled and untestable; in other words, they are not built on widely-accepted principles or scientific laws and it is not feasible to conduct physical tests to acquire data to demonstrate their validity [see editorial ‘On the credibility of engineering models and meta-models‘, JSA 50(4):2015].  Some people would say untestability implies a model is not scientific based on Popper’s statement about scientific method requiring a theory to be refutable.  However, in reality unprincipled and untestable models are encountered in a range of fields, including space engineering, fusion energy and toxicology.  We have developed a set of credibility factors that are designed as a heuristic tool to allow the relevance of such models and their predictions to be evaluated systematically [see ‘Credible predictions for regulatory decision-making‘ on December 9th, 2020].  One outcome is to allow experts to agree on their disagreements and ignorance, i.e., to define the extent of our ontological uncertainty, which is an important step towards making rational decisions about the future when there is deep uncertainty.


Diebold FX, Doherty NA, Herring RJ, eds. The Known, the Unknown, and the Unknowable in Financial Risk Management: Measurement and Theory Advancing Practice. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Spiegelhalter D,  Risk and uncertainty communication. Annual Review of Statistics and Its Application, 4, pp.31-60, 2017.

Patterson EA, Whelan MP. On the validation of variable fidelity multi-physics simulations. J. Sound and Vibration. 448:247-58, 2019.

Patterson EA, Whelan MP, Worth AP. The role of validation in establishing the scientific credibility of predictive toxicology approaches intended for regulatory application. Computational Toxicology. 100144, 2020.