'Bible' of Aircraft Structural Engineering Has Home at Battelle for 60 Years

COLUMBUS, Ohio (March 20, 2014)-Generations of parents have turned to Dr. Spock's Baby and Childcare book for advice on how to raise children.

Farmers have relied on The Old Farmer's Almanac as a guide for crop planting and harvesting for more than 200 years.

For 60 years, Battelle has overseen a manual so essential to the aerospace industry that it is consulted in the design and maintenance of most aircraft built around the world. Call it the bible of the metallic materials world - or as it is currently known, the Metallic Materials Properties Developmental and Standardization (MMPDS) Handbook. Many long-time users have long known it by its former name "MIL-HDBK-5," which recognizes its history as a military-owned handbook.

The handbook provides vital data necessary for the structural design and maintenance of aircraft, based on hundreds to thousands of data points. Before an aircraft can be certified as airworthy, the metallic materials used in its construction must meet highly technical specifications. Consider that the minimum design properties for one material - whether it's aluminum, steel or titanium-can be based on as many as 100,000 lot release test points. Designers may, for example, seek answers to questions about the effect of temperature on a material over a certain amount of time or other variables affecting performance and reliability.  The MMPDS Handbook is the definitive source for those answers.

The properties, guidelines, and analysis methods found in the MMPDS Handbook meet the stringent requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other governance agencies. Without the availability of approved industry-wide minimum standards, engineering data on metals such as aluminum, steel, titanium, etc. would show dramatically different results, depending on internally approved testing and analysis methods. 

Manufacturers essentially can choose two paths toward aircraft certification when building a new airplane. The first option is to create their own data and methods to prove to certification authorities that safe minimum properties were used, which would be a lengthy and costly endeavor.

The second-and preferred option-is to use the government and industry reviewed and approved properties found in the MMPDS handbook.

For more than 40 years, the government provided all of the funding for Battelle's technical coordination of the handbook, which was issued at no cost to requestors. However, in 1997 the available government funding for handbook technical coordination dropped substantially, and the government asked Battelle for help in developing alternative sources of funding.  Battelle gathered the support of industry partners through the formation of a consortium, so that the technical coordination could continue and the development of minimum design properties on new metallic materials could continue. Currently, there are 31 industry members from eight different countries providing funding for the continued technical coordination of the MMPDS Handbook.

"In essence, we were able to keep this important tool alive by finding a whole new way to fund the activity by working with industry and government partners," said Program Manager Jana Rubadue. "In this field, Battelle is seen as the honest broker with a solid reputation."

A major portion of Battelle's role includes the collection of proprietary data from the major suppliers of high performance metallic material manufacturers. Battelle research scientists and technicians statistically analyze these data in accordance with detailed handbook guidelines.

Battelle is uniquely suited to this kind of work, since it calls for a broad range of skills-all found within the halls of the institute. The range of skill sets includes, but is not limited to: applied statistics; theoretical statistics; mechanical behavior of materials and mechanical fasteners; aeronautical and aerospace design practices; fatigue analysis; and how material properties are affected by processes and temperature changes.

The FAA and all departments and agencies of the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration recognize this handbook as an accepted source for metallic material and fastener system allowables.

About Battelle

Every day, the people of Battelle apply science and technology to solving what matters most. At major technology centers and national laboratories around the world, Battelle conducts research and development, designs and manufactures products, and delivers critical services for government and commercial customers. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio since its founding in 1929, Battelle serves the national security, health and life sciences, and energy and environmental industries. For more information, visit www.battelle.org.  

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