Hill Engineering Blog

A visit from Dale Ball

Hill Engineering recently played host to Dale Ball, a longtime friend and collaborator. Dale is a Senior Fellow working for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, and has been involved in a number of high-profile US Air Force projects, including the F-16, F-22, and F-35 aircraft. After delivering a riveting seminar about the progression of aircraft design since the inception of the Aircraft Structural Integrity Program (ASIP), we had the chance to inquire about Dale’s career – what drives him and what he foresees for the future of aircraft design.

Growing up with a father in the Air Force and a burgeoning interest in WWII aircraft propelled Dale Ball into the world of structural engineering. Early on, he took part in a project dubbed NASP (National Aerospace Plane), which aimed to design a craft capable of achieving orbit from a horizontal takeoff. Although the plane was never built, he considers this the project that helped him appreciate the necessity of larger programs in pushing boundaries and stimulating progress.

During his career, Dale Ball has witnessed the rise of composite materials in aircraft design, which has been largely responsible for the growth of two prominent schools of thought when it comes to structure improvement. His belief is that for structural progress to continue, those in favor of either metallics or composites must work together to overcome impending design challenges.

And what are these design challenges?

For one, composite materials tend to exhibit different failure mechanisms than metallics do, some of which tend to limit the extent to which the material system’s capability can be utilized. Strain limits set by impact damage tolerance requirements are a case in point. Furthermore, while composite materials are comparatively strong and light, the costs associated with manufacturing structural components from them is high. The continued development of analytical and experimental methods that will help us better understand complex material behavior, including the residual stress measurement techniques we utilize here at Hill Engineering, will help ensure the continued safe usage of these parts and eventually lead to better optimized design of such parts.

In addition, as aircraft reach faster speeds and their designs incorporate more complex geometries, our methods for testing must similarly increase in sophistication.

We at Hill Engineering are up for the challenge, keeping ourselves on the forefront of fatigue analysis and design and residual stress engineering as we look toward the future of aerospace.

For more information on what services Hill Engineering can provide in the fields mentioned above or other residual stress applications, please feel free to contact us.