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Master thesis: Using a Simplified Crack Geometry for Speeding up Cracktracer Light

Aircraft engines are influenced by different environmental circumstances. The occurrence of Foreign Object Damage in airfoils is unavoidable during operation. To take this into account a damage tolerant design is necessary. Part of the substantiation of damage tolerance are 3D crack propagation analyzes. One of the tools used at MTU for this purpose is Cracktracer Light.   

Cracktracer Light (which is part of CalculiX) uses an iterative procedure to calculate the crack propagation. For a given initial crack the stress intensity factors along the crack are determined based on the stress field in the un-cracked structure and simple formulas available in the literature. Subsequently, a crack propagation increment is calculated and the procedure is repeated. The initial crack is described by a triangulation and each crack increment adds new triangles and nodes. Due to this growing mesh the algorithms determining the crack front take longer and the procedure slows down as the calculation proceeds. To avoid this, one can replace the triangulation of the propagated crack by a simple mesh connecting the center of gravity of the crack with the nodes on the front. This drastically reduces the computational burden while (hopefully) keeping the same level of accuracy.


The work includes the following items: 

  • Getting acquainted with Cracktracer Light (code level)
  • Analyzing the newly proposed method
  • Implementing the method in CalculiX
  • Applying the method to simple examples and to complex engine components; evaluating the accuracy of the method and the computational gain


  • Student in the field of engineering, mathematics, physics or any related field
  • Experience with the finite element method
  • Knowledge in mechanics, especially fracture mechanics
  • Programming experience in FORTRAN, C, C++, Python or related languages
  • Willing to get familiar with an existing code (C and FORTRAN)
  • Good knowledge of technical English
  • High level of personal initiative and structured way of working


  • Insights into practical work in aviation as an innovative, high-tech industry
  • Exciting jobs that carry responsibility and are performed in an atmosphere of team spirit
  • A personally assigned contact and individual support services
  • Flexible working hours and compensatory time off
  • Networking opportunities


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