Military Embedded Systems

DARPA's TRADES program addresses design challenges with advanced materials


April 25, 2016

Mariana Iriarte

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

DARPA's TRADES program addresses design challenges with advanced materials

ARLINGTON, Va. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) officials announced the TRAnsformative DESign (TRADES) program in an effort to develop new mathematics and algorithms that can take advantage of the design space that has been enabled by new materials and fabrication methods.

“The structural and functional complexities introduced by today’s advanced materials and manufacturing methods have exceeded our capacity to simultaneously optimize all the variables involved,” says Jan Vandenbrande, DARPA program manager.

Designing a structure whose components vary significantly in their physical or functional properties, like phased array radars, is complicated using the available tools today. Most times the components are designed separately and then they are joined.

“We have reached the fundamental limits of what our computer-aided design tools and processes can handle, and need revolutionary new tools that can take requirements from a human designer and propose radically new concepts, shapes and structures that would likely never be conceived by even our best design programs today, much less by a human alone,” continues Vandenbrande.

TRADES aims at a more elegant and unified design process, such as embedding the radar directly into the vehicle skin itself, which would potentially reduce cost, size, and weight of future military systems.

“Much of today’s design is really re-design based on useful but very old ideas,” Vandenbrande says. “The design for building aircraft fuselages today, for example, is based on a spar-and-rib concept that dates back to design ideas from four thousand years ago when ancient ships such as the Royal Barge of Khufu used this basic design concept for its hull. TRADES could revolutionize such well-worn designs.”

Officials at DARPA want concept proposals to build future design tools from a diverse technical community beyond the classic computer-aided design and physical modeling communities. Other target communities for this project include animation, materials science, applied math, data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI).

A Proposers Day is scheduled for May 13 in Arlington, Virginia. To learn more visit,

Read more on radars:

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Space Fence radar test site opens in New Jersey

HPEC radar processing architecture meets goals of USAF next-gen radar study


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