It is for good reasons that designing laminated composite structures is sometimes known as a ‘black art’. It is not easy to intuit from the topology of and loads applied to a component what a good ply layup should be. Many companies rely on the wisdom of veteran engineers’ hard won experience, but sometimes it is necessary to take a step back and ask “what else could we try?”.
Often the design of a composite layup starts with the definition of zones within a part. The layup on each of these zones can then be fettled using FEA to arrive at a stacking sequence which can then be used to define plies.
But how do you choose the zones? Is it arbitrary based on the topology of the part? Do you just chequer-board your panel into regular squares? You could use a technique developed with MSC Nastran for one of the F1 companies.