GKN Develops Hot Bond in Autoclave Composites Repair
GKN Aerospace has developed a new repair process allowing hot-bonding of composite structure inside an autoclave. Autoclaves are used to manufacture complex composite parts by using heat and pressure to cure the components in a controlled environment. Repairing composite parts in normal atmospheric conditions requires costly specialized materials. By employing a hot bonder heater mat inside the autoclave, GKN engineers were able to develop a repair process for large composite parts such as flight control surfaces and winglets using less expensive materials and focusing the repair only on the damaged area, without affecting the integrity of the rest of the component. According to GKN, the benefits of hot-bonder-in-autoclave repairs include minimizing the risk of distortion of the part, reducing turn-times, lowering energy costs and keeping tooling costs low as tooling need be made only for the local repair area, not the entire part. “Winglet repair represents a major [source of maintenance] business in the future,” GKN noted.