Lufthansa Technik has expanded its composite workshop at its airframe related components (ARC) facility in Hamburg, Germany, to handle repairs of large composite components. The company installed a new autoclave featuring a five-meter (16.3-foot) interior diameter, and this allows curing of the largest jet engine fairings, flaps and radomes using heat and pressure.
The issue of composite repair has grown in significance with the wider use of the material in airframe construction. GKN Aerospace says it has developed hot bond heater mat technology into a highly efficient composite repair process applicable to many repair tasks.
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.
According to Alenia Aeronautica, it is meeting its commitments as a supplier for the Boeing 787 and has not contributed to the delays the program is suffering. The Italian company delivers complete composite fuselage sections to Global Aeronautica, its joint venture with Vought in Charleston, South Carolina, which subsequently adds components to the structures before shipping them to Boeing’s final assembly line in Everett, Washington.
Adam Aircraft is getting closer to the major milestone of FAA certification of the A700 very light jet and last month reported receiving its first Type Inspection Authorization (TIA) from the FAA. This TIA allows FAA pilots to fly the A700 for the flight tests needed for credit during the final stages of certification.
Manufacturers are relying more on composite materials for business aircraft construction thanks to a drop in manufacturing costs and better automation. Largely because of improved curing processes, OEMs are gradually eliminating expensive tooling and slashing the overall number of parts needed for a given aerostructure.
EADS Socata (Booth No. 3871) has started exploring a liquid-resin infusion (LRI) process for composite fuselage construction. The French company this month launched a $12.5 million, four-year research and development program, dubbed Fuscomp, which eventually is expected to yield a composite fuselage demonstrator. Its current business aircraft offering, the single-turboprop Socata TBM 850, uses mainly metal construction.
GKN Aerospace is working toward out-of-autoclave processing of carbon-epoxy laminated structures upward of 23 feet long and 275 pounds in weight and has already manufactured components up to 8.2 feet long and weighing 175 pounds in an R&D environment.
The future of composites may lie in carbon nanotubes. Nano composites have already found their way into cars and sports gear, and now specialists in this technology are looking for aerospace applications.
Increased automation of the production process is the key to boosting the scope for using composite materials in new airframes. As such, it is the main driver of development work at GKN’s new composite research center. And, according to John Cornforth, the UK group’s head of technology, aero engines are the most promising future application for modern composites.
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