Not so long ago, the ascent of composites in aerostructures manufacturing seemed an unstoppable progression that could only happen at the expense of metals. Fresh thinking at progressive companies like GKN Aerospace is changing that thinking, with engineers increasingly coming to the conclusion that the two families of materials can coexist in cooperative harmony to give manufacturers the best of both worlds.
Bombardier’s all-composite Learjet 85 is progressing toward a first flight in 2012 with heavy engineering and manufacturing input from the company’s facilities at Belfast in Northern Ireland and Manchester in the northwest of England.
As engineers design more structural components using composite materials, the resin transfer molding (RTM) process is seeing increased use in business jets. Bombardier’s Belfast facility is employing RTM to build Learjet 85 wings, and Gulfstream vendor North Coast Composites of Cleveland, Ohio, is using RTM to make G250 rudders.
Embraer has started the first phase of building a new $48 million, 330,000-sq-ft facility in Évora, Portugal, dedicated to manufacturing complex airframe structures and components in composite materials. Completion of the initial phase is scheduled for the end of next year, while production of structures and components for the Brazilian company’s business aircraft and airliners will start in 2013.
Hartzell Propeller has received FAA type certificate approval for a new advanced-composite ASC-II four-blade propeller. Hawker Beechcraft’s King Air 250 was the launch customer. “The 93-inch-diameter ASC-II advanced composite propellers with lightweight aluminum hubs weigh 30 pounds less than the equivalent metal-blade propeller.
Operating an aircraft accounts for 80 percent of the machine’s lifetime environmental footprint, according to a newly released Dassault study.
Manufacturing and dismantling account for the remaining 20 percent, and Europe’s Clean Sky research initiative includes an E80 million ($104 million) project called EcoDesign-Airframe, co-led by Dassault, aimed at greening aircraft cradles and graves.
Bombardier Aerospace has built the first all-composite manufacturing validation unit (MVU) for the Learjet 85’s pressure vessel. It was built by the Learjet 85 structural design team in Montreal using production tooling, along with “strong support” from the program team based in Mexico. All primary structural components of the all-composite Learjet 85 will be made in Querétaro, Mexico.
GKN Aerospace is here at Farnborough with news that it is working to develop new technologies, materials and processes, and to determine how they may be used over the next decade. Composites constitute a major area of materials development, a spokesman said, notably to drive down costs and increase the speed of manufacture.
Goodrich Corp. (Stand OE4) has begun collaborating with researchers at an Ohio university to produce a nanomaterial nicknamed “fuzzy fiber” that has metal-like conductive properties and can be formed into large composite structures for use in aerospace.
As certification of the 787 Dreamliner approaches at the end of this year and launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA) prepares to take delivery of its first airplane, Boeing’s service ready team is putting the final touches on preparation for entry into service.