-Sampe Europe 2014: from aerospace OoA to automotive thermoplastics

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The title of the 35th International Technical Conference & Forum organized by SAMPE was “Low cost Composite Processing, from Aerospace OOA to Automotive Thermoplastic”. As the title indicates the main issues were the way to decrease the manufacturing cost in aerospace composites and the relation between thermoplastics and composites in automotive.

As it is known, it is very important to avoid the autoclave in order to reduce the composites manufacturing

  • reducing tooling cost for component development and low-rate production runs
  • adding capability for manufacturing of very large highly integrated composite components
  • reducing capital costs for autoclave and associated facilities
  • and removing autoclave bottleneck for production

Different methods for avoiding the autoclave were discussed along the conference, the experts presented different projects related to this subject, focused on the use of NCFs and resin infusion methods (summarized below).

Taking into account the unique challenge of increasing the presence of composites in new single aisle aircraft, current works are targeting at developing robust, fully automated processes for the realization of large scale structures. New functionalities are being added to existing materials, like e.g. enhancing conductivity for the improvement of lightning strike behavior.

On the other hand, thermoplastic materials are being optimized and, last but not least, new multi-functional composite materials are under development to broaden the range of composite applications. In addition, huge efforts are being undertaken to enable structural bonding for composite repair.

With respect to the automotive application, the use of carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic was considered the next challenge. The laser assisted and induction processes in welding and heating with thermoplastics were the most important topics of discussion.

Related to the main subject of the DRY COMPOSITES blog, some projects have been outlined from the conference:

  • In terms of OoA manufacturing technologies by means of NCF and RTM, Airbus Military presented its BAHIA project, focused on alternative fan cowl doors configuration and manufacturing.  Within the project framework a new fan cowl door is designed and a RTM technology is used in order to manufacture the structure, by eliminating 2 autoclave curing cycles and joining grid and skin through a unique bonding line. This way, Airbus Military intends to obtain a more competitive and reliable product.

       Co-authors: Javier Gomez Vega, Maria Antonia River Orellana, Luis Rubio García

Airbus 340-642 fan colw door

Airbus 340-642 fan cowl door

  • Researches from Irish Centre for Composite Research, MSSI and University of Limerick presented a design of experiments study assisted in optimising the LRI manufacturing process (liquid resin infusion). According to them, LRI processes is challenging due to the difficulty in achieving full fibre wet-out, target fibre volume fraction and acceptable void content etc. In this study, flat composite panels were manufactured using aerospace grade Benzoxazine resins systems (one of which is targeted at high temperature applications) and aerospace grade carbon fibre NCF (non-crimp fabric with and without powder binder).

      Co-authors: Anthony Comer, Dipa Ray, Winifred Obange, Gearoid Lancy, Inga Rosca, Walter    Stanley

Double-omega stiffened skin manufactured by VIM using Benzoxazine B.

Double-omega stiffened skin manufactured by VIM using Benzoxazine B.

  • Other EADS, Eurocopter and University of Stuttgart researchers did also present a study, aimed at the fundamental material behavior of such unidirectional-braided structures, which are converted from carbon-fibers and thin thermoplastic auxiliary-yarns directly to the part geometry as UD-plies. The promising results emphasize the feasibility of using UD-braiding for structures with high stiffness as well improved damage resistance.

Co-authors: C. Metzner a, A. Gessler a, C. Weimer a, U. Beier b, P. Middendorf

UD-braiding – the machine, process and textile

UD-braiding – the machine, process and textile

 

-AeroComposit chooses innovative solutions to build MS-21 composite wings

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MS-21´s wing spars, wing skins and six section panels will be manufactured by resin infusion and oven curing

Resin infusion is being applied in the newest commercial aviation programmes. One of them is the Irkut´s Corporation´s (Russia) MS-21 aircraft, which could be rolled out in 2015 (prototype). The post offers some details about the MS-21 aircraft, as well as about the innovative resin infusion technology they are applying in order to push the Russian companies at the the forefront of the worldwide aircraft industry.

Although Irkut will only produce 40 aircrafts/year (compared to approximately 500 each for Airbus and Boeing), the new MS-21 could compete with worldwide market leaders in the single-aisle commercial jet market.

Irkut MS-21 aircraft

Irkut´s MS-21 aircraft

To succeed in this highly competitive market, Irkut´s aircraft will have to offer a good performance and a greater fuel efficiency than its competitors. MS-21 will have a lower empty weight, a better aerodynamics and more efficient engines. The company is confident that if the MS-21 can use composites in a way that reduces weight and manufacturing costs in that 45 percent with a a target price of 35 Million US$.

To this end, in terms of technology, the company has decided to go one step ahead ,since the very beginning of the programme definition, being at the cutting edge of the aircraft industry, using Out of Autoclave methods for structural parts manufacturing.

Infusion and oven curing have been chosen for the MS-21’s large integrally stiffened primary structures including the wing spars, wing skins and six section panels

Infusion and oven curing have been chosen for the MS-21’s large integrally stiffened primary structures including the wing spars, wing skins and six section panels for the centre wing-box. These will be manufactured and assembled at the AeroComposit (also subsidiary of UAC) plant in Ulyanovsk. These process have been chosen due to its potential to reduce costs (avoiding the costly autoclave curing and reducing resin and dry material costs), and its opportunity to create integral constructions.

MS-21 resin infused wing

MS-21 resin infused wing (Diamond Aircraft´s photo)

AeroComposit has worked with a variety of experts worldwide to develop the design, materials and the process to achieve the requisite precision and quality. In terms of raw material, Hexcel and Cytec have been selected to provide dry carbon fiber and compatible liquid epoxy infusion resin. Hexcel´s OoA HiTape (up to 30mm thick) and it´s HexFlow infusion resin have been already tested to be used for the wing manufacturing.  The company affirms that 58 to 60% fiber volume content can be achieved with these  materials. An equivalent system from Cytec is also being used in the project.

The wing is based on the new carbon-infusion technology that allows building big components, like tail units or wings, with high stability at low weight.

Regarding the infusion process, FACC and Diamond Aircraft will be responsible for optimizing the wing and wing-box manufacturing process. Diamond Aircraft has developed the resin infusion process for the wing manufacturing. The wing is based on the new carbon-infusion technology that allows building big components, like tail units or wings, with high stability at low weight. The resin is cured at an aerospace standard of 180°C/356°F with a service temperature of -60°C to 160°C (-76°F to 320°F) while the production cycle can vary from 5 to 30 hours. The manufactured wing meets the requirements of the aircraft industry with a porosity of 0,3%. Diamond Aircraft claims that this achievement does not depend on the type of construction, but instead on the ability to maintain strict control of the process parameters. According to the company, the prototype wing is a a great achievement, that will have a mayor impact on the design of future airlines.

You can find more information in these CompositesWorld, Diamond Aircraft and Russia Beyond the State of the Art articles.

-Advancements in dry reinforcements for aerospace infusion process

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While in some previous posts we focused on talking about different automated processes for dry material deposition (ADMP, Pick-and-place and DAFP), this post deals with information about dry reinforcements aimed at aerospace infusion process and automation.

  • Why dry reinforcements?

Dry reinforcements offer significant advantages versus prepreg materials that have been traditionally used in the aerospace sector. They present several benefits, thanks to their low prices, their long shelf life, reduction in inventory costs, potential to increase parts integration and  potential to avoid the costly autoclave curing process.

The growth of the resin infusion process in the aerospace industry (as  can bee seen in the image above and our -Aerospace Looking to Dry Fiber/Infused Composites post) is increasing the need to adapt dry materials to the aerospace and new technologies requirements.

Infused Aerospace parts

Infused Aerospace parts  in Boeing 787, A380, A400, Bombardier C-Series and IRKUT MS-21

  • What is driving innovation in dry reinforcements?

Although there is still much to do in the area, material suppliers offer more and more products oriented to automated dry material deposition processes. Focusing our attention on dry reinforcements, the main research and developments in the area are aimed at:

Binders which are compatible with the resin to be infused and ease the manageability of the fiber during the material deposition.

Thin layers of thermoplastic veils to facilitate the flow of resin infusion and provide the final part with a greater toughness.

Dry carbon fibers that provide the strength and stiffness in a unique or multiple directions (unidirectional or multiaxial reinforcements). Different forms of dry carbon fabrics can be used to this end. NCF (Non crimp fabrics) are the most used fabrics nowadays, whereas the woven fabrics have also improved their properties in order to ensure the achievement of the required qualities.

The combination of the dry reinforcements with the proper resin is essential in order to manufacture a good quality part. Great developments are being carried out in this area.

  • Unidirectional tapes or Non Crimp Fabrics: Different choices for automation.

Unidirectional tapes up to 1″ offer high flexibility in terms of the geometries they can achieve. Automated process, such as the Dry Automated Fiber Placement (DAFP), use these tapes to produce preforms that will be infused during further stages. The productivity they can reach is low so far.

Wider Non Crimp Fabrics (NCF) can be used with the automated process such as ADMP and Pick-and-Place. The improvements in these materials and related automated deposition technologies could revolutionize the composites sector because of the great production rates they can accomplish.

You can have an overview of these different automated process in our post Making a Preform – How Can I Count the Ways?

  • What are the most common dry material forms used by the latest aerospace programmes?

It is known that the Saertex group supplies high-performance multiaxial and unidirectional NCFs for the manufacturing of the Bombardier´s C-Series and Learjet 85´s major primary structures.

Meanwhile, AeroComposit has qualified Hexcel´s OoA Hi-Tape material to produce Irkut Ms-21´s wings and wingboxes, whereas Spirit AeroSystems has also used the same material to form a skin of an engine nacelle outer fan cowl. Aircraft structures made with HiTape are reported to demonstrate mechanical properties as high as those found in parts  made with the latest generation primary structure prepregs.

Hexcel´s OoA HiTape

Hexcel´s OoA dry HiTape

Finally, it is worth mentioning that Cytec offers a material with equivalent properties, being applied also in the Irkut  MS-21. Both tapes (Hexcel´s and Cytec´s) will be used to manufacture the aircraft structures automatically within a DAFP machine.

-Resin Infusion techniques in the aerospace industry

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Many methods have been developed to perform the resin infusion in the aerospace industry, once the dry preforms are created manually or automatically. These processes are identified by different names and acronyms, which can lead to some confusion. Here is a description of some of the more widely known infusion methods.

SCRIMP (Seemann Composites Resin Infusion Molding Process) is one of the earliest patented infusion methods. It is used for many marine and Wind blade applications, but was also licensed by some aerospace firms. It relies upon the use of a flow or “distribution media” with high permeability between the layup and vacuum bag to rapidly and evenly distribute resin laterally across the part.

SCRIMP Schematic

SCRIMP Schematic (link)

VARTM (Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Molding) is the name of the process used by Lockheed Martin that is similar to SCRIMP, but does not use a flow media. The entire fuselage of the AGM 159 JASSM missile is made using VARTM.

JASSM made with VARTM

JASSM made with VARTM (link)

CAPRI (Controlled Atmospheric Pressure Resin Infusion) was patented by Boeing and is said to reduce thickness variation and result in fiber volumes and mechanical properties equivalent to prepreg/autoclave materials. First it uses vacuum debulking cycles on the dry preform to reduce compressed thickness prior to infusion. During infusion, the resin supply is held at partial vacuum, which assists in degassing the bulk resin but also reduces the pressure differential driving resin into the preform.

CAPRI Schematic

CAPRI Schematic (link)

VAP (Vacuum Assisted Process) was patented by EADS and used in parts like the A380 Aft Pressure Bulkhead and the massive A400 Cargo Door. VAP features a gas permeable membrane placed over the infused layup, which helps to evacuate trapped air and volatiles in the infused layup prior to cure. By letting gases through the membrane (but not the resin) VAP is said to achieve lower voids and higher, more controlled fiber volume for better laminate quality.

VAP membrane

VAP membrane (link)

RTI (Resin Transfer Infusion) is a Bombardier patented process used to produce the wing skins of its CSeries aircraft. Infusion of resin into the preform is performed with vacuum pressure only. However, the mold is located in an unpressurized  autoclave during the infusion step. After the preform is fully infused, the autoclave is pressurized and heated to perform cure. This makes it easier to achieve high laminate quality because positive cure pressure (>14 psi) helps prevent void formation from entrapped air and volatiles. It has the drawback that a suitable size autoclave is still requited. All other methods cited above are true Out of Autoclave processes.

C-Series wing made with RTI

C-Series wing made with RTI (link)

There are also other acronyms for similar processes, which can create a kind of “alphabet soup” confusion about infusion.

The important thing to remember is that many different users have had success making a wide range of parts (some very large and critical) using infusion processes.

-Pros and Cons of Automated Preform manufacturing methods

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In our last post we described three methods to automate dry fiber Preform manufacturing: Pick-and-Place, Dry Automated Fiber placement and Automated Dry Material Placement.

Pick-and-Place (PNP) – Ply patterns are cut on a Table Cutter, “picked up” and then transferred or “placed” into the mold.

Dry Automated Fiber Placement (DAFP) – Similar to prepreg AFP, where bands of narrow unidirectional tapes are placed into the mold, except that the tape is dry (not impregnated). A small amount of binder holds the tapes in place as they are placed under heat and pressure.

Automated Dry Material Placement (ADMP) – Fabric rolls are cut into Ply patterns and placed into the mold, all in one operation and one machine pass over the mold.

PNP, DAFP and ADMP preform manufacturing methods

PNP, DAFP and ADMP preform manufacturing methods

Each of these automation methods provides advantages and disadvantages, as presented below.

Preforming Methods – Pros and Cons

Preforming Methods – Pros and Cons

PNP has been used to produce preforms for some time, and directly mimics the way many prepreg, RTM and infused parts are made today. The industry is comfortable with designing, producing and inspecting CNC cut ply patterns, whether from prepreg or dry fabric forms. Flat pattern shapes of any complexity can be accommodated (internal windows, cutouts, etc.) Instead of manually placing plies in the mold, with PNP this operation is performed by a machine, therefore the complexity of the layup (mold contour, folded flanges, etc) is more limited. Both woven and noncrimp fabric (NCF) styles provide good mechanical properties as well as excellent permeability for complete resin wetout and infusion. A drawback to PNP is that more floor space is needed for both the Table Cutter and the PNP transfer mechanism. If cut plies are not laid directly in the mold (i.e. are stored in kits before layup), PNP requires more ply handling, which makes it more difficult to manage fabric distortion and placement accuracy.

The design practices, machinery and manufacturing approach with DAFP are very similar to prepreg AFP. This familiarity or aerospace “pedigree” makes DAFP attractive because it is a less disruptive process change where AFP equipment is already in use. Other benefits of DAFP include very good properties achieved with unidirectional fiber and the lowest material scrap rate, since each tow is dropped or added exactly as needed. This feature also means that complex patterns can be produced, though there remain limitations associated with minimum cut-and-add length and edge crenulation. The use of individual tapes allows DAFP to conform to complex shapes. The drawback of DAFP is similar to that of AFP – in practice, actual productivity (pounds deposited per hour, i.e. the floor-to-floor or C rate) is relatively low.  The time required to manually inspect every placed tape against the defined drawing often far exceeds the time the machine is actually placing material, and this is another factor in low throughput.

ADMP’s value proposition is that it can achieve very high productivity due to wider materials (than DAFP tow bands), multilayer materials (such as NCF) and pre-made layup schedules provided in the fabric form itself. For example, to produce a balanced, symmetric quasi-isotropic layup only requires 2 passes of an ADMP machine (using a four layer [0/45/-45/90] NCF fabric placed back-to-back) but requires 8 passes of an DAFP machine to produce a [0/45/-45/90]s layup from uni dry tape. Like PNP, the textile forms used in ADMP have very good through thickness infusion properties, but ADMP textile forms do not provide mechanical properties as high as unidirectional tape used in DAFP. The mold contours and ply pattern geometry suitable for ADMP is somewhat more limited than for other methods, and the method has yet to be proven for use in aerospace applications.

So there are many factors and tradeoffs to consider. Nor are PNP, DAFP and ADMP the only ways to automate the Preforming process. Other methods like stitching, 2D and 3D braiding, 3D weaving and others are also being used.  Ultimately the choice of Preforming method, when it comes to automation, depends on the specifics needs of the application and the customer.

-Making a Preform – How Can I Count the Ways?

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Making a part by RTM or vacuum infusion has two basic steps – first a dry Preform is produced and then resin is infused into the Perform in a tool where the part is cured. Building a high quality Preform is essential to produce a high quality part, and the majority of part cost and time are associated with manufacturing the Preform. Dry fiber material is supplied on rolls, which are processed in three steps to make a Preform:

  • Material is cut from the roll (usually to specific ply shapes)
  • Plies are placed into a mold or forming tool with the part shape
  • Dry plies are consolidated (using heat and pressure) to assure they remain fixed in the proper position, hold their shape and to compact the Preform and reduce bulk before infusion.

Several different methods have been developed to create high quality Preforms suitable for structural parts:

Pick-and-Place (PNP) – Perhaps the most widely used approach, this consists of:

  • Ply patterns are cut on a CNC Table Cutter (same equipment used for prepreg pattern cutting)
  • Cut patterns are “picked up” from the Cutter table. Often plies from several material types used in a part are organized into a Kit, which is stored temporarily.
  • Plies are picked up from the Kit and transferred or “placed” into the forming tool. Placement of the plies (which are 2d flat objects) into a forming tool (usually a 3d contoured object) requires that the placement process also form the dry material without wrinkles, excessive skewing or other ply distortion.

Pick and place can be performed in one operation if the forming tool is able to accept the plies immediately after they are cut, and if the cutting equipment is adjacent on the shop floor. If Kits are used, plies are handled twice, and requires separate floor space for storage. “Picking” and “placing” can be performed manually but is increasingly being performed by machines.

Pick-and-place equipment

Pick-and-place equipment (see article and video)

Dry Automated Fiber Placement (DAFP) – This is an adaptation of prepreg AFP, using dry tapes instead of slit prepreg tapes:

  • Several suppliers now offer dry fiber tapes with suitable binders, designed to be used on current AFP machines to create dry Preforms. These dry tapes are analogous to slit prepreg tape, but with no resin. There is a small amount of binder powder on the tape surface to hold the dry tapes together with the application of heat and pressure.
  • Preforms are produced using many passes of narrow bands of dry tape that are consolidated as it is placed, just like AFP.
  • Resin is later infused into the preform using either vacuum pressure or higher pressure in a matched mold (RTM).
  • Conceptually DAFP is very similar to AFP, using the same basic equipment and design practices.
DAFP using AFP with dry fiber tapes (see NLR)

DAFP using AFP with dry fiber tapes (see link)

Automated Dry Material Placement (ADMP) – A newer approach is to cut and place ply patterns in one operation:

  • A moving machine head with a fabric supply roll dispenses the fabric and cuts the pattern shape as the material is dispensed. Cutting the ply edges is performed with multiple CNC controlled knives in the machine head.
  • The cut patterns that emerge from the machine head are placed directly on the forming tool as the head moves over the tool surface. This eliminates the “pick up” and “placement” handling in the PNP approach.
  • Conforming the fabric material to the 3d surface of the forming tool is also performed by the machine head using compliant mechanisms.

    Automated Dry Material Placement (ADMP) equipment (see link)

    Automated Dry Material Placement (ADMP) equipment (see link)

 

 

-BMW i3: first mass produced composite car in production

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BMW has started production of its revolutionary i3 city car, which is the first mass-produced automobile using a composite frame. The company invested $533 MM (€ 400 MM) in its composite and assembly facilities in Germany and expects first deliveries to European customers in November. Production facilities have been sized to support a rate of 40,000 vehicles per year.

BMW i3: first mass produced composite car

BMW i3: first mass produced composite car

The heart of the structure is the 330 pound (150 kg) passenger compartment, called the Life Module. It is made from dry, carbon non-crimp fabric (NCF) preforms that are resin transfer molded (RTM). This permits substantial parts integration of the Life Module comprising 150 parts total, with two thirds fewer parts and 50% less production floor space than with a steel design, according to BMW. Parts consolidation of this magnitude cannot be achieved using steel or aluminum according to BMW’s Project Director Dr. Carsten Breitfeld. The Gr/Ep Life Module weighs half of a steel design, and contributes to total vehicle weight savings of 770 pounds (350 kg).

Production cost and rate of the i3 composite structure are critically important. Compared with existing production of composite parts for the BMW M3 and M6, 50% cost savings are realized with the i3 process and cycle time is reduced by 30%. “We have optimized the process, achieved a shorter manufacturing time, and succeeded in taking a lot of the cost out” says Breitfeld. He attributes these achievements to “a fresh approach to manufacturing and materials use and a very clear business plan…… The production process is a very significant time saver and means that industrialization of large CFRP components is now realistic.”

BMW’s experience has been so favorable that its larger i8 electric sports car to be offered next year will be built the same way.

More details are provided in SAE Automotive Engineering and CompositesWorld articles.

 

 

-Aerospace Looking to Dry Fiber/Infused Composites

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Most aerospace composite structures are produced today using prepreg and autoclave cure. Recently an increasing number and type of large and critical structures are being manufactured in a very different way – using Preforms assembled from dry fabrics and tapes and then infusing the epoxy resin into the Preform followed by cure. If the infusion is performed in a matched closed mold under high pressure, the process is called RTM. For many larger parts, infusion is performed using vacuum pressure only with single surface tools. This process has many different names reflecting slight differences in the infusion process including VARTM, CAPRI, VAP, RTI, RFI, BRI, SCRIMP and several others.

A wide range of aerospace parts are fully qualified and in production today made from dry fiber and vacuum infusion – a few examples are shown below. Some of these assemblies, such as flight control surfaces (flaps and ailerons) and fuselage frames are considered secondary or redundant components. Others such as the Aft Pressure Bulkheads of the A380 and 787 are primary structure – failure of these critical components would likely lead to loss of the aircraft. The A400 Cargo Door operates in an even more challenging environment – this flat and large door sees full cabin pressurization, and experiences significant bending  and tension loads during flight.

That these highly critical parts are made using these materials and processes speaks to the high degree of confidence that the aircraft OEM’s and regulatory authorities have in the reliability, performance and safety of the dry fiber/infusion approach.

787 Dry fiber/infused parts include (left to right) ailerons and flaps, fuselage frames and the aft pressure bulkhead (APB) of the fuselage

787 Dry fiber/infused parts include (left to right) ailerons and flaps, fuselage frames
and the aft pressure bulkhead (APB) of the fuselage

A380 Aft Pressure Bulkhead (APB) and A400 pressurized Cargo Door

A380 Aft Pressure Bulkhead (APB) and A400 pressurized Cargo Door

Arguably the most advanced use of dry fibers and infusion is in the wings of next generation airliners such as the Bombardier CSeries and Irkut MS21 aircraft shown below. These aircraft, serving 120 to 200 passengers, are the newest in commercial aviation and have leveraged the latest advances in composite materials, processes and production methods available today. The CSeries has passed ground structural tests and is expected to make its first flight mid 2013, with the MC21 to follow about a year later.

The Bombardier CSeries wing (left) and Irkut MS21 wing (right) both are made from dry fiber preforms and resin infusion

The Bombardier CSeries wing (left) and Irkut MS21 wing (right) both are made from dry fiber preforms and resin infusion

How about your company – is this technology being considered and for what applications? What are the benefits, tradeoffs, concerns and issues associated with the use of these processes? Let us know what you think.

-Advanced dry composite materials offer new opportunities in the aerospace industry

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The number of flights expected for the next 2 decades shows a an annual growth rate of 4.7%, but needs to satisfy very tight constrains on fuel consumption (with fuel consumption being about 30% of the operating cost). It is required to strongly reduce fuel consumption of the future aircrafts manufactured.


ScreenHunter_1350Growth perspective for annual flights from AIRBUS market forecast

One of the approaches required to do so is the introduction of advanced materials to reduce their weight, and composite materials in particular. Major manufacturers have increased the content of composite materials from 5% (A300) to 52% (A350XWB) for AIRBUS or to 46% for the CSeries (Bombardier), including wings, fuselage, and other structural parts etc.

Traditionally, structural components in aerospace have used carbon fiber pre-impregnated with epoxy resins (pre-pregs) that require to be cured in an Autoclave. Although the properties of the pre-pregs are outstanding, the cost associated to the maintenance, shelf life and autoclave processing of these pre-pregs represents a high percentage of the total cost of the part.

In order to reduce these costs, a strong effort has been performed to develop dry composite materials with suitable material properties, and reduced manufacturing costs due to higher deposition rates, no costs of refrigeration, and longer shelf life.  Due to this effort, the use of dry composite materials emerges as a new material feasible for the manufacture of structural components.

The CSeries Aircrafts, from Bombardier Aerospace represents a breakthrough in the use of composite materials, since some of their structural components, such us the wings are being manufactured using dry composite materials. Bombardier expects to reduce 20% the fuel consumption, and have 25% less maintenance costs. The CSeries aircraft is expected to make the first flight shortly. In particular, the manufacturing process is based on pick and place of dry composite material cut on a 2D table and positioned in the mould.

Bombardier

Bombardier is not the only one aircraft manufacturer that uses dry composites in the design of the new aircraft to reduce costs and increase productivities: A400M from AIRBUS cargo door (also a structural component) is also manufactured using dry composite materials. Furthermore, their manufacturing method uses alternatives to autoclave, by means of the VAP (vacuum-assisted process) demonstrating that dry composite materials can achieve mechanical properties required to be used in structural components. The manufacture of these components also takes benefit of the combined infusion of the different parts (skin and stringers), avoiding about 3000 metallic rivets.

0507HPC_IM_A400M_Step_3The investigation and development on dry composites, offers a critical opportunity to push forward the presence of composite materials in the aeronautic field by reducing costs, and maintaining the mechanical properties of pre-preg materials.

Airbus and Bombardier are setting up the first steps regarding the use of dry composites in the aeronautic sector. This sets the path to the industrial development of processing technologies of the fabrication of the materials and the components, and moving from manual manufacturing for short series to high production for larger series, as has happened with glass fiber or pre-preg carbon fiber materials.

There are still strong challenges remaining to take full advantage of this disruptive material that require a strong synergy between all the agents responsible of the introduction, design and development of components manufactured from dry composite materials: companies, Research Centers, academics and experts. 


-We go dry

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Dry Composites is an initiative by Danobat Composites to share the latest advancements in automation using dry composite material. This online community aims to connect companies, research centers, academics and experts interested in the use of dry composite material to develop structural parts in aerospace.

What do we mean by Dry Composites? There are two distinct methods of making composite structures. The first involves impregnating the fibres in a dedicated off-line machine to make a pre-impregnated material, called pre-preg. This is then transported to a factory that makes structures where it is laid up by machines or manually.

The second, more direct route is to take dry fibres, usually in some textile format and after assembly into a pre-form, infuse them with liquid resin. The infusion process is known by a number of trade names and acronyms such as RTM, VARTM etc.

The pre-preg route involves an extra process and hence cost, but it does result in structures with good consistent properties. Recently, the performance of structures made by infusing Dry Preforms has improved and is now claimed by some, to match that of more conventional pre-preg materials. Working with dry fibers, fabrics and textiles enables thicker layers to be used, saving time and labour costs, plus aiding in the creation of more complex, one-piece structures.

However whereas the pre-preg manufacturing industry is well served by automation with dedicated machine tools, the lay-up of dry fabrics has not received the same attention. Danobat Composites has pioneered the development of Automatic Tape Laying using woven and NCF fabrics. This has improved laminate quality, repeatability and reduced the cost of composite structures by significantly cutting manufacturing labour and material costs. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that the use of dry materials can give rise to out of autoclave curing processes acquiring required properties in primary structural aerospace parts.

Today, manufacturers face the challenge of doing more with less, the aerospace industry needs to adapt quickly to new material and process developments to remain competitive. In doing so, the ultimate goal of a disruptive automation technology is to introduce new processes that may deliver better high efficiencies and control at less cost. This requires broad support from an ecosystem of R&D, manufacturing, engineering teams and material developers.

Dry Composites is an open space for those interested in learning more about how automation using dry composite material can be applied to the aerospace industry. From sharing industry news, information, data and technical solutions about dry composite solutions to interviews and perspectives from expert sources. Our target audience includes decision makers, R&D engineers, global suppliers of advanced materials, software and automation companies.

If you are interested in learning more about advancements in the use of dry material in the aerospace industry, follow us on Twitter @drycomposites and join the LinkedIn Group Dry Composites.

Stay tuned for more!