Advanced Composite Parts In Critical Aviation Applications
Adding Value Through Polymer Materials & The Right Manufacturing Partner
By Mark Scoular (April 2020)
The aviation industry is one of the world’s largest manufacturing industries not only meeting the physical need of billions in transportation and communications but also inspiring generations to imagine, innovate and push research and development and technology. Global aerospace manufacturers such as Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier (designers, manufacturers and builders of aircraft) and Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney (designers, manufacturers and builders of engines) rely on a network of smaller companies to support them, among them being parts and materials manufacturers such as Omniseal Solutions. From the customer standpoint, reliability and safety are critical. How can this be achieved? Aside from selecting the right materials, partnering with the right company who has the expertise to understand the materials and its manufacturing process in order to design and make precise fit parts for core applications is the key to success.
Understanding Material to Make The Precision Part
There are various types of metals and composite materials used to manufacture aircraft, all of which need to meet the strict guidelines mandated by the industry. Aviation manufacturers seek lighter weighting solutions in order to operate more fuel efficient aircraft to reduce operational costs, which is increasing the demand for composite parts overall. These materials are often selected for a variety of areas from large structural components to mechanical components.
Advanced composites are projected to grow at a CAGR of 10.89% from about $21 billion to over $38 billion US from 2016 to 2022 with aerospace and defense largely contributing to growth, according to Markets and Markets. In core engine systems, composite components have almost tripled since 2005 per Composite World. In the global aerospace defense market, thermoplastic composites, in particular, is expected to grow to $636 million by 2023 according to Stratview Research. Europe and North America are major markets, with GE using composites in its engines, Boeing and Gulfstream Aerospace helping to drive demand, and Airbus also a major consumer. Did you know that half of the materials used in Boeing 787 aircraft are composites?
Due to their extensive knowledge of composite material properties and the best way to process them, our business has assisted many Tier 1 customers, offering technical collaboration to support new application development in all aircraft sub-systems. Through this close partnership often co-designing between engineers, the company has been able to produce advanced composite parts that are known for providing high strength and stiffness, in addition to withstanding high temperatures. Because of these valuable properties, their advanced composites are being used in critical mechanical systems such as power generation, environmental control, fluid, landing gear, braking, and actuation systems, as well as in engines to address some of the strongest demands and challenges. In engines, for instance, not only are these parts critical to determining fuel efficiency, but they are also comprised of numerous components—each often having different shape, size and dimension requirements from engine manufacturers—making every part custom, and precision required.
How Can Advanced Composites Be Valuable In Your Aviation Application?
In Saint-Gobain HyComp’s advance composite product lines, they offer a number of benefits in aerospace including:
High temperature resistance of the polyimide resin
High load/mechanical strength of the composite compound
Self-lubricating characteristics offer a low coefficient of friction and extended wear life for bearing applications
As light weight and high strength solutions, their advanced composites show promise to drive down costs and can offer as much as 40% reduction over metal and other alternatives in some cases. Reducing cost is not only achieved through using one of their material solutions but their extensive manufacturing expertise including near net molding combined with integrated finishing capabilities can also offer significant cost savings versus traditional machining from stock shapes.
To select the right material for your aerospace application, you should ask which benefit is most important – temperature, strength or wear performance? If your application requires all, or two of the three, composites are likely a good fit; even specific applications with just one may be a match. Working with a design and manufacturing specialist like our team who can offer a spectrum of composite and other solutions will be critical to determining the best material to use and the success of your project.
A Leader in Advanced Composite Part Manufacturing
Our team of composite experts originally comes from HyComp, LLC, a business founded in 1986, in Cleveland, Ohio - a long-term, premier supplier of aviation and industrial solutions that include composite parts made of injection and compression molded engineered thermoplastic and thermoset materials. It is a Tier 2 supplier for Tier 1s supplying to airframers in the commercial aerospace industry. As the most important member of a supply chain, Tier 1s supply components directly to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that set up the chain. In a typical supply chain, Tier 2 companies supply companies in Tier 1; Tier 3 supplies Tier 2, and so forth. These tiers are common where the final product consists of many complex components and sub-assemblies that must comply with stringent quality, manufacturing and business standards. .
Our team has developed a unique line of proprietary high-temperature, low-wear, self-lubricating composites that are commonly used in aerospace. These advanced composites include:
Meldin® – high-temperature resin polymer, milled carbon fiber and graphite bulk molding compound designed for higher speeds, medium loads, and lower impact. It can be compression or transfer molded and operate in 600° Fahrenheit (315° Celsius) continuously.
H310® – aerospace-grade blend of high-temperature resin thermoset polymer sheet molding compound (SMC) with one-inch chopped carbon fiber reinforcement. It has the highest strength of the Saint-Gobain HyComp materials at temperatures up to 600°F and is best for lower to moderate speeds and high loads.
H320® – a blend of high-temperature resin thermoset polymer and one-inch chopped glass fiber reinforced material. More of a thermal insulating material, it offers good mechanical strength at 600° Fahrenheit (315° Celsius) continuous operating temperature.
Meldin®, H310®, and H320® materials are used in the following aviation core systems: engine, flight control, and landing gear as well as wheel and braking where wear and the ability to address high temperatures due to friction are required. Applications vary from bushings, guide rings, wear liners, seals, clamps, and thermal isolators.
Aerospace Complexity Made Clearer & Simpler
Growing trends toward improving propulsion, emissions, maintenance, repair and operations (MRO), and manufactured parts add to the already existing complexity in the industry, which may include many risks that could cost time and money. This is where Tier 1 companies look to their supply chain to solve these complex challenges. In addition to producing advanced materials not offered anywhere else and leveraging other commercially available solutions, our team also draws on years of engineering and manufacturing expertise to help guide their customers such as complying with precision tolerances. Our business has fully-integrated development and assembly capabilities for custom parts, from injection to compression molding, precision machining, tool design, and fabrication. It can even manufacture complex geometries and thick cross-sectional parts.
It draws on extensive experience to assess:
What is the component?
How is it/will it be used?
What are the specific operating parameters and requirements that need to be met?
What is the best material and design to address the application’s specific needs?
Using a proven solution driven model, our team can address all aspects of part development from concept with material selection to production and finished component manufacturing. Within its 65,000 square foot facility that includes mills, lathes, grinding, assembly, and inspection and material testing labs, the company designs specific tooling needed to optimize manufacturing of complex parts. Additionally, each complex manufacturing process is streamlined by the company because they eliminate multiple suppliers due to being able to mold and machine parts from a variety of engineered thermoplastics and thermoset composites, designing and building tooling in-house, and selling components and light assemblies. Quality management is also very important to ensuring manufacturing of these precise parts. We maintain AS 9100D:2016, ISO 9001:2008, and ITAR registration annually.
Contact us to learn more about advanced composites in aerospace, and if they could be a fit for your critical application.