CW Blog

A new paradigm in airframe construction?

I heard the news, through CW colleague Ginger Gardiner and composites industry and aviation researcher and professor Dr. David Pritchard, that Spanish industrial group MTorres (Torres de Elorz, Navarra, Spain), a major supplier of automated manufacturing equipment for composites, had revealed an entirely new and radically different way to manufacture airframe structure using composites. When I had spoken with the company in March at JEC World in Paris, they said that an announcement would be coming at the upcoming Paris Air Show, but gave no hint of its magnitude.

The company did speak on May 26th with journalists from Madrid’s largest newspaper El Pais during an event at MTorres’ facility in Fuente Alamo, Spain, and unveiled the new technology, which consists of a one-piece, monocoque fuselage that it says requires no rivets or fasteners, nor molds. Developed over the past 6 months by a team of 30 people, including company founder Manuel Torres, project head Sebastián Díaz was quoted in the El Pais article as saying the new fuselage technology “changes the current manufacturing paradigm" of aircraft.  

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Report on the Windpower 2017 Conference & Expo

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA, Washington, DC) maintained an upbeat, wind-at-its-back attitude for its Windpower 2017 conference and exhibition in Anaheim, Calif., May 22-25, in spite of environmentally unfriendly dust devils spinning around the current federal administration. Even with a rollback of the Clean Power plan, and the phaseout of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) in 2020, AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan expects the industry can avoid significant losses and become self-sustaining.

Some 7000 attendees and 432 exhibitors from the US, Denmark, Germany, Canada, South America and other lands seemed to agree. In 2016, US wind industry employment totaled 102,500 including 25,000 jobs in more than 500 wind-related active manufacturing facilities. Advancing technology is turning out lighter, longer blades and upgraded power systems, resulting in fewer turbines for the same power output, and planning capacity is improving reliability for future US energy needs.

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New 3D-printed front air inlet made with Windform composite materials

Earlier this year, we reported that additive manufacturing provider CRP Technology (part of CRP Group Modena, Italy) had launched Windform RL, the first thermoplastic elastomer material within the Windform family of materials for professional 3D printing.

Now CRP’s R&D department said that it recently developed a new front air inlet for a Moto3 racing customer, which was manufactured in Windform materials by using an SLS additive manufacturing technique.

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CW has covered AREVO Inc.’s (Santa Clara, CA, US) development of 3D printed composites for some time now. It touts the ability to build complex-geometry parts using chopped carbon fiber or, more importantly, continuous fiber-reinforcement and high-performance polymers like Ultem polyetherimide (PEI) and polyetheretherketone (PEEK). But its real innovation is coupling digital technology with a six-axis robotic platform to enable 3D parts with 3D fiber orientation.

“We are able to produce parts that weren’t possible previously,” says AREVO CEO Hemant Bheda. He claims the company’s composite additive manufacturing technology is now the lightest and strongest option to replace metal parts. “Our technology enables manufacturing large, complex parts that are too labor-intensive and costly with traditional composites,” says Bheda. “It also enables structural parts that are not possible with 3D-printed plastics. With fiber, we can construct a part to match the strength of metal, but offer dramatic reductions in weight.” He notes that with continuous carbon fiber reinforcement and high-strength thermoplastic polymers like PEEK, “we are starting with a material that offers five times the strength of titanium but at only one-third of the weight. These thermoplastic composites also offer excellent chemical resistance and toughness for more damage-tolerant structures.”

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A closer look at the thermoplastic composite preform technology QEE-TECH

 This thermoplastic composite door was produced using QEE-TECH 3D preforms.

Reportedly QEE-TECH can enable complex 3D shaping of thermoplastic preforms as well as reduces the cost and time required for high-throughput processing of thermoplastic composites. Click here for the full article.

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