Airbus A400M ice protection plates feature thermoplastic composites

Celanese's Fortron polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) is used in ice protection plates on the A400M military transport. Celanese also says it is also working with partners to develop an aircraft window frame using Fortron, thermoforming and injection molding.

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Sulzbach, Germany, Florence, Ky., Shanghai, PR China, Oct. 16, 2013 – Celanese Corp. (Sulzbach, Germany; Florence, Ky., USA) reportes that the new Airbus A400M Atlas military transport aircraft features composite fuselage ice protection plates made with glass fabric-based Fortron polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) from Celanese.

Fortron PPS is incorporated into a glass fabric by TenCate Advanced Composites (Nijverdal, The Netherlands). Fokker Aerostructures (Hoogeveen, Germany) processes the material into finished panels, which protect sides of the fuselage alongside the propeller tips from damage caused by chunks of ice flung from the propellers. The glass fiber-reinforced Fortron PPS material was selected because it provides excellent impact resistance, and is used on the fixed wing leading edges of the Airbus A380. 

In other Celanese news, the Faserinstitut Bremen e.V. (FIBRE) has developed a cost-effective and efficient process to manufacture lightweight aerospace components that use a continuous fiber-reinforced structural inlay based on Fortron polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) from Celanese.

In a pilot project, FIBRE worked with Airbus Operations GmbH, KARL MAYER MALIMO Textilmaschinenfabrik GmbH, KraussMaffei Technologies GmbH, Ferdinand Stükerjürgen GmbH and TU Chemnitz to successfully produce aircraft window frames using a thermoform and injection molding process. Thanks to Fortron PPS, which makes much shorter cycle times possible, the development team was able to increase productivity.

"From a production point of view, there is actually a great deal in favor of thermoplastic materials like Fortron PPS, which are often more economical," says Peter Radden, Fortron PPS specialist. "Fortron PPS is more dimensionally stable, chemical- and temperature-resistant and has a long tradition in aircraft construction where it is often the material of choice in structural components."

FIBRE uses prepregs that contain additional inlaid thermoplastic fibers, as well as carbon fibers, to lend structure to the window frames. These prepregs are processed to form structural inlay preforms — versions made from multi-axial fiber inlays (MAG) are used to shorten cycle times. FIBRE also produced Tailored Fiber Placement Preforms (TFP) parallel for precise fiber alignment.

The matrix of knit and weft fibers is formed in the subsequent consolidation in a variotherm press. In this process, the Fortron PPS fibers in the prepreg ensure homogenous matrix distribution. After consolidation, the structure inlays are sprayed with short fiber-reinforced Fortron PPS to add integral stiffening or functional elements which would be much more difficult to implement with continuous fiber-reinforced materials. The combination of thermoforming and injection molding makes the process more cost-effective and allows for higher production volumes in a shorter time.