In 2009, DAHER-SOCATA (Wissous, France) launched an R&T project called ECOWINGBOX to design and manufacture a composite wing box for business aircraft and assess its benefits compared to a metal design. This program was in response to aircraft manufacturers’ need for reduced weight and drag while minimizing their environmental footprint. Simultaneously, advances in wing design were being sought which were proving hard to achieve using metal manufacturing at an optimized cost.
Five years later, DAHER-SOCATA’s goals for this project have been more than achieved: the weight of the part is 25 percent less and manufacturing costs are 10 percent less than for a metal wing box.
DAHER-SOCATA and its ECOWINGBOX partners have been able to:
acquire out-of-autoclave (OOA) technology and automate it;
assemble the part by bonding and/or riveting, according to zoning and load distribution;
design and perform bending / torsion tests on a 2.5 m (8-ft) section of the wing;
automate machining of large parts (within the ROBOFIN and IRT Jules Verne projects);
assemble the 14 m (46-ft) wing.
Part of the knowledge gained from this research project has already been put exploited in the TBM 900 high-performance, single-engine, turboprop business aircraft, which has benefited from the deployment of an OOA process that DAHER-SOCATA says provides greater workshop flexibility and reduces costs. It also claims progress in the bonding of large-size composite subassemblies, which reduces the number of fasteners (rivets) and further reduces overall cost.
DAHER-SOCATA describes other areas of progress as very promising, including robotized finishing, which is more flexible and more cost-effective than conventional machines. Three patents have been filed and the DAHER-SOCATA industrial group has unveiled numerous innovations and developed a more mature grasp of technologies that it can offer for future aircraft programs. The company says that ECOWINGBOX is already leading it toward future projects which will enable the development of other building blocks in composite technologies applicable for the wing environment.
DAHER-SOCATA will exhibit its latest technology at the Farnborough International Air Show 2014 (Stand A14, Hall 4) from July 14-20.