FACC AG (Ried im Innkreis) has been announced as the winner of the Bronze Inventum Award by the Austrian Patent Office in Vienna. "We are very proud of this terrific award. It is another important acknowledgment of our innovative strength and our pioneering technological role in lightweight composite construction," said Robert Machtlinger, COO of FACC.
The Austrian invention prize, awarded annually by the Patent Office, once again this year attracted active participation from companies, universities, research facilities and innovators. The prize for "Invention of the Year" is intended to give a curtain call to those people whose ideas allow new paths to be taken in technical research and development. First place in 2014 went to Kielsteg GmbH, with second place awarded to Dr. Klaus Pastl.
MARI Infusion Process Sets New Standards
FACC describes its patented Membrane Assisted Resin Infusion (MARI) process as providing a significant step forward in fiber composite technology that raises the bar for the integral design of monolithic structures. Thanks to this process, FACC says it is now possible to manufacture lighter components made from carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) more cost-efficiently. FACC also claims to be the first-ever manufacturer worldwide to have succeeded in producing the components of a wing box in a one-shot process without using an autoclave.
In the prior art method for the production of carbon fiber wing boxes, prepregs (fibers preimpregnated with resin) are placed on a mold and cured in the autoclave under heat and pressure. The separately cured reinforcement sections, which also consist of CFRP, are then connected to the wing shell by mechanical means such as rivets, screws, etc. – a complex, time-consuming and costly joining method.
In FACC’s innovative method, the wing shell is assembled completely from dry fiber preforms including the entire reinforcement structure. The whole layup is positioned in a mold and introduced into a heating cabinet. Once the entire fiber mat has been heated, the resin, which has been preheated as well, is “sucked” through the component under vacuum. For this method, no mechanical connecting elements such as screws or rivets are needed, leading to a substantial weight reduction of the parts.
FACC reports that this wing box concept can be scaled to all dimensions and applied to all aircraft sizes and types. The new process not only helps to save weight, but also reduces manufacturing costs and lead times. Energy consumption is reportedly reduced significantly by using the heating cabinet instead of the autoclave to cure the components and eliminating the need for cold storage of prepregs.
FACC is currently testing the innovative process in various structures. "Within the scope of research projects, various infusion components have already been infiltrated by means of the new MARI infusion process. The results are very promising, as demonstrated by unproblematic, complete, and high-quality infiltration of the fiber structure," said Hermann Filsegger, Head of Engineering at FACC, highlighting the benefits of the invention.