The flight simulation industry demands light, mobile and structurally resistant components of precise dimensions that resist induced vibrations. Weight reduction is critical as it provides improved modal performance as well as a reduced life cycle cost when running the simulator on the motion system. Using high-performance sandwich core materials addresses both these issues.
Simulation systems integrator L-3 Link Simulation & Training's Reality 7 flight simulators undergo a lot of shake and rattle as they perform many dynamic movements during flight. They must also correctly simulate the experience of turbulence. Moreover, a trainee pilot shouldn't be disturbed by any external noises, which puts extra demands on the building material.
Composite molding specialist Norco GRP Ltd. (Poole, Dorset, U.K.), began working with L-3 in 2011. The objective was to develop a new design concept for the Reality 7 flight simulator, keeping the aesthetics as close as possible to the original, while reducing the production cost. Following an extensive four-party collaborative design stage, involving Engenuity, Rockwell Collins and L-3, Norco was awarded the manufacture contract in October 2012.
The primary task for Norco was to develop the main mirror bowl, spanning 5m/16.4 ft and supporting the entire visual system. After more than 10 years of cooperation with DIAB (Laholm, Sweden), the choice of core material was agreed and DIAB provided Norco with a pre-cut Divinycell PVC core kit that could be fitted directly into the mold, saving production time and material waste. Using a combination of UD carbon fiber and glass fiber prepreg, combined with DIAB's lightweight foam core, Norco was able to save around 300 kg/661 lb, allowing the canopy to weigh in at just 135 kg/298lb.
Overall, the Reality 7 simulator's design development process to prototype took 18 months. Norco delivered the first Reality 7 simulator to L-3 in March 2013 and it is currently working on unit number four of a contract for 24 units in total.
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This is part of a $10 million longer-term plan to expand production operations for molded structural composites (MSC).