GKN Aerospace (Redditch, U.K.) reports that it has completed a two-year structures technology maturity (STeM) program to create an advanced composites winglet using innovative automated processes. Results show that, were the winglet to enter series production today, these processes could reduce manufacturing costs by approximately 20 percent, producing a cost-effective winglet with a lower parts count suitable for new or retrofit installation.
From design through to manufacture the winglet has been a vehicle to trial the latest software tools and modelling, manufacturing and testing methods in areas such as structural design, automated manufacture, assembly technologies and analysis. A novel design, including a waffle skin construction, has been manufactured and assembled using innovative robotic technologies and new lightweight fixing techniques. The result is a winglet with lower weight, lower parts count, 50 percent fewer fasteners and 25 percent less time per fastening.
Rich Oldfield, technology director, GKN Aerospace, explains: “We believe many of the processes progressed and proved through this STeM program will be introduced across the aerospace sector to speed and improve the manufacture of a wide range of items such as engine components, nacelles, small wing box structures, vertical and horizontal tail planes, flying controls and undercarriage doors.”
This advanced winglet project is one element in a GBP12m STeM program led by GKN Aerospace and including Bombardier, Spirit AeroSystems and GE. STeM’s aim is to support new concepts in wing design that push the boundaries of aerodynamic performance and contribute to securing work in the U.K. for next-generation of aircraft. It is a collaborative research and development project funded under the U.K. center for aerodynamics program by the U.K. government’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The STeM winglet project was undertaken by GKN Aerospace and jointly funded by the company and the TSB.
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The project’s goal is to reduce product development and certification timelines by 30 percent for composite aircraft.