High-Performance Composites

NOV 2014

High-Performance Composites is read by qualified composites industry professionals in the fields of continuous carbon fiber and other high-performance composites as well as the associated end-markets of aerospace, military, and automotive.

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N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 4 | 3 1 Fig. 1 A technician inspects a starboard wing for Bombardier's (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) CSeries regional jets during final assembly operations in the airframer's wing factory in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The CSeries wings are the first on a commercial aircraft to have skins formed from dry carbon fiber rather than prepreg. Wingskin layups are infused via Bombardier's proprietary Resin Transfer Infusion process. Source: Bombardier, Belfast 300 Turboprops 1,265 Regional Jets 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 Number of Aircraft ARJ 21 Sukoi 100-95 Ejet 175 MRJ 09 Ejet 175 E2 Ejet 190 CRJ 90 Ejet 190 E2 Ejet 195 E2 CRJ 1000 CRJ 700 Ejet 195 ATR 72 Q400 Xiam MA60 ATR 42 Firm Order Backlog for Regional Jets and Turboprops That strength and growth potential has encouraged a growing handful of aircraft OEMs to enter the regional jet market in a big way. In fact, Miller points out, "there may not be enough volume to go around for all the entrants." He suggests that the market may seem "overrun" by startups because aspiring airframers believe their interests are best served by jumping into commercial aerospace with a 70- or 90- seat aircraft rather than building a larger plane that puts them into direct compe- tition with Boeing and Airbus. This ap- pears to be especially true in China, Rus- sia and other developing countries. Regional composites The use of composite materials in re- gional airframes has been steadily in- creasing in the past few years, largely in response to airlines' concern about the ever-increasing cost of fuel. At Compos- itesWorld's High-Performance Compos- ites for Aircraft Interiors conference in Se- attle (October 2013), Chris Red, president of Composites Forecast and Consulting LLC (Mesa, Ariz.), estimated that a mere 1 lb/0.45 kg of weight savings reduces an- nual fuel expenses (at $3/gal) by $185 to $360 per year for a regional turboprop and $175 to $432 per year for jets, dependent on aircraft size and annual fight hours. Currently, two OEMs dominate the re- gional market, Bombardier and Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica S.A. (Embraer, São José Dos Campos, Brazil). On the strength of that success, each is, in fact, rapidly moving on to produce larger air- craft, even as several competitors ready models for entry into regional airspace. Bombardier established itself as an aerospace entity in the late 1980s and early 1990s when it acquired two oth- er Canada-based aircraft facilities, De Havilland (Toronto, Ontario) and Cana- dair (Montreal, Quebec), picked up Lear- jet (Wichita, Kan.) in the U.S. and then added Short Brothers in Belfast, North- ern Ireland. In the de Havilland Q-Series turboprop design (Q is for quiet) in the early 1980s, composites were used exten- sively in cabin components and second- ary airframe structure. The plane had its beginnings at de Havilland as the Dash 8-100, and was rebranded as the Q100 . "Composites were estimated at ~10 percent of the empty weight of the air- craft," says Gavin Campbell, director of design engineering and technology de- velopment at Bombardier's Belfast plant. S-2 glass is still used in radomes for Bom- bardier's latest Q400 turboprop series because of its transparency to radar, and Kevlar (DuPont, Wilmington, Del.) aramid fber was and still is used for door panels, load-bearing foor panels and other cabin components. Over time, however, some parts were switched to carbon fber rein- forcement. The Q400 NextGen foor panel, for example, is a carbon fber/honeycomb sandwich construction (see Fig 3, p. 32). The Q400 also makes use of damage- tolerant Kevlar in its wing leading edges, horizontal and vertical stabilizer leading edges, and dorsal fn — applications that were pioneered in the 1980s. The Belfast operation began to incor- porate carbon fber composites in the late 1980s, along with honeycomb stiffening for engine nacelles and control compo- nents. Campbell says, "The component that was a landmark for Bombardier in use of carbon fber composites, certi- fed during the 1990s, was the horizontal stabilizers on its business jet, the Bom- bardier Global Express." Still used on those parts and now considered a conventional process, Belfast's automated tape laying of load-bearing skins with woven fabrics in a varied ply orientation was advanced in its time. Although it's manufactured on a smaller scale, says Cambell, "the stabilizer has all the complexity and all of the load-bearing requirements that a wing might have." When it re-engineered its 60- to 99- seat CRJ line of regional jets, Bombardier moved to carbon composite construc- tion for the faps and aileron high-lift de- vices. Using carbon fber reinforcement on the new CRJ NexGen family, Campbell says, "we could tailor the stiffness and strength characteristics to achieve ex- actly the performance that we were look- ing for and, at the same time, we could achieve very high strength, reliability and long product life." For its all-new CSeries jetliner, aimed at the 100- to 149-seat sector, Bombardier decided on carbon composite wings and is the frst commercial aircraft manu- facturer to use dry fber rather than pre- preg, for wing structures (see Fig. 1, p. 30 and "Learn More"). Its new wing factory in Belfast uses Bombardier's patented Resin Transfer Infusion (RTI) process (a variant of resin transfer injection). Fig. 2 Firm order backlog of regional aircraft as of March 2014. Source: AVITAS

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