April 16, 2010
The 2010 JEC Composites show in Paris provided a high-profile presence for the EADS Technology Licensing initiative, which attracted large crowds to its exhibit stand with the display of two large composite aerostructures produced with the EADS-licensed Vacuum Assisted Process (VAP®).
“EADS has many composites-related technologies available for licensing, and we were able to meet with representatives in all sectors of the composites business during the show’s three days: from aerospace and renewable energy to automotive and marine,” said Wulf Hoeflich, who heads the EADS Technology Licensing initiative. “In addition, this world-leading event provided access to the entire supply chain, from providers of raw materials to end-product producers.”
Showcased at this week’s JEC Composites show were a forward fuselage demonstrator for the D-JET personal jet aircraft, manufactured by Austria’s Diamond Aircraft Industries with VAP® in a “one-shot” process complete with stringers; and a complex jetliner bulkhead component created by Premium AEROTEC of Germany.
“Such full-scale components are excellent examples of what is possible with VAP®, and they attracted a significant level of interest from industry professionals who understand a breakthrough technology when they see it,” Hoeflich added.
The four-metre-long D-JET forward fuselage is one of two produced by Diamond Aircraft Industries using VAP, and with a nine-metre-long airframe now being made by the company. Diamond Aircraft Industries also has won a contract to build a 10-metre-long test wing section for the Russian MS-21 regional jetliner with VAP. This full-scale segment begins at the centre wingbox and runs to outer wingbox, and is to undergo ground-based testing that includes simulated flight loads.
Based on his company’s extensive production experience with VAP, Zipper said he is convinced the EADS-patented process “is the way of future,” and will enable fully-composite aircraft to be efficiently built in weight categories of over five metric tons.
This lower-deck bulkhead, created by Premium AEROTEC with VAP® for a future single-aisle jetliner, was exhibited at the JEC Composites show.
Zipper explained that processes such as VAP – which enable composite structures to be manufactured without traditional large, expensive autoclaves – mark a major step forward in manufacturing technology. In addition, the semi-permeable membrane systems used in the VAP production enables the reliable removal of small molecules of trapped air and gas – resulting in products with extraordinarily low porosity. This low porosity is important for the long-term integrity of an aircraft, and also provides an extremely high surface quality.
“One of my goals is to bring about a new way of building aircraft at my own company, and VAP is a key to this change,” Zipper added. “And from what I have heard from other aircraft manufacturers, they are very excited as well about what VAP can bring to composite aircraft production.”
A highlight of the JEC Composites show was the signing of a licensing agreement with Premium AEROTEC, which will enable the leading manufacturer of aircraft components and systems to seek new business with VAP. Premium AEROTEC already has utilised the technology in producing composite components for the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 jetliners, the Airbus Military A400M airlifter, and the EADS Barracuda military unmanned aerial vehicle.
The Barracuda’s nearly 10-metre-long airframe was manufactured by Premium AEROTEC in a “single-shot” process, demonstrating the VAP’s capabilities to be used in producing complete airframes. “Just as we have done with the Barracuda, I am convinced that VAP will be much more widely used in aircraft manufacturing, going all the way to the production of complete airframes,” explained Joachim Nägele, Premium AEROTEC’s head of programs and sales.
Nägele said this expectation for major growth in aviation-related VAP production is based on the company’s extensive experience with the process. He noted that VAP manufacturing at Premium AEROTEC already includes some 70 shipsets of A380 flap tracks – a component that is subject to high loads and stress during flight, along with six A400M rear cargo doors, which have a length of 6.5 metres and a width of 4.5 metres.
In addition, the company has supplied more than 30 rear fuselage bulkheads built with the VAP process for the Boeing 787, with another 20 currently in production.
“This important contract underscores the flexibility of EADS’ licensing strategy,” EADS’ Hoeflich explained. “Our offer now ranges from providing VAP manufacturing capabilities directly to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) who can build the components themselves to having Tier 1 companies such as Premium AEROTEC become the manufacturer and supplier with responsibility for applying the technology in series production.”
Hoeflich noted that even Tier 2 suppliers are interested in VAP, as they foresee a fast-growing market for this technology, and would like to become part of the supply chain for materials such as resins, textiles, fibres and coatings.