SPARTA - Frame production in the RTM process for aviation applications

The project SPARTA tooling comprises the development of a cost- and energy efficient, automated resin transfer molding production process for aerospace fuselage frames. The big benefit of the process is the possibility for automation, shown in automation developments, and the outlook to high volume production feasibility.

Short Description

Starting point / Motivation

When looking at the future of aviation, we can see two clear trends: The first one is that air traffic volume will increase in such a way that the aviation industry will see a capacity bottleneck. The second one is that demands for faster, lighter and cheaper airplanes will grow.
The current conversion of airplane hull material from aluminum to CFRP creates the need for the structural parts of the hull, such as frames and stringers, to be made from CFRP, too. Current processes show that the production of profiles in Carbon Composite is feasible, yet highly inefficient in terms of cost and effort compared to the benefits in weight.

Objectives

  • Research on Production Technologies for part families (frames, ribs)
  • Reduction of process costs, energy consumption and manual manufacturing steps
  • Automizable process transfered from automotive industry
  • Use of 2 component, isothermal high pressure RTM processes on aerospace applications

Content

Looking at the starting airplane programs A-350, Boeing 787 and the development of the new generation single aisle airplanes like A-320neo, A-30X, Boeing 777, Embraer E-Jets SPARTA tooling addresses an urgent issue of modern cfrp-frame production. When the manufacturing of these aircrafts ramps up to the supposed 40ac/month, automation will need to be integrated in production lines. The peak of automation is already reached in state of the art production therefore new processes have to be developed for the years 2020+.
The automotive approach shows potential for integrated, automated and optimized serial processes and the potential to ramp up to between 10.000 and 100.000 parts p.a. based on resin transfer molding processes. Thus the challenge to bring the cost-, energy, and time effective processes in line with the high quality demands of aerospace structure remains to be solved.

Methodology / Approach

SPARTA was a game changing project for ALPEX technologies. As a company working both on automotive and aerospce projects the merging of this two industries begann with the project. With the partner Airbus Helicopters (Doors Systems) and the Austrian specialist on composite material (AAC) RTM processes where developed and sensored. From basic 1 component low pressure RTM to automotive 2K High pressure RTM technologies for aerospace manufacturing where developed on an A-350 door frame.

Results at the end of the project

SPARTA had 4 results:

  1. Development of the manufacturing system and technology currently implemented in the A-350 door system
  2. Development and later certification of an isothermal RTM cycle using Hexcels RTM 6 delivering shorter cycle times (-50%) lower tooling costs due to the use of conventional steel instead of INVAR(-50%) and improved quality
  3. Development for 2 Component Resin Systems improving manufacturing capabilities and reducing non productive process steps
  4. Development of automated, selfcleaning high pressure injection technology for aerospace

Aviation Forum Austria 2016: Sparta

Project Partners

 Funding program: TAKE OFF