Hi, I’m Christian Chaplais, Senior Manager of R&D DELMIA Operations Intelligence Applications. This blog is the first of a two-part series on how Operational Intelligence is helping the Aerospace & Defense Industry.
The Growing Footprint of Composite Materials in the Aerospace and Defense Industry
It’s an interesting concept when one thinks of composite materials. By now, you’re most likely somewhat familiar with—and may have heard about– the benefits that these combined materials, such as carbon fibers, can result in. Composite materials have become wide-spread in civil aircrafts after being used for years in the defense industry. And why not? The benefits are huge. Composite materials allow producing lightweight structures which in turn reduce fuel bills and emissions.
According to a 2014 report, Aerospace & Defense applications are now the largest consumers of carbon fiber (30% of demand) and generate 50% of global carbon fiber revenues.
Industry analysts expect an annual growth of between 8 and 13% for carbon composites revenue in the passenger aircraft segment and between 6 and 12% in the defense segment.
View source. Amounts in US $ millions.
New Processes, New Issues
There is a variety of processes used to manufacture composite materials:
View source. 2013 figures.
Prepregs, which account for 37%, are reinforcement materials that are pre-impregnated (hence the term “prepreg”) with a resin. The prepregs are laid up by hand or machine onto a mold surface, vacuum bagged and then heated to typically 120-180°C /248-356°F.
Autoclaves and materials have a high cost, but because of the quality and lightness of the material obtained, prepeg layup with autoclave has been until now the primary choice for the Aerospace and Defense industry.
However, new materials bring new challenges. And one major challenge is the unexpected occurrence of defects during the manufacturing of these costly composite parts.
The prepregs require storage at a controlled temperature and present certain inherent problems (variability of the raw material, variability of the processing methods used for the prepreg rolls, sensitivity of the raw material to the prevailing temperature and humidity rate in the production environment…)
As a result, up to 20% of the parts may exhibit defects such as porosity and delamination which, albeit invisible to the naked eye, are nonetheless present in the mass. These faults weaken the resistance of a part, and when there are too many such faults, the part is discarded.
Zoom on a delamination issue at a leading edge of a wing
DELMIA Operations Intelligence offers a way round the complexity of composite manufacturing.
Find out how in my next blog post, Part 2 of “The Growing Footprint of Composite Materials in the Aerospace and Defense Industry.”
If you would like to continue the technical conversation on Operations Intelligence, go where all the experts are. Join the conversation at the DELMIA Enterprise Intelligence Community here: https://swym.3ds.com/#community:453