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Composites on Boeing 787 Dreamliner Heavily Researched

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Alexander Wolfe
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Cost of composites
Alexander Wolfe   11/3/2011 4:51:58 PM
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What's the cost factor for recycled composites as opposed to brand new?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cost of composites
Ann R. Thryft   11/3/2011 5:10:09 PM
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Thanks, Alex, that's a good question. For carbon fiber-based composites, the figure I saw quoted most often was that virgin fibers cost about 10 times as much as their recycled equivalents. Since virgin fibers cost more than $10,000 per ton, recycled fibers would represent quite a cost savings. 

R.A.Richter
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Re: Cost of composites
R.A.Richter   11/4/2011 11:39:46 AM
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Composites have been used in race cars and racing sailboats for a long time.  Sailboats in many cases have been exstensivly insrumented (particularly during an Americas Cup cycle) to understand fatique cycles and degredation.  There are many carbon fiber based racing sailboats now approacing twenty years old.  These have been subject to high slamming loads, structural stresses and extensive UV/atmospheric exposure.  It would seem that some of the research would certainly cross over into the aviation field.  I also seem to remeber when working on the F14 in the early 1970s that there were a number of Boron composit pieces.

TJ McDermott
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What happened in 20 years?
TJ McDermott   11/4/2011 9:33:47 AM
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My very first job out of college was in the structural test lab of a military aircraft company.  I got to perform fatigue tests on graphite/ epoxy composite hat / skin sections, and residual strength tests on battlefield damage and subsequent repair.

I know all the other aircraft companies were doing the same type of tests at the time.  Is all of this data unusable?  I'm puzzled why there seems to be a gap in the data as described in these articles.

Dave Palmer
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Re: What happened in 20 years?
Dave Palmer   11/10/2011 3:38:56 PM
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Of course previous research is still applicable - but the world of civilian aircraft is very different from the world of military aircraft in terms of duty cycle, inspection frequency, and design lifetime. (The same goes for racing vehicles as compared to street vehicles).

You can do all the research and testing you want, but the only way you really know whether your design works is by putting it out in the field for a long period of time.  This is basically what the GAO report is pointing out.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: What happened in 20 years?
Ann R. Thryft   11/15/2011 3:00:08 PM
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Thanks Dave, that's a good summary of the problem. It's only field testing that will show up certain types of problems. A lot of research on very similar materials for military planes exists, but the key word is similar; they're not identical.

William K.
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Composits durability in aircraft
William K.   11/24/2011 10:54:29 AM
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Composits do have a bit of history, just not in aircraft, it seems.

I know that for many years I have read about methods for monitoring the health of structural composits that have used a variety of fibers embedded into the composite parts during fabrication. All of the articles claimed that this method was wonderful and quite an improvement upon anything else that had ever been done. So the question becomes one about the actual utilization of these methods of monitoring composite health. Are the methods as good as originally claimed? Do these methods work at all? Are these methods just expensive enough that they are not utilized at all? Does anybody else recall reading all of those wonderful articles? Would anybody have any actual experience with this monitoring approach?

It would be good to hear some comments from those closer to the product than I am.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Composits durability in aircraft
Ann R. Thryft   11/28/2011 12:31:18 PM
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Actually, composites do have a long history in aircraft, as detailed in this recent DN story:

http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=235863&

The were first used in military aircraft, though they've been used in commercial aircraft for nearly as long. The difference in the Dreamliner and other recent planes, such as the Airbus 350, is the sheer amount of composites in the plane, and the amounts in primary structures, ie, wings and fuselage.

As to methods for monitoring their health, I'd like to know more about them, too, since that seems to be a key point in the GAO report. William, can you tell us more about what those methods are, or point us towards some of those articles?


William K.
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Composits durability in aircraft
William K.   11/28/2011 3:50:54 PM
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None of the articles are recent, but they were in mainstream publications like Design News and Machine design. Some of them may have appeared in NASA Tech Briefs. The common thread of most articles is that composit parts would include a fiber or a conductor in their construction that would be affected by any strain or delamination in the composite component, and that this effect could be measured by some external system. Glass fibers seem to have had the more recent spotlight as potential stars in the monitoring business, at least that is my recollection. None of the reports went into really extensive details, so I am not able to help much there.  My opinion is that it would hbe a huge challenge to create a composite part and be able to preserve a glass fiber for monitoring purposes. But possibly it could be done.

So now you know as much as I can recall about this means of monitoring the health of composite materials.

Dave Palmer
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Re: Composits durability in aircraft
Dave Palmer   11/28/2011 4:03:32 PM
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I'm sure Design News has covered structural health monitoring of composites in the past, but I couldn't find anything in the archive.  However, here's a good article from Composites World which describes some of the many approaches which have been tried.

The fact that there are so many (radically different) approaches to structural health monitoring of composites suggests to me that none of the approaches is perfect; after all, if any one of them were particularly good, we wouldn't be hearing about the others.  But maybe this field is new enough that these things haven't been sorted out yet.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Composits durability in aircraft
Ann R. Thryft   11/29/2011 12:03:38 PM
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Thanks, William and Dave. I'd bet a lot of the articles are in NASA Tech Briefs and Composites World. I'm not sure the subject of structural health monitoring would have arisen before, as it's quite new. The GAO report seems to have galvanized the industry and sparked a lot of coverage of the subject.

 

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