There’s a revolution in technology to make planes lighter. Use of composites in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is well known. Not so well known is a new hexagonal honeycomb core material made of polylactic acid for lightweight panels. The biobased material also has the benefit of a smaller carbon dioxide footprint than oil-based plastics. In the last six months, a Belgian company called EconCore has optimized the production technology to produce PLA-based hexagonal honeycomb cores using a continuous production process. Moments after a core is produced, skin layers are added in a second step of the continuous production process.
Skins could be made from unfilled PLA material to make a mono material panel or, in case a higher performance is required, could be replaced with consolidated flax in a PLA matrix. One potential application is aircraft interiors, which currently use a polypropylene honeycomb material. The new technology was launched at the recent JEC Composites show in Paris.