Carbon-fiber reinforced Ultem polyetherimide plastic is
now being validated for use in aircraft interiors, replacing aluminum.
global contract manufacturer of custom injection-molded components and assemblies,
is working with Sabic Innovative Plastics to validate CFRP Ultem
polyetherimide in aircraft tray table arm components.
Concept parts reveal a 50 percent weight savings and up
to 40 percent improved strength of carbon-fiber-filled Ultem resin versus die
"Working closely with Sabic Innovative Plastics, we
immediately saw the potential of carbon-fiber-filled Ultem resin to replace
aluminum in interior aircraft applications," says Mike Hamm, vice president,
Sales, Vaupell. †"Carbon-fiber-filled
Ultem resin is a true industry game changing material that not only slashes
part weight for greater fuel savings, but also offers a balance of other
high-performance properties to meet aircraft industry demand."
Carbon fiber-filled Ultem resin complies with FAA
flammability FAR 25.853, smoke density and heat release requirements for OSU
65/65. In addition to tray table arms, potential applications for the new
carbon-fiber-filled Ultem grades include armrests, footrests and galley items
such as coffee maker chassis. Vaupell will conduct further load capability
testing and fatigue testing later this year.†
Sabic Innovative Plastics has developed a family of carbon-fiber-filled
Ultem resin technologies with varying fiber content to address specific demands
for top-end performance properties.
Aerospace-grade carbon fibers provide tensile strength of
38.3 PSI versus die cast aluminum grade 2024-0 (27 PSI) and machined (tempered)
aluminum grade 7075-0 (33.1 PSI). Continuous long fibers provide exceptional
stiffness and impact resistance.
The Ultem resin materials also have approximately 50
percent lower specific gravity (SG) than aircraft-grade aluminum (2024-0:† 2.78 SG; 7075-0:† 2.81 SG; carbon-fiber-filled Ultem resin:
In addition to reducing the weight of aluminum, injection
molded carbon-fiber-filled resin components don't require machining and other
secondary processes, streamlining production and driving down total system
costs. They also enable part consolidation to reduce points of failure and
expand design freedom as compared to metal.
The new resin grades can also be extruded into panels for
galley storage and similar applications. Components can be powder coated,
painted or plated.
Vaupell was founded by Leonard Vaupell in Seattle, WA in
1947 and supplied the first plastic parts to Boeing. In 1998, Vaupell became part
†of HIG Capital, a private equity company
headquartered in Miami, FL. The company operates more than 110 injection
molding presses that range in size from 17 tons to 1000 tons of clamping
It was not known if the new Ultem components will be used
on the Dreamliner.
The CFRP parts used in the fuselage of the Dreamliner are made with a
thermosetting plastic resin that cannot be injection molded.
Polyetherimide (PEI) is an amorphous,
amber-to-transparent thermoplastic with high heat resistance and strength.