Very comprehensive overview of the state of materials exploration in the aerospace industry. It was interesting to me that companies don't see composites as the be-all, end-all solution--a surprise given that so much attention and hype is focused on their deployment. I was also pleased to see that companies are keeping somewhat of a watchful eye on sustainability concerns as they vet out these new materials.
Beth, I also found it enlightening to discover the mix of materials being developed for, and used in, in bleeding-edge aircraft design. But composites are, in fact, a big part of all this, so it's not all hype. It was a big surprise, and encouraging, to see that sustainability concerns are finally reaching and influencing this industry, like so many others.
It really shouldn't be a surprise that composites are not the be all and end all of advanced structures. Aluminum has served the aircraft industries well and is (relatively speaking) a fail-safe material...dings, dents and cracks are all fixable in aluminum....dings in composites you don't know about until you've got 12 feet of delamination flapping in the breeze. Dents require trepanning the damage out of the composite and rebuilding the location. Things like leading edges in composites are fine until you have a bird strike then it's easier to replace the whole leading edge. A bird strike on an aluminum leading edge is field fixable by any competent sheet metal basher...most get you home fixes are good enough for a number of flights since the pilot will be able to view the fix and make a decision on whether to fly. Try making the same decision on a composite fix and you don't know whether its good bad or indifferent. Alcoa et al are not going to go out of business because the new fad is composites...in fact they've still got a lot up their sleeves....variations in ARALL and GLARE are just two of the aluminum/composite hybrids that'll run circles around pure composites
I saw no mention of cellular steel (superalloy) products. Inside and near turbine engines, the temperatures are too high for most of the materials mentioned. In fact the temperatures seem to be rising, to the point that many parts that were traditionally made of titanium alloys are failing. For quite a few years, we've been working both on traditional superalloy honeycomb and on other brazed cellular structures that can replace titanium and withstand much higher temperatures, and yet be weight-neutral or even weight-saving.
CPDick, thanks for that information. We focused on structural and interior component materials for this feature, not engines, but that's good input. It's especially interesting that temperatures are outpacing titanium. Can you give us your company name for possible followup?
You bet! It's Vertechs Enterprises (vertechsusa.com)
I just looked, and realized that the non-honeycomb sandwich products are not yet shown on our website. We have a number of such products that we have been developing and testing with major aerospace companies for quite a few years, and are just about to start producing our first full-scale product samples.
sometimes new ideas generate new discovweries, consider a study of all species of bird feathers and the incredible design weight, lift, etc etc, flexible wings to use both mechanical power and atmospheric changes , perhaps the ultra lights culd take on a new perspective> my wing collection has some very old feathers that have not changed over time as I keep studing these designs which are incredible' I think there is legislation forbading feather collections, but I have a deep native american background, the race card and holocaust is not in my deck. My spirit remembers the genocide of americas 20,000 tribes, and the role buffalo soldiers played when freed. I worked for a time at LTV Aerospace in the 60's on the A-7 series, while no bird is powered with fuel they can indeed do some pretty tricky stunts, like gliding for hours, with small wing shifts , in acord with atmospheric variables, fins do compensate to keep on course, but consideration of actual feathers may be in our future. whatever. Birds of prey do reach considerable speed, without any fuel at all,
BASF's website at the link Susan gives below has a clickable overall diagram of the numerous types of plastics and other materials for an airplane manufactured by the company. While high-level, I found this info helpful in my background research. Clicking on any of the categories leads to a different diagram giving more detail. For example, the high-level diagram on the structural materials page
gives an idea of where different types of composites, thermoplastics, PIM and polyurethane materials might be used in an aircraft.
I see this technology as being useful in the manufacture of jackscrews, ths component that is often used to actuate control surfaces. If it was constructed of a lightweight plastic with a low coefficent of friction, this would be less inertia needed to move the jackscrew (energy saving for the drive motor) and could possibly lessen the need for lubrication substances. Remember the Alaska Airlines DC-9 that crashed due to failure of the jackscrew from inadequate/wrong tytpe of grease?
What should be the perception of a product’s real-world performance with regard to the published spec sheet? While it is easy to assume that the product will operate according to spec, what variables should be considered, and is that a designer obligation or a customer responsibility? Or both?
Biomimicry has already found its way into the development of robots and new materials, with researchers studying animals and nature to come up with new innovations. Now thanks to researchers in Boston, biomimicry could even inform the future of electrical networks for next-generation displays.
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