Aircraft OEMs Test Thermoplastic Binder on Carbon-Composite Wings

DN Staff

October 10, 2009

1 Min Read
Aircraft OEMs Test Thermoplastic Binder on Carbon-Composite Wings

Aircraft OEMs are testing thermoplastic resin binder for carbon fiber composite wing structures. Use of thermoplastic instead of thermoset resins would reduce weight of the structure and also speed processing times. Thermoplastics set up faster than thermosets. Another twist is that the thermoplastics are being tested as thin films. Two polymers being looked at by unnamed OEMs are PPSU (polyphenylsulfone) and PEEK (polyetheretherketone). Sulfone polymers are high-performance, tough materials that offer long-term thermal stability from 140C to 200C. PEEK materials are also very tough, and offer outstanding wear resistance and broad chemical resistance. In addition to outstanding thermal properties, the composite binder also requires great adhesion. Another benefit of the thermoplastics is that they are more environmentally friendly.

One logical candidate for the materials would be the Boeing Dreamliner 787, where design engineers are racing for solutions to reduce weight. As reported by Design News, the initial Dreamliners are about 8 percent above weight specifications. The extra weight would reduce flying range, and require some reworking of early contracts. However, a Boeing spokesperson said the thermoplastic binders are not being tested on the Dreamliner.

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