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Vaupell Develops CFRP Aircraft Parts

Vaupell Develops CFRP Aircraft Parts

Carbon-fiber reinforced Ultem polyetherimide plastic is now being validated for use in aircraft interiors, replacing aluminum.

Vaupell, a 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 cast aluminum.

"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.

Grade slate

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: 1.44 SG).

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 pressure.

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.

Interior aircraft components made from carbon fiber-reinforced plastic reduce weight dramatically.
TAGS: Aerospace
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