Bath University researchers are spearheading a EU Horizon 2020 project to develop cheaper, lighter and stronger aerospace thermoplastic composites.
The $6.1 million New Hybrid Thermoplastic Composite Aerostructures manufactured by Out of Autoclave Continuous Automated Technologies (NHYTE) project aims is to produce a high-performance material based on a commercial PEEK (poly ether ether ketone)-Carbon Fiber Prepreg with the addition of amorphous polyetherimide (PEI) films.
Generally limited to the laboratory. the NHYTE consortium is aiming to identify and implement a suitable manufacturing process for these materials which can be up-scaled to an industrial level.
According to The Engineer, parts will be produced by a robotic machine using new processes such as Automated Fibre Placement (AFP) and continuous forming.
They will then be assembled by induction welding using similar methods as the automotive industry, contends the consortium.
“This innovative material, conceived and patented by a partner of the consortium, is an example of multifunctional composite, since it returns both functions of toughness improvement and process simplification,” said Bath professor Michele Meo.
“This concept on one side will provide an advantage in terms of better impact damage performance. On the other side, major advantages will result on processing simplification, in particular including improved cycle times and lower energy consumption. The technological advances of NHYTE will also reflect in higher inspection quality of aerospace composite components and therefore an increase of safety.”
Image and content credits: Boeing/The Engineer