Composites giving the Airbus wings02 August 2011 | By Angela in aerospace, Allgemein, Business, Composite production, COMPOSITES Forum, Innovation, Technology
Airbus is outstripping Boeing. At the world’s largest aviation trade show held recently at Le Bourget near to Paris, the competition between the two largest aircraft makers for the custom of the airlines dominated the news coverage. The Europeans attracted 730 orders (418 of which were binding) to a total value of roughly EUR 50 billion whereas the Americans “merely” posted 142 orders (58 of which binding) worth EUR 15 billion.
The undisputed top model was the Airbus A320 NEO. The medium-haul aircraft featuring a new type of engine (NEO = New Engine Option) is to be launched in 2015 and its fuel consumption will be roughly 15 percent lower than that of the current model. One order placed by the Malaysian budget airline Air Asia attracted a great deal of attention: the airline ordered 200 Airbus A320 NEOs to the value of EUR 12.8 billion – the largest single order in the history of the EADS subsidiary.
The fact that the low-consumption aircraft is in such demand is due in part to its consistent use of fibre-reinforced composites to reduce weight. Components made from aramid fibre-reinforced plastics are used, for example, for the lower fuselage panelling. In addition, the front edge of the tail fin and the panelling covering the transition from the fuselage to the tail fin are made of glass fibre-reinforced plastic. The rest of the tail unit and most of the flaps are constructed from carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP). The A320 is therefore the first production civil aircraft in which this material is used for the entire tail unit.
Numerous Airbus suppliers will be coming together at the international Composites Europe (CE) trade fair in Stuttgart from 27 to 29 September 2011, underlining the significance of the event as a platform for fibre-reinforced composite solutions for the aerospace industry. Fibre placement systems and tape laying systems from MAG, for instance, are used for the production of fuselage parts, wing elements, turbine casings, stabilisers and other structural elements. The Preiss-Daimler group in partnership with Diehl Aircabin produces body shell parts for both Airbus and Boeing from glass fibre mesh and plastics using an innovative processing method.
SGL Carbon is also investing in this field. At the end of May the company opened an ultramodern pilot plant for researching into further potential applications for carbon fibres in the aerospace industry. The EUR 11 million facility is a central part of the “AirCarbon” project sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Technology (BMWi) in which, for the first time in Europe, industrial partners headed by the SGL Group are working specifically to develop carbon fibre reinforced innovations for the aerospace industry.