Boeing eyes all-composite airframe for NASA demonstrator

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Boeing may build an all-composite airframe as a concept demonstrator for next-generation passenger and cargo aircraft.

Boeing Phantom Works president Darryl Davis says an airframe developed using the company's pultruded rod stitched efficient unitised structure (PRSEUS) technology could be proposed for a NASA research programme.

The technology is designed to build composite structures efficiently by stitching the frames and stringers to the aircraft skin. It is a key technology for mass-producing an aircraft such as a blended wing body, which lacks a tube-and-wing airframe's constant section and so requires more tooling.

The airframe is among the concepts Boeing may propose to answer NASA's request for bids for the environmentally responsive aircraft programme, Davis says. This programme could fund an integrated vehicle testbed as an X- or Y-research aircraft in the next few years.

Boeing's approach on PRSEUS is part of a wider industry push to move beyond autoclave-based curing techniques for load-bearing composite structures. The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works has flown the X-55 all-composite cargo aircraft using an out-of-autoclave epoxy resin.

But Boeing's Phantom Works has been working on stitched composite manufacturing techniques for more than a decade, including the advanced stitching machine funded by NASA in the late 1990s.