Less waste and lower costs for production of thermoplastic composite structures could result from the development of improved process control software under study at a Dutch university.

The aim is to eliminate distortion in composite structures, reducing the level of defects. The Airbus A330/A340 family already has wing leading-edge components made from thermoplastic composites and the A380 will also use them.

Thermoplastic composites can be repeatedly softened by heating and hardened by cooling, allowing reprocessing, and set in shape in minutes rather than the hours required for thermoset composites.

The promise of less waste and lower costs has been tested through an intensive evaluation of ribs produced with the help of the new software. The next stage is to study the interaction of multiple layers of composite material.

Researchers foresee increasing use of thermoplastics in aircraft production.

"With this material you could reduce production costs further because you do not need to use rivets, but for now the authorities still require it," says project leader Remko Akkerman, an engineering science professor at the University of Twente, Netherlands, whose team are part of the European Aeronautics Science Network.



Source: Flight International