Summer 2010

TenCate Aerospace Composites co-winner JEC Award

In the middle of April 2010 TenCate Aerospace Composites, together with Fokker Aerostructures, received the JEC 2010 Innovation Award in the category Aeronautics in Paris. This relates to the development and production technology of thermoplastic composites for the Gulfstream G650.

The winning contribution means an innovation in the market and marks the next step in the technological development of thermoplastics. The partners realized 10% saving in weight and 20% reduction in cost. The development means process and material innovation and cost efficiency. 

The G650 (picture) flies more cleanly, more economically, higher and faster than its predecessor, the G550. Moreover, the aircraft is lighter – thanks partly to the use of thermoplastics. Fokker Aerostructures makes the body panels, the floor, as well as the whole tail, including the rudder and elevators of the tail section. Besides TenCate Cetex® for the floor, TenCate Aerospace Composites also supplies the composite materials for the moving horizontal and vertical parts of the tail.

A new generation of carbon polyphenylene sulphide (PPS) semipregs are the basis of the composite material. These fibre-reinforced thermoplastic materials (ductile when heated) are not impregnated with resin films as usual but are made using a powder coating process. PPS powder is directly applied and fused to the carbon fabric. This cuts out a number of processing steps and is therefore more favourable in terms of price. This material is now at a price level comparable to that of traditional thermohardening composites. Furthermore, it makes the processing simpler: the material is not only more supple to mould but also stronger. 

Induction welding technology
In the assessment, both the powder coating process and the welding technology used (process and material innovation) weighed heavily in the balance. Induction welding technology, not rivets and suchlike, is used to secure the ribs in the elevators and rudders. And the fact that the components are already at the production stage was also a consideration. In comparison with the G550, the tail parts do indeed contain more ribs, but because of this the thickness of the skin of the elevator and rudder can be reduced.

The welding technology was developed by the Dutch company KVE Composites Group and accommodated in a production environment at Fokker. The materials and corresponding processes give the designers greater freedom in the design and building processes, and the welding process also opens the door to more applications. Ticona supplies the PPS.

From left to right Harm Albers, Robert Lenferink en Winand Kok of TenCate Aerospace Composites EMEA

From the very beginning TenCate has been involved in the development of lightweight thermoplastic composite materials for the aircraft industry. These materials consist of carbon or glass fibres that, with the addition of resins, are compressed into plate material. They are marketed under the name TenCate Cetex®. Within TenCate Aerospace Composites EMEA a multidisciplinary team supervised by Winand Kok (product manager aerospace), Harm Albers (sales manager aerospace) and Robert Lenferink (head R&D) has worked on the development of the new material for over two years. Every step was evaluated with engineers from Fokker Aerostructures. Considerable investment in new production infrastructure was necessary and these investments went hand in hand with the business case of the new Gulfstream. The technological development stemmed from the PPS+ programme of TenCate Aerospace Composites. This programme focuses on more efficient internal processes, new composite architectures and better temperature resistance, thus relating to both innovation and cost efficiency.

Arnt Offringa (director R&D Fokker Aerostructures)

Cooperation with Fokker Aerostructures dates back years. Nor is Gulfstream an unknown quantity. TenCate Aerospace Composites supplied carbon composite laminates to Fokker for the floors of the G550, and in 2001 the TenCate/Fokker team won a JEC Award for the innovative J nose concept for the Airbus A340. Now the partners want to move on to bigger primary structures ‘that are of great importance to the structural integrity of the aircraft’, explains Arnt Offringa (director R&D at Fokker Aerostructures). Within this context, thoughts are turning to successors of the G650 and projects within the TAPAS-project with Airbus.  

The presentation of the JEC Award to (from left to right) Martijn van Wijngaarden (KVE), Arnt Offringa, Frank Simmons (Gulfstream), Robert Lenferink and Henning Kuhl (Ticona).

According to both parties, when it comes to the cooperation with TenCate it is important ‘that the companies complement each other, jointly innovate, and have their eyes set on the same goal’. And this also applies to marketing: alerting the customer to the possibilities and advantages of thermoplastic composites. For example, thanks to TenCate’s unidirectional tape technology, a light body or even the 12-m-long tail of the Gulfstream may be made of thermoplastic composite in the near future.

Blue fabric (Tecawork Blue 65287)