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Aerospace Applications

Marine Composites

Aerospace Composites
The use of composites in the aerospace industry has increased dramatically since the 1970s. Traditional materials for aircraft construction include aluminum, steel and titanium. The primary benefits that composite components can offer are reduced weight and assembly simplification. The performance advantages associated with reducing the weight of aircraft structural elements has been the major impetus for military aviation composites development. Although commercial carriers have increasingly been concerned with fuel economy, the potential for reduced production and maintenance costs has proven to be a major factor in the push towards composites. Composites are also being used increasingly as replacements for metal parts on older planes. Figure 1-50 shows current and projected expenditures for advanced composite materials in the aerospace industry.

Figure 1-50 Advanced Composite Sales for the Aerospace Industry. [Source: P-023N Advanced Polymer Matrix Composites, Business Communication Company, Inc.]

When comparing aerospace composites development to that of the marine industry, it is important to note the differences in economic and engineering philosophies. The research, design and testing resources available to the aerospace designer eclipse what is available to his counterpart in the marine industry by at least an order of magnitude. Aircraft development remains one of the last bastions of U.S. supremacy, which accounts for its broad economic base of support. On the engineering side, performance benefits are much more significant for aircraft than ships. A comparison of overall vehicle weights provides a good illustration of this concept.


New aircraft utilize what would be considered high performance composites in marine terms. Material and process development. structural integrity. control surfaces. galleys. design methodologies. Boeing The Boeing 757 and 767 employ about 3000 pounds each of composites for doors and control surfaces. The 737300 uses approximately 1500 pounds of composites. which represents about 3% of the overall structural weight. Approximately 3000 pounds of composites are used on each aircraft. Such materials have replaced fiberglass reinforcements. Although material costs were 35% greater than a comparable aluminum structure. Airbus In 1979. lessons can be learned from aircraft development programs that are applicable to marine structures. Examples of specific aerospace composites development programs are provided to illustrate the direction of this industry. the Lear Fan uses approximately 1880 pounds of carbon. Military Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) Advanced composites enable the ATF to meet improved performance requirements such as reduced drag. glass and aramid fiber material. the Lear Fan has an all-composite body and propeller blades. These include carbon. Beech Starship The Starship is the first all-composite airplane to receive FAA certification. total manufacturing costs were lowered 65 to 85%. ceilings. fairings and wing boxes. cargo liners and bulkheads. sidewalls. producibility and performance at elevated temperatures are some concerns common to both industries. However. In addition to composite elements that are common to other aircraft. Robotic assemblies were developed to handle and process materials in an optimal and repeatable fashion. Business and Commercial Lear Fan 2100 As one of the first aircraft conceived and engineered as a “composites” craft. a pilot project was started to manufacture carbon fiber fin box assemblies for the A300/A310 aircraft. boron and aramid fibers combined with epoxy resins. low radar observability and increased resistance to temperatures generated at 58 . Composites are widely used in aircraft interiors to create luggage compartments. Fiberglass with epoxy or phenolic resin utilizing honeycomb sandwich construction gives the designer freedom to create aesthetically pleasing structures while meeting flammability and impact resistance requirements. The 767 rudder at 36 feet is the largest commercial component in service. which are still the backbone of the marine industry. such as doors. A highly mechanized production process was established to determine if high material cost could be offset by increased manufacturing efficiency. qualification programs and long-term performance are some of the fields where the marine designer can adapt the experience that the aerospace industry has developed.Chapter One APPLICATIONS Although the two industries are so vastly different. floors.

26% of the vehicle is fabricated of composite material.000 pounds of advanced composite materials. Much of the substructure is composite.Composite Flight Wing Program] Advanced Technology Bomber (B-2) The B-2 derives much of its stealth qualities from the material properties of composites and their ability to be molded into complex shapes. including the entire wing. Design Considerations .Aerospace Applications Marine Composites high speeds. 59 . Figure 1-51 Composite Wing Composition for Advanced Tactical Fighter [Moors. As a result. Bismaleimides (BMI's) are used on the aircraft's underside and wing trailing edges to withstand the high temperatures generated during take-off and landing.000 to 50. Figure 1-51 depicts a proposed wing composition as developed by McDonnell Aircraft through their Composite Flight Wing Program. The ATF will be approximately 50% composites by weight using DuPont's Avimid K polyamide for the first prototype. Second Generation British Harrier “Jump Jet” (AV-8B) This vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft is very sensitive to overall weight. nearly 900 new materials and processes were developed for the plane. According to Northrop. Each B-2 contains an estimated 40.

Fatigue characteristics of the composite blade are considerably better than their aluminum counterparts with the aluminum failing near 40. Producibility and maintenance considerations improved along with overall structural reliability. narrow foils. The use of fibrous composites offers improvements in helicopter rotors due to improved aerodynamic geometry. a cored structure has the provision to incorporate the required balance weight at the leading edge. good damage tolerance and potential low cost. heavily loaded components.based environment that Navy aircraft are subjected to has presented unique problems to the aerospace designer. Vibratory strain in this same testing program was  510 µ inch inch for aluminum and  2400 µ inch inch for the composite. Osprey Tilt-Rotor (V-22) The tilt-rotor V-22 is also a weight sensitive craft that is currently being developed by Boeing and Bell Helicopter. whereas sufficient bending stiffness prevents areoelastic instability. Corrosion from salt water surroundings is exacerbated by the sulfur emission from the ship's exhaust stacks. Consequently.000 cycles without failure. Sikorsky Aircraft of United Aircraft Corporation has proposed a Cross Beam Rotor (XBR)TM.000 cycles and the composite blade exceeding 500. Additionally. Up to 40% of the airframe consists of composites. Helicopters Rotors Composite materials have been used for helicopter rotors for some time now and have gained virtually 100% acceptance as the material of choice. which is a simplified. lightweight system that makes extensive use of composites. serving as primary as well as secondary load carrying members. 60 . The low torsional stiffness of a unidirectional composite spar allows pitch change motion to be accommodated by elastic deformation. improved aerodynamic tuning. New uses of composites are being exploited on this vehicle. It is interesting to note that the graphite skins are separated from the aluminum framing with a fiberglass barrier to prevent galvanic corrosion. Figure 1-52 shows a configuration for a twin beam composite blade used with this system.000 metal parts were replaced by 1. mostly AS-4 and IM-6 graphite fibers in 3501-6 epoxy (both from Hercules). The favorable structural properties of the mostly fiberglass foils allow for increased lift and speed. The skins vary in thickness up to one inch. In an experimental program that Boeing undertook. Anisotrophic strength properties are very desirable for the long.Chapter One APPLICATIONS Navy Fighter Aircraft (F-18A) The wing skins of the F-18A represented the first widespread use of graphite/epoxy in a production aircraft. higher design strain values are being utilized. thus eliminating 90% of the vehicle's fasteners.500 composite ones. such as shafting and thick. The carrier. 11. Structure and Components The extreme vibratory environment that helicopters operate in makes composites look attractive for other elements.

The plane's designer and builder. which made this endurance record possible. The aerodynamic drag of the cabling proved to be the factor limiting flight endurance.Aerospace Applications Marine Composites Figure 1-52 Twin Beam Composite Blade for XBR TM Helicopter Rotor System [Salkind. He has also designed an Advanced Technology Tactical Transport of composites and built the wing sail that was fitted to the 60 foot catamaran used in the last America's Cup defense. The DAEDALUS project's goal was to fly 72 miles from Crete to Santorini. is renowned for building innovative aircraft using composites. the vehicle's drag was minimized and the overall aircraft structure was reduced to 68 pounds. Daedalus The GOSSAMER CONDOR and GOSSAMER ALBATROSS caught people's imagination by being the first two human-powered aircraft to capture prize money that was unclaimed for 18 years. 61 . New Composite Helicopter Rotor Concepts] Experimental Voyager Nearly 90% of the VOYAGER aircraft was made of carbon fiber composites. These aircraft were constructed of aluminum tubes and mylar wings supported by steel cable. By hand constructing graphite spars over aluminum mandrels. Burt Rutan. The strength-toweight ratio of this material allowed the vehicle to carry sufficient fuel to circle the globe without refueling.