STELIA has cooperated with the Institut de Soudure Group to develop a welded thermoplastic composite fuselage structure demonstrator for a single-aisle commercial aircraft.
STELIA Aerospace reports that it has recently invested several million euros in an R&T project called ARCHES BOX TP (2015- 2017), as part of the CORAC platform, the French Strategic Advisory Board for Civil Aviation Research. The project, focused on use of thermoplastic composites, is described by STELIA as a technology challenge, because thermoplastic composites are less mature than thermoset matrix composites, and an economic issue because the use of thermoplastic composites on fuselages for the next single-aisle aircraft generation must be more competitive than the last generation of metallic technologies.
STELIA Aerospace has decided to develop a full thermoplastic generic and typical airframe demonstrator (thin skin, stringers and frames) to allow a first internal evaluation in a real industrial environment. Both owner and design authority for the project, STELIA Aerospace has manufactured the skin via automated fiber placement (AFP) and out-of-autoclave consolidation. STELIA Aerospace has used its own in-house R&T means located in STELIALAB (Me´aulte, France), where final integration of all elementary parts has been finalized.
STELIA Aerospace has selected French suppliers in thermoplastic composites to bring complementary technology: dynamic robotic induction welding of TP stringers, fast stamping of stringers and frames and hybrid TP structure by overmolding short fiber and long fiber. The Institut de Soudure Group was responsible for the dynamic induction welding of the stiffeners on the skin. To do this, the group developed on behalf of STELIA Aerospace, specific inducers that take into account the technical characteristics of the materials used. For several years, the Institut de Soudure has developed competence in the welding of composite materials reinforced with carbon fiber based on thermoplastic matrix (PEEK, PEKK, PPS), also applicable to more conventional matrix materials such as PA or PP.