The aerospace industry often uses composite materials for the unique benefits they offer in construction. They’re popular in this industry because of the unique properties and advantages they provide, including superior resistance to corrosion, lightweight nature, and workability.
This article will explore these materials in greater depth, including their specific benefits and their potential applications in the aerospace industry.
Composite materials are specific types of materials that use multiple materials to form a new one. Aerospace composites normally consist of a mix of fibers and another type of matrix material, which can make parts and equipment more lightweight, resistant to corrosion, and enhanced in other ways. These properties are crucial in this industry as aircraft and other aerospace equipment often face harsh environments and conditions.
The specific choice of fibers and matrix materials will impact the properties of the aerospace composites. For instance, some composites may use fiber materials like carbon, glass, or aramid, while matrix materials could include epoxy or polyester, among others. Typically, the matrix of these materials functions as the base, onto which fabricators add more materials.
Depending on the combination, the original materials used can contribute to a more durable and reliable material that’s suitable for many types of aerospace systems. As an example, while fibrous materials like carbon fiber provide a degree of tensile strength, base matrix materials like epoxy can provide the compressive pressure resistance that aircraft and their components also need.
Many parts made with composite materials in the aerospace industry rely on one of two main types of fabrication processes: Hand layup with autoclave or press molding. The hand layup technique is the first method developed for developing woven composite materials, and it involves using a mold to combine materials in resin transfer or infusion molding. In some cases, the hand layup process may entail using an autoclave that incorporates robotics into the process to vacuum-seal and cure composite materials in a heated autoclave. Meanwhile, press molding uses a heated and open tool to contain the composite materials, with the tool closing and applying pressure to the material to cure it.
Using the right aerospace composites can give aircraft and other aerospace equipment the properties required to withstand extreme temperatures, pressures, and other environmental factors.
High-quality composites offer numerous benefits, including:
In the process, these benefits optimize aerospace components and systems. For example, a high strength-to-weight ratio keeps equipment lighter without compromising strength and durability, which results in both improved performance and fuel efficiency. Meanwhile, corrosion resistance and fatigue resistance help to minimize maintenance requirements, further boosting performance and reducing costs while keeping these systems safer.
There are many potential applications for aerospace composites that make them ideal for use in many pieces of equipment and individual components. Some common applications in this industry include:
Early on in their development and use, composite materials were restricted to secondary structures in aircraft design, but as the materials improved and became known for their reliability, those applications expanded to primary structures. These structures include fuselages and wings, which can have large amounts of composite materials in their construction.
To further illustrate how integral composites are in wing and fuselage construction, consider the existing and previous applications:
Incorporating composites in these components helps reduce their weight, enhance their aerodynamics, and optimize their fuel efficiency.
In addition to fuselage and wing structure, aircraft often feature composite materials in their control surfaces. These components can include elevators, ailerons, and rudders. Two examples of this are the Airbus A300 and A310, which have used a significant amount of composite materials in their rudders as early as 1983.
The optimized aerodynamics and durability of these materials boost maneuverability, stability, and responsiveness in these parts.
Various interior components also use composite materials of all types. Some of these components include cabin panels, seating, and flooring. The Airbus A320 is one aircraft that uses fiberglass-reinforced floor panels, and the Boeing 777 uses composites in its floor beams. These and other aircraft also use composites in many interior components to reduce weight, increase durability, and allow for more aesthetic customization.
Many engine components rely on composite materials to improve their properties. These can include components like casings, fan blades, and nacelles, with the A320 using them in its nacelles specifically.
Aerospace composites are ideal for these components because of their resistance to extreme temperatures, reduced vibration, and improved fuel efficiency. One such material that many engines use is a Ceramic Matrix Composite (CMC), which can withstand temperatures as high as 1650 degrees Celsius, the temperature that aircraft engines’ turbine inlets can reach.
The aerospace industry uses composite materials of all types for their improved properties and performance. Carbon fiber and many other aerospace composites offer lightweight, durable, high-strength, corrosion-resistant, and temperature-resistant solutions that protect equipment in some of the most caustic environments.
As aircraft and other aerospace equipment continue to develop, composites will play a key role in the industry’s advancement. They push the boundaries of performance and efficiency as new composites come along with increasingly superior properties.
Since our establishment in 1989, Aerodine Composites has provided customers with some of the most dependable composite tooling and components for applications in the aerospace industry and more. We work to develop top-quality solutions that give our customers the results they need, with optimal high-strength, durable, and lightweight designs. Along with aerospace applications, we can design composite materials for use in many other types of equipment, including those in the medical, industrial, motorsports, and defense industries.
If you would like to find out what we can do to help complete your next composite project, request a quote from us today. We’ll connect you with a member of our development team to discuss your unique needs and help you find the ideal composites.