Manufacture aircraft components more easily and economically with IR heat

A custom-made infrared system from Heraeus Noblelight is helping to develop the prototype for a new lightweight, composite component for the fuselage of the Airbus aircraft.

Infrared system for new lightweight components in aircraft construction

IR for aircraft

The new component is being developed by Automotive Center Südwestfalen (acs), based in Attendorn, Germany, in cooperation with Premium Aerotec GmbH, a subsidiary of Airbus. The project was promoted by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. In addition to the Airbus subsidiary, the partners were the Fraunhofer Institutes IGCV and IFAM as well as the Institute for Composite Materials Kaiserslautern. The project started in 2018 and is scheduled to run for four years.
Composite materials are important to the aviation Industry because they provide structural strength comparable to metallic alloys, but at a lighter weight. This leads to improved fuel efficiency and performance. They are also economical to produce. Essentially the prototype component is an integral frame made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic, which is around three meters long and weigh about 1000 grams. It is produced by sophisticated heating processes in combination with special forming and injection-moulding techniques. At the start of the project, acs discovered that their existing infrared system could not satisfy the necessary heating processes. It was also realised that, due to a lack of air management and cooling, it was necessary to increase the working area to 3000 x 1050 mm, to safely raise the product temperature to up to 500 °C, as fires had already occurred in the past. Consequently, the company contacted Heraeus Noblelight. In an effort to solve the technical problems and sustainably improve the plant technology.
The design challenge was to integrate the heating field and the material transport into the existing press. In the Heraeus Noblelight Application Center the ideal infrared emitter and the optimal parameters were determined. Curved infrared emitters were chosen in order to follow the component geometry of the integral frame as best as possible and the Heraeus research data was flowed into the theoretical calculations at acs. Christoph Stötzel, head of forming technology at acs is convinced: "It took us one year to develop a technical solution together. We are very satisfied with the technical performance as well as the operability and reproducibility. This also makes a lasting impression on the project partners. The change of the system technology has contributed significantly to an increase in the component and process quality.”

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