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Andy Lwa Xiang

on 20 February 2014

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Composite Materials and its Aircraft Applications
Introduction to Composites Materials
Type Of Composite Materials In Aircraft Applications
Common types of composite materials traditionally used in aircraft?
Which part of the aircraft can you find composite materials?
Recent developments in new cutting-edge composite materials?
Lwa Hong Xiang - Overall, I had fully understand about composite material which the function, history and use of the composite material.

Junwei - Overall I understand the challenge and difficulty in manufacturing and maintaining composite material.

Oswald - Overall, i understand and able to apply this in my future path. learning more about composite material.

Challenges of Composite Materials in Aircraft Applications
Manufacturing Challenges
MRO - Maintenance
As the increase use of composite in civil aviation, MRO company will also need to adept and integrate. Some of the major challenges face by MRO companies:
Do not have much experience of maintaining composite structures
Requirement to maintenance, repair and overhaul of composites are very different from those of metals.
Require to buy new equipment for detection and repair.
Train and equip worker with the require skill.
Low standardization, varies differently from company to company.

Specific challenges with maintenance face by MRO companies:
Specific defect types due to inhomogeneous nature of composites.
Defects are initiated during manufacturing as well as in-service.
Inspection regime usually involves use of several NDT techniques.
New and developments in existing techniques offer improvements, but these need to be validated and certified.
Types of Manufacture Defects
Fibre misalignment.
Inappropriate fibre volume fraction.
Overlap or gap between fibre bundles.
Knots or missing roving.
Inclusions and contamination.
Uneven, insufficient or over curing.
Non-uniform hardener content.
Cure shrinkage (Delamination, broken & buckled fibres and matrix cracking).
Excessive porosity or voids.
Poor wet-out and/or dry spots.
Defect Types
Types of In-Service Defects
Impact damage
Ballistic damage
Moisture ingression
Chemical attack.
UV damage & weathering
Erosion or abrasion
Common types of composite materials traditionally used in aircraft?
Carbon fiber
Fiber-reinforced matrix systems
Or A combination of any of the above
Common composite materials used in aviation are

• Fairings
• Flight control surfaces
• Landing gear doors
• Leading and trailing edge panels on the wing and stabilizer
• Interior components
• Floor beams and floor boards
• Vertical and horizontal stabilizer primary structure on large aircraft
• Primary wing and fuselage structure on new generation large aircraft
• Turbine engine fan blades
• Propellers
Applications of composites on aircraft include:
Which part of the aircraft can you find composite materials?
Recent developments in new cutting-edge composite materials?
There are two main categories of constituent materials:


surrounds and supports
the reinforcement materials by
their relative
impart their special mechanical and physical properties to
enhance the matrix
properties. The
of the product is greatly
on this

The primary function of the fibers is to carry the loads along their longitudinal directions.

Common fiber reinforcing agents include

• Aluminum, Aluminum oxide, Aluminum silica
• Asbestos
• Beryllium, Beryllium carbide, Beryllium oxide
• Carbon (Graphite)
• Glass (E-glass, S-glass, D-glass)
• Molybdenum
• Polyamide (Aromatic polyamide, Aramid), e.g., Kevlar 29 and Kevlar 49
• Polyester
• Quartz (Fused silica)
• Steel
• Tantalum
• Titanium
• Tungsten, Tungsten monocarbide

Common resin materials include

• Resin Matrix
o Epoxy
o Phenolic
o Polyester
o Polyurethane
o Vinyl Ester
The primary functions of the additives (modifiers, fillers) are to reduce cost, improve workability, and/or impart desired properties.
• Cost Reduction:
o Low cost to weight ratio, may fill up to 40% (65% in some cases) of the total weight
• Workability Improvement:
o Reduce shrinkage
o Help air release
o Decrease viscosity
o Control emission
o Reduce coefficient of friction on surfaces
o Seal molds and/or guide resin flows
o Initiate and/or speed up or slow down curing process
• Property Enhancement:
o Improve electric conductivity
o Improve fire resistance
o Improve corrosion resistance
o Improve ultraviolet resistance
o Improve surface toughness
o Stabilize heat transfer
o Reduce tendency of static electric charge
o Add desired colors

a patent was issued to A. Shindo for experimentally producing the
first carbon (graphite) fiber
but Courtalds Limited of the United Kingdom was the first to produce commercially viable
carbon fibers several years later

New fibers were also introduced with boron filaments becoming available in

aramid fibers (Kevlar®)
offered commercially by DuPont in

The new material may be preferred for many reasons:
common examples include materials which are
stronger, lighter or less expensive
traditional materials

Area that use composite material are example the new
Boeing 787
structure that include the
wings and fuselage
and also the
tails and propeller.

Reason of using composites
What are the main components that make up a composite material?
What are their functions
primary functions
of the
are to transfer stresses between the reinforcing fibers

(hold fibers together)

the fibers from mechanical and/or environmental
Most matrices are made of
for their wide variation in properties and relatively
low cost.
What is the history of composite materials particularly in the aviation industry
Everything of composites probably
began in 1937

As when
from the Owens Corning Fiberglass Company

began to
sell fiberglass to interested parties
around the United States.
had been
, almost by
, when an
became intrigued by a fiber that was formed during the process of
applying lettering
to a
glass milk bottle.

Began in 1937
fiberglass salesmen

that the aircraft industry was, in particular, a likely customer for this
new type of material
because the many small and vigorous aircraft companies seemed to be
creating new aircraft designs
and innovative concepts in
manufacturing almost daily
with many of these innovations requiring new materials.
In collaboration with Owens Corning Fiberglass, dies were made using the
new fiberglass material and phenolic resin
(the only resin available at the time).
What a success!

Reinforced plastic dies for prototype parts became the standard. Other applications in tooling for aircraft soon followed. Many of the tools (jigs and fixtures) for forming and holding aircraft sections and assemblies needed to be strong, thin and highly shaped, often with compound curves. Metals did not easily meet all of these criteria and
so fiberglass reinforced phenolic tooling
became the preferred material for many of these
aircraft manufacturing applications.
Not long afterward, unsaturated polyester resins became available (patented in 1936).
In 1936
During the
World War II,
composite material goes through many
The pace of composite development, already
during World War II. Not only were even
more aircraft being developed
and, therefore, composites more
widely used
, but the use of composites for structural and semi-structural parts was being explored and then
. Other early WWII applications included
engine nacelles,
A-20 airplane
and radomes (domes to protect aircraft radar antennas) which gave both
structural strength and radar transparency
. Phenolic-
reinforced paper
was used to make a
structural wing box beam
for the
PT-19 airplane
at about this time.
At about this time
, the
government became concerned
that supplies of metals for aircraft may not be available and so they instructed the engineers at
Wright Patterson Air Force Base
to survey all of the manufacturers of composite parts in the United States and
try to determine the current best practices in composite manufacture

manufacturing methods such as
filament winding and spray-up
. Sandwich structures using a
cellular core, fire resistant composites
, and prepreg materials were also developed during this time of development opportunity.
Aerospace dominance that began in the

Picked up speed
in the
was a new impetus for composite development.

Richard Young of the W. M. Kellogg Company began using
filament winding
making small rocket

This technology was
purchased by Hercules
and was the basis for the
large-scale rocket motor business
which was at the heart of the space race.

the need for
highly accurate filament winding machines became apparent to Larry Ashton
, an engineer at Hercules, who founded Engineering Technology to produce these machines.
• What are composite materials?
Composites are made up of individual materials that
bonded together chemically
which are
strong and lightweight.
Structure such as
• Fiber-reinforced polymer
• Honeycomb structure

Fiberglass spray lay-up manufacturing process
An open molding technique done by applying a laminate to a single-sided mold using a unique spray gun
This spray gun cuts continuous strands of fiberglass into short sections before being deposited in a spray steam of resin, causing the resin matrix and fiber reinforcement to be deposited and mixed at the same time
A laminated fiber with random orientation is created which can be easily contoured into weird shapes
Once the saturated fiber is distributed across the mold surface the laminate is manually formed using specialized laminating tools
Cheap to produce
Suitable for low to medium volume parts
Offers good surface finish on one side but rough on the other side
Can cause hazards from exposure to high levels of styrene during lamination or dust from grinding operations
Fiberglass Layup Advantages
With the extensive use of composite in the aerospace industry like the Boeing 787 DreamLiner (50%) and Airbus A350 XWB (53%), researcher, manufacturer and MRO are trying to look into better way of producing parts faster and cost effective without compromising the strength of the composite. Recyclability is also an issue with the use of composite material.
AFP (automated fibre placement)
ATL (automated tape laying)
With manufacturer trying to increase production rate and to meet demands without compromising quality, it leads to the use of automated process and eliminate the use of autoclave. (Autoclave has been traditionally been a standard necessary to produce ultimate quality.)
AFP (automated fibre placement) and ATL (automated tape laying) provide rapid automated placement of strips of prepreg material onto a mould.
AFP (automated fibre placement)
Tow fiber are narrower and easier to manipulate.
most effective when placing material on a curved or contoured surface.
limited by the number of tows allowed, the total width of those tows and the length of the courses being placed.
ATL (automated tape laying)
most effective when placing large amounts of material over a relatively large flat or minimally contoured surface, it provides high-speed laydown in such an environment
even if it allows for large sections of continuous tape, almost always requires the strategic placement of shorter courses of tape or fiber in a variety of different locations.
Out of autoclave processing
Video on RTM process
Resin Transfer Moulding
Primarily used to mold components with large surface areas, complex shapes and smooth finishes.
Benefits of resin transfer moulding:
Good surface quality
Wide range of reinforcements
Large, complex shapes
Dimensional tolerances
Low capital investment
Less material wastage
Tooling flexibility
Low environmental impact
Labor savings
Ability to add inserts and reinforcements at a point of infusion for greater strength
Zero air entrapment within the product.

Same Qualified Resin Transfer Molding
To read about the process please visit this site, a side bar on the left side of the article

The use of qualified prepregs – toughened resins, UD reinforcements
A high level of integration
Tight tolerances
Surface finish according to the moulding process.


Higher tool cost
A lower level of flexibility to design changes

What set SQRTM apart from RTM?
SQRTM is a process of Liquid molding + prepreg which is what sets RTM part from SQRTM. RTM uses dry fiber preform layup while SQRTM uses prepreg layup. (SQRTM is basically an RTM process adapted to prepreg technology.)
The tool SQRTM uses is specially crafted to be able to:
Applied Extremely high vacuum to the tool interior
Electrically heat platens in contact with the tool for efficient heat transfer
Precisely control the heating of the platens
Precisely control the injection of resin volume, heat, and pressure

Precisely machined closed mold tooling similar to those used by RTM mold.
Uses large high pressure platen type press to clamp the tool and contain the pressures within the tool.
Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk
Vacuum assisted RTM process
Vacuum assisted RTM (VARTM)
VARTM is a process of pulling liquid matrix material through the infusion ports into a sealed dry fiber preform under vacuum only. Compaction of the reinforcement and pressure gradient needed for resin flow is provided by applying a vacuum on the opposite side of the preform.

Three patented process commonly used in aerospace are:
Seeman Composites Resin Infusion Molding Process (SCRIMP): A VARTM variation with a highly permeable distribution medium incorporated as a surface layer on the preform.
Enabling large parts to be fabricated.
Resin infusion times increase exponentially.
Minimize cycle times.
Vacuum Assisted Process (VAP): uses a gas permeable membrane to allow for uniform vacuum distribution and continuing degassing of the infused resin
Minimizes the potential for dry spot formation.
Lower void content.
Improved dimensional tolerances
Controlled Atmospheric Pressure Resin Infusion (CAPRI) is a VARTM variant that was developed to improve thickness/fiber volume variability in infused composites.
Increase the infusion time significantly
Smaller thickness gradient

Ceramic Matrix Composites
Spider Silk Fibres
Hybrid composite steel sheets
NDT Methods
Laser shearography.
Coin and tap testing.
Ultrasonic Inspection
Radiography Inspection
Thermography Inspection
Laser Shearography Inspection
Microwave Inspection
Acoustic Inspection
The fact that composite material is made up of more then 1 type of material and is form together at the same time as part, it is also possible to incorporate other material in the process to integrate other function on that part.
The idea itself might be a little bit too far fetch and if it really does heal itself. (Then wouldn't most of us would be out of job in the next decade?) But there is such polymer/plastic that heal itself after being cut apart with the aid of gravity, check this video out.
This video above is one of the research being done by Bristol University
The idea behind a composite that can change its shape without the need of weight adding mechanism is a plus in the aerospace industry
It proofs that you can create lift or drag just by expending or contracting the airfoil shape. So what if we can morph to the wing shape we need to and when we need it to would be a big plus in the aviation industry, this technology would proof to be one of the break through we need to reduce weight.
The iconic Variable sweep (swing-wing) of the F-14 Tomcat might appear in the skies again.
Lightning Protection
Click the link to watch a video.

2 type of damage cause by lightning strike on composite material:
Physical damage at attachment locations.
Indirect effects from induced voltage and current.
Damage Prevention method in composite structure:
Cu foils & meshes in the outer plies.
Co-bonding Cu strips to the inside skins of panels.
Insulation caps on collars, nuts and fasteners.
Conductive paints (sprayed metal).
Al foil strips for shielding.
Nickel-coated carbon fibres.
Energy Storage
This imply the function for the composite material skin or structure to store energy instead of using a heavy battery further reducing weight. (Could also be one of the key innovation in solving Boeing 787 lithium battery fire problem.)
With all this technology, plus many other new material that I discover while doing this project, to name a few: graphene, carbon nanotube have very high potential in the aerospace industry. Just imagine the entire structure that could withstand loading and is both a battery and a circuit board. No electrical wires nor servo/motor needed, just the engine, fuel tank, and the aircraft itself. Maintenance is easy because of self-healing polymer. Morph-able material for aileron, rudder and elevator without hydraulic power to control them. Here is also 4 video about the 2 material, hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.
extremely strong
robust material
strength properties lower than carbon fiber, less stiff, less expensive
Carbon fiber
high stiffness
high tensile strength
low weight
high chemical resistance
high temperature tolerance
low thermal expansion
high strength-to-weight ratio
is a fiber reinforced polymer made of a plastic matrix reinforced by fine fibers of glass
is an extremely strong and light fiber-reinforced polymer which contains carbon fibers.
Fiber-reinforced matrix systems
Fiber-reinforced composites are composed of axial particulates embedded in a matrix material.
The objective of fiber-reinforced composites it to obtain a material with:
high specific strength
high specific modulus
E.G: kevlar
Hybrid composite steel sheets
using stainless steel constructed with inspiration from composites and nanontech-fibres and plywood.
The sheets of steel is made of same material and is able to handle and tool exactly the same way as conventional steel. But is some percent lighter for the same strengths.
Ceramic Matrix Composites
To develop light-weight, high-temperature composite materials for use in aircraft parts.
Temperatures need to be as high as 1650°C are anticipated for conceptual engine based on preliminary calculations. In order for materials to withstand such temperatures, the use of Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMCs) is required.
The use of CMCs in advanced engines will also allow an increase in the temperature at which the engine can be operated, leading to increased yield.
Although CMCs are promising structural materials, their applications are limited due to lack of suitable reinforcement materials, processing difficulties, lifetime and cost.
Spider Silk Fibres
Spider silk is another promising material for composite material usage.
exhibits high ductility, allowing stretching of a fibre up to 140% of its normal length.
Spider silk also holds its strength at temperatures as low as -40°C.
These properties make spider silk ideal for use as a fibre material in the production of ductile composite materials that will retain their strength even at abnormal temperatures.
it will be beneficial to an aircraft in parts that will be subject to variable stresses, such as the joining of a wing with the main fuselage.
The increased strength, toughness and ductility of such a composite will allow greater stresses to be applied to the part or joining before catastrophic failure occurs.

Many unsuccessful attempts have been made at reproducing spider silk in a laboratory, but perfect re-synthesis has not yet been achieved.
The resin used in composite material weakens at temperatures as low as 150 degrees, making it important for these aircraft to avoid fires. Fires involved with composite materials can release toxic fumes and microparticles into the air. Temperatures above 300 degrees can cause structural failure.
Fiberglass layup disadvantages
Not suitable for making parts with high structural requirements
Hard to control fiber volume fraction and thickness (highly dependent on operator skill)
Can cause styrene emission
Offers good surface finish on one side and rough surface finish on the other
Unsuitable for parts with dimension accuracy and repeating of process
Applications used for making parts with low/medium volume quantities
Swimming pools
Boat hulls
Swimming tanks
Furniture components
Duct/air handling equipment
Fiberglass Spray Layup
Advantages of fiberglass layup process
Fiberglass layup process
Disadvantages of fiberglass layup process
Tailored fiber placement
What is tailored fiber placement?

What is TFP?
TFP is a textile manufacturing technique using sewing for placing of fibrous material for composite components
Material fixed with upper and lower stitching thread on base material
Fiber material can be placed near net shape in curvilinear patterns upon a base material
TFP technology introduced in 1990s by IPF Dresden
Handmade stitched reinforcement structures (preforms) were manufactured initialized by an industry inquiry about stress adapted fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) parts with a curvilinear pattern prior to the 1990s
Adaptation of method to industrial embroidery machines cause the idea of TFP to develop
TFP used in some companies nowadays due to its well established development as a dry perform manufacturer
Process of TFP
Weaving machines have been adapted to deposit and stitch fiber roving material onto a base material
Roving material, mostly common carbon fibers, from about 3.000 up to 50.000 filaments can be applied
The roving pipe and the frame move synchronized stepwise to perform a zigzag stitch relative to needle position. The stitching head equipped with roving spool, pipe and needle can rotate arbitrarily 360 degrees. A double stitch is performed every time as it passes through the upper thread.
The base material can be woven or non-woven fabric or a matrix-compatible foil material for thermoplastic composites
The stitching path can be designed in form of a pattern either with the help of classical design embroidery software or more recent by use of 2D-CAD systems
Necessary information of the stitch positions are added to the pattern with the help of so called punch software and finally transferred to the TFP machine.
Smaller cost and reduce wastage of reinforcement fiber due to net-shape manufacturing
High accuracy and repeatability of amount and orientation of fibers
Machines with multiple heads can achieve good productivity
Fibers oriented in arbitrary direction to manufacture highly stress adapted composite parts
A variety of fibers such as carbon glass and metallic threads can be applied and combined within one run
Battery separators
EMI management of enclosures
Fuel cell electrodes
Surface finish
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