Lighter Aeroplanes (2002)
A new material is eliminating the need for metal fasteners in planes, making them lighter and more economical.
A combination of extremely efficient engines, aerodynamic design and strong light materials make modern planes fly fast, smoothly and over long distances. But because of the manufacturing process, currently the fuselage and wings are made up of many smaller pieces held together by thousands of metal fasteners
“If you count up all the fasteners on a plane, there’s a large number of them which add to the weight of the aeroplane and so that has disadvantages in fuel usage because the plane is a lot heavier.”
So Dr. John Chiefari of Australia’s science agency CSIRO in collaboration with an Australian company, Quickstep Technologies, is developing a new light, strong, durable material that could solve the problem.
The material is called an advanced composite and it’s made up by coating sheets of carbon fibre with special polymers. Layers of these sheets are then joined together to make a strong, durable, easily molded material.
Large sheets of these composite polymers are then bonded together in what looks like a giant sandwich maker.
“One of the advantages with the Quickstep process is that we have the potential to make large integral structures, such as whole wing pieces or large pieces of the fuselage and in doing that you obviously eliminate the need to join the smaller pieces together.”
CSIRO testing shows that this material can reach an aerospace grade of strength, stiffness, surface finish and toughness. This process can also prepare composites with a high-grade surface finish and appearance, which is ideal for automotive applications. All of this is achieved with lower capital investment, in much faster times and with fewer manufacturing steps, reducing the cost of production.
Quickstep has the potential for many applications throughout industry, but particularly in the aeronautical and automotive industries.
“The worth of those two industries alone could extend into the tens of millions of dollars.”