Thermoplastic material used throughout
Thermoset materials are increasingly being substituted by thermoplastics in all areas of mobility, including the aviation industry. Drivers of this development include increasing cost pressure and sustainability. The consistent approach on using thermoplastic materials enables a very high degree of process integration for simple functionalization of components, which can further reduce the required time, the raw material input and the energy demand. A consortium of the know-how partners ENGEL (Schwertberg, Austria), FACC (Ried im Innkreis, Austria), Ensinger (Nufringen, Germany), Victrex (Lancashire, UK) and Kuraray (Hattersheim am Main, Germany), SIGMA Engineering GmbH (Aachen, Germany) and Neue Materialien Fürth GmbH (Fürth, Germany) developed a machine exhibit to demonstrate the great potential of thermoplastic lightweight technology in the aerospace industry live at JEC World 2023 from April 25th to 27th, 2023, in Paris. An ENGEL victory 660/160 injection molding machine will be used for the automated production of inspection flaps for passenger aircraft fuselages (lead picture). The production cell includes an Engel easix jointed-arm robot and an Engel IR oven, which heats near-net-shape organic sheets made of PAEK matrix, places them in the mold and overmolds them directly in the injection molding process. Stiffening ribs and an assembly clip are formed and the rework-free component is removed.
Targeted design through simulative design
If materials are to be substituted for existing applications for sustainability and cost reasons, the question arises as to how the processes can be designed in advance to be as energy- and cost-efficient as possible for the customer. In this context, simulative design is an important tool for minimizing machine trials and the time required to start up series production. Modern simulation approaches take into account not only the component, but also the mold with all components and the complete process with all auxiliary times over several cycles. In this way, the production conditions are completely simulated on the computer in advance, and lengthy trial-and-error tests on the machine are reduced to a minimum. The complete mold, including temperature control channels, is also taken into account in the simulation for the inspection flap. During the simulation, the flap is first heated up for 130 minutes and then brought to a thermally stable state over 20 heating cycles (Fig. 2). In a subsequent production cycle, the inspection flap is injected, cooled down and demolded as in real production. In this process, the rib structure is applied to the organic sheet, which is preheated to 340 °C. This also allows the analysis of the interactions between organic sheet and ribs.