High Volume Composite Manufacturing System
This three-year, £3.4m ATI-supported project was undertaken by Crompton Technology Group Limited (CTG), a UTC Aerospace Systems company, using technology they had already developed for the automotive industry. The key objective was to set up advanced production lines to manufacture high volume, low cost composite products, particularly fuel pipes via the development and establishment of robust, automated and repeatable processes. There were two main considerations: how composite parts would fit to and move within the wing without breaking; and secondly, how the effects of any lightning strike would be dissipated.
Through this project, CTG has developed a robust method of joining the composite tube/pipe with various metal fittings. Within an aircraft wing, the pipes are linked and ‘float’ on O-rings such that when the aircraft wings bend they can move without being damaged. The composite pipes and tubes allow the precise tuning of electrical resistivity, they are scalable and are able to hold aggressive fluids at pressure.
CTG has established itself as a Composite Centre of Excellence, utilising the new technologies and an automated production line that can produce a fuel pipe in less than four minutes and with only four weeks lead time. The pipes and isolators offer weight savings at the aircraft level through the removal of lightning shielding and are built to last the entire life of the aircraft, requiring no maintenance.