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A 14-meter wing box for business aircraft

News International-French

10 Jul 2014

Daher-Socata presents a demonstrator of a wing box for business aircraft made entirely of composite materials. This 14-metre long part is a product of the Ecowingbox R&T project.

This programme was born out of a need on the part of aircraft manufacturers to reduce the weight and drag of their aircraft and to minimize their environmental footprint. At the same time, they wanted to make advances in wing design, which was a question that was proving hard to address using metal manufacture, and to do all this at an optimized cost. To meet these needs, in 2009 Daher-Socata launched an R&T project called Ecowingbox, to design & manufacture a composite wing box for business aircraft and to assess its benefits compared to a metal design.

Five years later, the goals of the project have been achieved: the weight of the part is 25% less and manufacturing costs are 10% less than for a metal wing box.
Thanks to this project, the company and its partners have been able to:

  • acquire out-of-autoclave technology and automate it;
  • assemble the part by bonding and/or riveting, according zoning and load distribution;
  • design and perform bending / torsion tests on a 2.5 m section of the wing;
  • automate machining of large parts (within the ROBOFIN and IRT Jules Verne projects)
  • assemble the 14 m wing.

Part of the know-how from this research project has been put into practice and industrialized, in particular for the TBM 900, which has benefited from:

  • the deployment of an out-of-autoclave process that provides greater workshop flexibility and reduces costs;
  • progress in the bonding of large-size composite subassemblies which reduces the number of fasteners (rivets) and reduces overall cost.

Other areas of progress are also very promising, such as robotized finishing, which is more flexible and more cost-effective than conventional machines.

Three patents have already been filed. The industrial group has unveiled numerous innovations and developed a more mature grasp of technologies that it can offer in response to future calls for tender.

Ecowingbox has gathered together a number of partners who have been able to contribute the best of their respective experiences and know-how. Among these, the University of Nantes, Europe technologies and the IRT Jules Vernes for the robotized finishing operations (trimming, drilling, punching) as part of the Robofin project, ESTACA (French engineering school) for the bending/torsion tests, Euro-Engineering, Allio & Chastagner for the design of equipment, Coriolis Composites (France) for fibre placement and the University of Maine for "health monitoring" have all contributed numerous solutions for both technical and hardware perspectives.

The project was driven forward by the internal dynamics engendered between engineering and plants at Saint-Julien, Tarbes and Nantes, and by synergies and knowledge transfers between our aerostructures and aircraft Manufacturing businesses, all of which have been key factors enabling the company to innovate and stand out through cutting-edge technology.

The project has received considerable support from the French State and the Pays de la Loire region, in particular thanks to the project receiving the EMC2 label.

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