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The Thermoplastic Affordable Primary Aircraft Structure (TAPAS) consortium is the result of a cooperation agreement between Airbus and dutch companies, signed in 2005. It aims to develop thermoplastic composite materials and associated technology for future aircraft programs.
JEC Composites Magazine: Can you tell us about the TAPAS project?Arnt Offringa: TAPAS focuses on the development of thermoplastic composite technology and corresponding demonstrator products for future Airbus and other aircraft, for example fuselage panels and tails. The TAPAS acronym stands for Thermoplastic Affordable Primary Aircraft Structure. The products being developed are large and will be produced in large numbers. Therefore, the automation of thermoplastics manufacturing processes, such as fibre placement, press-forming and welding, is one of the innovation areas being researched and demonstrated.JCM: Who is behind it, and how were the partners chosen? A. O.: The partners in the project are Airbus, Fokker Aerostructures, TenCate, Airborne, KVE, DTC, Technobis, Codet, KE-works, University of Twente, Technical University of Delft and the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory. Eight of these partners joined forces in 2009 in the original four-year TAPAS project. They formed a team because they are all active in the area of thermoplastic composites and saw the potential of this technology. The group recently expanded with Codet and KE-works and went on to a four-year TAPAS2 follow-on project.JCM: What exactly is your role within the project? A. O.: My role is that of project manager, leading the team. We have managers for the different development areas, such as fuselage development and torsion box (tails and wings) development.JCM: Why thermoplastics, and only thermoplastics? A. O.: Thermoplastic composites offer significant growth potential in aerospace. By choosing thermoplastics as a technology focus area and investing in it, the partners are cooperating to create new business with a large growth potential. This is actually the reason why the Dutch government is co-funding the project. The interest in thermoplastics in automotive is becoming very strong as well. Even though TAPAS is an aerospace development, there is cross-over with automotive since the same technology is suited for both market segments. Examples are stamp forming and welding.JCM: To date, how far along with developments are you? A. O.: Several full-size demonstrators have been built and tested successfully as part of the TAPAS project. Among them are a 12-metre-span business jet tail and an airliner fuselage panel. Cost and weight saving potential has been demonstrated.JCM: Do you plan to extend the experience, and is a TAPAS 3 feasible? A. O.: Actually, we are just now starting the TAPAS2 project, which is a four-year continuation of the original TAPAS project. Perhaps there will be a TAPAS3 later on.More information: www.jeccomposites.com