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Victrex pipes: Hitting the mark in commercial aircraft tubing designs

News International-French

2 Dec 2015

Reliable, lightweight tubing solutions from Victrex are accelerating the adoption of metal-replacement in high-voltage cable conduit lines.

To improve the overall fuel efficiency and reliability of their new commercial aircraft platform, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), selected Victrex pipes rather than metal tubing for use in high-voltage cable conduits. The new thermoplastic solution can deliver weight savings of up to 45% and is being supplied through the partnership of BeiJing FeiHang Jida Aviation Technology Co., Ltd. (Beijing Feihang) and Victrex, the leading global PAEK-based solutions provider.

As COMAC continues to move towards the launch of their first commercial aircraft, they are focusing on innovation to achieve their vision of delivering safe, cost-effective, comfortable and environmentally-friendly civil aircraft. COMAC and Beijing Feihang engineers are working with Victrex to address these challenges. The Victrex PEEK-based tubing surpassed airworthiness testing in China, which included maintaining operational performance under impact, loads, temperature variations and other environmental conditions. With the technical expertise and support of Victrex, the companies were able to design a lightweight, cost-effective high-voltage cable protection system within a much shorter development cycle.

Durable metal replacement solutions improving time-to-market
With a proven track record in the industry, innovative Victrex technologies are viewed as an excellent alternative to traditional metal systems. Victrex pipes are typically used in the replacement of aluminium, titanium and stainless steel tubing systems. For this specific application, the Victrex PEEK-based tubing was tested and validated by COMAC, and achieved weight savings of up to 45% when compared with titanium equivalent tubing. This weight reduction can lead to both improved fuel efficiency and a reduction in CO2 emissions. The durable tubing system also serves as a shock absorber in the protection of the cables. “Victrex is extremely focused on delivering innovative, high performance, cost-effective solutions that can help airframers and tier suppliers achieve their goals,” stated Xue Wei, Aerospace Key Account Manager at Victrex. “It is very rewarding to partner with industry-leading companies like Beijing Feihang to achieve the best results, not only in component performance, which will contribute to COMAC’s ability to deliver their lightweight, next-generation aircraft, but also in delivering improvements in manufacturing efficiencies.”

Victrex collaborated with the engineering teams to design a system that is able to take advantage of a much quicker manufacturing process, one that does not require machining or anti-corrosion treatments as metals would. By improving the development cycle time, the companies were able to reduce the total system costs. Providing further assurance in the quality of its products, Victrex has recently obtained the AS9100C/ISO9001:2008 aerospace certification, which requires that a quality management system is in place to consistently provide products that meet customer and applicable legal and regulatory requirements. 

Design freedom for demanding aerospace systems
Victrex PEEK solutions have been used in the Aerospace industry for more than 25 years. In many cases, engineers along the entire supply chain work together with Victrex to optimise the design of these systems as frequently they must fit into constrained spaces. Victrex Pipes are able to be bent, formed, and flared using heat and conventional tube bending equipment to meet strict interior design requirements and space limitations. Victrex also works with several customers on jointing technologies that allow the design of continuous systems. 

The performance benefits enabled by PEEK tubing not only coincide with the needs of aerospace engineers. The thermoplastic tubing delivers excellent fire/smoke/toxicity (FST) performance, is very ductile and corrosion-resistant, and provides high dielectric strength, which is essential in high-voltage environments. These solutions are also being used in the Energy and Industrial sectors due to their ability to maintain durability in high-temperature, high-pressure and corrosive operating conditions. As well, the smooth inner bore of Victrex Pipes allows for an ease of flow, a key benefit in the case of fluid transportation.