In aircraft engineering, there is a growing trend toward lightweight construction. Novel materials are playing a key role here. Henkel's innovative Epsilon technology represents a milestone in the production of fiber composites.
Every kilogram counts. We are all familiar with passengers’ baggage being weighed, but the weight of the components of the aircraft itself is just as crucial. Ultra-light yet high-strength fiber composite materials are now helping design engineers to slim the plane down to its ideal weight. And innovative Henkel expertise is helping them to do so.
As the name suggests, fiber composites consist of glass or carbon fibers that are bonded into strips or panels in a matrix of resin and hardener. In the aerospace industry, these pre-impregnated fibers – or "prepregs" for short – serve as the primary material for a large variety of components. Until now, the prepregs have had to be stored at low temperatures and thawed out later for processing. Henkel is now ending this ice age – thanks to novel Epsilon technology.
Epsilon resins can be stored at room temperature. This simplifies processing enormously and substantially reduces the amount of wastage. Since cooling is no longer necessary, energy consumption in production is now lower. And these are not the only benefits of the prepregs of the Epsilon generation. They are not only more heat resistant than their conventionally produced counterparts, but also show significantly higher strength and resistance. They age more slowly as well, since they absorb less moisture in the course of their life cycle. Henkel spent five years researching this breakthrough in resins for composite materials. Currently specification trials are underway at all major aircraft manufacturers.
Attilio Gatti, Corporate Senior Vice President Technologies Marketing & Product Development Henkel, confidently predicts: “Fiber composites will largely supersede the classic materials in aircraft construction.” Carbon fibers withstand about ten times more loading than steel or aluminum wires of the same length and weight. Gatti: “This means that engineers can increase strength and cut weight at the same time.” Lighter aircraft consume less fuel. And this is good news not only for airline operators and for passengers’ wallets, but also for the environment. It is therefore no surprise that the aircraft of the new generation – like the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner – are already being designed with about 50% composites.