What’s the story?
Future aircrafts must offer superior performance, better fuel efficiency and faster production rates to meet the demands of airlines and new environmental legislation. This means that aircraft wings must be faster, easier and cheaper to design, manufacture and assemble, whilst continuing to meet the high standards of safety.
The Airbus Wing of Tomorrow project aims to meet these challenges through a radical new approach to the design and manufacture of commercial aircraft wings that improves the efficiency of large composite structures. The programme will explore the best materials as it aims to develop disruptive manufacturing methods for the adoption of a composite wing for Airbus’s next generation aircraft.
New materials, including composite technologies, are a major part of the project. Composites are lighter than metal and therefore offer lower fuel consumption and emissions. They also provide unique benefits in design, parts integration and corrosion resistance and could significantly reduce the equipment and tooling costs of wing production and enable faster production cycles.
“Collaboration with partners are an important aspect of the Wing of Tomorrow Programme. Through combining our resources, we can progress solutions which harness the capabilities of both our organizations for a better outcome.”Sue Partridge, Head of Wing of Tomorrow Programme, Airbus
Who and how?
Airbus has been working to create the Wing of Tomorrow since 2015. A multi-skilled team has selected and developed a range of innovations in preparation for full-scale demonstrations.
As an aerospace technology leader, Solvay is a strategic partner on the project, bringing its composite materials expertise and unique portfolio of resin infusion, prepreg, adhesives and lightning strike technologies. Our key contribution is to develop materials and processes to create innovative composite structures for the Wing of Tomorrow, through research into the ability of our materials to meet the programme’s challenges.
Resin infusion technology allows efficient and highly integrated design of large composite structures resulting in reduced structural weight and potential lower production costs. It could also enable faster cycle times, reduced assembly requirements and improved manufacturing flexibility.
The Wing of Tomorrow delivery of three wing demonstrators will be completed in 2022.
What we achieved
Our cross-functional teams work closely with Airbus and its project partners. We contribute to research programmes and our engineers support the adoption of our materials within research labs and manufacturing facilities. Solvay has applied its unique Applications Engineering model, with its dedicated team, to facilitate a strong collaborative and effective partnership. The project aims to manufacture the components for three full-scale wings, with complete delivery of the first wing in 2020. Assembly and tests are slated for 2021.
To date, the material and process technologies have been validated at mid-scale level. The material performance and the capabilities of the novel processes are being validated against the demanding rate and costs of the project. The aim is then to demonstrate scalability to ensure the manufacturing approach is robust on an industrial scale.
Solvay’s resin infusion materials have been baselined for the full-scale demonstrators on this project. The Wing of Tomorrow programme pushes us to take our expertise and capabilities even further and showcases the way we innovate downstream in the value chain to offer our customers the solutions they need. It also highlights our capacity to build successful long-term partnerships with our customers, especially in advanced sectors like aerospace, where some contracts run for 10 to 20 years. We have been an Airbus supplier for many years and continue to work with them on other projects beyond the Wing of Tomorrow.
“We have built a strong collaborative relationship with Airbus and are excited about progressing the material and process developments to support full-scale wing manufacture. The programme pushes the boundaries of composite design, materials and processing to find potential composite wing technology solutions.”Sam Hill, Applications Engineering Manager, Wing of Tomorrow Technical Lead,
Composite Materials R&I, Solvay