Aircelle and the Upper Normandy region cooperate on advancing nacelle technology
June 20, 2014
Aircelle's strategy to further improve engine nacelle technology for enhanced efficiency and reduced fuel consumption on future aircraft is underscored by four company programs that include the support of France's Upper Normandy region – home to Aircelle's head office and its major production facility at Le Havre.
These projects cover a diverse range of research and development activities, from new steps in the production of composite parts and the wider application of titanium in "hot" zones of the nacelle to innovative processes for repair and services.
"Aircelle always has made significant investments in research and technology – which is the strategy as well across our Safran group parent company," explained Aircelle Chairman and CEO Martin Sion. "To remain competitive and differentiate ourselves from other actors in the market, we need to apply our expertise every day in retaining Aircelle's advantage."
One of the projects supported in Upper Normandy's "Call for Energy" framework is called ACTIF, which focuses on improvements in Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) processes for the production of complex-shaped parts with composite materials. RTM is a closed-mold, vacuum-assisted process that offers many advantages in manufacturing, while providing lightweight finished products with excellent strength qualities.
With Aircelle's existing RTM center of excellence at Le Havre, the company has significant experience with this manufacturing process – which will be further expanded in the ACTIF program through the conception of prototype RTM parts that normally are produced in aluminum.
Another of the "Call for Energy"-backed projects involves the development of a single-piece transcowl – the moveable structure that is a key element in thrust reversers. Currently, transcowls are built with composite sandwich components reinforced by a structural frame, and are assembled using some 1,500 rivets. In the "Call for Energy" project, the goal is to develop a single bonded composite structure, representing a "disruptive" breakthrough that eliminates the assembly process. This could reduce weight by 20 percent and provide cost savings in manufacturing.
Also supported in the "Call for Energy" effort is the application of titanium to a nacelle's inner fixed structure (IFS). The IFS is a key element that directs airflow during the reverse thrust phase, while also serving to reduce noise and protect the nacelle in event of an engine failure. Typically, the IFS is produced as a composite sandwich or a bonded aluminum component, with the addition of thermal protection because of its exposure to high temperatures. In the "Call for Energy" development, Aircelle will produce an IFS using a braised titanium sandwich structure, which is treated for noise attenuation.
Completing the lineup of efforts included in Upper Normandy's "Call for Energy" outreach is SAVANA, which foresees the evolution of innovative repair techniques for composite and metallic nacelle elements, along with the identification of new services.